Social scientific works can be a trove of politically incorrect data

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Many conservatives credulously believe progressives’ claims that the social sciences vindicate liberal ideology, Steve Sailer says, but social scientific works can be a trove of politically incorrect data:

Here are some striking facts gleaned from [A Peculiar Indifference: The Neglected Toll of Violence on Black America, by conventional liberal criminologist Elliott Currie of UC Irvine]:

Between 2000 and 2018…more than 162,000 black Americans lost their lives to violence…the population of a substantial midsize American city—say Jackson, Mississippi….

As Currie admits, the vast majority of black murder victims are unquestionably killed by other blacks. The criminologist offers a lengthy historical explanation of why that is still, in 2020, the fault of whites (as you no doubt would anticipate, FDR’s redlining plays a role), but the 21st-century empirical data in the book is eye-opening:

In the United States today, a young black man has fifteen times the chance of dying from violence as his white counterpart.

Why do murderous blacks and their victims skew so young? Among whites, “hardened criminals” tend to be considerably older than they are among blacks. Does the violence gap between the races decline with age? It’s an unanswered question whether the racial disparity in homicidal tendencies actually diminishes with increasing age, or whether blacks of criminal inclinations simply tend to wind up dead or in prison earlier than whites do.

Currie goes on:

What makes these disparities even more sobering is that the rates of violent death for white men in the United States are themselves quite high by comparison with those of men in other advanced industrial societies…. The current annual homicide death rate for non-Hispanic white men in the United States, at nearly four per 100,000, is more than five times the rate for all German men, and close to twenty times the rate for men in Japan.

Contrary to the usual assumptions that racial gaps are driven by white bigotry, they tend to be smallest in Southern and old Wild West states, and largest where whites are best-behaved, such as in North-Central blue states:

In the state of Illinois, for instance, the homicide death rate for young African-American men (ages fifteen to twenty-nine) has averaged 143 per 100,000 over the course of the twenty-first century, thirty-seven times the rate for white men the same age.

Surely, though, race is less important than sex when it comes to murder rates?

But so strong is the effect of race that a black woman has half again as much chance of dying by homicide as a white man…. Black women lose far more years of life to homicide than to diabetes—a notorious killer of African-American women.

Moreover, among male victims of domestic murders:

What may be more surprising, though, is that intimate partner violence also contributes to the excess risk faced by black men. Among the male victims…the racial imbalance was even more striking than among female ones: nearly half of the men who died in these incidents of intimate partner violence were black.

As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car

Friday, November 27th, 2020

One of Iran’s top military nuclear scientists has been killed:

Details about the slaying remained slim in the hours after the attack, which happened in Absard, a village just east of the capital that is a retreat for the Iranian elite. Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh.

As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid fire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said.

Fakhrizadeh died at a hospital after doctors and paramedics couldn’t revive him. Others wounded included Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and blood pooled on the road.

While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed the finger at Israel, calling the killing an act of “state terror.”

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Russia effectively served air superiority on a diplomatic silver platter to Azerbaijan and Turkey

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

Europe should look carefully at the military lessons of the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war;

The course of every war is influenced by the specific political circumstances that trigger it — and this war was no exception. Azerbaijan and Turkey were confident in the success of their offensive action, as Russia had from the onset of the war indicated that it had no intention of assisting the Armenians outside of their recognised borders. Russia also saw Azeri military pressure as a tool to weaken the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, who headed the 2018 revolution that removed the old regime. Azeri action would, moreover, be likely to lead Armenia accept previously negotiated “peace plans” that would strengthen Moscow’s geopolitical position. This adverse political situation directly translated into military disadvantages on the battlefield for the Armenians.

Knowing Moscow’s tacit acceptance of a military intervention, Turkey based several F-16 fighters in Azerbaijan in October 2020 as a general deterrent. These were later used to sweep the sky of any Armenian ground-attack aircraft that tried to engage in combat. For its part, Armenia had just received eight Su-30 interceptors from Russia this summer, but did not even try to use them to contest the Azeri drones and F-16. The main reason for this was that Russia wanted Armenia not to enter into a direct confrontation with Turkey proper, and so it kept its aircraft on the ground. Russia effectively served air superiority on a diplomatic silver platter to Azerbaijan and Turkey. This proved decisive.

