Binary Thinking

In the movie The Usual Suspects, the wily main character utters one of the most memorable movies lines in recent times. “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The line is allegedly lifted from the 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire. According to the Quote Investigator, versions of the line have been used by Christian ministers before Baudelaire. That seems plausible, given the inclinations of reformist Christian ministers.

Something similar can be said for radicalism. Perhaps its greatest trick is to convince the world they did not win and rule the West for the last century and a half. Instead, the radicals go from triumph to triumph, convincing their adherents that the fight must go on, as well as convincing their opponents to fight future battles in a way that is guaranteed to result in their defeat. It really is a remarkable thing, when you stop and think about the past century or so of political conflict.

One trick the Left has used is to alter the shared consciousness in such a way that everyone is a binary thinker. That is, every issue, not matter how trivial, is assumed to be one thing or the other. Whatever the issue, there are only two options, so if one is made invalid, the other is the right answer by default. Therefore, everyone participating in political discourse is forced to defend one side or the other. Further, they think they advance their side by discrediting the other side.

The classic example of this was the homosexual marriage debate. Before anyone knew what was happening, the beautiful people were insisting that anyone opposed to the idea must hate homosexuals. In fact, anyone not embracing everything about the homosexual lifestyle must be a hate-filled bigot. This binary thinking has now extended to men dressed as women. The only options for the debate were one extreme position or the other, which obviously worked to the advantage of the Left.

Another example is the current debate over the pandemic lock downs. The alarmists insist that the choices are lock everyone in their homes until there are no more sick people or allow people to die in the streets from the virus. Most people have happily accepted this framing, so that anyone questioning the lock down is viewed as a dangerous nut. The idea of a third or fourth position is no longer possible, as those are lumped into one extreme or the other by the two sides.

Yet another example is one that has turned up in fringe politics. Those opposed to the current economic order are cheering the lock down, as they assume it must be bad for those they blame for the current economic order. This urge to harm their perceived enemies is so intense, they seem willing to harm themselves and their friends in an economic collapse, if it harms the bad guys. Any questioning of this is characterized as a defense of the current order, possibly even a betrayal.

Probably the clearest example of this binary way of thinking is something you see from the intelligent design people. They assume if they can discredit evolutionary biology, their preferred explanation of life must be true. They make no effort to prove their claims about a great designer. They just assume that if they discredit the alternative, they must be proven correct by default. It is why they invest all of their time and energy into attacking evolutionary biology. Theirs is an either-or worldview.

There’s almost always a strong moral component to binary thinking. Side A looks at Side B as immoral, perhaps evil. We see this now with the lock down. Those questioning the policy are accused of being indifferent to their fellow humans or even putting lives at risk with their crazy ideas about going outside. The same moral signaling was at play with the homosexual marriage debate. In the binary worldview, there are only good guys and bad guys, black hats and white hats.

This hyper-moralized binary thinking can have some bizarre results. The Left is endlessly mewing about the danger of right-wing authoritarianism, but cheers what can only be described as authoritarianism during the lockout. Right-wing opponents of cosmopolitan globalism are now embracing left-wing schemes to crash the system, like rent strikes and overloading the welfare system. The so-called hard-right now sounds like a bunch of leisure suit wearing Progressives from the 1970’s.

The reason for this is the hyper-moralized world of binary thinking must necessarily be detached from anything resembling fixed truth. If all that matters is opposing the bad guy, then the only truth that matters is they are wrong and therefore the opposite of what they say is the truth. In a world of binary thinking, everyone is defined by who they hate and what they oppose, not by objective truth. In the great dance with the Devil, he leads by simply existing in the mind of his partner.

That is the great trick of the radicals. By convincing the world that politics is a constant struggle against some enemy, the corrective of factual reality has been abandoned in favor of binary logic. Since radicalism itself is rooted in the endless revolution against something, societies in a constant struggle to find some new devil to oppose must always embrace radicalism. The very identity of a radical society is rooted in the constant struggle to move past some evil onto the next.


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The Rewind

In his book The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukyama argued that humanity has reached the end-point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the triumph of Western liberal democracy. This does not mean stuff stopped happening, just that the evolution of political thought had reached an end-point, where liberal democracy was the best we could muster. All the alternatives had been explored and tried only to fall short of what liberal democracy could provide materially and morally.

There is a lot to be said for and against Fukyama’s claims and whether he is even the first person to make this argument. Alexandre Kojève made similar arguments from a Marxist perspective in the middle of the last century. Given the trajectory of liberal democracy since Fukyama’s book, Kojève has the better claim. Regardless, there is no doubting that the West has gone a down a cul-de-sac of sorts intellectually. Whatever comes after liberal democracy, we cannot imagine it.

This dead end is most obvious in fringe politics. This debate the other day between an anarchist, a Marxist, and some flavors of fascism is a good example. The debate itself is puerile and stupid, but it is illustrative of the state of the fringe. Rather than debating novel ideas as alternatives to the current orthodoxy, they shout at one another about archaic ideas that have no salience in the modern age. The far Left and far Right these days just engage in a form of live action role playing.

Fascism and Marxism are as relevant as the free silver movement, but for people unhappy with the status quo, and hoping to seem edgy and dangerous, they are the only options. Classical liberalism is what suburban dads embrace when they are unhappy with the status quo, while mom can throw in with the gynocracy. The middle-class radicals are left to embrace old ideas that never had much purchase in America and have not been popular in Europe for close to a century now.

One common item to both sides of this fringe debate is the unspoken agreement that the current order is unacceptable. Their critiques of liberal democracy fall into one of two categories. On the one side, the claim is the system does not adequately provide for the material comfort of the people and the wrong people benefit. The other side mostly focuses on the wrong people benefiting, but largely agree that the system does not adequately provide for the materially well-being of the people.

Strangely, the race angle is mostly a prop, a fig leaf to disguise the fact that both sides largely agree with one another. Both sides agree that socialism is the right economic model and both sides agree that the bankers and corporate executives are the bogeyman in this drama. The neo-Marxists, however, make a big deal of being anti-racist, despite all of them being white, while the neo-Fascist make a big deal of being racist and anti-Semitic. Race is mostly a costume for both sides.

There is another element to this neo-revanchism we see in fringe politics and that is the strong desire to start over. Having reached the end of the tournament and being relegated to the loser bracket, the various teams in fringe politics now seek to start the tournament over again. It’s why the Left side calls themselves anti-Fascists and the Right side embraces the Fascist aesthetic. It allows both sides to believe they can start the process over again and this time, get a better result.

That’s why both sides were hoping the virus panic would destroy the economy and usher in a great depression. The Right-side imagines people taking wheelbarrows full of cash to buy food. The Left side imagines working men being entertained by folk singers after they hear a speech by the local communist cadre. There is the assumption that if the whole liberal democratic order fails, we just rewind the clock and begin the process over again, but this time with a different result.

Another angle to this neo-revanchism is a new romanticism among younger white males for a return to a what they imagine was a more honorable and possibly heroic way of living as political actors. They want to be poet-warriors, who read political philosophy and fight the enemies of their cause. The neo-Marxists kit themselves out as beatniks and repeat lines they picked up movies about prior left-wing movements. The neo-fascists embrace Nazi iconography and language.

Richard Spencer tapped into this romanticism with his Faustian man act. Prior to his ascension as the face of the alt-right, he busied himself writing banal paleocon essays about current events. Then he started doing videos and speeches about how it was the destiny of European man to conquer and rule. He threw in enough literary references to pass himself off as a philosopher. A lot of young white men fell for it, because they dreamed of going back to a more honorable and heroic age.

Of course, this type of fringe politics is almost exclusively male. In fact, the reason for so much interest and energy in fringe politics in general is that mainstream politics is almost completely feminine now. Both sides of the liberal democratic order are dominated by harpies and schoolmarms. There’s simply no place for a normal male in conventional politics, so normal males are filtering into antiquarian politics. For many, this is just a better version of the video game of life.


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Russell Kirk

The habit of rewriting history to fit current narratives is generally associated with the far-Left, but the so-called conservatives do their share of it as well. The early history of Buckley conservatism, for example, has been deliberately forgotten. More important, the people associated with the alternatives to Buckley’s individualistic brand of conservatism have been forgotten. The current narrative says the only alternative to coercive collectivism was the lonely individualism of Bill Buckley.

As a result, Russell Kirk gets little mention from modern conservatives. He has been written out of the history of their movement, in the same way Stalin would have former allies airbrushed out of photographs. He was never purged from the movement, like the paleocons, but he has largely been forgotten. No one in the National Review scene bothers to reexamine the rivalry between Frank Meyer and Russell Kirk, as to do so would raise uncomfortable questions about their cult leader, Bill Buckley.

It is a funny thing about Buckley conservatism. The truly brilliant people associated with the movement were eventually purged or abandoned. Joe Sobran, Sam Francis and Pat Buchanan are examples of men purged from the movement, because they dared challenge the cult of Bill Buckley. Kirk, on the other hand, was forgotten, a bad reminder of what should have been. There’s at least one good book on the people Buckley finked on during his long career as leader of the conservative movement.

How relevant Russell Kirk is to our current age is debatable. In fact, European conservatism in general may have little salience in the demographic age. The defense of the Occident against the demographic tsunami is not served by a steadfast refusal to consider innovation or a rethinking of the current order. Not only has too much been lost for conservatism to make sense, the challenges we face are entirely different from anything imagined in the past by conservative thinkers.

Even so, Russell Kirk was a brilliant political observer and analyst. He has a lot to tell us about what went wrong with the Right and the fight against radicalism. Given that the people we associate with the Left will keep trying to pull the roof down on Western civilization until they are stopped, there is a lot to be learned from the failed efforts by the Buckleyites in the last century. The old guys of traditionalism can tell us much about what not to do when forming up an alternative.

The other value in going back and reading the old school conservatives from the last century is that it shows how the old political spectrum was mostly about keeping the interested parties on the Left and Right in charge of the debate. Any challenge to Buckley on the Right was classed as beyond the pale. Any challenge from the Left was classed as a Bolshevism. The bad uncles of the 20th century become the two poles, slowly narrowing the field until we arrived at neo-liberalism.

The old bipolar way of imagining the political universe may have had its uses in various times and places, but it is not a universal. Russell Kirk would have thought fascism just as reckless and immoral as communism. That’s true of the paleocons, who were accused of being fascists as they were hooted out of the movement. The way forward for modern dissidents starts with abandoning the old bipolar political spectrum as a relic of a bygone era. There is no Right and Left, just the great divide.

This week I have the usual variety of items in the now standard format. Spreaker has the full show. I am up on Google Play now, so the Android commies can take me along when out disrespecting the country. I am on iTunes, which means the Apple Nazis can listen to me on their Hitler phones. The anarchists can catch me on iHeart Radio. I am now on Deezer, for our European haters and Stitcher for the weirdos. YouTube also has the full podcast. Of course, there is a download link below.


