The Observer-Created World

We’ve just had another intractable disagreement in our most recent comment-thread (with, of course, our resident Clintonian gadfly). The dispute is, in microcosm, the same that is pulling America, and indeed all of the West, to pieces.

As I have said many times before, so much depends on axioms, and on what words mean.

We read a sentence like this:

And while there may be “millions of aroused American patriots” enraged at social change, there are millions more American patriots who believe in diversity, inclusiveness, Obamacare, a return to balance on the Supreme Court after thirty years of right wing control, and the other things which will drive Clinton voters to the polls.

Consider “diversity”. (“Inclusiveness” is just another word for the same thing, as is “multiculturalism”.) Here we see the axiom that more of it is always better, despite that assertion’s being completely at odds with our empirical experience (ever-increasing racial and ethnic tensions everywhere in the West, the need for increasingly totalitarian “hate-speech” laws, and the enormous cost of the burgeoning “diversity-management” industry being obvious examples), at odds with any careful examination of what makes cultures and societies happy and cohesive (see here and here), and sharply at odds with all the lessons of history — which teach us again and again that, sooner or later, Diversity + Proximity = War.

Where one person says “diversity” and “inclusivity”, then, another reads: “open borders, demographic displacement, Balkanization, cultural deliquescence, worsening social tension, more intervention to manage that tension, and of course the steady accumulation of new Democratic voters and clients of the ever-expanding managerial state.”

Where one person says:

Others are angry because ordering chicken at a Roy Rogers on the turnpike is frustrating when the counterman lacks English skills (although – who knows? – he could be the Syrian refugee whose son starts Apple Computer).

… another sees a nest of hidden axioms, namely that (a) all people from anywhere are exactly fungible, (b) that a randomly chosen illiterate immigrant from anywhere on earth stands a robustly non-zero chance of siring the next Steve Jobs, and that (c) this prospect is both so likely and so attractive that it justifies, in terms of the policy interests of American citizens, flinging open the borders to thousands, or perhaps millions, of profoundly alien and unvettable immigrants on the chance that the offspring of one of them may someday sell us a better phone. Moreover, so incommensurable are the axioms here that where one person will read what I’ve just written and see in it the traditional human virtues: love of home and country, love of peace and harmonious order, love of one’s culture and heritage, a grateful sense of obligation to those who built it all for us, and love of the generations yet unborn for whom all of these treasures are to be cherished, preserved and protected — another will read it and see only “hate”, and fear of change. (Implicit in that is yet another hidden axiom, namely that change — which is of course inevitable — is also innately and self-justifyingly good, and so should not be questioned or resisted.)

Where one person sees “thirty years of right-wing control” of the Supreme Court, another sees a wholesale abandonment of Constitutional rigor, the usurpation of the public will in order to advance the destruction of States’ rights and the traditional moral order, and the discovery of mysterious and ever-unfolding “emanations” from Constitutional clauses and amendments whose original purposes were clear, limited, and clearly limited.

And so on.

These are not petty differences, and they are not, by their nature, amenable to compromise. (Existential questions are like that. If I see that you are about to drive us over a cliff, and you say there is no cliff, what is our compromise?) We are at a point of such outright and deepening hostility between two fundamentally incompatible visions of America, the American tradition, the role of government, the moral order, the right to association, the meaning of the Constitution — in the simplest terms, of what is good and right and sacred — that the best we can really hope for now is some kind of divorce. It is the great tragedy of our age that the geographical interpenetration of these hostile camps makes this almost impossible. We cannot live together — we cannot agree on the most basic principles of society and government, or of rights and truths and responsibilities — and we cannot get away from each other. How much suffering we might avoid in the months and years to come, if only we could.

Finally, to make matters worse, let’s go “meta”: while one person sees the moral and axiomatic fault-lines I’ve described above, and recognizes that the tectonic strain is reaching the point of catastrophic release — another thinks that his candidate will simply win the coming election, we’ll all have a good laugh at the fools who lost, and things will “get back to normal”.

