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Posts Tagged ‘John Stuart Mill’

How to Solve the COVID Crisis – International Man

Posted by M. C. on October 31, 2021

First and foremost, we must hear from all sides in any scientific dispute. In “On Liberty,” John Stuart Mill went even further in this direction: not only must we hear from them all, but we must also be intimately familiar with their arguments. We must be able to articulate them as if they were our own. The last thing we would want to do is to shut them down.

https://internationalman.com/articles/how-to-solve-the-covid-crisis/

by Walter Block

How are we human beings going to be able to kick the butts of COVID creatures infinitesimally smaller than we are? Or are we going to be like Goliath, who fell to the Lilliputian David?

It all depends upon whether we embrace science or continue to denigrate it.

The powers that be are continually and boringly claiming to be the one side that embraces this discipline, while the other denounces it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What, then, are the relevant characteristics of the scientific method?

First and foremost, we must hear from all sides in any scientific dispute. In “On Liberty,” John Stuart Mill went even further in this direction: not only must we hear from them all, but we must also be intimately familiar with their arguments. We must be able to articulate them as if they were our own. The last thing we would want to do is to shut them down.

How do present practices comport with the absolute requirements of science? Not too well—scratch that—horribly. Doctors who disagree with the emerging consensus have been threatened with the loss of their medical licenses.

For example, “The Federation of State Medical Boards warned… that physicians and other healthcare professionals could be at risk of losing their medical licenses if they spread COVID vaccine misinformation on social media, online and in the media.” Misinformation? In this case, that is the considered opinion of licensed and duly qualified physicians! In some cases, doctors have not been disbarred but “merely” threatened with such sanctions. Nor are doctors the only ones to be so treated. Medical researchers cannot lose a physicians’ license, but they can be fired for spreading “misinformation,” that is, taking a non-consensus position on this matter. People in the field with alternative viewpoints are also viciously pummeled by major media for spreading what they claim is false information about COVID.

Thanks to Salk-Sabin, the dreadful polio disease is a thing of the past. Were any researchers who disagreed with Salk-Sabin’s methods treated in any such manner? To ask this is to answer it: of course not. We have not yet solved AIDS, merely wrested it to the ground. It is now, thanks to science, a chronic, treatable disease, not a death sentence. No diverging views on this, and indeed any other successful medical breakthrough, were dealt with in the manner accorded diverging opinion holders on COVID.

Second, although this cannot be found in official descriptions of science, reading in between its lines, we discern the requirement that we should do our best. We should not choose scientists on the basis of irrelevant criteria such as gender or color. If a person’s skin is pink with blue polka dots, it should not matter one whit. The scientist could be a giant or a pygmy, a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or atheist; good science regards irrelevancies such as these as, well, irrelevancies.

How does our fight against COVID stack up against this criterion? Again, not too well at all. Instead, we are treated to the usual litany of how important it is that the occupants of our laboratories “look like America.” There is now even a plan afoot to impose “affirmative action” on laboratory technicians and researchers. For example, this is the policy of the National Institute for Health in awarding investigation grants. Do we or do we not want to prevent COVID from spreading further and cure those already afflicted? If so, we have to send our first string into the fray, not the bench warmers. We didn’t put a man on the moon or accomplish any other such task with the second team, and we will not do so in this case either.

Then there is the sheer hypocrisy that must stick in the craw of the anti-vaxxers. Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the beauty parlor sans mask is only the veritable tip of this iceberg.

Let us stipulate, arguendo, that everything Dr. Fauci says about COVID is true, from God’s mouth to his ear and then on to the rest of us lesser beings. We pass over the annoying fact that he keeps changing his mind on these issues but not the vociferousness and assuredness with which he speaks about them. From his own point of view, it is imbecilic to sanction opposing viewpoints, to rely upon lesser qualified scientists, and for the folks in charge to continually engage in hypocrisy. When and if he and this ilk learn this lesson, we will have a much better chance of solving the COVID threat.

Editor’s Note: The 2020s will likely to be an increasingly volatile time. More governments are putting their money printing on overdrive. Negative interests are becoming the rule instead of the exception to it.

One thing is for sure, there will be a great deal of change taking place in the years ahead.

That’s precisely why legendary speculator Doug Casey and his team released an urgent new report titled Doug Casey’s Top 7 Predictions for the Raging 2020s.

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Catcall and Response – Taki’s Magazine

Posted by M. C. on March 11, 2021

Professional feminists like Filipovic don’t like to admit that feminism has succeeded overwhelmingly in the West, thus rendering their careers less relevant. Hence, they get angry when anybody points out that the main threat to women’s rights today is from importing toxic masculinity from the Muslim world. Meanwhile, in real-life France, working-class women are losing their freedom to leave the house due to Muslim hooligans feeling ever more entitled to catcall and paw at women they deem dressed immodestly by the standards of the Iron Age cultures they brought with them. Hirsi Ali quotes a prominent Egyptian lawyer declaring in 2017 “I say that when a girl walks about like that, it is a patriotic duty to sexually harass her and a national duty to rape her.”

https://www.takimag.com/article/catcall-and-response/print

Steve Sailer

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a refugee from Islamic Somalia’s maltreatment of women, asks in her important book Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights why few feminists dare mention the ongoing diminishment of the basic female freedom to walk down the streets of Europe unharassed by the ever-growing numbers of young Muslim louts. She notes:

…even as individual women in the West hold the offices of prime minister and president, managing director and chief executive officer, women’s rights at the grassroots are under increasing pressure from imported notions of female subordination. Worse, many of today’s female leaders in the West are doing little or nothing to stop this turning back of the clock on gender equality.

But who cares about the fates of the European equivalent of deplorables? Hirsi Ali points out:

Most of the crime and misconduct against women takes place in low-income neighborhoods…. And somehow, in the era of #MeToo, their predicament arouses much less sympathy than that of Hollywood actresses subjected to sexual harassment by predatory producers.

We live in an age obsessed with sniffing out the most trivial and/or absurd threats to the self-perceived safety of protected classes. For example, in an essay denouncing Dr. Seuss, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow announced:

Some of the first cartoons I can remember included Pepé Le Pew, who normalized rape culture…

The optimistically amorous but foul-smelling and perpetually frustrated French skunk has indeed been canceled from a return gig in Warner Bros.’ Space Jam franchise with LeBron James. “We live in an age obsessed with sniffing out the most trivial and/or absurd threats to the self-perceived safety of protected classes.”

Meanwhile, in real-life France, working-class women are losing their freedom to leave the house due to Muslim hooligans feeling ever more entitled to catcall and paw at women they deem dressed immodestly by the standards of the Iron Age cultures they brought with them. Hirsi Ali quotes a prominent Egyptian lawyer declaring in 2017:

“I say that when a girl walks about like that, it is a patriotic duty to sexually harass her and a national duty to rape her.”

As she points out, it’s hard to blame discrimination by Europeans for the bad behavior of Muslim migrants when they do much the same things at home, such as gang-rape CBS News correspondent Lara Logan while she was reporting from Cairo in 2011.

During Women’s History Month in the U.S., though, few are interested in women’s present in Europe. The topic of what is happening to European women is largely off-limits in Biden’s America. A month after publication of Prey, the book has been reviewed almost solely in right-of-center outlets, with virtually no coverage in Establishment venues like The Washington Post, NPR, The Atlantic, and the like.

The one exception was The New York Times, which commissioned a fulminating review from Jill Filipovic, who was outraged that Hirsi Ali would dare mention any downsides to immigration.

Filipovic argued that the Somali dissident’s amassing of exhaustive data on the magnitude of the problem of Muslim men harassing European women just proves she is not a good person:

It could also be said to be cut through with bigotry. Hirsi Ali seems to latch onto the trope of men of color threatening virtuous white women, a particular kind of fearmongering with a long and ugly history.

It’s a trope!

As I wrote in my 2019 column “Truth or Trope” on denunciations of Rep. Ilhan Omar, another fearless (if much less intelligent) Somali woman, for her publicly mentioning the “trope” that Jewish donors draw a lot of water in the Democratic Party:

The use of “trope” signals a faith in the literary theory that the concept of “reality” is irrelevant, perhaps fictitious, and definitely oppressive. There’s no such thing as nature, only social constructs, which can presumably be deconstructed out of existence by socially reengineering the discourse.

This notion that only a bad person would be well-informed on questions of vital import such as who is committing most of the gang rapes in Europe (74% of gang rapists in Sweden were born outside Europe) or mass shootings in America is increasingly common. After all, what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

It can’t, can it?

Professional feminists like Filipovic don’t like to admit that feminism has succeeded overwhelmingly in the West, thus rendering their careers less relevant. Hence, they get angry when anybody points out that the main threat to women’s rights today is from importing toxic masculinity from the Muslim world.

Hirsi Ali observes that the situation for women on the streets of Northern Europe has substantially worsened since 2015, the year of Merkel’s Mistake. She writes:

t is one of the rich ironies of early-twenty-first-century history that the single decision that has done the most harm to European women in my lifetime was made by a woman.

Merkel’s choice to let (or as Hirsi Ali portrays it, to not stop) a million military-age Muslim men from marching into German was celebrated unreservedly in the global press until word finally leaked out on social media of the mass sex assaults by refugees in front of the Cologne Cathedral on New Year’s Eve 2015, which police had initially dismissed (in a prelude to 2020 America) as “largely peaceful.” All told, 661 women filed criminal complaints as victims of sex crimes.

Whatever happened to the hundreds of groping Muslims in Cologne? As Prey documents:

Only three men were convicted of sex crimes such as sexual assault, of which two received only suspended sentences.

In recent years, European law enforcement has been trying to do with crime what the U.S. attempted in the 1960s–1970s (and also since Memorial Day 2020): close your eyes and hope it goes away. The damage done to American cities like Detroit is a tragedy, but the European cities that survived World War II unflattened are the world’s greatest works of art, so the risk is even larger.

Hirsi Ali, who is married to Scottish historian Niall Ferguson, praises Western civilization for offering her refuge from Islam. She is an Enlightenment atheist who sees the liberation of European women being a relatively recent phenomenon, tracking back to the time of John Stuart Mill.

But the West’s divergence from the Near East over the fundamental question of the value of women has deeper roots. As art historian Kenneth Clark attested in Civilisation:

In the early twelfth century, the Virgin had been the supreme protectress of civilisation. She had taught a race of tough and ruthless barbarians the virtues of tenderness and compassion…. It’s a curious fact that the all-male religions have produced no religious imagery—in most cases have positively forbidden it. The great religious art of the world is deeply involved with the female principle.

By the way, speaking of great religious art, do we have any clue yet after two years what (or who) half-burned down the cathedral of Notre-Dame?

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‘The God That Failed’: Why the U.S. Cannot Now Re-Impose Its Civilisational Worldview — Strategic Culture

Posted by M. C. on June 30, 2020

Tucker Carlson, a leading American conservative commentator known for plain speaking, frames the movement a little differently: “This is not a momentary civil disturbance. This is a serious, and highly organized political movement … It is deep and profound and has vast political ambitions. It is insidious, it will grow. Its goal is to end liberal democracy and challenge western civilization itself … We’re too literal and good-hearted to understand what’s happening … We have no idea what we are up against … These are not protests. This is a totalitarian political movement”.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/06/29/god-that-failed-why-us-cannot-now-re-impose-its-civilisational-worldview/

Alastair Crooke

It was always a paradox: John Stuart Mill, in his seminal (1859), On Liberty, never doubted that a universal civilisation, grounded in liberal values, was the eventual destination of all of humankind. He looked forward to an ‘Exact Science of Human Nature’, which would formulate laws of psychology and society as precise and universal as those of the physical sciences. Yet, not only did that science never emerge, in today’s world, such social ‘laws’ are taken as strictly (western) cultural constructs, rather than as laws or science.