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This Week’s Show

Contents

  • 00:00: Opening (Link) (Link)
  • 02:00: Russell Kirk
  • 07:00: Moral Order
  • 12:00: Custom And Continuity
  • 17:00: Prescription
  • 22:00: Prudence
  • 27:00: Variety
  • 32:00: Imperfectability
  • 37:00: Property
  • 42:00: Community
  • 47:00: Prudent Restraint
  • 52:00: Permanence And Change
  • 57:00: Closing

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A Bridge Too Far

The other day, I witnessed a Korean complain about whites using “WuFlu” or “Kung Flu” to describe the Chinese flu. He claimed that he and his family have been the victims of harassment, because angry whites are blaming China for the flu. Because white people are raging racists, we cannot tell the difference between Koreans and Chinese, so Koreans are getting the business from roving mobs and angry whites. It’s all nonsense, but not surprising. Hating white people is the national pastime.

This event happened on a message board, so I took the opportunity to remind the Korean guy that many white people lost family members saving his people from the clutches of communism. If not for white people, he would be standing in a rice paddy or pushing a wooden boat along a diseased river. That assumes he would be alive, as the life expectancy of Koreans was quite low until white people arrived. In a sane world, he would spend one day a year thanking white people.

If there is to be just one line to describe the history of white people on this planet, it should be “No good deed goes unpunished.” White people literally pulled the world out of the dark ages, but the world remains an ungrateful place. Asians in America are now working on their grievance tales, about how the round-eye was mean to them during the great yellow pandemic of 2020. The fact that they would be eating bugs and living in huts if not for the white man is conveniently forgotten.

One has to wonder if this is a bridge too far. Whites can tolerate ungrateful blacks, because of slavery. There’s also the fact that left to their own devices, blacks revert to a Neolithic lifestyle. Without white people, Africa would look like a Tarzan movie. This is something even the most far-left person knows, even if they refuse to admit it. White people feel obliged to help Africans, despite the lack of gratitude. It remains to be seen if the same dynamic can hold up with Asians.

Asia is not Africa. After the war, Japan rebuilt itself with the help of America and joined the modern world quite quickly. Korea took a lot longer, but once they found the right strongman, he pulled his people into the modern world. Again, massive help from America made it possible, but they eventually made it. Other Asian societies have joined modernity in fits and starts. Even Vietnam, which is one of the most backward places in Asia, has slowly modernized over the last few decades.

China, of course, is the elephant in the room. It was a backward, barbaric madhouse through the 1970’s. Before Deng Xiaoping dragged his country out of the dark ages of Maoism, it was one of the most dysfunctional societies on earth. Even so, she went from barbarism to modernity at a remarkable rate. China is still very Chinese, but China is not Africa. In fact, all of Asia has the human capital to avoid being Africa, even if the West turns its back on the continent. They don’t need us.

The same applies in America. Asians have never suffered much in the way of discrimination in America. The Japanese internment always gets brought up, but that was thoroughly justified. War is never pleasant. Otherwise, white people in America have welcomed Asians into the country and allowed them to make what they will of themselves and Asians have done quite well. East Asians have a median household income of $85,349 compared to $57,865 for whites.

Without the burden of slavery or low human capital, it seems like a hard sell to convince whites to feel guilty toward Asians. In fact, the result of such an effort could very well be the opposite, a resentment toward an ungrateful minority of visitors. Asking Africans to head back to their ancestral homeland is unreasonable. Asking Asians to go back to their homelands is not so unreasonable. Korea is a sparkling first world country, so if Koreans are unhappy in America, planes leave daily for Seoul.

Then there is that China problem. It is highly probable that China poisoned the world, causing massive damage and suffering. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it would have happened anyway, but the evidence is clear that China lied to the world about the nature of this virus and where it started. No amount of special pleading can cause white people to overlook this. Western politicians, despite their lunacy, will have no choice but to address the China problem, even if that makes the other Asians sad.

It is not just the virus or the lying about it. People forget that the Chinese tried to poison the world’s pets a few years back. In 2007, many brands of cat and dog foods had to be recalled due to contamination with melamine. The Chinese also poisoned our toothpaste with toxic chemicals. Go way back and we have the expression “sand bagging” from the way dishonest Chinese tea merchants tried to cheat their European customers. This is what’s called a pattern of behavior.

To Westerners, Asian habits are barbaric, but not primitive. Again, Asians are not backward people like Africans. Asians know better, but choose to eat dogs and cats and turn pests into bizarre delicacies. They choose to poison our pet food. With choice comes responsibility. If Asians choose to do these things, then the West has no choice but to turn its back on Asians. As we see with the virus pandemic, as a matter of survival, the West will have reevaluate its relationship with China.

That’s what makes the effort by Asians in America to play the victim card seem like a bridge too far. They can file their complaints with the office of grievances, but that line is very long. The reason the line is especially long is social distancing means everyone has to stand six feet apart. That and half the staff is working at home in order to avoid being too close to one another. No, there will not be a pogrom against Asians, but whitey is in no mood to hear their complaints.


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Custodialism

Every political philosophy starts with a set of beliefs about the human condition that are claimed to be universal and timeless. Based on these assumptions, there is a critique of the present state of affairs and the political organization responsible for it. What comes after that is an alternative. The claim is that the alternative will more closely correspond to man’s natural condition. Usually, there is a list of principles put forward that are intended to increase the good and diminish the bad.

Communists, for example, assumed that human beings are naturally cooperative, but that private property creates conflict. The greed of a few, exploiting the many, results in conflict between the classes. Eliminate private property and you eliminate that social conflict. They argued that the move to industrial societies meant scarcity could be eliminated through collective ownership of capital. The elimination of private property would lead to the equitable distribution of production.

Libertarians see cooperation as the result of the diversity of talents among humans and their rational self-interest. Once two people figured out that they could increase their output by combining their efforts, the foundation of society was set. People soon figured out that combining diverse talents increases collective productivity and material prosperity. Because humans are motivated by self-interest, they naturally cooperate with one another to increase their material prosperity.

The people who currently rule over us, start from the assumption that all humans possess the same natural raw material. The differences we see in people are the result of racism, poverty, inequality and the legacy of white supremacy. Otherwise, people come into the world as amorphous blobs that can be shaped into whatever society makes of them. Whether the rulers truly believe this is not important. Public policy is based on the blank slate and extreme egalitarianism.

If the starting point for a political philosophy is a set of universal truths about the human condition, then it is necessary that those truths be based in reality. Marxism has been a bloody disaster, because it assumes things about man that are contrary to the reality of the human condition. Marxists tried to remedy this by killing off the inconvenient, but it turned out that you just can’t kill enough people to make it work. Transforming society into an abattoir lowers productivity, rather than producing plenty.

Similarly, but without the bloodshed, libertarianism has been a complete failure as a political movement, because homo economicus is not real. Material self-interest is certainly part of the puzzle, but humans are motivated by all sorts of things. More important, the assumption that people will deal with one another in good faith, once the monopoly of the state is removed, is false. Every society has some portion motivated to rule over the rest. Someone will always be in charge.

Much of what vexes the modern West is that the people in charge have embraced a political philosophy based on invalid assumptions about human nature. People are not born as amorphous blobs that can be molded into model citizens. Instead, they are the genetic result of thousands of mating decisions that came before them. Further, nature does not distribute her gifts equally between individuals or groups. The diversity of man extends to all aspects of the human animal, not just the superficial traits.

The main reason the West is struggling to square what it believes about humanity with what is happening in the world, is that the core assumptions of the West were formed in the Enlightenment. The great debates about the nature of man were between Europeans, who were primarily concerned with how Europeans would organize themselves, manage relations between groups of Europeans and conduct commerce between and within groups of Europeans.

Another issue is that Western style liberal democracy is a creation of an age when smart people knew very little about the human sciences. Their speculation about the evolution of settled society was a work of imagination. They may have had some sense that humanity progressed from savagery to civilization, but they had no understanding of genetics, evolution or the interplay between culture and biology. They had no knowledge about what we inherited from our simian ancestors.

The big flaw is the assumption that there is some reason, beyond the material, for why humans are the only intelligent species on the planet. We’re special. As such, there must be some reason for it. The very notion of human progress assumes there must be a reason for our existence. After all, to what are we progressing if there is no purpose to our existence? What is the point of the arc of history if it does not have a beginning, middle and end? There must be some reason for it.

Current events are a good lesson in the reality of the human condition. Humans are not relentlessly pursuing their self-interest or naturally cooperative. The engine that drives humanity is the need for safety. We see that all around us as people meekly hide in their closets because they are told the bogeyman is outside. The great panic would not be possible if people were driven by self-interest. Why would the overwhelming majority sacrifice for the one or two percent vulnerable to the virus?

The fact is, people have gone along with this because down deep, in the store of man’s oldest desires, is the urge to huddle in the cave with the rest of the tribe, as the storm rages outside. That is man’s oldest desire as a social animal. To bind together in a shared fear of the natural world is what makes us human. The great motivator of mankind is the desire for safety. If there is a point to our existence, it is to shelter with our cave mates trembling in fear at the great danger outside.

For sure, people do more than just shelter from the danger, but it is the desire for safety that drives our actions. We will cooperate with one another to defeat some threat and will profit greatly from saving people from a threat. Safety and its traveling companion comfort are the great drivers of human progress. A great way to get rich is to eliminate a danger from life. The most popular way, however, is to make the sheltering from the dangers of life as comfortable as possible.

If there is to be a new moral philosophy for the post-Enlightenment age, it will have to be based, at least in part, on man’s nature desire for safety. In fact, the neo-liberal order may very well be the moral philosophy to first root itself in safety. The legion of schoolmarms and harpies monitoring our speech and making sure we have no unclean thoughts are all here for our collective good. They even say their role is to create safe spaces for every conceivable type of person.

The Enlightenment was as much about observing what was happening on its own as crafting blueprints for future societies. Marx, for example, had plenty of examples to draw from to form his ideas. Maybe that is what we are seeing today. As the custodial state forms up, what we call the neo-liberal order will become more formal and get a new name that captures its essence. Perhaps we are living at the dawn of Custodialism, the politics of keeping everyone safe from any possible danger.


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The Great Retreat

It is becoming increasingly clear that the great zombie apocalypse of 2020 is not going to live up to the hype. At this stage, the models and their experts said we would have bodies in the streets and chaos at the hospitals. Instead, what we have is a shuttered country and hospitals furloughing staff due to a lack of sick people. The curve benders keep changing their forecasts, but the virus keeps letting them down. The big question now is how will everyone retreat from this debacle.

To his credit, President Trump has sensed the end game from the very beginning and has been talking about “reopening the country” for a while. He knows this cannot go on much longer and his job will soon shift from battling dingbats in the press room over the virus to battling dingbats in the press room over the economy. If he is to continue in his role, he will need the promised V-shape recession. If it is a depression, then he will be replaced with the first Alzheimer-American to run for president.

This may turn out to be what saves his presidency. He will have six months to go around the country talking up the economy. He will also be able to blame Congress for a whole host of things in the process. Running against Congress is a good way for a President with soft support to win over skeptics. If the economy is quickly recovering by the fall, with employers hiring back furloughed workers, Trump can run as the guy who not only saved us from the invisible death but also saved the economy.

A lot of that will depend on the local politicians. They have suddenly found their spines in this panic and are now claiming to control our destiny regarding the lock down. They are coordinating their plans to re-open, which is smart politics. They don’t want to give Trump credit, but they don’t want to risk being the first to open up. They will pretend to be operating as a team in order to not risk getting blamed if the media does not follow orders and continues to report on the virus.

That’s the big part of the coming retreat from this panic. The media will have to be coached carefully so they don’t screw up and accidentally report the truth. A whole new gaggle of experts and actors playing experts is being prepped to explain why it is now okay to go outside. At the same time, they still have to blame Orange Man for the deaths that never materialized. In the end, they may just drop the whole thing and pretend it never happened, like the impeachment fiasco.

Perhaps the hardest hit by the great virus flop has been the curve benders. They will have the task of explaining why they are still smarter than the rest of us, but were ridiculously wrong about the biggest event in their lives. As RamZPaul pointed out the other day, in most professions, being this wrong gets you fired. Being an internet expert, however, means never having to be right, so maybe they just follow the lead of the media and forget the whole thing happened.

The problem with that plan is the curve benders personalized this from the start, calling the skeptics all sorts of names. It is unlikely that the skeptics will forget how Nicky Taleb threw his dress over his head and ran around squealing like a girl. Many of the curve benders will be able to recover their reputations, but some will not. In a better age, the curve benders would be packing their stuff and heading out of town right now, but in this age, they will probably be rehabilitated without much effort.

Then there are the people who fell for the hype and then piously lectured the rest of us about how the virus was more important than the economy. Many of these people claimed to be on this side of the great divide. They had lectured for years about how the media can never be trusted. Then they swallowed the official line on the virus like good little boys and girls. The internet never forgets, so they will be reminded of this for the remainder of their days, especially on this side of the divide.

It’s not so much that they were wrong or acted like smug bleeps. It’s that they revealed themselves to be every bit as out of touch as the mass media. This was just another game for them to play on-line, like their politics. Their clapping for the lay-offs and business closures revealed that they have no skin in the game. It is a good reminder to never take business advice from someone who has never signed the front of a paycheck and never take political advice from people without jobs.

As far as timing, we are getting close to the point where the lines of the alarmists and curve benders break. The one guy consistently right about this thinks the great retreat is coming soon. Governors are now preparing to declare victory, so they will be scurrying away from this in the next couple of weeks. Local business is already showing signs of rebellion, so they may set the pace for the governors. Trump now has a task force to re-open the economy. It even has his dingbat daughter on it.

What all this suggests is that in a couple of weeks, everyone will be talking about the economy and going back to work and school. In another month, the only people talking about the virus will be conspiracy nuts and the remaining curve benders who refuse to let it go. If the summer is a great recovery in the economy, this whole sorry episode will be sent down the memory hole. The great retreat from the panic that will change everything will be complete and no one will remember any of it.


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Integral Thoughts

Integralism, sometimes called Catholic integralism or Christian integralism, is the revival of one of the oldest concepts in Christianity. The very simple definition of integralism is that worship is essential to the common good, therefore political authority, in order to maintain legitimacy, much recognize and promote the religion of the people. Since this is primarily a Christian concept, at least in this context, the religion must be Christianity or in the case of Catholic societies, Catholicism.

At first blush this may sound like theocracy, but that is not the case. Instead, it is both a critique of and reform of liberal democracy. In the most general sense, liberal democracy is a set of rules that ensures that the general will of the people is expressed through the state. In theory, at least, liberal democracy is silent on the nature of the social arrangements of the people, as long as those arrangements are arrived upon through the mechanism of the ballot box and marketplace.

Integralism is first and foremost a critique of this definition of liberal reality. They point out that in every liberal democracy, an ideology evolves to limit the choices at the ballot box and in the marketplace. Homosexual marriage is the most obvious example. The public rejected it, so it was imposed. Often, the liberal-democratic ideology limits or removes choices within the family. For example, parents are forced to put their sons on mind-altering drugs in order to please the public schools.

For the integralists, the first line of critique is observable reality. Liberal democracy, whatever it claims in theory, results in degeneracy and the destruction of the social capital of the people. A system that is supposed to be devoid of morality is quickly consumed by a destructive civic ideology. This defect, according to the modern integralists, is the absence of morality. A system constrained by and subordinate to a Christian moral code would not make war on the people.

The aim of the Catholic integralist is the integration of religious authority and political power. This is not some fringe idea promoted by people living off the grid. Leading integralists include Edmund Waldstein, Patrick J. Deneen, Gladden Pappin, and Adrian Vermeule. Notre Dame’s main journal posted a long essay explaining Catholic integralism a couple of years ago. This was written by the aforementioned Edmund Waldstein, who is a Cistercian monk from Austria.

Catholic integralism has a traveling partner in the Protestant sphere that is called Christian reconstructionism. This is a 20th century movement, rooted in prior reform movements, which argues that modern government should be ruled by divine law, including the judicial laws of the Old Testament. The Christian Right in the United States, the home school movement and various other social conservative movements sprung from Christian reconstructionism in the last century.

The main criticism of integralism in all its forms is that not all people are Christian in modern Western societies. Jews, for example, would oppose any effort to integrate Christian ethics into secular law. Darren Beattie, the right-wing critic of multiculturalism, is very opposed to integralism, calling Vermeule a dangerous joke. Nationalist Yorham Harzony opposes any role of Catholicism in modern society. Neocons, of course, oppose anything with the hint of decency.

From the Jewish perspective, this is not a small thing. A society limited by Christian ethics, even broadly defined, is one that will encourage the inclusion of Christians and the exclusion of non-Christians. Mormons will support their fellow Mormons. Baptists will support their fellow Baptists. Being of the faith will be a qualification for access to power and authority. Jews understand all too well the nature of tribal identity, so they must oppose any role of religion in a society, other than Israel.

There are, of course, secular criticisms of integralism. Right-wing Progressives like David French argue that it is just Christian authoritarianism. It is a curious claim from someone who favorably compares himself to Christ. Civic nationalists and constitutional originalists oppose the idea of introducing morality into the law. They make rather curious claims about the nature of modern society, like we are governed by the written law, in order to defend the current kritarchy.

All of these criticisms of integralism miss the mark, because they refuse to acknowledge the reality of liberal democracy. America is now an ideological state, closer to a theocracy, rather than the liberal ideal. The debate is not about whether the state and its agents, private and public, will impose a moral order on the people. The question is the source of that morality and how will it be imposed. To pretend otherwise is to live in the realm of fantasy. Morality is part of what defines every society.

The integralists, however, come up short and for a similar reason. One big elephant in the room is the open society. You cannot, in fact, have an open society, as it is quickly overrun. The integralist insist that you can maintain the open society, just as long as it is governed by divine law. This is not a lot different from what civic nationalists argue with regards to immigration. If every newcomer agrees on the rules, then why not let everyone move to wherever they think is best for them?

America has a long experience with this reality, as the country has been multiracial and multicultural from the start. Blacks in America are every bit as Christian, more so, in fact, as whites, but the races continue to live culturally separate. The typical black neighborhood is nothing like the typical white neighborhood. Black culture remains stubbornly immune to modernity. The truth is, God may love us equally, but he gave us different continents as homelands for a reason.

The same critique of liberal democracy can be made of integralism, in that both have the same plank in their eye. That is biology. The Christianity of one people differs from that of another people because the people are different. They have a different past, a different set of ancestors and different sense of who they are as a people. The same is true of the people’s sense of civic duty and their relationship to their society. New England remains alien to Appalachia because of biology.

That said, given the choice between integralism and civic nationalism, biological reality will come down on the side of the former. If one accepts that the divine law of one people will differ from that of another, integralism is an excellent critique of liberal democracy. It offers a moral argument in response to the ideological claims of the current ruling elite. More important, those moral arguments are rooted in something with genuine moral authority, rather than the general will.


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A Ride In The Country

During the early weeks of the Covid Crackdown, I tried to maintain a normal work schedule, just doing so from home. I’ve worked from home before, so I was prepared for the pitfalls that come with the home office. In fact, I have a home office setup just to avoid those pitfalls. The reality of the crackdown, however, started to sink in at the end of the second week, so I have transitioned to treating this as an involuntary vacation from reality. I’m going to use the free time as best I can.

The weather is getting better here in Lagos so I decided one thing I can do is get some time in on the bike. I ride in the winter, but this year not as much. Spring is always a good time to ride in the country and with the crackdown it means far fewer cars on the road than typical. Good or ill, people are obeying the crackdown orders in the spirit of civic duty and perhaps genuine concern. Regardless, I took advantage of it last week and hit the road out in the county for a long ride.

That really is the striking thing about being out during the crackdown. It has a post-apocalyptic vibe, just no zombies or roving gangs of survivors. I saw a few people running or walking their dogs, but otherwise, everyone was inside. Even on a beautiful spring day, no people. If you have ever seen video of North Korea, where traffic cops perform their duty, despite there being no traffic, that is what it is like in parts of the country right now. Civilization just waiting for civilized people.

A great example of the eeriness was a private golf club. The gate was open, so I went in, figuring they were allowing the golfers onto the driving range. There was one car parked near what I assumed was the maintenance building. The sprinklers were running, but otherwise, no people. I rode the cart paths around the course and did not see a soul. It turns out the state has banned the playing of golf, along with most other forms of enjoyment. A reminder that this is not really about the virus.

I left the golf course and headed to some roads I ride a lot in the summer, as they tend to be quiet and have a good combination of hills and valleys. Another cyclist, younger than me, was out so we rode together through the empty country roads. Adding to the weirdness, he was wearing a Reagan T-shirt. I’m guessing he was in his 20’s, so he was not alive when Reagan died. I guess there is some sort of nostalgia cult forming up among young white guys for Reagan.

The Mid-Atlantic is a forgotten region in many ways, but it has some great cycling opportunities if you’re into that sort of thing. The mountains are a short drive to the west and the ocean is a short drive east. In between there is a lot of good terrain. I told him that there was a very steep climb up ahead and that I may not attempt it. I’ve never been a great climber and now that I’m in my dotage, I’m even worse. At 220, I don’t exactly have the body type to be on the professional tour.

My young friend said something like “you can do it”, so not wanting to look like an old man, I decided to forge ahead., I threw all the fury my old body could muster into the climb and eventually made it to top in better shape than I expected. I coughed up part of a lung, did the Rocky pose at the top and then realized by companion never made the climb up the hill. When he said, “you can do it” he was being literal. He had no intention of tackling a steep climb. Some people just don’t like challenges.

After the climb, the road gets flat and the scenery is a blend of old country houses and some older ad hoc development. It makes for a pleasant ride. Maryland is one of those strange parts of the country where you can go from the land of suburbanite bug men to old time country living in a few miles. Get far enough away from Lagos itself and the state is quite beautiful, with an aesthetic that is unique. The state has always been a strange confluence of the surrounding regions.

I went over this weird little bridge and saw a couple of soyish looking guys standing by a car pulled over to the side of the road. I approached thinking they were having car trouble, but then I saw one of them was wearing a Reason T-shirt. I stopped and beat them. They knew why. Just in case I also said that Hans Herman-Hoppe spells his name wrong. I may have mentioned some unfortunate things about Ayn Rand’s personal life. You can never be too thorough with these types.

I continued on down what is more like a lane than a road. This is an odd part of the county, where you can pass a big beautiful home that looks like a country estate, but across the street can be a dilapidated old dump. In some cases, what used to be a farm was parceled off into lots back in the last century. There will be a beautiful old farm house then a handful of brick ranchers. It is a reminder that in the last century, the classes used to live in closer proximity to one another than today.

A house that always makes me smile is a run-down dump of place with a big Confederate flag posted out front. It has some other flag with what looks like a Norse rune on it. The house is across from a big old farm house. Most likely, the farmers started parceling off their land as economic reality required. The Compsons kept selling off lots in an effort to keep up appearances, but eventually, the old farm was all Snopes and no Compson. Now it is the Snopes clan keeping up appearances.

Having ridden past the house many times, I noted that the flags were once again in new condition, while the house was a little worse off since the last time I saw it. I always imagine the owner putting out those flags, thinking that soon, his efforts will pay off and the fortunes of his cause will change. On the other hand, maybe he just hates his neighbors and this is his way of punishing them. Either way, his neighbors no doubt notice his flags, but find a way to ignore them too.

That’s the whole thing in a nutshell. You can be sure the neighbors in their neat little ranchers think burning flags and toppling over statues is monstrous. They just lack the courage to do anything about it. So, while they privately agree with their redneck neighbor, they also wish he would just go along with it. His protest is not really about the flag or what he may think it represents. It’s against his neighbors. At the same time, their resentment for him is that he won’t just go away.

I went down what I think may be a private lane, but I’ve never been sure. It runs along a tiny creek or brook. Even though my head perfectly understands it, I’m always amazed to see anglers on these little bits of stream. Wherever there is water, nature finds a way to put some fish, which means nature finds a way to put a fisherman. For whatever reason it reminded me of an old fishing buddy. He and I probably stood together in rivers and streams more than on dry land. I should give him a call.

Coming back to my bit of the world, I could not help but think about how easy everyone has gone along with the crackdown. Americans may say they don’t trust their politicians or the media, but in the end, they trusted them completely on this panic. You can be sure the politicians and media are both feeling bold right now, having seen tens of millions dutifully follow their commands. No matter what happens in the near term, the long-term cost of that will far outweigh the threat of the virus.

The empty parks and streets are a good reminder that civilization is people, not the stuff made by people. If a bunch of strangers moved into our empty towns right now, it would not be the same. Soon, they would transform the stuff to reflect their will. Right now, our civilization is full of people ready to cower under their bed when the people in charge come up with a decent ghost story. I half wonder if the people in charge are doing this just to see if there is any fight left in us.

All of this reminds me of a great Joe Sobran quote. “By today’s standards King George III was a very mild tyrant indeed. He taxed his American colonists at a rate of only pennies per annum. His actual impact on their personal lives was trivial. He had arbitrary power over them in law and in principle but in fact it was seldom exercised. If you compare his rule with that of today’s U.S. Government you have to wonder why we celebrate our independence.”


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Letters From Lock Down

It used to be that Good Friday was my first non-office day of the year. By that I mean it was the first non-work day of the year. It was the first break since the holidays. I’d rent a skiff and go fishing, waiting for a passing knight to heel me. Some years I’d go to the range or, depending upon the weather, I’d go for a ride. When I still went to mass, I’d go to the evening service, but I have not done that in years.

In the lock down, the normal routine no longer holds. Like everyone else I have been sheltering in place the last several weeks. Fishing is banned here now. The ranges are all closed. I can still go outside for a ride, as they are not arresting people for being outside without a hall pass. They are arresting people for violating social distancing rules, so that means I’ll need to avoid people while out and about today.

For the first couple of weeks of the lock down I tried to maintain my normal schedule, as much as possible, but that did not really work. It was like a vacation in which I was not allowed to have any fun. That and client work started to slow up as they shifted from going into lock down to adjusting for the coming depression. This week my work was probably the slowest in a decade, not counting real vacations.

As a result, I capitulated to reality and decided to use the time to take care of some small projects, like catching up with the correspondence. Like the comment section, the in-box has been hopping during the great panic. It really bugs me when I fall behind in replying to readers and listeners, but there are only so many hours in a day. It is just one of those things I have had to accept as a part of doing this thing.

