52 Authors: Week 36 - Charles Dickens
The Stanley Brothers: Rank Strangers

Reject the Lie

Not with physical acts but merely by rejecting the lie, by refusing to participate personally in the lie. Everyone must stop cooperating with the lie absolutely everywhere that he sees it himself: whether they are trying to force him to speak, write, quote or sign, or simply to vote or even to read. In our country the lie has become not just a moral category, but a pillar of the state. In recoiling from the lie we are performing a moral act, not a political act; and not one that can be punished by criminal law, but an act that would have an immediate effect on our whole life.

--Solzhenitsyn

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Yep.

Simply refusing to vote.

This seems to be becoming more and more likely.

AMDG

I'm far from the point of refusing to vote on principle. In general, I'll still vote for what I think is the least worst alternative, because although I certainly don't think politics can fix our deepest problems it can do a lot of harm. However, if Donald Trump gets the Republican nomination--which I think is very unlikely--I probably won't vote in the presidential election. I don't know if you or others here read much of the conservative press, but serious conservatives are completely appalled by the Trump phenomenon and worried that his bubble hasn't burst already.

The presidential election with Trump as a candidate was what I meant. I'm absolutely horrified that he's taken seriously by so many people. By the time I get to vote in the primary, the candidate will likely have been chosen already. This really it's me.

AMDG

As corrupt as both parties are I think we always find ourselves voting for the lesser of two evils. As Tony Esolen said, we've basically got the Wallet Party and the Zipper Party.

And as of late, there's always a condom in that wallet.

To my mind, the only two GOP candidates really work a look are Rubio and Kasich, and only the former has much of a chance. But it's still early. You never can tell what will happen.

I think that last sentence was supposed to say, "That really irks me," but my old autocorrect friend didn't think so.

AMDG

I would vote for any of the Republicans, except Trump, against Hillary. In answer to your question "is there a lesser?", Janet, I think so, inasmuch as the Democratic party is effectively an anti-Christian party at this point--I mean consciously, not just in effect. But nobody on either side should have any illusions that picking the right president is going to somehow fix things.

One of the theories about Trump's continuing support is that a lot of right-wingers are totally disgusted with the Republicans and are enjoying flinging this bomb into their midst. That's about the only line of reasoning for supporting him that makes any sense at all to me, and it's obviously self-defeating.

I suspect RM Kaus and Glenn Reynolds are right that Trump's appeal is derived from his willingness to speak in plain language about the immigration issue, something the other candidates avoid because they're at odds with public opinion, or they do not know what they think and do not interact much with ordinary voters, or they're doing what they're donors want. I'd wager its also derived from Trump's successful habit of refusing to pay any heed to minding the bogus p's and q's laid down by the news media and the educational apparat. The other candidates should take the hint and each issue a serious white paper on immigration policy and immigration enforcement and learn to use their middle-finger with the world's pecksniffs.

I took an interest in Govs. Jindal, Walker, Huckabee, and Perry. Maybe I'm just not reading the newspapers carefully enough, but I have not seen them respond to Trump's challenges with vigor. They need to do that.

To my mind, the only two GOP candidates really work a look are Rubio and Kasich,

Rubio is a rank and file lawyer, nothing more. He's demonstrated some skill at building relationships in legislative bodies but has absolutely no history in executive positions. He was snookered by Charles Schumer's staff regarding immigration legislation, then lied repeatedly and publicly about the legislation and his role in drafting it. He's also rather young for the job. He's just about the least suitable candidate for it. The only one worse is the repellent George Pataki.

As for Kasich, he's jonesing for Jon Huntsman's constituency. Worked out real well the last time.

I would vote for any of the Republicans, except Trump, against Hillary.

George Pataki's running. You do not want to go there.

So, is there anyone that any of you absolutely like?

AMDG

The sad thing was that betwixt and between some inappropriate candidacies and the irritation of the latest Bush scion, they had a good bench in their four better candidates (with Mrs. Fiorina adding some interesting spice). The Trump phenomena has taken all the oxygen out of the room and they're not fighting it. It's all very depressing.

One explanation offered by one columnist for the whole mess was this: Trump is 'unfiltered', and the other candidates have been listening to political consultants for so long that they haven't a clue as to how to respond.

As for what it all means, what we're looking at seems a variant on comedic / dystopian popular entertainment ca. 1976. This is Network meets the Kentucky Fried Movie meets Rollerball, or perhaps just Network alone.

So, is there anyone that any of you absolutely like?

Absolutely? That cannot be, because politicians have their idiosyncracies and their constituencies and their antecedent commitments. They'll always disappoint you in some respects. Gov. Walker is perhaps the least troublesome of the candidates, though I'd prefer someone more vigorous on social questions (Huckabee, Jindal) someone with more g (Jindal, Fiorina), and someone older (Huckabee, Perry, Fiorina). The rest either lack the necessary executive background (Santorum, Cruz), are too young (Cruz, especially), will sell you down the river (Pataki, Christie, Kasich), or have a combination of these flaws (Graham, Rubio).

Walker was foolish to run this time. He should have stayed as governor for a few more years to get more experience and to show that he can really build something positive, not just survive a vicious recall election.

I live in Wisconsin.

I don't mean are they absolutely perfect candidates, I mean, do you really like any of them as opposed to just thinking they are the least bad.

I might have to write in Stephen Colbert. :-)

AMDG

He should have stayed as governor for a few more years to get more experience and to show that he can really build something positive,

He's already accomplished more than most governors do, though perhaps less than Gov. Thompson. In New York, it's never not business as usual, no matter who is in the Governor's chair. And it was not just the recall election, it was the okupier nonsense and the years of lawfare. Very few politicians ever manifest the cojones to face that sort of challenge down.

The 'least bad'? That's an appellation I'd use with the competing Democratic candidates, or really unsuitable Republican candidates like Lindsey Graham. The four or five I've named are not 'bad', but, like any flesh and blood candidate, they have their deficiencies.

But "rejecting the lie" is not really about voting is it? I think perhaps it's about not giving in to popular and erroneous and evil lies, most especially as we encounter them socially. And of course, when dealing with the Bureaucracy.

Right. It was just one of the things he mentioned. But I think it's more about living the truth while we are surrounded by the lie--even if we don't confront it in any public way.


AMDG

But I think it's more about living the truth while we are surrounded by the lie--even if we don't confront it in any public way.

Agreed. Someone employed by Martin Peretz once did a brief critique of a set of New York Times articles, noting how each one was a conduit for a blatantly false statement. That was in 1983, and, they noted "The Times should be praised for its versimilitude. It has captured the mendacity of our political world quite well". Still, at that time, artifice, not lies, was more the order of the day. Now, the lies are pervasive, and they have the enthusiastic participation of the news media and academe. Some swaths of the Catholic chatterati are not much better.

One of the theories about Trump's continuing support is that a lot of right-wingers are totally disgusted with the Republicans and are enjoying flinging this bomb into their midst.

Well, the Republican Party is currently led by a trio of useless Capitol Hill gamesmen, and that describes about 1/2 the Senate Republican caucus; of course people who are not on the payroll are disgusted.

I think Walker has nerves of steel, which is very good for a president. I know what he went through. I was here.

I think he needs to spend time and energy focusing on getting his reforms to bear fruit in a renaissance of Wisconsin. There are signs this is starting. We have good stats on hiring, for instance.

I just think he is turning away too soon.

Most of the turn to Trump is for a bad reason -- nativism. It's an ugly concept that needs someone willing to say very ugly things, and he fits the bill.

The thought that I may have to vote for Hillary to stop him is almost as troubling as his rise.

I cannot imagine a plausible circumstance in which I would vote for Hillary. The closest I could come, as I said earlier, would be not to vote against her.

Right, Louise, I wasn't thinking about voting in particular--in fact I'd still argue that it's better to vote than not to vote. But as Janet says that is one of the things AS mentions. I had more in mind a refusal to pretend to accept certain falsehoods.

Re Art's anecdote about the NYT: when people denounce conservative talk radio, Fox News, et.al. I always point out the responsibility of the old media for creating the audience for them.

"But I think it's more about living the truth while we are surrounded by the lie--even if we don't confront it in any public way."

I agree. Part of the difficulty is just not getting sucked into it. It's very difficult at times. It is gas-lighting:

"Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity."

Re: voting.

If I were still in Oz, I would now be refusing to cast a ballot. Thankfully I don't have to bother, being here.

An interesting remark from Peter Hitchens today. The whole thing is worth reading, I think. Am interested in what you all think:

"More credit should be given to my late brother, Christopher, for correctly identifying the modern USA as the most revolutionary power on the planet, opposed to crabby conservative concepts such as national sovereignty, sweeping away the tedious restraints of migration controls and protective tariffs. It’s this economic liberalism - allied with the personal liberalism of ‘Nobody can tell me what to do with my own body’ which has somehow become identified with the British Conservative Party and the American Republicans, even though it’s not in the least bit conservative."

I assume that PH thinks this is bad, but that CH thought it was good. I could be wrong on that of course.

Re Art's anecdote about the NYT: when people denounce conservative talk radio, Fox News, et.al. I always point out the responsibility of the old media for creating the audience for them.

The critic in question was referring to straight reporting. It was the content provided by those The Times was reporting on which he was ultimately critiquing.

I stopped looking at The Times about 15 years ago when I'd concluded that their professionalism had fallen below a certain threshold, something you could say of the AP by about 2004. Camille Paglia's remark at the time was that The Times self-understanding as 'the paper of record' was "twenty years out of date". That particular phenomenon midwived talk radio, I do not doubt, but that's not to what the commenter was referring.

Public television and public radio have generally been subtler, favoring instead framing issues and alternatives in tendentious ways.
To some extent, I suspect that's done without thinking much about it, which is a comment on the qualities of the social nexus in those institutions. When Newsweek tried to re-invent itself as an opinion magazine five or six years back, what was astounding about the effort was (in contrast to other opinion purveyors) how dull and complacent were their staff in their expressed views. Perfect Pauline-Kael bubble all those years.