Place your bets.

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34 Comments

  1. I bet dollars to donuts (even though I can not tolerate sugar) that “[y]our resident Clintonian gadfly” will show up shortly to explain in excruciating verbosity how your naivete leads you to completely misconstrue the state of affairs in our country. He will also remind you that all your efforts at analyzing this furshlugginer development have been for naught since his candidate is going to cream your candidate by simply running out the clock, which, in case you still don’t realize it, will make him ecstatic. Because winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.

    Posted October 19, 2016 at 10:01 pm | Permalink
  2. Individualism (I want my viewpoint to be right) = Equality (Every viewpoint is right) = Diversity (the more viewpoints we have, the less a right one is likely to be found). Leftism is egomania. The solution is physical removal.

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 12:07 am | Permalink
  3. Whitewall says

    “The solution is physical removal.” Physical removal of the left from America would be long and messy. Must be another definition.

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 7:25 am | Permalink
  4. Tina says

    “so much depends on axioms, and on what words mean.”

    We no longer speak the same language, even if we use the same words and grammar. Rationals adhere to established definitions, meanings and inferences – coining legitimate new terms in order to convey new or changing ideas.
    Progressives, on the other hand, have broken our language, corrupting words, generating fictions, adding new connotations – often “insider” connotations – to unrelated terms, erasing vocabulary and entire topics, in order to fool and confuse, creating a Tower of Babel situation, to a degree that their words can no longer be trusted in any form. We never know from literally one day to the next when they will suddenly skew and decry a word they introduced a year earlier.

    This prevents intelligible discourse between the Rationals and the Progressives. Given that there are no shared linguistic ethics between the camps, Rationals cannot safely debate or even talk with Progressives.

    Both camps need to appeal to audiences, and for Rationals, we overcome fiction and irrationality by fostering the old principles of the individual naturalist: first-hand personal observation, independent study of *ancient* writings, the scientific method, dispassionate evaluation of results. Once people learn how to think, they will usually do so. That may be a long process.

    Sorry for the tangent. We’ve got to root out the heart of Yankee Apartheid where Progressivism “has its being”, but most of the Progressive agenda today is aimed at restoring and even broadening those Ghettos though… as your recent post pointed out… embracing a horrific Caste system. Such a system is prima facie “unAmerican” – Res ipsa loquitur.

    All of the practical solutions I can think of involve massive government actions of the kind 21st Century Americans are unwilling to undertake, and would cause short-term upheaval, although the next generation would benefit, starting with integrating minority neighborhoods block by block through incentivizing white occupancy (data shows that while nearly all white people live and work among people of varied race/ethnicity, black people in the vast Yankee ghettos do not usually have any white neighbors. There is a sort of missionary movement to “homestead” these communities – that needs to be fostered and expanded.), legally eliminating gated “communities” and HOAs to prevent the establishment of new segregated areas, and – to root out corruption – eliminating all legal job protections of public employees.

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink
  5. Malcolm,

    This post is superb. Your contrasting axioms remind me of the great book by Thomas Sowell called A Conflict of Visions. His ‘constrained’ and ‘unconstrained’ visions are at the heart of all political conflict as they form world-views about what people are actually capable of achieving through collective action. Another way of stating this is that conservatives believe that human nature is tragic and some problems cannot be solved no matter how hard we try.

    Tina,

    I think Malcolm is on to something important when it comes to our political language. As a devout Catholic that takes the philosophical natural law tradition seriously, I refuse to ever refer to two men or two women as being definitionally capable of getting “married” — that’s not what marriage means by its nature. But the Left thinks that the government, through the courts or a popular vote, can change the ontological meaning of the institution of marriage. This seems insane to me.