I also decided to upgrade the computer I use for recording each week. The hard drive was getting full, so that meant installing a new drive and reloading all the program I use for various things. I was still on Windows 8, so it was long overdue for an upgrade, but it is a huge hassle that I really hate. Strangely, the microphone I use is much more sensitive in the new system, so the sound this week may be a little off.

All-in-all, I’m growing weary of the lock down. I’m thinking about breaking contain and going back to the office next week. I have several “letters of transit” now from clients that declare I am an essential person. Even though the building is technically closed, I have keys and the utilities are still on, I think. Perhaps I can be an example to others and this madness will come to an end sooner rather than later.

This week I have the usual variety of items in the now standard format. Spreaker has the full show. I am up on Google Play now, so the Android commies can take me along when out disrespecting the country. I am on iTunes, which means the Apple Nazis can listen to me on their Hitler phones. The anarchists can catch me on iHeart Radio. I am now on Deezer, for our European haters and Stitcher for the weirdos. YouTube also has the full podcast. Of course, there is a download link below.


For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!


This Week’s Show

Contents

  • 00:00 Opening
  • 03:00 Dissident Direction
  • 12:00 Fatherhood & Economics
  • 16:30 China
  • 25:30 Universal Basic Idiocy
  • 35:00 Durham Investigation
  • 42:00 Binary Thinking
  • 47:00 Health Care
  • 50:00 Liberty & Welfare
  • 55:00 Thank You

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Full Show On Spreaker

Full Show On YouTube

Cui Bono?

Early in my working life, I found myself managing a few salesmen, along with some entry level managers. Since my area of responsibility only required three salesmen, it did not warrant a sales manager, so that duty was mine, as well as operations. It was a good training job for a young guy. One thing I learned from the sales guys is something that stuck with me forever. That is, no one cares about a deal more than the salesman working the deal. He’s the one that will make it happen.

You see, even in a big company, every salesman is like a small business. His expenses are his time and his revenue is his commission. The really good salesmen are shrewd in how they spend their time, never wasting a minute on a bad deal. They never fight the commission structure. If selling the crap product gets a bigger commission, then they sell the crap product. If the product is so crappy, they can’t sell it, they find a new job where they can hit their commission goals.

Since sales drives everything about business, it was a great lesson about the reality of business and bureaucracy. The managers have goals and they try to craft incentives so their people naturally work toward those goals. The trouble is, they often see the world through their own myopic eyes, rather than through the eyes of their people. Alternatively, they will foolishly think their people will make personal sacrifices on behalf of their goals. They think everyone cares about their deal as much as they do.

We are seeing this play out in the response to the pandemic. The people making the models and making predictions care about things that are important to them. It has always been assumed that they care most about being right, but as the models have failed and they are now “updated” on a daily basis, it turns out that accuracy really was never all that important to them. Marc Lipsitch, the guy largely responsible for the panic, was never all that concerned with being right.

Similarly, the people making public policy were always working their deals, rather than working your deal. By that I mean they were not issuing crack down orders on people because it was good for the public. They did it because it was good for them or at least they assumed it was good for them. It is why we had a race between states to see who could arrive at the most absurd policies. The nation lies dormant now because of a bizarre beauty pageant among the nation’s governors.

The response from our imperial rulers to this shuttering of the country is another deal that means everything to the people who passed it. Trump and Congress were really proud of themselves for having done the deal in such short time. It turns out though, that the deal was a great public relations stunt, but not much of a deal for the nation’s small business people. This post at the Federalist walks through the math of the Payroll Protection Act. Be prepared for breadlines this summer.

Of course, the most glaring example of this is the health care system. In response to a theoretical problem, it is in the process of creating real problems by faking death certificates and indefinitely postponing medical care for people with real diseases, in order to perpetuate the crisis atmosphere. The system is acting in the interest of the system, because the people at the top making the decisions care about their deal more than anything else. They closed the system to save it from the virus.

All of this should be a good reminder about the reality of anything that has the word “managed” in its label. Whether it is a managed health care system or a managed economy, the people doing the managing care more about their deal than anything else, thus the system they manage comes to reflect their interests. The stone-heads on our side cheering the crisis and demanding managed health care and a managed economy will soon find out what that really means. Enjoy the bread lines.

Of course, the stone-heads will argue that destroying the civil life of the country is the price to be paid for discrediting the current order. That may be true, but that does not mean the people cheering it will suddenly be vaulted to the top by the people being made to pay the price for this disaster. Again, those people at the top with the monopoly of force will surely take care of their deal before allowing anyone else to profit from the turmoil that is coming our way this summer.

The point of all this is even small organizations become very complicated in a hurry, because people have lots of priorities individually, which can coincide with and contradict their collective priorities. Fine tuning those while working your own deal is beyond the skill of most managers. It is why bureaucracies become self-serving and why managed anything is a fool’s errand. Whether it is managed economies or managed health care, eventually, the deal that matters most is the manager’s deal.

Circling back to those salesmen I managed, the second big lesson I learned in that job was from my boss. I complained to him that the commission structure I inherited worked against our interests because it was too complicated to manage. He told me to make it a flat commission on gross, but that I was responsible for the performance of every deal I signed off on going forward. It did not take long for the sales staff to know what was good business for me and what was a waste of their time.

That’s the lesson the stone-heads from the planned economy camp and the free market zealots never grasp. The choice is not between a system managed by angels or a system run by the invisible hand of magic. The choice is always between clarity and opacity. When the incentives are clear and individual interests are clear, everyone makes better decisions and demands more rational sacrifice. When those things are hidden, it is when our virtues are soon turned into vices.


For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!