At the same time, George McGovern's campaign manager ran NPR for eight years, and their star reporter was the wife of a Democratic Senator. That sort of thing has grown so common among Washington media that no one notices anymore, but then it was atypical. Every once in a while you discover from some set of public remarks that someone in major media is a serious sectary. Eason Jordan, who was a wheel at CNN for twenty years, is one. Ken Burns is another.

It’s this economic liberalism - allied with the personal liberalism of ‘Nobody can tell me what to do with my own body’ which has somehow become identified with the British Conservative Party and the American Republicans, even though it’s not in the least bit conservative."

I do not think Peter Hitchens has much of a handle on American political discourse, past or present.

I think there is something to what P Hitchens says. It isn't the whole story by any means, but something. The thing is, people (including popes) have been saying that for a long time, and having the debates that follow, and I don't have the heart for it anymore. However you analyze it, western civ has driven off a cliff.

I misinterpreted the Peretz story, Art. Reading too hastily. But I think it was true even then that when it came to their favorite issues the media were less than honest, though perhaps less consciously so--if that makes sense--I mean I think there's a functional dishonesty that's born of inability to see certain things, and then there's a deliberate decision not to be very concerned with truth. Cf. the disgrace of "Journolist".

Peter Hitchens might be describing the sort of libertarianism associated with the Reason Foundation, but that's a starboard strand with very little in the was of a popular base, though it garners more among the intelligentsia and contributors like Koch Industries.

I do not think you can discuss starboard thought in the United States without some reference to localism, federalism, legal positivism, the constitution-as-icon, agrarian systems and agrarian imagery, and, in a high culture vein, the inheritance of the common law, the British Civil War, Locke, Montesquieu, and the bevy of 18th century politicians who also wrote. Gottfried Dietze was steeped in this material and George Liska (while not a theoretician) understood some of the key distinctions (though tended to favor Continental thought).

Or, put another way, when Wm. Voegli recites some twee political controversy from the 1790s, or someone recites that inane sermonette about Davy Crockett ('not yours to give'), they're not advancing the notion that freedom means the freedom to masturbate like a wild monkey while watching internet porn. I cannot figure how Peter Hitchens got that idea. Take two popular figures: Ronald Reagan and Rose Wilder Lane. One was a propagandist in defense of the small town society he'd grown up in ca. 1920. the other of the pioneer and agrarian society her parents and grandparents had lived in, 1885 +/- 50 years. Neither would have ever advanced the ethic to which Hitches refers. (Lane in particular thought sexual perversion a vice of people who did not care for 'hard work').

"I do not think you can discuss starboard thought in the United States without some reference to localism..."

True enough. Unfortunately the vast majority of mainstream conservatives know nothing of the American Right's variegated history. Their collective memory goes way back to 1980. To many of them conservatism amounts to pro-corporate anti-statism with some social traditionalism icing on top.

A friend attended a big Heritage Foundation fundraiser here in Pittsburgh a few days ago. He reports that nary a word was said about social issues, with the exception of one dart against Planned Parenthood. The rest was all economic, with the catchword being "opportunity."

This is Heritage, not Reason, AEI or Cato. Libertarian rot runs pretty deep in the GOP substructure.

"However you analyze it, western civ has driven off a cliff."

Indeed it has. I commented on PH's post that all I really know is that none of the parties, politicians etc with any clout care about the family, which means they are all wrong, IMO.

I don't know if you read the whole article, Art, but PH was saying that Left and Right are not what they used to be. I think we've probably had that discussion here haven't we, Maclin?

It's the economy, stupid.

AMDG

Unfortunately the vast majority of mainstream conservatives know nothing of the American Right's variegated history. Their collective memory goes way back to 1980. To many of them conservatism amounts to pro-corporate anti-statism with some social traditionalism icing on top.

We've had this discussion before. Your remarks of this nature do not grow anymore valid or less pretentious from repetition.

Heh.

Did you intend to include a link, Louise? I don't see one. And yes, we have had that discussion.

It's not altogether relevant to discuss what Hitchens says purely in the light of explicit ideas, especially of ideas held by intellectuals and discussed among them. What's more significant is widespread popular sentiment, not really rising to the level of "idea". And at that level there is certainly an idea of across-the-board personal freedom which does exhibit what Hitchens describes.

A symbolic example which has remained in my mind since I heard it in the 1980s: a local radio talk show was discussing the picketing of an abortion clinic. One caller, clearly in a white heat of fury, condemned the picketers because "They're interfering with a business."

You also have the new breed of tycoon, impeccably liberal in social views but as greedy as ever. The American Dream has always been as much as anything else a dream of wealth.

I don't know if you read the whole article, Art, but PH was saying that Left and Right are not what they used to be. I think we've probably had that discussion here haven't we, Maclin?

The bulk of it concerns the British scene, though there are points of intersection with American problems (and, really, the problems faced by any occidental country). Some of it is dubious (for those of us who can recall bits and pieces of the conflics within the British Labour Party after 1979). The man also cannot tell the difference between public works and state-owned enterprise, or between competitive enterprise and natural monopoly; the discussion of 'nationalization' is rubbish. The phrase "Neoconservatism’s Trotskyist origins aren’t accidental. It’s a revolutionary project," is utter tommyrot.

There really is no discussion of American political tendencies, past or present, and how they intersect with mundane discourse party politics & c., nor how these differ from British tendencies (the British Conservatives having long been resistant to erecting provincial governments, for example).

Sorry, not much value there.

"Your remarks of this nature do not grow anymore valid or less pretentious from repetition."

I'm speaking from experience. I have many of this sort of conservative among family and friends. Furthermore, I once was one myself, and was quite attentive to the "movement."

It's pretty much lite libertarianism with some trad-con frippery.

The American Dream has always been as much as anything else a dream of wealth.

I thought it was a godawful one-act play by Edward Albee.

If the term was ever used non-ironically and non-mordantly in my lifetime, I've forgotten it, and I'm past 50. Who dreams about 'wealth'? Few people are all that ambitious. They're satisficers, not optimizers, and they want security and perhaps opportunity for recreation. The studies Stanley Rothman was undertaking of occupational elites many years ago would also require qualifying that. The corporation executives he studied were achievement motivated more than anything else. You find people who are acquisitive, who are exhibitionistic, who are profligate. I cannot figure how such people are considered common enough to be the defining cultural type.

It's the economy, stupid.

What the reptilian James Carville had to say to his staff. What does this have to say about discussion in any other venue?

OK, Rob G, I will repeat the point from previous discussions. You want highbrow, read highbrow. The flavors are in the library. You want middlebrow, read that. You want lowbrow, read that. What's inane is for you to read lowbrow and then complain that that's all there is because you're too indolent to bother with anything else. It's also foolish to expect large swaths of people to read literary criticism or political theory. That's an academic discourse.

The portside denizens nearest me have nothing to say of any sophistication, not because they're intellectually incapable, but because they're more opinionated (or sentimental) than erudite on these topics and they put their heads to work in other venues. One's a psychiatrist with 17 years worth of higher education and vocational training under his belt; he also likes Jim Hightower. Another's a lapsed systems administrator with a Phi Beta Kappa key somewhere in her jewelry box. She likes Joe Bageant. That's just the way it is with most people.

It was in response to this:

He reports that nary a word was said about social issues, with the exception of one dart against Planned Parenthood. The rest was all economic, with the catchword being "opportunity."

The implication being that nothing has changed in that regard since the Clinton (Bill) campaign--and that's on both sides of the aisle.

But it occurs to me that that's not necessarily true because what has happened is that the social agenda has moved to the left. The goals having been turned on their heads.

AMDG

sorry, I did intend to include a link.

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2015/09/why-owen-jones-has-got-it-all-backwards.html

"What's inane is for you to read lowbrow and then complain that that's all there is because you're too indolent to bother with anything else."

It's not a highbrow vs. lowbrow thing at all. The unsophisticated can "get it" if it's presented to them. Thing is, it isn't. All they get is pap from the GOP mouthpieces.

To put it another way, if all you ever hear is "THIS is what conservatism is!" why would you think otherwise?

"What's more significant is widespread popular sentiment, not really rising to the level of "idea". And at that level there is certainly an idea of across-the-board personal freedom which does exhibit what Hitchens describes."

Yes, thanks, Maclin. That's helpful.

I fundamentally like this group of people and appreciate what you all have to say, so thanks for contributing to my thought processes.

The implication being that nothing has changed in that regard since the Clinton (Bill) campaign--and that's on both sides of the aisle.

I bet if you go to sales meetings, they do not talk about Planned Parenthood either. Ditto gun club meetings.

Heritage is an agency which has a number of hats, but one thing they do is produce statistical analyses of public policy concepts and legislative proposals. Social questions are inherently less amenable to that sort of treatment (though sociological studies to rebut contentions of the gay lobby can be helpful, they would never influence Anthony Kennedy).

And the event was a fund-raiser. I'm not surprised they devoted most of their discussion to economic and business topics. There's what you favor and then there's your primary motor for undertaking some activity in the civic sphere. William Kristol is quite friendly to social conservatives, but that's not the usual fare at The Weekly Standard. You might wish the businessmen ponying up for the Heritage Foundation had a different rank-ordering of concerns, but it's rather sectarian to accuse them of 'Libertarian rot'. (My complaint about Heritage would be that in their efforts to maintain relationships with Congressional offices, they get lost in the weeds of whatever's on the Capitol Hill agenda, a great deal of which is trivia).

You do have an element within the Capitol Hill nexus who are just insufferable, but their motors are not libertarian either. Careerist, crony-capitalist, bourgeoiscocktailpartyist, yes. Libertarian, no. You have a bevy of opinion journalists who are trouble as well, but the worst of them are not people who have a concise set of theoretical principles.

It's not a highbrow vs. lowbrow thing at all. T

Oh, yes it is Rob, and you cannot even read your own words. Your whole beef is that Sean Hannity is not like Russell Kirk. He's a popular television commentator, not a lapsed English professor, and he concerns himself with topical questions, not ghost stories or family histories. He has a different audience. If people seek out more rarefied material, they can find it. You might wish to complain about popular taste (not that that would be at all original), but there's no aspect of this that's local to political discourse, much less discourse along the lines of a particular thread.

Art, you've set yourself a hopeless task of denying fairly obvious facts "on the ground", as they say. As you said "It's also foolish to expect large swaths of people to read literary criticism or political theory." Indeed. The original point is that a false idea of personal freedom is widespread and crosses the political divide. It's not a matter of a consciously held "concise set of theoretical principles."

This surprised me: "If the term [American Dream] was ever used non-ironically and non-mordantly in my lifetime, I've forgotten it, and I'm past 50." I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've heard it used quite seriously. And when I say it involved "wealth" I don't necessarily mean vast riches, just a certain level of affluence.

Anyway, I have things to do and am out of this discussion; as I said earlier, I think it's a very tired subject.

"Art, you've set yourself a hopeless task of denying fairly obvious facts "on the ground", as they say. "

Which ones?

Indeed. The original point is that a false idea of personal freedom is widespread and crosses the political divide. I

And I'm not referring to false ideas about political freedom, but to Rob G's tiresome complaints about other people's reading material, which have been repeated in precisely the same terms again and again in this forum.

"Which ones?"

Exercise for the reader. ;-)

"Your whole beef is that Sean Hannity is not like Russell Kirk."

Hmmm, once again, I can't tell if you really just don't get it, or you're being willfully dense. The point's about the content, not the presentation.

"Rob G's tiresome complaints about other people's reading material"

LOL. Like they used to say in the 90s, "As if."

"The original point is that a false idea of personal freedom is widespread and crosses the political divide. It's not a matter of a consciously held 'concise set of theoretical principles.'"

Exactly.

I agree with Art Deco. It sounds very moral to lump all conservatives together but it is a mistake

"It sounds very moral to lump all conservatives together but it is a mistake."

Grumpy, I most definitely do not lump all conservatives together. Precisely the opposite. Note that my qualifications specifically include "mainstream" conservatives, and the further qualifiers "many" and "most."

My contention is that most mainstream conservatism in the U.S. is a mixture of a sort of light libertarianism with varying elements of social conservatism and/or traditionalism. It tends to equate being pro-business/pro-corporate with "freedom" in a fiscal and anti-statist sense. In so doing it reflects a false idea of personal freedom, namely the notion that one has complete and autonomous control over one's money and possessions. This is the flip-side of the mainstream Left's error, the notion that one has complete and autonomous control over one's body and sexuality.

Hayek always said you cannot have freedom without the rule of law. No mainstream conservative says that e.g. economics or finance could work without the rule of law

Maybe I'm just dense, but it seems to me that maybe you two are talking at cross purposes, and I wonder if when you say "mainstream conservatives" you mean the same people.

AMDG

Honestly, this whole thread is confusing the heck out of me.

I like the Solzhenitsyn quote, though. :)

Don't get so confused that you can't write about Chaim Potok.

AMDG

Janet, I thought to myself earlier when I read Grumpy's Hayek comment "They're talking at cross purposes." I'm not up to trying to straighten it out, though.

Yes, I think we are too.

I'm not saying that the conservatives of whom I speak are economic anarchists (just like modern leftists are generally not sexual anarchists). They believe in the rule of law. But they are in many ways a sort of fiscal libertine, operating under the assumption that barring illegal and demonstrably immoral activity their money and property are theirs to do with whatever they wish in an autonomous sense. In my view this is a right-wing manifestation of what Mac called "a false view of personal freedom."


Said I wasn't going to get into this but...

I think the vast majority of free-marketers, at both the popular and intellectual levels, agree with Hayek on that point. But it's a rules-of-the-game kind of view--these are the rules you have to follow if you want the game to work. Where they run into trouble (philosophically speaking) is the point where the market goes in a direction that is ok by the rules of the game but not by an ethical standard outside of the market. Hence free-marketers collectively have been at best ineffective against pornography as a business. Founded in philosophical liberalism, free-market views have difficulty saying "That's wrong".

I guess I'm not a free marketer. I can say "It's wrong."

It's wrong.

And to follow up on what Mac wrote, my point is that you will seldom hear an argument of that sort within the mainstream right, even if it comes from someone with otherwise solid conservative bona fides.

Huckabee tried something along those lines in his 2008 campaign (a pitch for a more "communitarian" conservatism) and was told he was a liberal. I distinctly remember Limbaugh at the time saying, "I like Mike, he's a good guy, but he's not a conservative."

I've heard the same expulsion pronounced more than once on conservatives who deviated on free-market economics.

Robert, many or most free-marketers would say "It's wrong" in their Personal Opinion. But will they take that into the public sphere in some way, with, for instance, the fervor with which they might oppose raising the minimum wage? Not many.

Thought experiment: would a politician who held views that would pass muster with Limbaugh, but owned a chain of motels that offered porno movies on the in-room tv network, be similarly labelled "not a conservative"?

Republican combox denizens are commonly unfair to Huckabee and that extends in a more attenuated way to radio commentators, in part, I think, because they tend to have two quite different sets of motors and perspectives. Huckabee is a lapsed Governor who had day to day responsibility for a public apparat which had ongoing institutional missions incorporated in Arkansas law and the state budget. He also had to co-operate with a legislature controlled by the opposition his entire time in office. His critics know little of that.

An aspect of starboard discourse is what you might call 'point-and-laugh' or 'point-and-bitch'. If your self-concept is that you're an industrious and independent chap put upon by incompetents and grifters and layabouts, it's appealing. The thing is, while the state may be hypertrophied, large swaths of the state perform functions that the private sector does not and cannot. Point-and-laugh and point-and-bitch are do bupkis about improving institutional performance. Also, Huckabee's priorities are such that he does not send social signals to the combox denizen that he endorses their self-understanding.

I had a most disagreeable exchange with a Republican campaign volunteer from Arkansas in which she was spitting mad when it was pointed out that the ratio of state expenditure to Arkansas' domestic product did not vary during Huckabee's term of office and that he had to work with a Democratic legislature the whole time. She had a right to be angry with this man. She was also spitting mad about state welfare expenditure, which she rendered as Huckabee 'confusing his role as pastor with his role as governor'. The trouble was, welfare expenditure as she conceived of it amounted to 'what the other guy gets'. Public schools and state colleges are welfare expenditure too, as they are subsidized services that the private market is perfectly capable of producing, something a woman complaining that the wrong people were getting in-state tuition just does not register.

All of which brings you to some problems with popular discourse, which is that it tends to default to vulgar Randianism, romantic piffle about Davy Crockett, or complaining about the other guy's stuff. However, radio babblers and combox denizens are not Republican primary voters and Republican primary voters are not the general election base, and office-holders who have to make real decisions differ from voters as well, who are seldom called upon to reconcile contradictory positions.

Libertarians of the Reason Foundation variety are not at pains to draw distinctions between discrete markets and do not care to do so. They like pornography and drugs and sodomy (or prefer to be thought of as people who do not condemn them). That does not describe ordinary Republican voters, who do not live in libertarian thought experiments. It does not describe the combox blowhards, either, who are more animated by a nexus of associations which suggest that people like themselves should have more status and other sorts of people less status.

You're not prevented from shutting down strip joints in your town by libertarians. They have no influence. You're being prevented by the legal profession, and by the chronic ineffectuality broad swaths of the public and the political class manifest when they're being pushed around by lawyers. You're also being prevented by strands of popular preference. Those wretched establishments do have a market, and a less embarrassed market than used to be the case. To the extent that this is translated into the language of social theory, it's more likely to be manosphere babble or sociobiology humbug (the two are aligned) than libertarian chatter.

I do not think there is a misunderstanding. I think Rob G is equating regular conservatives with what Decks calls 'vulgar randism". And I think Rob is wrong to do so. That is what I mean by lumping all conservatives together. In this discussion I think Deco is right to point to the nuances

"I've heard the same expulsion pronounced more than once on conservatives who deviated on free-market economics."

Which is what I'm getting at. Mainstream conservatism no more tolerates deviation on free-market economics than mainstream liberal/leftism tolerates deviation on so-called sexual liberation. Each is the noli me tangere of its respective party, and each is a manifestation of philosophical liberalism with its faulty understanding of human freedom.

Thought experiment: would a politician who held views that would pass muster with Limbaugh, but owned a chain of motels that offered porno movies on the in-room tv network, be similarly labelled "not a conservative"?

Likely no, because you're mixing a discussion of his viewpoints with details of how his business is run. There are three or four reasons he might offer porn channels. One is that he is not bothered by it. Another is that something about the price structure renders with-porn more cost-effective than without-porn. Another is that he's anxious about loss of business. Another is that he's not anxious and just wants the extra revenue. Another is that that's a decision which was made by a subordinate and he hasn't registered it. Some of these implicate his stated views, others suggest hypocrisy or hypocrisy under pressure, and other suggest merely negligence. (I do not know what you'd call Paul Johnson other than 'conservative', even though he was a chronic adulterer). I doubt Limbaugh would tell you that his domestic life (childless, thrice divorced) is how you should live.

As for how Limbaugh sets priorities re the proverbial 'three-legged-stool', I do not listen to the man, but I would wager they are the priorities most congruent with asserting and sustaining the status of a certain social type. How that works out in practice would be a mess of partisan discourse, point-and-laugh, and point-and-bitch. That's quite distant from the chuffering over at Front Porch Republic, most of which seems to be thrift-shop markdown Wendell Berry, and quite distant from that of (say) Heather MacDonald, who is very policy-oriented.

All of this from what I would take to be a pretty throwaway line from Hitchens (and I suspect a garbled one at that - what I've seen of his blog does not suggest careful editing, and I'm inclined to think he meant "the economic lberalism that has become identified with conservatives, plus the personal liberalism of the sexual revolution, make America a very unconservative place", and not, contrary to the syntax, that the personal liberalism was identified with conservative politics, because it simply isn't, at least not with the British Conservative Party or the American Republicans, the two groups he mentions). If it isn't garbled it's an attempt at paradox that falls flat.

