Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Comment on Nazism by "Theodore Dalrymple"

Who is Jewish

The worst thing about the passage that I have quoted is its apparent endorsement, or uncritical acceptance, of Freud’s characterization of the Nazis as “right-wing.” This seems to me simplistic to the point of dishonesty, or at least symptomatic of a desire that complex social and political realities should be located on an analogue scale from right to left or left to right. If such a scale must be used, it seems to me that there is as much, if not more, reason to place Nazism on the left of it rather than on the right.

Not that this would be satisfactory, far from it. As Bishop Butler said, every thing is what it is and not another thing; Nazism was what it was and not another thing. If it could not, and cannot, be fitted neatly on to a political analogue scale, so much the worse for the scale. To change the figure of speech, we must not construct Procrustean conceptual beds.

Does it matter, however, if Nazism — being what it was and not another thing — is routinely characterized as being right-wing? I think that it does matter, for the following reason. There is a false syllogism that has a profound psychological effect:

Nazism was right-wing.
Conservatism is right-wing.
Therefore Nazism was conservative and conservatism is Nazi.

But Nazism was not conservative; when the Nazis called their advent revolutionary, they were right. There was nothing conservative about their movement at all. But the “syllogism” above has insinuated deeply into the minds of our intelligentsia, which is why so many of them are afraid of the supposed taint of conservatism.



The Limits of Power

by Thomas Sowell

When I first began to study the history of slavery around the world, many years ago, one of the oddities that puzzled me was the practice of paying certain slaves, which existed in ancient Rome and in America's antebellum South, among other places.

In both places, slave owners or their overseers whipped slaves to force them to work, and in neither place was whipping a slave literally to death likely to bring any serious consequences.

There could hardly be a greater power of one human being over another than the arbitrary power of life and death. Why then was it necessary to pay certain slaves? At the very least, it suggested that there were limits to what could be accomplished by power.

Most slaves performing most tasks were of course not paid, but were simply forced to work by the threat of punishment. That was sufficient for galley slaves or plantation slaves. But there were various kinds of work where that was not sufficient.

Tasks involving judgment or talents were different because no one can know how much judgment or talent someone else has. In short, knowledge is an inherent constraint on power. Payment can bring forth the knowledge or talent by giving those who have it an incentive to reveal it and to develop it.

Payment can vary in amount and in kind. Some slaves, especially eunuchs in the days of the Ottoman Empire, could amass both wealth and power. One reason they could be trusted in positions of power was that they had no incentive to betray the existing rulers and try to establish their own dynasties, which would obviously have been physically impossible for them.

At more mundane levels, such tasks as diving operations in the Carolina swamps required a level of discretion and skill far in excess of that required to pick cotton in the South or cut sugar cane in the tropics. Slaves doing this kind of work had financial incentives and were treated far better. So were slaves working in Virginia's tobacco factories.

The point of all this is that when even slaves had to be paid to get certain kinds of work done, this shows the limits of what can be accomplished by power alone. Yet so much of what is said and done by those who rely on the power of government to direct ever more sweeping areas of our life seem to have no sense of the limits of what can be accomplished that way.

Even the totalitarian governments of the 20th century eventually learned the hard way the limits of what could be accomplished by power alone. China still has a totalitarian government today but, after the death of Mao, the Chinese government began to loosen its controls on some parts of the economy, in order to reap the economic benefits of freer markets.

As those benefits became clear in higher rates of economic growth and rising standards of living, more government controls were loosened. But, just as market principles were applied to only certain kinds of slavery, so freedom in China has been allowed in economic activities to a far greater extent than in other realms of the country's life, where tight control from the top down remains the norm.

Ironically, the United States is moving in the direction of the kind of economy that China has been forced to move away from. China once had complete government control of medical care, but eventually gave it up as the disaster that it was.

The current leadership in Washington operates as if they can just set arbitrary goals, whether "affordable housing" or "universal health care" or anything else -- and not concern themselves with the repercussions -- since they have the power to simply force individuals, businesses, doctors or anyone else to knuckle under and follow their dictates.

Friedrich Hayek called this mindset "the road to serfdom." But, even under serfdom and slavery, experience forced those with power to recognize the limits of their power. What this administration -- and especially the President -- does not have is experience.

Barack Obama had no experience running even the most modest business, and personally paying the consequences of his mistakes, before becoming President of the United States. He can believe that his heady new power is the answer to all things.



One reason why many conservatives support Israel

To the left in America and around the world, this reason is dangerous nonsense. But for a vast number of America's Christians, many Jews and even many non-religious conservatives, it is deeper than any military or political reason. The reason is based on a verse in Genesis in which God, referring to the Jewish people, says to Abraham: "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you."

One need not be a Jew or Christian or even believe in God to appreciate that this verse is as accurate a prediction of the future as humanity has ever been given by the ancient world. The Jewish people have suffered longer and more horribly than any other living people. But they are still around. Their historic enemies are all gone. Those who cursed the Jews were indeed cursed.

And those who blessed the Jews were indeed blessed. The most blessed country for more than 200 years has been the United States. It has also been the most blessed place Jews have ever lived in. Is this a coincidence? Many of us think not.

Those who curse the Jews today seem to be cursed. The most benighted civilization today is the Arab world. One could make a plausible case that the Arab world's preoccupation with Jew-hatred and destroying Israel is decisive in keeping the Arab world from progressing. The day the Arab world makes peace with the existence of the tiny Jewish state in its midst, the Arab world will begin its ascent.