    I’m not sure I would contrast “Progressives” with “Rationals.” If you’ll indulge me, I always like to quote Richard Weaver in these situations (from Ideas Have Consequences, 1948):

    Like Macbeth, Western man made an evil decision, which has become the efficient and final cause of other evil decisions. Have we forgotten our encounter with the witches on the heath? It occurred in the late fourteenth century, and what the witches said to the protagonist of this drama was that man could realize himself more fully if he would only abandon his belief in the existence of transcendentals. The powers of darkness were working subtly, as always, and they couched this proposition in the seemingly innocent form of an attack upon universais. The defeat of logical realism in the great medieval debate was the crucial event in the history of Western culture; from this flowed those acts which issue now in modern decadence.

    One may be accused here of oversimplifying the historical process, but I take the view that the conscious policies of men and governments are not mere rationalizations of what has been brought about by unaccountable forces. They are rather deductions from our most basic ideas of human destiny, and they have a great, though not unobstructed, power to determine our course.

    For this reason I turn to William of Occam as the best representative o f a change which came over man’s conception of reality at this historic juncture. It was William of Occam who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have a real existence. His triumph tended to leave universal terms mere names serving our convenience. The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one’s view of the nature and destiny of humankind. The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses. With this change in the affirmation of what is real, the whole orientation of culture takes a turn, and we are on the road to modern empiricism.

    It is easy to be blind to the significance of a change because it is remote in time and abstract in character. Those who have not discovered that world view is the most important thing about a man, as about the men composing a culture, should consider the train of circumstances which have with perfect logic proceeded from this. The denial of universals carries with it the denial of everything transcending experience. The denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably— though ways are found to hedge on this— the denial of truth. With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of “man the measure of all things.” The witches spoke with the habitual equivocation of oracles when they told man that by this easy choice he might realize himself more fully, for they were actually initiating a course which cuts one off from reality. Thus began the “abomination of desolation” appearing today as a feeling of alienation from all fixed truth.

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink
  6. Tina says

    Jeffrey S, do you suggest a different word? Christian would have been my first choice, because those that currently call themselves Progressive ultimately oppose God and Christ – but there are many with uncorrupted thinking who do not – yet – name themselves Christians. I suppose we could cling to the word American Patriot :-D

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  7. Whitewall says

    Tina, “Yankee Apartheid where Progressivism ‘has its being’…” Do you mean that as New England Puritanism and its after math, or much more recent in origin?

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  8. Tina,

    Sorry, I think you misunderstood me. I’m fine with ‘Progressive’ — it was ‘Rationals’ I was objecting to. I don’t think a conservative understanding of the world, while it has a place for reason, makes an idol out of rationality. That’s Weaver’s point — religion, philosophy (which is sort of a handmaiden to reason), culture, etc. are all important to the conservative. We appreciate the limits to what can be known by science (which is why we are skeptical of claims about ‘climate change’ or other large-scale social phenomenon that rely on data that can be easily manipulated.)

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  9. Tina says

    Jeffrey S, I wasn’t suggesting idolizing reason – was just trying to describe a genuine capacity for exactly what you describe as “Conservative”. So Conservative works for me. But right now there are a whole heap of wolves in Conservative clothing who are happily abetting those that now call themselves Progressives. :-)

    Whitewall, much more recent :-D I mean this: http://www.salon.com/2011/03/29/most_segregated_cities/ Each slide has a history which goes into more detail about the de facto apartheid practiced in the Northern states, Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast from about 1910 through most of the 20th Century. The South and Slavery are not responsible for the continuing racial division in those Northern cities that Progressives caused and still promote today in their home territories. Had conservatives been paying attention, this objection could have stopped “Multiculturalism” in its tracks. It’s essential we learn to point to recent, actual causes of events/conditions. Progressives would rather hide those facts (and interestingly, since that study linked above came out, there was such a concerted effort to disprove it that people made new “versions” which juggle the numbers to shift more Southern cities into the list)

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Permalink
  10. It’s hard to know where to begin to respond. I think that you over-value tradition to compensate for what you perceive as a devaluation of tradition on the other side. It may only be a matter of what you emphasize when describing a tradition, but traditions themselves are made up of many little recalcitrant pieces each tending in their own direction, and what becomes the tradition is only the tendency of those pieces this way or that and the history of those tendencies.

    In ideologies or philosophies too, I see the same thing: a welding together of viewpoints in an attempt to achieve a coherence that is always more or less on the verge of dissipating — because of a necessary lack of clarity in the application of concepts and the tensions between the viewpoints themselves. But so far from being a bad thing, all this diversity and disagreement is precisely what makes the harmony you are so keen on possible in the first place: it’s because we don’t completely agree with ourselves that we can find a way, when we come into conflict, to agree with each other. The diverse members of the world fit together but do not know it, and it is just in finding how they fit together that they make progress (yes, progress) and achieve a higher perspective. (A Hegelian view.)

    For us, I think our disagreements are about matters of emphasis, evaluation, and probabilities, and that that is what makes them difficult to negotiate — rather than because there are some deep irreconcilable foundational principles upsetting us. I value tradition too, and I can read T.S. Eliot with approval. But I am also glad there are different traditions, and moreover I want to experience those other traditions, and I want those other traditions to have access to me. Borders there must be, perhaps, as a condition of our own existence, but we have to have them porous.

    Isn’t it much the same with our own bodies? I cannot exist if I don’t keep the world out, but because it is an intractable law of my existence that I incorporate the world into myself, I have a mouth, a nose, eyes, and ears. The dangers this exposes me to, I cannot help but be conscious of, but the intercourse this makes possible — my gratitude for that is my gratitude at living. My existence is a running compromise with the world.

    I’m sorry to subject you to an Emersonian pen, but I mean only that the dispute is over more or less. We can all recognize the good in the opinions of those who disagree with us, if we try. There are, I will admit, a few bad opinions, but let us not exaggerate their incidence — and let us recognize that even the professed enemies of life make great use of the beliefs and practices that benefit it. Even a band of thieves, as Socrates said, need some justice among themselves, or they will not be a band for very long.

    And so we can recognize each other, understand each other, and if we disapprove of each other, we can always find a way to communicate our disapproval. The approach is everything, and it is what we all find difficult — but if we don’t find it, we simply perish. There is no darkness in that either, though — that we will perish has long been ordained. In the meantime, we have a chance to understand one another. It is worth the attempt.

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 9:45 pm | Permalink
  11. JK says

    Alex,

    But it can only work if “our interests” coincide, or perhaps, align.

    See here:

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=interests

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 10:51 pm | Permalink
  12. Malcolm says

    Alex,

    If you give me Emerson, I’ll give you Paracelsus: “the dose makes the poison”.

    As I wrote here, “In small amounts, diversity, existing in conformance with (and subordinate to) a society’s ambient culture, adds flavor and spice to a community.”

    But as diversity increases, “the less congruence there is between the social lexicons of its several subpopulations. As more circles are added to the cultural Venn diagram, the area of mutual overlap — the region that represents the range of commonality suitable for uncontroversial expression in the public square — diminishes, rapidly.” (I might have added “non-linearly”.)

    Emerson’s inwardly directed universalism, as contentious as it was, arose in what was in its essence a highly traditional and homogeneous nation that provided the “virtual machine” in which his new software could run. And even this homogeneous, European, overwhelmingly Christian nation descended, in his lifetime, into civil war. What does that augur for us?

    I agree that traditions do not fall from the sky as little homunculi; as you say, they are the product of an ongoing dialectic process. In my view they are also the product of an evolutionary process, in at least two ways: first, they are subject to a ruthless process of selection, and second, I believe that they are, in a fairly strict biological sense, “extended phenotypes” of the particular human populations whose traditions they are.

    As such, traditions embody, as observers have understood for centuries, a great deal of reliable wisdom about what actually works to promote the flourishing of human societies — more than any person, or team of persons, can invent or discover in a single lifetime. They are, to borrow a term from information science, “algorithmic compressions” that make the preservation and transmission of this encapsulated knowledge far more feasible and dependable than it would otherwise be. (One might object that they may trap societies atop “local minima” in a socioevolutionary “fitness space” — but that’s a purely empirical question, and we leap off such peaks at our peril. We’ve been leaping off them like lemmings in the past few decades.)

    Obviously there are extremes here on either side of this question; rigid adherence to tradition in radically new historical contexts will not even produce stasis, while the modern Progressive rejection of all tradition in favor of radical subjectivity and self-invention leaves us rudderless, atomized, and ultimately dehumanized and miserable. (As we are seeing all around us now.) Somewhere there is an intelligent balance between these two valuations of tradition.

    As for diversity, I’m all for it! That’s why we have different countries. It’s why this huge nation was organized as a federation of states, rather than a many-tentacled Leviathan. But that healthy view of diversity is now on the run all over the Western world.

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 11:42 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    JK,

    But it can only work if “our interests” coincide, or perhaps, align.

    Right. And that was the point of this post. For the Hegelian process Alex mentions to be productive, for the dialectic gears to mesh, there must be some minimum level of commonality. Push a society past that point, and the mechanism fails. And when it fails, it can fail quite spectacularly.

    Posted October 20, 2016 at 11:45 pm | Permalink
  14. Alex,

    “Borders there must be, perhaps, as a condition of our own existence, but we have to have them porous.”

    This may appear to be “cherry picking”, but in my own defense, your comments are too long (for me) to avoid making incremental replies.

    It is perhaps too obvious for me to point out that “porous” is a relative property of matter as well as conceptual borders. What it definitely doesn’t mean is “transparent”, as in “open borders”, which is equivalent to the absence of borders.

    I submit to you that America’s borders have never been “opaque”, as in permanently closed and impenetrable. Nevertheless, the latter situation is theoretically possible within the inclusive range of porosity; indeed that was the Soviet Union’s condition of its Iron Curtain.

    Needless to say, but worth repeating, every sovereign nation reserves the right to establish the porosity of its own borders. And that usually includes legally established procedures for entry (as well as exit).

    No individual is entitled to cross any border. They must abide by the established procedures of the border’s controlling entity.

    Is that too much to expect from law-abiding people?

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 1:09 am | Permalink
  15. Alex Leibowitz says

    Well Henry — descending from all that lofty talk: I heard of a man who fled across the river bordering North Korea into China one winter. He eventually found his way to America through some refugee organization. I think his case supports the idea that at least in instances where a nation’s laws threaten my life, I have no obligation to respect them. That being said, I suppose China would be within their rights to keep North Koreans out — but you can’t really say North Koreans are doing anything wrong, except in a nominal sense, by attempting to flee. And if we call such refugees criminals for violating a law that threatens their lives, we will be the obfuscators — by implying that those who have broken a law have committed a fault. Not in all cases, of course, but in some.

    The American case is different. Still, I can’t help thinking it is somewhat a problem of our own making — all those lands used to be a part of Mexico. Borders in general — they are not natural things, say what you will about mountains and rivers. A nation established them and another nation is weak enough to be compelled to recognize that fiat. It’s hard for me to feel really sympathetic when later there are struggles. It isn’t the same feeling I have when someone invades the house I have paid for — maybe not because there’s anything less arbitrary in private than national property, but because there’s a mutual recognition of the right in the first case which is lacking in the second.

    So my present opinion is that here is another problem America brought on itself through its own history. We suffer for the sins of our fathers, and we’re going to be groaning for a thousand years because once people thought they could bind people up and force them from Africa or take the lands into which they had been invited to settle. Maybe it is a principle of history that everyone gets what he deserves.

    By the way, Malcolm, though I take exception to many of your opinions, I enjoy the way you express them.

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 2:00 am | Permalink
  16. More practically — I suppose there is a great demand for migrant labor, which many people come up from Mexico to take advantage of. I also suppose we don’t have the resources or bureaucracy in place to regulate properly the situation that arises from this demand, and so employers and migrants, frustrated on both sides, simply skirt the law to further their interests. I may be wrong about all of this — it is a bare impression — but suppose such a situation exists in the world. A law exists, but to comply with the law is very difficult, so everybody simply skirts the law. Is the proper response to be stricter about enforcing the penalty for breaking the law, or to make it easier to comply with, or both, and in what measures? I teach. I don’t know whether I deserve to be called a teacher. But I often face these sorts of dilemmas: I give a test, and everyone fails. I assign homework, and no one turns it in. I can punish everyone in such cases — but there’s some underlying dynamic that led to my predicament in the first place, and what is the best way to deal with it?

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 2:15 am | Permalink
  17. Alex,

    I must say that in order to have a meaningful conversation the interlocutors must have some agreement that they are expressing their opinions within the same discipline. Your remarks seem to be philosophical in nature. My remarks are guided by the concepts of legality and the principles of sovereignty.

    As far as I am concerned, whether or not North Koreans are doing anything wrong in fleeing their horrible country is completely irrelevant to this discussion. I am talking about American immigration policy, which is the only set of regulations pertinent to those who wish to cross American borders.

    Whether or not Mexicans have any rights, beyond those granted by the United States, based on some perceived historical injustices in the formation of the United States of America, is not something that I am inclined to explore at this time. Such a topic is both nebulous and vast. Life is short. And philosophical discourse is interminable.

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 4:24 am | Permalink
  18. Alex Leibowitz says

    More to the point then: I thought one of the large causes of illegal immigration was the demand for labor, a demand that is currently not being met by the legal channels. If that is true, then it seems like making the legal channels more efficient would go farther towards solving the problem, with less economic cost, than keeping people out and sending them back. I am basing this only on what I read, that a great deal of the traffic back and forth is for seasonal labor, so that many of the immigrants are essentially migrant laborers, who go back and forth across the border.

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 5:01 am | Permalink
  19. JK says

    “I am basing this only on what I read, that a great deal of the traffic back and forth is for seasonal labor, so that many of the immigrants are essentially migrant laborers, who go back and forth across the border.”

    Loosely, that would be correctly limned [but] as a Government-to-Government understanding; what developed into The Bracero Program. *Agent 86 providing especial note, “This agreement made it so that the U.S. government were the guarantors of the contract, not U.S. employers.”

    http://www.unco.edu/cohmlp/pdfs/bracero_program_powerpoint.pdf

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink
  20. Tina says

    well I made a post, and it doesn’t show. But when I try to repost, it tells me it is a duplicate?

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink
  21. Tina says

    That one went through. Trying again :-)

    From what I have seen consistently throughout my life, nearly any owner who wants to import labor is looking for slaves: they are unwilling to pay even minimum wages. Here’s a grower who freely admits he wants guest workers who are forced to work for him because “if they leave [their job, we] inform ICE”: ““They [Americans] work hard, don’t get me wrong, but last year they would get on their cell phones and figure out where the best pay was — and some would leave.”
    …. “But, he says, such labor mobility can basically be solved through the use of guest workers. “The guest workers … aren’t allowed to go anywhere,” says Valicoff. “They have a contract with us and we have one with them. If they leave, it’s our responsibility to inform ICE . That’s why the guest-worker program works.” http://www.seattleglobalist.com/bitter-harvest-guest-worker-program-isnt-the-labor-and-immigration-panacea-its-cracked-up-to-be

    It’s even worse in a culture like Mexico’s where the patriarch controls every dime of his children’s earnings – even as adults with their own families. So those “Remittances” sent back are preventing the temporary “migrant” from having a decent life or providing for their families here. It’s a brutal old-world system.

