Notes: The Monday Taki post is up. It is a different take on the attack by Theodore Ruger on Professor Wax. Sunday Thoughts is a shallow dive into the cult of neoconservatism using some of their recent posts. SubscribeStar users can find it here and Substack users can find it here.
One of the great problems Enlightenment thinkers tried to solve is why it is that human beings live in ordered societies. Further, why are some people in charge of those societies and others subject to the will of those people. What explains this and more important, what is the correct system of organization? The recently rediscovered Greeks offered some insights. Scripture offered understanding of man’s nature but offered little to explain social hierarchy.
It is fair to say that Western intellectual life has been dominated by the search for the right answer as to how best to organize society. The utilitarian school gave us the claim that the goal of any social policy it to maximize total happiness. The Marxists gave us the argument that the goal of social policy is reducing exploitation. By exploitation they meant compulsion. Social contract theory gave us the general will, the idea that policy should be supported by the majority of the people.
The modern age fumbles around looking for a new answer to the great questions, having decided that the prior answers are not quite right. Restorative justice borrows a bit from all three schools. It starts with the assumption that everyone should benefit equally from society. This is an assumption that is never justified or even explained, but simply assumed as an axiom of the universe. It is the motivation to act and the authority to do just about anything to restore equal outcomes.
The main question at the center of it all is authority. No matter how sensible your new system of social order, there has to be a reason it should be preferred by or enforced upon those who disagree. Marx recognized this which is why he invented the idea of super-abundance to get around the issue. In a society in which everyone gets what they need to live, there is no need to compel anyone. According to Marx, it is scarcity that leads to exploitation.
Marx was not the first person to use sleight of hand to get around the central problem of authority in social organization. Locke and Hobbes conjured from nothing the idea of a state of nature, a mythological pre-social existence. Even Rousseau, who criticized the concept, had to fall back on it to justify his thinking. Of course, the foundation of Western democracy is the purely hypothetical concept of the social contract, which has been handed down to us by the Greeks.
This search for an answer to “by what authority?” haunts the modern ruling class, which is why they have evolved certain chants to wave away the question. Whenever they use the phrase “our democracy” they may as well be saying “by the divide right of kings” or “because the gods command it.” It is intellectual base stealing. In the name of democracy, they assume power over the rest of us and the right to use that power to achieve whatever ends they think appropriate.
The same is true of the “right side of history.” Instead of appealing to Scripture, which would create obvious problems, they appeal to a great mystery force that can be defined to meet the task at hand. The speaker is on the right side of history, so he is empowered to clear the road. Those on the wrong side of history are in the way of history so they lack all authority. Like the other abracadabra phrases popular with the ruling class, this just means “because I say so.”
This search for justification turns up in the heresy accusations leveled against Professor Amy Wax by Theodore Ruger. His bill of indictment is a blend of assumptions and vague claims about vague school policies. He holds up statements made by Professor Wax as examples of her violating school policy, but never bothers to explain how or why they violate the policy. Occasionally he asserts that something she said is in dispute, but most things are in dispute.
This line from Ruger’s letter is an example of intellectual base stealing. “[Professor Wax] public commentary espousing derogatory and hateful stereotypes has led students to reasonably conclude that she is unable to evaluate them fairly based on their individualized merit.” He then lists some examples of students who claimed to be vexed by Professor Wax. Because he can find someone who agrees with his claim, it is by force of magic a reasonable claim.
This is the sort of logic that was never tolerated by undergraduates at elite universities like the University of Pennsylvania. If Professor Wax is maintaining a hostile classroom, then some students will question her objectivity. This is true if the word “hostile” is assumed to mean heretical and “some students” is assumed to mean those who are not biological males of European ethnicity. Therefore, if a nonwhite or female gets upset, it must mean they are in a hostile environment.
It should not have to be said, but this is a classic logical fallacy that used to be taught in American middle-schools. If A always leads to B, it does not follow that the existence of B means the existence of A. There can be many causes for B. In this case, the emotionally disturbed students cited in the letter could be vexed by any number of things, including the preaching of people like Mr. Ruger. Keep telling young people that the devil is always at their elbow and they will believe it.
Strip away all of the primitive claims in that letter and you are left with an assumption that the good people, like Mr. Ruger, are here to protect the sacred people, like the nonwhite students he cites. This is the answer to the great question that has haunted the West for centuries, by what authority? The vast diverse class of people we call the managerial elite exist to shepherd the vulnerable, who they have defined as anyone who is not a biological male of European origin.
Because there is no external source of authority for these claims, anyone who challenges the claim is branded a heretic. That is what you see in that letter and in all of the hysterics that have come to dominate the age. The worship of nonwhites and the efforts to protect them have no basis in reality. Note that Ruger avoids challenging Wax on the facts. Her statements are not factually wrong, but morally wrong even though the underlying moral claims have no authority.
Like a parent tired of answering the series of why questions from their child, the managerial elite are increasingly frustrated and angry because they have no answer the question of why. Why is it wrong to point out that intelligence is not distributed equally between people or groups? What is the authority for declaring these observations of fact immoral? More important, why are these people going to such lengths to mask observable reality?
Fundamentally, the crisis of this age is one of authority. The feudal system could point to tradition and the family. The king was like the father and his people were like the family, where the father had the last word. Man’s relationship to God as described in Scripture was imperfectly recreated in politics. Just as man ultimately answers to God, subjects ultimately answered to the king. This is the answer to the question at the heart of the social order, by what authority?
This age has no answer to the great question. Why are these people in these positions and why are they imposing these novel moral codes? What justifies their claim that noticing things about people is immoral? Who decided this and by what system did they decide it? Because there are no answers to these questions, the only solution is to silence anyone who raises them. To tolerate dissent puts into question the authority of the managerial system, which has no natural authority.
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