The converse is what worries tens of millions of Americans: The day America begins to abandon Israel, America will begin its descent.

Israel shares America's values, such as liberty, an independent judiciary, a free press, freedom of religion, free speech and women's equality. The Arab and Muslim worlds have none of these. Those facts -- and America's Judeo-Christian roots -- make support of Israel, no matter what the Arab and Muslim "street" feels about America, a moral lynchpin of American foreign policy.

This administration's desire to have America liked in the Arab and Muslim worlds therefore has to mean altering that lynchpin. You cannot protect Israel and strive to be liked in the Arab and Muslim worlds at the same time. And you cannot weaken that protection without weakening America's moral values, which form the basis of America's greatness.

Even aside from compromising America's moral essence, weakening American support of Israel will only strengthen the America-hating Islamists. The notion that the primitive monsters of the Taliban, Hamas, al-Qaida and the like will become pro-American -- or just stop attacking America -- if America weakens its support of Israel betrays an ignorance of evil that is frightening.

So there is nothing to gain -- and America's soul to lose -- by weakening, or by even seeming to weaken, American support for Israel.

In 1968, Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman turned philosopher and author of the classic work "The True Believer," wrote in The Los Angeles Times:

"The Jews are alone in the world. If Israel survives, it will be solely because of Jewish efforts. And Jewish resources. Yet at this moment Israel is our only reliable and unconditional ally. We can rely more on Israel than Israel can rely on us." Hoffer concluded: "I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us."

Genesis was right.




CA: Villaraigosa urges 10% cut in LA government work force: "Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday proposed cutting the work force of America’s second-largest city by nearly 10 percent to close a $485 million budget deficit projected for the next fiscal year. The mayor’s plan, conveyed in a letter to the City Council ahead of his formal budget presentation on Tuesday, would permanently eliminate 3,546 municipal jobs in the biggest downsizing by Los Angeles in at least three decades.”

The left’s pension dilemma: "You know the pension tsunami is getting close to shore when the mainstream media are filled with hard-hitting stories about the coming crisis, such as the front-page article April 11 in the Sacramento Bee and Fresno Bee, documenting the manner in which huge pension costs for retired public employees ‘threaten California cities [and] counties.’ Most of the news stories focus, understandably, on the unsustainable costs to government and taxpayers, as the bill for these millionaires’ pensions come due. There’s no escaping the financial problem, borne of elected officials who have bought labor peace by selling out current and future taxpayers to the politically muscular public employee unions. In a down economy, it’s impossible to hide the numbers much longer. But the other real story is that these pension crises are undermining public services.”

Trader Joe’s gets FTC discount: "Portland, Maine, is getting a new Trader Joe’s — courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission. For some reason, Trader Joe’s didn’t see a reason to enter the Portland market until the FTC offered to seize some property from rival grocer Whole Foods and sell it to Trader Joe’s at below-market price. The locals appear ecstatic; the FTC has already received over 340 comments from Portlanders praising federal intervention in their local grocery market.”

Restoring federalism and state sovereignty: A constitutional path to prosperity: "The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution provides: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.’ Over the first century of our nation’s history the 10th Amendment was an important part of the Constitutional rules constraining the growth of the federal government.”

NYT’s Tea Party coverage: "The piece has the usual tone when The Times discusses those whose views it despises — snooty, derisive, and uninterested in substance, as if what these people believed was some kind of disease, not worth serious consideration. The piece went into the history of Tea Party members, associating them with 60s conservatism. Like those sociological studies that aim to explain away people’s thinking, treating it as an affliction rather than a product of considered judgment, the study put Tea Party members under a microscope. This is fairly typical of those like the writers at The Times. It reminds me of a movie by Woody Allen, in which a boy fell on his head and temporarily became a conservative, subscribing to National Review and such. It took another fall by the boy to get rid of this problem. No argument, no examination of the merits of the ideas. Instead it is like some kind of virus one catches, not a set of ideas one might actually find intellectually compelling."

Thanks, I’ll do it myself: "The Obama Democrats see a society in which ordinary people cannot fend for themselves, one where they need to have their incomes supplemented, their health insurance regulated and guaranteed, their relationships with their employers governed by union leaders. Highly educated mandarins can make better decisions for them than they can make for themselves. That is the culture of dependence. The tea partiers see things differently. They’re not looking for lower taxes — half of tea-party supporters, a New York Times survey found, think their taxes are fair. Nor are they financially secure — half say someone in their household may lose their job in the next year. Two-thirds say the recession has caused some hardship in their lives. But they recognize, correctly, that the Obama Democrats are trying to permanently enlarge government and increase citizens’ dependence on it.”

Laotian stabs Nigerian: "The Chico State University student body president was stabbed several times early Sunday morning in what officials call a hate crime. Joseph Igbineweka, 23, who is of Nigerian descent, today was reported in stable condition at Enloe Medical Center. Chico police said Igbineweka was walking with friends on Warner Street near West Sacramento Avenue just off the north end of the university about 2:20 a.m. Sunday when a young man began yelling racial slurs at him. Police say the alleged assailant, Barry Sayavong, 19, of Chico then pulled a knife and began to slash and stab Igbineweka.” [I mention this event because the ancestry of only one party was mentioned in the original article]


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


No comments: