Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Noah vs. Abraham

We often treat OT heroes as parade of equivalents, but as a key example, Abraham was a much greater man than Noah. And we often imagine that the absence of sins of commission is the goal or something particularly praiseworthy-- when sins of omission are often a far bigger deal.

Noah's famous sin is in chapter 9. But his key failure (a symptom of the greater problem) is the sin just after the flood (8:16,18). See also: Noah's voiceless sin of omission (as Adam in 3:6): he and Abraham were both brought into God’s counsel (6:13,22 vs. ch. 18), but Noah was apparently silent whereas Abraham went into full advocacy mode.

Jonathan Sacks' conclusion: "God seeks from us something other and greater than obedience, namely responsibility...the hero of faith was not Noah but Abraham”—fought a war for his nephew and prayed for the people of the plain, even challenging God: “What might an Abraham have said when confronted with the possibility of a flood?...Abraham might have saved the world. Noah saved only himself and his family. Abraham might have failed, but Noah—at least on the evidence of the text—did not even try…Noah’s end—drunk, disheveled, an embarrassment to his children—eloquently tells us that if you save yourself while doing nothing to save the world, you do not even save yourself…”

Along the same lines, Alan Jacobs quotes Bonhoeffer: “The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live. It is only this question, with its responsibility towards history, that fruitful solutions can come…”

Saturday, September 7, 2019

two basic questions for opponents of K-12 school choice

When dealing with opponents of educational choice in K-12, I'm never able to get answers to two basic questions:

1.) How do you reconcile the supposed evil of educational vouchers with the apparent glories of the GI Bill?
2.) If public schools are under-funded, what number/range of spending per student (or classroom) would be sufficient?

Opposition to the pro-choice position in K-12 seems to be mostly a lack of policy imagination, trouble with logic and arithmetic (confusing lower total spending with higher average spending), a devotion to crony capitalism and labor market cartels, or a penchant for statism.

Christ says millstones are involved, so be careful!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Gelernter on mutations and the improbability of the comprehensive evolutionary narrative

An elegant essay from David Gelernter on an important topic; one for the files...

Gelernter is not at all persuaded on ID, but "it says aloud what anyone who ponders biology must think, at some point, while sifting possible answers to hard questions".

Moreover, "the religion is all on the [Darwinian] side. Meyer and other proponents of I.D. are the dispassionate intellectuals making orderly scientific arguments. Some I.D.-haters have shown themselves willing to use any argument—fair or not, true or not, ad hominem or not—to keep this dangerous idea locked in a box forever. They remind us of the extent to which Darwinism is no longer just a scientific theory but the basis of a worldview, and an emergency replacement religion for the many troubled souls who need one."

Gelernter talks about the fossil record, but focuses on the immense difficulty of imagining that mutations can carry the load required for the comprehensive evolution narrative.

Check it out!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

interview with Paglia

A lot of good stuff early in this essay, on a provocative (liberal) thinker, Camille Paglia. I'll post three Paglia quotes and then two excerpts from the article's author. The third quote got the transgender-identifying lesbian in some hot water. But thankfully, her university is run by liberals committed to free speech and thought.

-“If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.”
-“There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.”
-It is “ridiculous that any university ever tolerated a complaint of a girl coming in six months or a year after an event. If a real rape was committed, go frigging report it to the police."

-The word “person” captures a concept so fundamental to Westerners that it can be jarring to discover that it once had a different meaning. Etymologically, “person” comes from the Latin word persona, which means “mask.” To be a person is to wear a mask, act out a role—what people today might call being fake.

Looking back, Paglia saw that her grandmothers had their own sphere of power at home, separate from the male sphere—where older women ruled. “Young women were nothing” in that world, Paglia said. Today, it’s the opposite: women try to gain power in the male sphere of work and lose status culturally as they age...Her childhood also instilled in her an appreciation of men, especially working-class men—the plumbers, factory workers, and policemen who keep the world going...“One of the reasons I’m not anti-male,” Paglia told me, “is because I saw the sacrifices made by my father’s generation in those men.”

