Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Winston Churchill? Last Burkean?

I have returned from California. Of course, the weather there was outstanding as it always is. So was the very Californian spirit. More on this later (hopefully).

One of the things that I did take away from the conferences was that Winston Churchill was the last true Burkean political leader. This isn't to say that we have not had political leaders who were devoted to principle rather than any particular policy and who were willing to adapt and reform while at the same time acknowledging the significance of a particular cultural context--John McCain and Daniel Patrick Moynihan come to mind--but Winston Churchill was the last Burkean to actually hold any significant political clout and possess the ability to lead not just a minority but rather the majority of his nation in the same direction. One doesn't see that anymore. Of course, based on the recent elections, the people seem perfectly contented with the rule of the sophisters, calculators and economists, which is not the same as saying that they should be.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Why Libertarianism Is Not Useful as an Ideology

A friend in Moscow asked/begged me to post while I was in California, and, thanks to my grandfather and his computer, I have found myself able to do so. It was a capital ISI conference, by the way. I met many bright students from all parts of the country, including Washington (both the state and district), California, Michigan and Connecticut. Most of them had moments during the conference that were much better than mine, but, given that I have less to expound upon on their comments, I want to comment on one that I made during one of our sessions.

During the session--which was on the relationship between libertarianism and conservatism--I said that libertarianism may have more sex appeal than conservatism (because it claims to be an ideology whereas conservatism is an anti-ideology), but, nonetheless, it is not useful when it is at its most ideological.

Hopefully, I will expound on this when I get back to my home turf, but the main problem with libertarianism is that, since it is an ideology based upon breaking down bariers rather than setting them up, it is incapable of articulating precisely what boundaries are necessary and why. They speak, for instance, of the harm principle or the necessity of government to maintain civic order so that citizens can not only enjoy but also practice their freedom. These ideas are all consistent with libertarianism, but they are not implied in libertarianism's central tenents (placing the highest premium on freedom in civic society). This borrowed precept creates a crack in the wall, I believe, that causes the entire edifice to collapse.

Because it has to admit that some social, political or cultural solidarity is necessary for any individual to practice his freedom beyond the freedom which brute nature affords, the libertarian is forced to borrow one leg of his philosophy from either conservatism or progressivism. Other than this, he has the abstraction of liberty, but this is not something that a conservative or progressive will spurn or distain. Libertarian freedom is a subjective freedom (meaning, in this case, it is based on what a somewhat patholigal or idiosyncratic group believes it to be.)

This doesn't mean that libertarianism is useless; it provides many incites into education reform, equity in jurisprudence and a more humble foreign policy, but it is only useful in so far it is like that which Michael Oakshott called conservatism: not an ideology but a disposition.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why I Won't Be Posting for Awhile

I realize that I have not been posting recently and I will not be posting for another couple of weeks. The reason is because I have two conferences in SD, CA next week, and, therefore, will have difficulty making it to a computer. Anyway, stay tuned, because I'll have more to say in late January. Good night, good luck and God bless.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Sorrows of the Education System

This is a good article about having to be the hatchet-man for democracy:


On Giving: No, Not a Review of Bill Clinton's New Book

Nicholas Kristof writes that studies indicate that people of a more conservative disposition tend to give more to charity than those who live in Blue States. But Kristof qualifies this by writing that gays are one of the most charitable demographics in society (though he does point out that this might be because they are less likely to have children and therefore have more to give.) What I want to focus on is the implications of the bracketed information.

Charity is generally defined--in this day and age--as noble spending or, otherwise, spending which contributes to the common good, rather than merely sating the hedonism of one consuming individual. Generally, I accept this definition, but I think that society applies it too liberally in some areas and not liberally enough in others.

For instance, as Kristof indicates in his article, many in the moneyed class will contribute to a symphony or maybe a museum. But is this form of giving charity? Is it actually performed to serve society--composed of people--or is it meant to sustain culture--composed of artifacts? Is it the love of human dignity which puts the signature on the check, or is it the love of th dignity of the humanities which does so?

On the other hand, parents spend interminable amounts of money upon their children in areas of education, food, shelter, etc. Even so, this is generally not regarded as charity. I will grant that if charity is defined in the traditional sense as caritas or inspecific love, this is contrary to the very idea of family which is always specific. But still, by the modern definition of charity--i.e. noble spending--this form of spending is clearly more noble than is an investment in the city orchestra.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Public-Works Suggestion

If Barack Obama wants to send a message with his public-works initiative, I would recommend building the Twin Towers in Manhattan just the way that they were before (except, perhaps, with some better hose systems.) That would certainly hit a chord with the terrorists and be a huge morale-booster for Americans.