So, not only was the claim to universal civilisation not supported by evidence, but the very idea of humans sharing a common destination (‘End of Times’) is nothing more than an apocalyptic remnant of Latin Christianity, and of one minor current in Judaism. Mill’s was always a matter of secularized religion – faith – rather than empiricism. A shared human ‘destination’ does not exist in Orthodox Christianity, Taoism or Buddhism. It could never therefore qualify as universal.

Liberal core tenets of individual autonomy, freedom, industry, free trade and commerce essentially reflected the triumph of the Protestant worldview in Europe’s 30-years’ civil war. It was not fully even a Christian view, but more a Protestant one.

This narrow, sectarian pillar was able to be projected into a universal project – only so long as it was underpinned by power. In Mill’s day, the civilisational claim served Europe’s need for colonial validation. Mill tacitly acknowledges this when he validates the clearing of the indigenous American populations for not having tamed the wilderness, nor made the land productive.

However, with America’s Cold War triumph – that had by then become a cynical framework for U.S. ‘soft power’ – acquired a new potency. The merits of America’s culture, and way of life, seemed to acquire practical validation through the implosion of the USSR.

But today, with America’s soft power collapsed – not even the illusion of universalism can be sustained. Other states are coming forward, offering themselves as separate, equally compelling ‘civilisational’ states. It is clear that even were the classic liberal Establishment to win in the November U.S. elections, America no longer has claim to path-find a New World Order.

Yet, should this secularised Protestant current be over – beware! Because its subterranean, unconscious religiosity is the ‘ghost at the table’ today. It is returning in a new guise.

The ‘old illusion’ cannot continue, because its core values are being radicalised, stood on their head, and turned into the swords with which to impale classic American and European liberals (and U.S. Christian Conservatives). It is now the younger generation of American woke liberals who are asserting vociferously not merely that the old liberal paradigm is illusory, but that it was never more than ‘a cover’ hiding oppression – whether domestic, or colonial, racist or imperial; a moral stain that only redemption can cleanse.

It is an attack – which coming from within – forecloses on any U.S. moral, soft power, global leadership aspirations. For with the illusion exploded, and nothing in its place, a New World Order cannot coherently be formulated.

Not content with exposing the illusion, the woke generation are also tearing down, and shredding, the flags at the masthead: Freedom and prosperity achieved via the liberal market.

‘Freedom’ is being torn down from within. Dissidents from the woke ideology, are being ‘called out’, made to repent on the knee, or face reputational or economic ruin. It is ‘soft totalitarianism’. It recalls one of Dostoevsky’s characters – at a time when Russian progressives were discrediting traditional institutions – who, in a celebrated line, says: “I got entangled in my data … Starting from unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism”.

Even ‘science’ has become a ‘God that failed’; instead of being the path to liberty, it has become a dark soulless path toward unfreedom. From algorithms that ‘cost’ the value of human lives, versus the ‘costing’ of lockdown; from secret ‘Black Box’ algos that limit distribution of news and thinking, to Bill Gates’ vaccination ID project, science now portends despotic social control, rather than a fluttering standard, hoist as the symbol of freedom.

But the most prominent of these flags, torn down, cannot be blamed on the woke generation. There has been no ‘prosperity for all’ – only distortions and warped structures. There are not even free markets. The Fed and the U.S. Treasury simply print new money, and hand it out to select recipients. There is no means now to attribute ‘worth’ to financial assets. Their value simply is that which Central Government is willing to pay for bonds, or grant in bail-outs.

Wow. ‘The God who failed’ (André Gide’s book title) – a crash of idols. One wonders now, what is the point to that huge financial eco-system known as Wall Street. Why not winnow it down to a couple of entities, say, Blackrock and KKR (hedge funds), and leave it to them to distribute the Fed’s freshly-printed ‘boodle’ amongst friends? Liberal markets no more – and many fewer jobs.

Many commentators have noted the wokes’ absence of vision for the future. Some describe them in highly caustic terms:

“Today, America’s tumbrils are clattering about, carrying toppled statues, ruined careers, unwoke brands. Over their sides peer those deemed racist by left-wing identitarians and sentenced to cancelation, even as the evidentiary standard for that crime falls through the floor … But who are these cultural revolutionaries? The conventional wisdom goes that this is the inner-cities erupting, economically disadvantaged victims of racism enraged over the murder of George Floyd. The reality is something more … bourgeoisie. As Kevin Williamson observed last week, “These are the idiot children of the American ruling class, toy radicals and Champagne Bolsheviks, playing Jacobin for a while, until they go back to graduate school”.

Is that so? I well recall listening in the Middle East to other angry young men who, too, wanted to ‘topple the statues’; to burn down everything. ‘You really believed that Washington would allow you … in’, they taunted and tortured their leaders: “No, we must burn it all down. Start from scratch”.

Did they have a blueprint for the future? No. They simply believed that Islam would organically inflate, and expand to fill the void. It would happen by itself – of its own accord: Faith.

Professor John Gray has noted “that in The God that failed, Gide says: ‘My faith in communism is like my faith in religion. It is a promise of salvation for mankind’’. “Here Gide acknowledged”, Gray continues, “that communism was an atheist version of monotheism. But so is liberalism, and when Gide and others gave up faith in communism to become liberals, they were not renouncing the concepts and values that both ideologies had inherited from western religion. They continued to believe that history was a directional process in which humankind was advancing towards universal freedom”.

So too with the wokes. The emphasis is on Redemption; on a Truth catharsis; on their own Virtue as sufficient agency to stand-in for the lack of plan for the future. All are clear signals: A secularised ‘illusion’ is metamorphosing back into ‘religion’. Not as Islam, of course, but as angry Man, burning at the deep and dark moral stain of the past. And acting now as purifying ‘fire’ to bring about the uplifting and shining future ahead.

Tucker Carlson, a leading American conservative commentator known for plain speaking, frames the movement a little differently: “This is not a momentary civil disturbance. This is a serious, and highly organized political movement … It is deep and profound and has vast political ambitions. It is insidious, it will grow. Its goal is to end liberal democracy and challenge western civilization itself … We’re too literal and good-hearted to understand what’s happening … We have no idea what we are up against … These are not protests. This is a totalitarian political movement”.

Again, nothing needs to be done by this new generation to bring into being a new world, apart from destroying the old one. This vision is a relic – albeit secularised – of western Christianity. Apocalypse and redemption, these wokes believe, have their own path; their own internal logic.

Mill’s ‘ghost’ is arrived at the table. And with its return, America’s exceptionalism has its re-birth. Redemption for humankind’s dark stains. A narrative in which the history of mankind is reduced to the history of racial struggle. Yet Americans, young or old, now lack the power to project it as a universal vision.

‘Virtue’, however deeply felt, on its own, is insufficient. Might President Trump try nevertheless to sustain the old illusion by hard power? The U.S. is deeply fractured and dysfunctional – but if desperate, this is possible.

The “toy radicals, and Champagne Bolsheviks” – in these terms of dripping disdain from Williamson – are very similar to those who rushed into the streets in 1917. But before dismissing them so peremptorily and lightly, recall what occurred.

Into that combustible mass of youth – so acultured by their progressive parents to see a Russian past that was imperfect and darkly stained – a Trotsky and Lenin were inserted. And Stalin ensued. No ‘toy radicals’. Soft became hard totalitarianism.

 

 

 

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A Problem with Paternalism | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on November 23, 2019

Suppose, for the moment, that we accept Sunstein’s claim that these cognitive mistakes impede people from getting what they want. Does this give one reason to reject the Epistemic Argument? I do not think so. According to the Epistemic Argument, each person is in a better position than government officials to choose the appropriate means to satisfy his ends. This is entirely consistent with people’s making cognitive mistakes. The point of the Epistemic Argument is that people can better judge their situation than officials can, not that their judgment is without error.

https://mises.org/wire/problem-paternalism

Sometimes the government passes laws that restrict people for what it claims to be their own good, such as laws that ban drugs that are supposed to be bad for your health. Laws like this are called “paternalistic.”

Libertarians oppose paternalism, but it is not only libertarians who reject it. It is at odds with the whole tradition of classical liberalism. John Stuart Mill famously opposed paternalism in On Liberty. He defended the Harm Principle: “[T]he only purpose for which power may be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or mental, is not a sufficient warrant.”

Paternalism has in recent years made a comeback, as we see in such absurdities as restrictions on the size of cans of soda. I’d like to look at one argument against Mill’s Harm Principle advanced by the influential lawyer and government administrator Cass Sunstein, in his book Nudge and elsewhere. (In fairness to Sunstein, he says he is a libertarian paternalist, not a paternalist tout court. “Libertarian paternalist” seems contradictory to me, but I will put this aside.)

The argument I want to consider is Sunstein’s response to what he calls the Epistemic Argument: “Because individuals know their tastes and situations better than officials do, they are in the best position to identify their own ends and the best means of obtaining them.” He thinks the Epistemic Argument is the strongest argument in favor of the Harm Principle.

To challenge the Epistemic Argument, Sunstein points to cognitive mistakes that people make. Sunstein is a leading figure in behavioral economics, and he writes about these mistakes with great authority. Following the psychologist (and Nobel Prize-winner) Daniel Kahneman, he distinguishes between two “cognitive systems” in the mind. “System 1 works fast. It is often on automatic pilot. Driven by habit, it can be emotional and intuitive.” By contrast, System 2 is “deliberative and reflective.” When we operate, as we often do, with System 1, we are subject to various sets of mistakes, which count as “behavioral market failures.” With the details of these mistakes, we are not here concerned, but the errors include “present bias and time inconsistencies,” “ignoring shrouded (but important) attributes,” “unrealistic optimism,” and “problems with probability.” What for our purposes is important is the conclusion Sunstein draws: “With respect to paternalism, the unified theme is that insofar as people are making the relevant errors, their choices will fail to promote their own ends. It follows that a successful effort to correct these errors would generally substitute an official judgment for that of choosers only with respect to means, not ends.”

Suppose, for the moment, that we accept Sunstein’s claim that these cognitive mistakes impede people from getting what they want. Does this give one reason to reject the Epistemic Argument? I do not think so. According to the Epistemic Argument, each person is in a better position than government officials to choose the appropriate means to satisfy his ends. This is entirely consistent with people’s making cognitive mistakes. The point of the Epistemic Argument is that people can better judge their situation than officials can, not that their judgment is without error.

Ludwig von Mises fully realized this point, and Sunstein would have benefited from a reading of Mises’s comment in his essay “Laissez-Faire or Dictatorship” on J.E. Cairnes’s objection to laissez-faire: “Let us for the sake of argument accept the way in which Cairnes presents the problem and in which he argues. Human beings are fallible and therefore sometimes fail to learn what their true interests would require them to do. … It is very unfortunate that reality is such. But, we must ask, is there any means available to prevent mankind from being hurt by people’s bad judgment and malice? Is it not a non sequitur to assume that one could avoid the disastrous consequences of these human weaknesses by substituting the government’s discretion for that of the individual citizens?”

There is a further problem with Sunstein’s use of cognitive mistakes to justify paternalistic interventions. He offers no evidence that people who act in ways he wants to modify have fallen victim to cognitive mistakes. Do people who smoke, or consume sodas in large quantities, or fail to buy fuel-efficient cars, suffer from cognitive mistakes? Maybe they do, but the fact that people are susceptible to these mistakes does not show, for any particular example, that they have made these mistakes.

The challenge to the Epistemic Argument thus fails.

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The Cambridge Book Club features Paternalism ...

 

 

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