Mainstream conservatism no more tolerates deviation on free-market economics

The complaints re Huckabee come from the usual sorts who blanch at social conservatism and evangelical idiom and from a parallel corps who complain about public expenditure NOS and/or his notions for reforming the welfare state. I doubt you'd find 1 in 50 who ever parsed Huckabee's views on aspects of the regulatory state.

Grumpy, yes, there certainly are nuances, and a lot of variation, and it doesn't do to ignore them completely. But generalizations are often illuminating as well. Rob has always qualified what he's saying with words like "many" and "mainstream", and with those provisos, I think the generalization is valid enough.

Re the politician/hotelier who provides porn, Art said: "Likely no, because you're mixing a discussion of his viewpoints with details of how his business is run."

Precisely. You're making my point for me, except that you fault me for mixing and I fault him for separating.

Precisely. You're making my point for me, except that you fault me for mixing and I fault him for separating.

I am making no point for you. I'm pointing out that the business is not the person, and that there are a number of possible vectors in why his business might be run that way.

Precisely. And among those is not fear of being thrown out of the conservative movement, supposing he was part of it to start with. You're accepting the view that the decision to offer pornography is widely accepted as a purely business decision.

But your response is in fact somewhat to one side of the point I was making, and in that respect does not make my point, which is not about why he would or would not do it but about whether he would or would not be accepted as a conservative by most of the mainstream conservative movement. Some would not care, some would fret a bit, but few would give him the treatment Limbaugh gave Huckabee.

The guy who sells porn is a weak and flawed person. Knowing this is what makes him a conservative

As a conservative myself I would like to think that's characteristic of the breed, but it doesn't match my observations.

"the decision to offer pornography is widely accepted as a purely business decision."

Robert George and another Catholic scholar of libertarian bent (I forget his name) had a debate about this very issue awhile back. The other scholar made the case that if the hotel chain was publicly held, and that providing pornography was proven to increase profits, the chain would be obligated to provide it because the purpose of a publicly held corporation is to generate profits for the shareholders. Since porn is legal the moral question doesn't enter into it.

This is, I think, what Mac meant when he wrote about a "rules-of-the-game" view of the thing, and it is not a strictly libertarian one.

Yes, that's exactly what I meant. The big point here is one that has been pointed out many many times: both the mainstream left and the mainstream right in American politics are rooted in classical liberalism. And classical liberalism is seriously deficient in the realm of first principles. This is not just some quirky idea that Rob and I came up with--it's pretty widely recognized and in many quarters praised--I mean not the deficiency as such, but the roots. I've been a little shocked any number of times to hear conservatives equate Western civilization with the Enlightenment.

Oh, by the way, I meant to mention Paul's explication of Hitchens: I thought what he meant was that neither American nor British conservatism is really conservative in some important respects.

both the mainstream left and the mainstream right in American politics are rooted in classical liberalism.

There is no strand of American political discussion which is derived from de Maistre or Hobbes. This is a problem just why?

"All of this from what I would take to be a pretty throwaway line from Hitchens"

Yes. Sorry about that. I won't do it again in a hurry.

But since we're here...

"the economic lberalism that has become identified with conservatives, plus the personal liberalism of the sexual revolution, make America a very unconservative place"

might indeed be what he meant. But my reading of it is more that there is really nothing very conservative about the conservative parties either in England or the US. That is true, I think, in Australia. The conservative parties in the West have really done nothing to halt the slaughter of innocents and the destruction of the family that I can see.

"Robert George and another Catholic scholar of libertarian bent (I forget his name) had a debate about this very issue awhile back. The other scholar made the case that if the hotel chain was publicly held, and that providing pornography was proven to increase profits, the chain would be obligated to provide it because the purpose of a publicly held corporation is to generate profits for the shareholders. Since porn is legal the moral question doesn't enter into it."

That is hilarious! It's not like the chain can't generate a profit without the porn! And morally, it doesn't need to increase the profits at all. It just needs to create some reasonable profit.

"And classical liberalism is seriously deficient in the realm of first principles. This is not just some quirky idea that Rob and I came up with--it's pretty widely recognized and in many quarters praised--I mean not the deficiency as such, but the roots. I've been a little shocked any number of times to hear conservatives equate Western civilization with the Enlightenment."

I agree.

neither American nor British conservatism is really conservative in some important respects

Yes, that's certainly true of British conservatism. But I don't think he meant that conservatives hold to "personal liberalism" in sexual matters; I think that's just poor syntax and bad editing.

Nobody said anything to make me change my mind, not that it was obligatory ...

"There is no strand of American political discussion which is derived from de Maistre or Hobbes. This is a problem just why?"

That's not the problem. The problem could be said to be too much Locke and Rousseau.

Paul, I thought some of the Tories favour such things as same sex marriage.

I missed something, Grumpy. Change your mind about what?

Some certainly do, Louise, but it isn't something the party could be said to be identified with.

Well, it's possible I got my wires crossed with that.

The problem could be said to be too much Locke and Rousseau.

Rousseau? You've confused the United States with France. If I'm not mistaken, the largest influence on late 18th century politicians in this country was Montesquieu.

"Rousseau?"