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

how quickly/much are African-Americans deviating from their fealty and support for the Dems?

Here's Jonah Goldberg on what continues to be (one of) the most fascinating (and largely unsung) aspects of the social and political changes over the past few years. As a policy geek and a non-partisan, this is welcome.
Like most other voters, African-Americans (quite rationally) know little about public policy. Most have been content to vote for a party which routinely advocates economic policies that are disproportionately harmful to them. (The other party isn't much better in this regard, but in light of the two devils in the arena, you'd expect the A-A vote to split much more evenly.)
In recent years, identity politics on the Left (extending to so many other groups while attacking free speech), policy pandering (on reparations), and ridiculous political maneuvering (e.g., non-stop attacks on Trump whose style many of them like; Warren's racial "Nativity"; other Dem candidates' racial baggage) have grown so egregious-- that it looks like enough to move the political needle significantly.
I'm eager to watch this play out!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Vance (and Horwitz) on libertarians (and "conservatives")

Vance is the author of Hillbilly Elegy, a really nice (and important?) book on social and economic troubles in Appalachia. Most interesting to me: the problems for the dysfunctional rural poor are ironically mirrored by the social and economic troubles in our inner cities. And both have connections to the importance of individual responsibility, culture, and public policies which subsidize (and encourage) troubles with family structure and stability. (Here's my review of Vance's book.) 

Last month, Vance spoke at the National Conservatism Conference in DC and opened with a discussion of libertarianism and its connections to "conservatism". I didn't hear the talk, but read an abridged version in First Things which focuses almost solely on this aspect of the talk. (As an aside, it's interesting that FT would choose to reprint that part, but that's a tangent for another day, perhaps.) 

Vance is a fan of libertarianism, broadly. (Hayek was a key figure in his intellectual development.) But he identifies this concern about/within libertarianism: "the view that so long as public outcomes and social goods are produced by free individual choices, we shouldn't be too concerned about what those goods ultimately produce". But this concern is poorly defined and directed for at least three reasons. 

First, this is far from a universal attribute among Libertarians and it's certainly not required by Libertarian philosophy-- political or otherwise. Libertarians often worry about decisions made by individuals as well as various social outcomes. Here, Vance falls for a common error across the political spectrum: if I'm not willing to condemn/subsidize various decisions AND use the force of government to help people with those decisions, then I'm seen as condoning the decisions or being "unworried" about the outcomes. 

In contrast, all of us can quickly imagine contexts where we agree/disagree with decisions and are worried (e.g., should people welcome new neighbors with baked goods; should people eat more than one dessert per meal), but will not look to bring in the government as a potential remedy.

Second, Vance's concerns can be found among conservatives (of various stripes), liberals (of various stripes), and the far-more-prevalent political types in our country ("moderates" who don't think much about politics; "independents" who hold a dog's breakfast compilation of views; and avid partisans of the two major political parties). In fact, Vance is mostly describing selfishness--which knows no political boundaries. With an individual-oriented political philosophy, are Libertarians more prone to this flaw? Perhaps, but not enough to receive special approbation. 

Third, Vance fails to mention/consider a key approach within Libertarian thought. One can get to Libertarian policy positions and political philosophy through many combinations of a.) optimism about the decisions of individuals or placing a high value on individuals; and b.) through pessimism government, ethically and practically, in theory and especially in practice. 

Vance imagines/assumes a solely positive defense of Libertarian philosophy-- a far more challenging task. Given theory, data, history, etc., the negative approach is quite fruitful and difficult to refute. 

Steve Horwitz has a strong response to Vance, mostly on points 1 and 3. 

In the opening of the essay, it's worth noting that Vance describes Hillbilly Elegy as "a story about family decline, childhood trauma, opioid abuse, community decline, the decline of the manufacturing sector, and the loss of dignity and purpose and meaning that come along with it." And he describes his sense of the American Dream from that background and perspective: "a decent enough job to support my family and that I could be a good husband and a good father."

Saturday, August 17, 2019

my IR article on Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier

My IR article on Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier...