Sunday, February 2, 2014

Odds and ends 2/2/2014

Mark Steyn showed me some love by quoting me and linking to me from his website. There’s not much to say about it, other than it’s awesome.

In First Things, Dale M. Coulter looks at the big picture:

Culture is not so much about possessing something as it is about becoming something, a harmonious expansion of human capacities that moves toward human flourishing. This is why for [Matthew] Arnold the love of perfection endemic to humanity is simultaneously a call to a social life without which the pursuit of such perfection becomes impossible. It is in the dances, the rituals, and the artistry of common human life that humans find a connection to the natural harmonies of creation and explore its beauties and terrors.

Given Arnold’s way of relating culture to perfection one can immediately see religion’s contribution since religion too concerns itself with the pursuit of perfection. T. S. Eliot sought to reformulate Arnold’s understanding of the relationship of religion and culture by suggesting that the culture of a people is an incarnation of its religion. Even though Christopher Dawson dissented from the close identification of culture and religion, he agreed with Eliot’s desire to preserve the transmission of culture through its primary elements: family, region, and religion. Each of these elements reinforce subsidiarity and become the basis for viewing culture as an organic relation among the various orders of society. The purpose of government was to maintain this organic relationship by securing the goods necessary for its growth.

What both Eliot and Dawson resisted was culture as a planned and thus mechanized reality. This is ultimately what Dawson saw as the essence of what he called the “bourgeois mentality” to which he opposed the man or woman of desire. He thought that the advocates of a planned society as well as those of the liberal ideal of an individual culture tended to sacrifice family, region, and religion as stabilizing forces that ensure human flourishing. Dawson called this “the impersonal tyranny of a mechanized order.” For Dawson, the mechanization of society and the creation of a technopoly through the “expert” will inevitably destroy spiritual freedom in the name of equality of relation.


Disenchantment does not refer to a removal of the fundamental human impulse toward perfection, including the spiritual perfection of the human person. Indeed, the forces of disenchantment cannot remove something so basic to human existence. Rather disenchantment is the result of an effort to organize the pursuit of perfection along technocratic lines, which invariably destroys particularity in favor of homogeneity. This kind of rationalization crushes local life from which creative ecstasy bubbles up in a myriad different forms through a dynamic relationship in, with, and through family, region, and religion.


Modern democracies must not aim for an equality of social relations, but the conditions within which human freedom may be cultivated in ways commensurate with the perfection of the human person and thus human society. To do so is to recognize the need for culture to shape people as it bubbles up through its three elements of family, region, and religion. Governments that seek to build a society of complete social equality will invariably attempt to create culture and thereby actually destroy it through rationalization. Some may be mystified at decisions to stay at home in order to fulfill one’s parental obligations or to return to rural communities with their stabilized rhythms or to enter monasteries in part because they do not see the connection between these activities, human freedom, and human cultivation. They do not understand that these expressions of family, region, and religion actually promote freedom by unleashing the creative ecstasy necessary to the formation of self and society.

Carson Holloway discusses the sexual revolution at Public Discourse:

The project began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when liberalism embraced the sexual revolution. In place of traditional standards of sexual morality, which held that the proper expression of human sexuality was within marriage and with a view to the generation of new life, liberals began to preach a message of sexual liberation. In matters of sex, they announced, whatever is done between “consenting adults” is none of society’s business.

The tradition had held that sexual conduct is properly governed by both procedural and substantive norms. The procedural norm was provided by consent: forcible sex was condemned as the crime of rape. But consent was not the only issue, because sex was not governed only by a procedural norm. A substantive norm was provided by marriage and procreation. Thus, according to the tradition, adults might consent freely to certain forms of sex—fornication, adultery, or sodomy, for example—that would nevertheless still be wrong because of their inconsistency with the substantive purposes of human sexuality. The sexual revolution sought to strip sex of its substantive norms and leave only the procedural norm in place. This was the effect of slogans affirming the legitimacy of anything “consenting adults” might do.

As this kind of thinking was put forward by a certain kind of liberal, thoughtful conservatives warned about its revolutionary consequences. The liberal claim—that consent is the only ethically relevant concern in relation to sex—has the potential to erode all traditional sexual morality and all legislation based upon it. If consent is all that is required, then fornication cannot be wrong, prostitution cannot be wrong, and homosexual intercourse cannot be wrong.


One point commonly made by opponents of same-sex marriage is that the argument for it—an argument that typically appeals to the autonomy of love, and emphasizes the right to equal recognition for all forms of love—is indistinguishable from an argument for abolishing any objective definition of marriage. Accordingly, same-sex marriage could not be the stopping point of sexual liberation, which would then have to go on and demand a normalization of polygamy. The proponents of same-sex marriage typically responded to this argument by treating it as outlandish and acting as if no normal person could hold any such development in serious contemplation. Yet now that the Supreme Court seems to be on the verge of finding a right to same-sex marriage, some liberal activists are already beginning to argue for the legitimacy of polygamy—something the movement denied any interest in just a few years ago.