Yes. Not so much politically, but philosophically. His ideas about man helped lay the groundwork for liberalism's faulty anthropology.

Yes. Not so much politically, but philosophically. His ideas about man helped lay the groundwork for liberalism's faulty anthropology.

'Philosophically'? Where? Academic philosophy departments I think commonly have a specialist in political philosophy, but the most influential figure therein is John Rawls. Political science departments usually have a couple of slots given over to political theoreticians, but they're more intellectual historians than anything else (and I think you'd find Rousseau admirers therein). As for politicians, you do not find common allusions derived from Rouseeau. There are pre-political conceptions in common with Rousseau, but these and the implications from them are pretty severely contested.

"find few Rousseau admirers"

That is hilarious! It's not like the chain can't generate a profit without the porn! And morally, it doesn't need to increase the profits at all. It just needs to create some reasonable profit.

Several large chains have removed the pornography channels from their hotel offerings, so someone figures its not a bad business decision. One of the chains is based in Sweden.

Robert George is commonly resistant to debate and exchange formats (though not team-taught classes) so I wonder just with whom he was having this discussion. (As it's an issue he's addressed repeatedly in non-adversarial commentary).


And classical liberalism is seriously deficient in the realm of first principles. This is not just some quirky idea that Rob and I came up with--it's pretty widely recognized

I realize that's a complaint of people fond of academic discussions. Whether it has a fixed meaning outside a circumscribed academic bubble, I cannot say. Political culture and political practice may be influenced by such discussions in some way. The thing is, that has to compete with institutional and popular inertia, interests which might derive from economic factors or cultural factors, status competition between social sectors, &c.

For all the complaint about 'liberalism' herein, I'm not seeing allusions to any identified strand of non-liberal thought. Amitai Etzioni (who certainly was familiar with the body of social and political) attempted to propagate an alternative to non-specialists. I actually subscribed to his publication for a while, but it seemed pretty thin broth. You have votaries of Edmund Burke. I do not think Burke is someone you should be all that ready to invoke if being 'deficient in 1st principles' is a concern of yours. Burkeanism is more a disposition or a bias than a body of principles (and can be readily applied to defend rent-seeking). You can rustle up the social encyclicals, but these have terrible challenges of implementation.

The complaint that 'right' and 'left' are both 'liberal' is a bit of linguistic sleight of hand. At some stratospheric level, 'left' and 'right' assent to the residue of institutional inertia and a deficit of practical alternatives in many realms. You're not going to see public debates over the utility of command economies any more. 'Right' and 'Left' are manifestations of different classes and subcultures and actually do have a selection of irreconcilable viewpoints and irreconcilable dispositions You'd be better off reading Thomas Sowell or Alvin Gouldner to understand our political predicament than undertaking comparative readings of Jeremy Bentham and John Locke and the social encyclicals and the translated works of Portuguese integralism.

"'Philosophically'? Where?"

Primarily in his rejection of the idea of original sin, and the associated notions that man was basically good and all men thus equal in the state of nature. This influenced the French Revolutionaries and through them, subsequently the West in general.

plus the personal liberalism of the sexual revolution, make America a very unconservative place"

And he fancies that 'personal liberalism' in this vein is an American signature? It has not been universal here (or was not up until about 15 years ago). Some places in the occidental world put up some resistance to it (Quebec up until 1960, Spain until 1970, Greece (in certain meausre) at least as late as 1990, Ireland until 1990. Malta may be the lone holdout). There are dimensions of this 'personal liberalism' for which there is really only one resisting party, and that's the country in which you live. Compare elite and popular opinion on matters of criminal justice and see where the latter has more sway.

As for 'economic liberalism', discussions of this nature often turn on caricatures of starboard discourse and the Republican Party (as well as mistaking the implications of investing discretion in the apparatus of state).

"Several large chains have removed the pornography channels from their hotel offerings, so someone figures its not a bad business decision."

Everyone can now get 24/7 free access to porn on their "devices." Charging for it is no longer profitable.

Everyone can now get 24/7 free access to porn on their "devices." Charging for it is no longer profitable.

I do not own such a 'device', so it's 'everyone' less one. Now explain to me why the rest of the channels were not removed. Some of us have been around long enough to recall when cable service in hotel rooms was a novelty.

Primarily in his rejection of the idea of original sin, and the associated notions that man was basically good and all men thus equal in the state of nature.

Which is certainly a severely contested notion today, so much so that I do not think you'd find too many people who would adhere to it explicitly (though it may be implied in what they advocate). I doubt you'd ever find a period in American history where it was not.

~~~I do not own such a 'device', so it's 'everyone' less one.~~~

Neither do I, the point being that everyone who does own one can.

Oh wait! I forgot the 1/40th of 1% of owners who are minors and whose parents have put some sort of filtering/blocking mechanism on their devices. So really it's not positively literally every single owner/user (also realizing, of course, that the user may in fact not be the owner) that can access it. Sorry for the misleading overgeneralization.

"Now explain to me why the rest of the channels were not removed."

Uh, because unlike porn, not all TV shows, sporting events, and movies are instantly available for streaming or download, maybe???

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