Individual and Group; Left and Right

Heinlein’s history lesson in Starship Troopers is interesting, if not perfect. More interesting are the excerpts from Bork and Lasch on liberal vs conservative; individuals vs institutions.

Libertarians, it is said, focus on the individual; socialists and progressives focus on the group. Yet I find that unsatisfying, especially if we equate the right with libertarians and the left with socialism. Does the right not care for churches or patriotism? Does the left not esteem rebellious freethinkers and protesters?

In terms of individual rights and sovereignty, classical liberalism is an ideology of the right. Yet in human nature, classical liberals had a touch of Rousseau: that the individual was born perfect. For the conservative, the only perfection in man’s nature is a yearning. Classical liberals hold the individual to be the basis of society. Yet they say one society is better than another because of its institutions.

A North American conservative or modern classical liberal position must distinguish with the question: the individual versus what? In terms of dignity, the individual is to be valued. In terms of reliability, the institution is more to be trusted than the individual. In terms of menace, the individual is less of a threat than the institution. This is especially important when the institution, like government is entrusted with powers of coercion. As George Washington warned, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence ~ it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearsome master.”

It is hard to reconcile the tension between the superiority of the individual vs the institution. Left-liberals choose the individual. Progressives choose the institution. Politically, I don’t see a coherent integration except pragmatism. The right has the same problem, except for some libertarians who simply dispense with institutions.

Reconciliation is easier for Christians or Jews. They can say that God is perfect; man is sinful. Man’s best hope is to be more like God; to work to that end; and to humbly recognize that man’s efforts are imperfect. They use institutions to teach men. They expect men to constrain institutions. They believe both to be imperfect instruments of God.

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Russian Liberals

Pre-revolutionary Russia had a wave of liberals and “intelligents”. Except that they weren’t liberal like Smith or Locke. And the intelligence of the intelligents didn’t answer to any objective standard or universal good.

Vladimir Soloviev’s paraphrase of “the intelligentsia syllogism”: “Man is descended from the apes; therefore love one another.”

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Was Zinn Communist?

Howard Zinn wrote a “A People’s History of the United States”, shocking in its antipathy to the US. The far left loves it. The right loves to critique it. He died back in 2010.

The question is being posed: was Zinn, whose writing was so in step with communist agitprop, despite denials, a communist?


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Progressives Against Progress

FutureCityLiberals, since liberals began, have expected progress: that the world our children enjoy will be better than the one we enjoy. Throughout the western world (where liberalism thrived) they were right (with temporary setbacks in times of war).

In North America, this liberalism was associated with the political left. In Canada, the dominant leftist party even calls itself Liberal despite the fact that its economic policies (some combination of Socialism, Progressivism or pragmatism) are never liberal. Somewhere along the way American “Liberals” lost the optimism of liberalism. The Progressives began to deny that progress was possible.

By 2010, the world had lived through 40 years of material progress like the world has never known. The secret was not revolutionary. All that was required was a time when most of the world experienced peace, free-ish trade, and a rest from the tyrants and communists.

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Solzhenitsyn at Harvard


In 1978 Alexandr Solzhenitsyn delivered a most famous speech at Harvard commencement. As a famous soviet dissident, he was expected to criticize the Soviet Union. He did: in a way that leaves few of us innocent.

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Defensive Gun Use is Common

DGUDefensive gun usage (DGU) is about 30 times as common as the commonly cited NCVS figure. You’ll often hear that there are 70,000 DGU per year. Gary Kleck challenged that claim as far back as twenty years ago. Now we see that the CDC had major survey data dating back to 1996 from which we can infer that Kleck was too modest. 2.5 million DGU per year is more likely.

How can a study by a reputable organization be that far off? The linked article explains it well enough: it was never intended to be a study of DGU. It lays out three or four reasons but the one I find most memorable goes like this: the majority of DGU (and the best ones) are where the intended victim pulls a gun and the attacker leaves the scene with no violence and no retribution. But because the only crime is too minor to report, it never enters the statistics.

HomicideThe graphic to the left links to a Huffington Post article that takes this fallacy to the cartoonish extreme. (paraphrased)

“[DGU] is rare”! Criminals kill people with guns 37 times as often as an innocent DGU goes horribly wrong and the intended victim actually kills the attacker.

Left unremarked is every interaction where no-one dies (and a good number of scenarios where someone does).

(longer, fuller fact-filled gun policy article here)

(Apr’19) defensive knife usage that doesn’t make the HuffPo criteria: “That’s not a knife.”

(July’19) A couple of illustrations of defensive uses.

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Intentional Communities Fail

People rightly ask, how could I make the world a better place? And them sometimes people despair of the world we currently have and instead ask, if I could design from scratch a society of my own, how would I design a community that would make a better world? High social cohesion? Shared goals? Powerful motivation?

Every time I think through the problem, it seems that the most important factor is the will of the participants. The whole project looks futile unless I can get people who are willing to do for others the good things they wish others would do for them. The thing is, even the Mormons couldn’t make it work. Neither could the Puritans.

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Of Course It’s Unnatural

uncivilizedJonah Goldberg argues that the healthy, modern civilization is unnatural, not far from Hobbes’s assertion that the natural life is nasty, brutish and short. Civilization is unnatural and corruption, like rust, is what naturally happens to every good institution. Something happened about 300 years ago that gave us an unnatural world of full bellies, sanitation, medicine, and human rights which he calls “the Miracle”.

When people say that the government or the nation is — or should be — like a family (or a military unit or any other microcosmic group), they argue for erasing everything that enables the Miracle. But that is what people crave today.

This is all to introduce his new book, “The Suicide of the West“. He says large factions on all sides are like the farmer who killed the golden goose.

When the goose politely demurs, he kills it out of a sense of entitlement — the opposite of gratitude.

The Miracle is our goose. And rather than be grateful for it, our schools, our culture, and many of our politicians say we should resent it for not doing more. Conservatism is a form of gratitude, because we conserve only what we are grateful for. Our society is talking itself out of gratitude for the Miracle and teaching our children resentment. Our culture affirms our feelings as the most authentic sources of truth when they are merely the expressions of instincts, and considers the Miracle a code word for white privilege, greed, and oppression.

This is corruption. And it is a choice. Collectively, we are embracing entitlement over gratitude. That is suicidal. I did not call my book “Decline of the West” or “Death of the West,” because suicide is a choice.

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Their World, Our World



A quick overview of double standards: left and right.

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Nourishing Masculinity

J Ishiro Finney has a message for young men:

The bodies aren’t even cold yet and already you are being blamed. …

…We don’t solve problems anymore. We cry, we pray for, we seek to find closure, and then finally, slaughter a sacrificial lamb for our sins. … the lamb America has chosen to sacrifice is you. …

  “Toxic white masculinity: The killer that haunts American life”

… to the boys and young men of America, believe me when I say it isn’t you who should be apologizing for the state of our world today. This mess was set in motion long before you were born.Aldrin_Apollo_11-2

You are not bad.

You are not broken.

You are not inherently evil or a sexual abuser in waiting.

You are boys who were robbed of your right to be men.

 All your life you’ve been told to act, think, and behave like women. To suppress your passions, your pride, your need to compete and drive to achieve.

Now society is crumbling around us.

Feminizing boys didn’t make better men. It’s resulted in…

It’s a meditation on the problem and a word of encouragement.

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