    During Bill Clinton’s administration, the World Bank and Mexico’s president hatched a plan to keep a leash on Mexican who come to the US, and prevent them from integrating in order to force those $Billions in Remittances to keep coming.
    So the situation today is very different from what it was in the days of the Bracero program.

    I live in Texas, and my children and grandchildren are varying degrees of Mexican descent. Their great grandparents crossed the border to escape the oppression of the Hacienda system (Mexico’s version of serfdom), and became permanent Americans.

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  22. Bluefin Tuna says

    It’s all too easy to forget how long and difficult the road to understanding the world can be. Certain concepts we take for granted in this corner of the right-wing web are not common knowledge to people who haven’t, say, slogged through all 845 pages of “The Bell Curve”, or downloaded dreary PDFs full of FBI crime statistics. When I get exasperated with someone who cannot see the drawbacks of mass immigration, it helps to remind myself that 10 years ago, I wasn’t terribly aware of them either, being basically agnostic on the immigration question, with perhaps a slight pro-immigration tilt. Changing that position took hundreds of hours of reading and a boatload of statistical data. Most people don’t have the patience for or interest in that kind of study, and find it easier to just let CNN and the NYT explain the world for them in bite-sized nuggets. Orwell was right about seeing what is in front of one’s nose.

    That said, while being ignorant of the facts is forgivable, having a passionate and angry opinion on a subject while being ignorant of those facts isn’t. This is not exclusively a left-wing problem- plenty of people I knew barking for war in 2003 couldn’t have located Iraq on a map- but it has become particularly pronounced in our era of relentless social media virtue-signaling.

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  23. Alex,

    Perhaps we can talk, now that we are getting to the point, namely illegal immigration. That is indeed the problem.

    Now, let’s talk about possible solutions. There has been a number of them suggested. In my opinion, only legal solutions need be considered. Next, we should debate the efficacy of various legal solutions.

    One of them could be making legal immigration less strenuous for people who are anxious to immigrate legally. Another legal solution could be to actually execute existing laws to reduce the number of illegal immigrants who are currently attempting and/or have already succeeded to “immigrate” illegally. Finally, there may be some legally constructed procedure that could implement a legal combination of such actions and procedures.

    The proper format for debating legal solutions for National problems is via Congressional hearings. Informal debates may proceed wherever people congregate legally, such as this forum, for instance.

    In my opinion, therefore, debating the efficacy and desirability of ignoring existing laws to satisfy anyone’s self-interests on philosophical or even ethical grounds is a waste of time and energy. Because illegal.

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  24. Henry,

    There still is something of a philosophical or at least a theoretical issue around illegal immigration, however. There is a great deal of illegal immigration from Mexico to the US, isn’t there? As I understood, illegal immigration from Canada to the US is not a problem on the same scale. So the relevant question, as I see things, would be, what is the reason why people are not following the immigration laws?

    I suggested, and it seems there is something to my idea, that it is because of migration patterns in that area. There is a pattern of life in the border area that the current arrangement finds itself set against, is what it seems to me.

    So you have human laws set up in opposition to a natural phenomenon. In such a case, do we try to redirect the course of the stream, as it were, or do we accommodate ourselves to it? I don’t mean to ask a rhetorical question — go back to the example of a class of students who don’t turn in their homework. As a teacher, I can punish the whole class, but I don’t know if that is the most effective response or even, in some deeper sense, the right response.

    How far should laws accommodate themselves to human nature, to geography, and so forth?

    Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.

    Posted October 21, 2016 at 10:20 pm | Permalink
  25. JK says

    Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret

    https://www.abqjournal.com/836995/after-50-years-its-the-same-old-song.html

    Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:04 am | Permalink
  26. OK, Alex,

    In the spirit of considering your philosophical/sociological concerns, with the understanding that this is merely an informal discussion, I think your concerns are worthy of consideration.

    The world we live in comprises seven billion people living on half a dozen continents. The continents comprise 200 nations of varying sociological, economic, political, cultural, religious, ethical makeup. The variations also include traditions, history, rules of law, levels of education, etc., etc., etc.

    What we would like to do is perform a grand-challenge optimization over this virtually chaotic human condition. How to proceed?

    Well, first of all, what should be optimized? How about the quality of life for the greatest number of people? Can we all agree on that? No, we can’t. People are not like that.

    Despite what liberals believe, the vast majority of people are not like Mother Theresa. Those who have, want to keep what they have. Those who don’t have want what the others have. Though there are good hearted people sprinkled here and there, the vast majority don’t like to share things, just like the average 2-year old toddler. You ain’t going to change human nature overnight, if ever. So, what are we going to do?

    The only thing to do is focus on making incremental improvements. We don’t need no stinkin’ fundamental changes, which are chock full of unintended consequences that make things worse than they were before. 0bama’s hopey-dopey was, is, and will always remain unadulterated horseshit.

    We have a good thing going in America. We can make it better, incrementally. But we have to accept what works and what doesn’t work.

    Communism, socialism, tribalism, fascism, totalitarianism, 0bamism, Clintonism, etc.-ism do not work. All the isms ever tried have failed catastrophically.

    What has worked pretty well for over 200 years is a constitutional republic comprising a federation of 13-50 states, with 3 branches of government, including legislature, executive, and judicial, which are organized to check and balance each other in such a way that this nation of over 300 million individuals are prevented from annihilating each other by means of the rule of law. Furthermore, this wonderful organization tends to be a meritocracy in a free market economy which has elevated the standards of living by orders of magnitude for the majority of its population.

    Other people, living in other nations, are welcome to use the United States as a model for a workable solution to whatever ails their way of life. But we are not obliged to sacrifice our own well-being for their betterment. I am quite sure they wouldn’t do so for us if the roles were reversed.

    Posted October 22, 2016 at 2:08 am | Permalink
  27. Malcolm says

    Henry,

    All the isms ever tried have failed catastrophically.

    Well, almost. I think you’re forgetting pessimism.

    Posted October 22, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink
  28. @Malcolm: Pessimism only succeeds because it sets such a low bar.

    @Henry: I suspect we agree or could come to agree to a large extent, and that the disagreement is again, as I said in my first comment, largely a matter of emphasis, or, as you have been driving at, philosophical. It sounds like you’re open to the idea that we could somehow be more accommodating of immigrants who go through the legal channels, and I’m not to about to argue that the U.S. should let everyone in.

    Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  29. Whitewall says

    “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep”. Saul Bellow

    The Left has invested years of this “intelligence” to bring forth a generation of ignorant SJWs and those like them for the eventual arrival of an Obama like figure. Now we may be treated to an illegitimate HRC in the WH to finish the job.

    Posted October 22, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  30. Tina says

    JK, good article. It helps to have the perspective of history to take the edge off of “today”.

    Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  31. @Malcolm,
    Ah, forgetfulness. Something to look forward to in your dotage. Now, where the hell did I put my glasses …

    @Alex,

    “…, and I’m not about to argue that the U.S. should let everyone in.”

    Thank god almighty, free at last :)

    Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  32. antiquarian says

    And if we call such refugees criminals for violating a law that threatens their lives, we will be the obfuscators — by implying that those who have broken a law have committed a fault.

    Alex, that doesn’t add anything. Lots of things are against the law without being morally reprehensible. Refugees don’t have to be hateful to be expelled.

    Posted October 22, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink
  33. Alex Leibowitz says

    @antiquarian: but isn’t that an interesting case, to find yourself in a life or death struggle (just to dramatize it a little bit) with someone you cannot fault for opposing you and who cannot fault you for opposing him? There’s a special tragedy in that, because each side recognizes the other’s right to oppose his own.

    Posted October 22, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink
  34. Alex,

    It is interesting, indeed. To quote Uncle Joe, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

    Do you make any distinction between a legal right and a moral right?

    Posted October 22, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

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