After polygamy, what will be liberalism’s new frontier of sexual liberation? Lowering the age of consent? Abolishing laws against prostitution? Normalization of adult incest? No one can say.

It is both troubling and galling to think that we are now at the end of a fifty-year fraud that has been perpetrated on us in relation to some of the most important things in human life. But it is even more troubling to realize that we may not in fact be at the end but still in the middle of that great fraud, to realize that there are still more consequences to face, now hidden and even denied but nevertheless approaching inexorably with the unfolding of the logic of sexual liberation. The moral mugging is not over but still going on.

Dr. Helen Smith considers risk-aversion and differences between the sexes:

“Risk means having to face an uncertain outcome.”

In terms of the differences between men and women, what does this mean? If women are more risk adverse in business, they will be less successful. In our risk adverse society, where everyone must be covered from cradle to grave and have the hand of a “benevolent” government guiding them, what does this mean for the entrepreneurial spirit? Add to this the punishing taxes and regulations on small business and it is a recipe for less economic growth.

Will men become less risk adverse as time goes on due to the social conditioning that risk is bad? Or, even if willing to take business risks, will men decide it is not worth the trouble due to the restraints of the government? Or will they become more risk-takers by going to the underground economy and staying below the radar. I suspect that the latter option will become more popular for men while women will flock to safer jobs and opportunities funded by the government.

Mark Regnerus tells Naomi Schaefer Riley how it is:

“Women get contraception and the ability to limit and space their children, and the chance to fashion careers — things that sound good and are often experienced as such — and in return men get to decide just how invested in a relationship they actually have to be.”

The problem, he notes, is that “men prefer cheaper sex” — that is, they prefer not to be more invested than they have to be.

Just Four Guys draws this out to its logical conclusion:

We know that many women are purposefully delaying marriage. Others are so picky that they are pricing themselves out of the market. Many young women either engage in casual sex because they enjoy it or they think it’s the only way they can get a relationship (usually this is attempted with hotter men, which they of course rarely acknowledge because they overestimate their relationship value and their looks). Other young women are not slutting it up but are putting off relationships which reduces the number of young women available for young men, especially the average ones.

Incentives matter.

And the biggest incentive for most non-apex men is this: find a good woman in his league to love and be loved by. A society that removes this incentive from young men is a society where said young men will be much more listless and detached. In fact, I think this is one of the biggest factors in why so many young men are underachieving today–the incentive’s just not there for them anymore.

James Taranto sounds off on the logic of choice:

The 2011 [illegitimacy] figures (which exclude Hispanics) were 29.1% for whites and 72.3% for blacks—a more than eightfold increase for whites and more than threefold for blacks. A cycle of fatherlessness operating over two to three generations cannot be sufficient to explain such an enormous rise.

So what does? In our view, a dramatic change in incentives owing to two major social changes that were just getting under way when Moynihan wrote.

The first is the rise of female careerism—the expectation that most women will spend most of their adult lives (rather than just the period when they are single) in the workforce. Women have less incentive to wed, since marriage no longer means trading in a job for a provider husband. Female careerism got a big boost with the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace.

The second is the introduction of the pill, which the Food and Drug Administration approved for contraceptive use in 1960. It made nonmarital sex far more easily available, reducing the incentive for men to marry. As George Akerlof and Janet Yellen argued in a 1996 paper (yes, that Janet Yellen, and Akerlof is her husband), the pill very quickly broke down the old institution of the shotgun wedding. With reproduction under female control, it became a female responsibility. Men no longer felt obligated to marry women by whom they fathered children. The paradoxical-seeming result is that a technology to reduce “unwanted pregnancy” massively increased out-of-wedlock births.

That brings us back to the moralistic fallacy for which we faulted Hymowitz in our column last month. Completely absent from her analysis of why boys fail to grow up into “reliable husbands and fathers” is the crucial factor of female choice. If young women are less apt to marry because they are focused on education and career, and more willing to engage in sexual relationships unaccompanied by marriage or the expectation thereof, the incentives for young men are dramatically different.

Margaret Carlson gives Bloomberg its money’s worth. Her enthusiasm for being wrong rivals Eugene Robinson and Jill Filipovic.

The [Republican] Party is also at pains to be done with its “we’re just not that into you” attitude toward women. The campaign committee is holding remedial classes to teach male candidates how to talk to female voters and how to run against a woman, a challenge they are very likely to face in 2016. You’re in a deep hole if you don’t know how to talk to more than half the electorate, but you have to start somewhere.

That effort was undercut when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a known recidivist on women’s issues, was given a plum speaking role at the meeting and when Priebus singled out Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky for praise. Paul is another known wild card. He gained notoriety for musing about whether civil-rights laws were the right way to go. Maybe women shouldn’t even vote.

You’ve got to hand it to Huckabee for vividness. He created a new character for women to ponder: Uncle Sugar. “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it,” he said.

Yuck! We can now add incest and molestation at a family gathering to the images of women in heat that Republicans have put in our heads. In 2012, women went against the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, 55 percent to 44 percent. Huckabee could help push that to 60-40.

Linda Upmeyer, Iowa House majority leader, pens an op-ed in the Washington Examiner. Excerpt:

As the list of failing big government policies goes on, Americans continue to search for people and parties to blame. However, many are beginning to realize that a philosophy, not a party, is behind ineffective government. The record 42 percent of Americans who now identify as independents is a testament to this realization. The fight to limit big government is against a philosophy: a philosophy of nanny-state, all-encompassing government.

Surely it is not hard to see that big government is doomed to fail by its own devices. Government was not designed to operate as every sector of the economy, and its attempts to do so have been woefully inadequate. Until the nation soundly rejects the idea that government should legislate every part of life, America will continue to see government grow unchecked.

It’s time to return to the idea that a good government is a limited one that trusts its own people to live their lives peacefully and to decide for themselves what is best. Innovation, economic growth and charity flourish when people are given the ability to keep what they earn and the freedom to choose how to live.

Title IX social engineering overlooks the fact that men are more competitive than women:

“In women’s soccer, there are more scholarships than there are good players,” said Peter Albright, the coach at Richmond and a regular critic of early recruiting. “In men’s sports, it’s the opposite.”

You can obscure this fact by pitting the top women against the top men. The average women’s collegiate tennis player is probably only a little below the average men’s collegiate tennis player. But the men have more competition for roster spots than do women. To appreciate the difference between men and women, you have to compare the average the athletic ability of all women against the average athletic ability of all men.

I thought David Harsanyi was smarter than this:

A cultural shift is not always an ideological one. Or, at least, not always the one you imagine. Our norms are always evolving. Immigration, pot legalization, same-sex marriage and “big business” are the issues that [Steve] Rosenthal’s claims portend progressivism’s triumph. Yet, most of these are only incidentally progressive. Marijuana legalization or support for same-sex marriage is far more likely caused by a growing ‘live and let live’ mindset than any burst of leftist idealism.

There is nothing incidental about progressives’ enthusiasm for marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage. These policies further cultural degradation that strips the individual of his social support system, infantilizes the public, and justifies enhancing state power.

Radical individualism and These are the constants in the progressive agenda these last 50 years Modernity surges The irresistible surge of mordernity past 100 years of Recent history shows modernity moves in one direction, towards radical individualism and pragmatic liberalism.

And if the ‘live and let live’ mindset starts bleeding into other area of American life—say education, health care or religious freedom—the left is in trouble.

Hard to see a clamor for religious freedom from an increasingly secular country. And our socialized healthcare system isn’t run by elected officials whom the public can hold accountable; it’s run by anonymous bureaucrats.

In the end, the progressive agenda demands that you trust the state to control economic outcomes; an idea that is yet to be proven especially popular among Americans.

Unless you look at the 2008 and 2012 election returns.

John Derbyshire, sacked by declining National Review, is a writer with whom I disagree much, but whom I can relate to because our instincts and temperament are alike. Here’s an excerpt from his book, We Are Doomed:

The assumption here is that like the buggy-whip makers you hear about from economic geeks, like dirt farmers migrating to factory jobs, like the middle-class engineer of 1960, the cube people of today will go do something else, creating a new middle class from some heretofore-despised category of drudges. But... what? Which category of despised drudges will be the middle class of tomorrow? Do you have any ideas? I don’t. What comes after office work? What are we all going to do? The same thing Bartleby the Scrivener did, perhaps, but collectively and generationally.

What is the next term in the series: farm, factory, office...? There isn’t one. The evolution of work has come to an end point, and the human race knows this in its bones. Actually in its reproductive organs: the farmer of 1800 had six or seven kids, the factory worker of 1900 three or four, the cube jockey of 2000 one or two. The superfluous humans of 2100, if there are any, will hold at zero. What would be the point of doing otherwise?

In Taki’s Magazine, Nicholas James Pell assesses the “Dark Enlightenment.”

Those who dismiss the Dark Enlightenment do so at their own peril. It’s home to some of the most intellectually rigorous and energetically principled folks to come down the right-wing pike in recent memory. It sneers at both “conservatism” and “libertarianism”; the former has failed to conserve anything for over 80 years, while the latter has largely declared that personal rights are important only when they don’t conflict with progressive cultural sensibilities.

I still prefer conservatism. I should say I cling to it bitterly, like I do with my Bible and my guns. Conservatism is sustainable only in a monocultural republic, not a multicultural democracy.

Ron Belgau:

If I say, “I’m gay and celibate” in a writing aimed at engaging gay people with the claims of the Gospel, I’m not elevating my sexual orientation to the most fundamental aspect of my personality.

Contra Vox:

If there is one thing they hate to hear, it is that they are fallen. They cling furiously to their pride and to their pretense to superiority because that is all they have. They are de facto psychopaths; they have no ability to empathize for all that they claim to empathize with everything and everyone from the snail darter to a bullied homosexual teen. They have endless hypothetical love for humanity and nothing of the real thing for their neighbors or anyone but themselves.

Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki are getting married. Good on them. I honestly thought they didn’t make good partners for each other.

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