Southern and Western politicians deployed federal state capitalism to do an end run around unsympathetic Yankee capitalists, not to advance toward socialism or social democracy

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

Is the country more divided than ever before? The answer is no, Michael Lind explains:

The social and economic divides among white Northerners and white Southerners, Blacks and whites, Catholics and Protestants and Jews were much more intense in 1920 than they are today in 2020. What has happened is that the formerly unified, mostly Northern mainline Protestant American establishment has—perhaps temporarily—broken down, allowing the actual diversity of interests and opinions in the United States to be expressed rather than suppressed. If the emerging woke national establishment has its way, however, that diversity of viewpoints and values will soon be suppressed once again, in favor of an intolerant and exclusive doctrine that greatly resembles the old-time Social Gospel from which it is derived.

With the exceptions of Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, every American president between 1861 and 1933 was a Republican mainline Protestant from the North or Midwest. The Republican Party, still the Lincoln coalition of Northern industrialists and Yankee Protestants, dominated Congress in the same era. Industry and finance were in the hands of a small number of Northeastern financiers, many of them old-stock Northeastern Protestants like J.P. Morgan. While there were some important Jewish financiers, Jews along with Catholics were kept out of many snobbish Wall Street firms until well after World War II.

The New Deal revolution of the 1930s is badly misunderstood, both politically and culturally, when it is treated as a left-wing rebellion against right-wing capitalism. Fundamentally it represented the partial overthrow of Yankee Protestant hegemony in American society by a coalition of outsiders, chiefly provincial Southern and Western whites and European-American immigrants in the North, many of them Catholic.

The Democratic Party that dominated the United States between the 1930s and the 1980s had a few Yankee progressive members, but it was essentially the old Jacksonian alliance of white Southerners and non-British “white ethnics” in the North. If Harry Truman is understood correctly as a cultural Southerner from Missouri, then with one exception every Democratic president between Roosevelt and Obama was a white Southerner—Truman, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton. The one exception was John F. Kennedy, from the other wing of the Jacksonian anti-Yankee alliance of Southerners and Irish Americans. Meanwhile, the Solid South combined with the seniority system ensured that Southerners, many of them segregationists, dominated Congress and the Senate throughout the New Deal era.

Most New Deal Democratic politicians were not anti-capitalist or opposed to industry. They often represented socially conservative local business elites who resented the fact that Northern bankers often would only finance infrastructure projects in the South and West that locked those regions into their assigned roles as resource colonies for factories in the Midwest and Northeast.

To break this neocolonial pattern of Northeastern economic domination, New Deal Democrats used federal state capitalism to industrialize and modernize the Southern and Western periphery, by means of rural electrification cooperatives, the Tennessee Valley Authority and other hydropower projects, defense production plants assigned to the South and West during World War II, and the interstate highway system (a favorite project of FDR which was only enacted under Eisenhower). In short, Southern and Western politicians and their Northern white ethnic allies who dominated the federal government in the New Deal era deployed federal state capitalism to do an end run around unsympathetic Yankee capitalists, not to advance toward socialism or social democracy.

On life in the shadow of the boomers

Sunday, November 8th, 2020

In his 2017 book Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism, Yuval Levin maintains that 21st century Americans largely understand the last decades of the 20th century, and the first decades of the 21st, through the eyes of the baby-boomers:

Because they were born into a postwar economic expansion, they have been an exceptionally middle-class generation, targeted as consumers from birth. Producers and advertisers have flattered this generation for decades in an effort to shape their tastes and win their dollars. And the boomers’ economic power has only increased with time as they have grown older and wealthier. Today, baby boomers possess about half the consumer purchasing power of the American economy, and roughly three-quarters of all personal financial assets, although they are only about one-quarter of the population. All of this has also made the baby boomers an unusually self-aware generation. Bombarded from childhood with cultural messages about the promise and potential of their own cohort, they have conceived of themselves as a coherent group to a greater degree than any generation of Americans before them.

Since the middle of the twentieth century they have not only shaped the course of American life through their preferences and choices but also defined the nation’s self-understanding. Indeed, the baby boomers now utterly dominate our understanding of America’s postwar history, and in a very peculiar way. To see how, let us consider an average baby boomer: an American born in, say, 1950, who has spent his life comfortably in the broad middle class. This person experienced the 1950s as a child, and so remembers that era, through those innocent eyes, as a simple time of stability and wholesome values in which all things seemed possible.

By the mid-1960s, he was a teenager, and he recalls that time through a lens of youthful rebellion and growing cultural awareness—a period of idealism and promise. The music was great, the future was bright, but there were also great problems to tackle in the world, and he had the confidence of a teenager that his generation could do it right. In the 1970s, as a twenty-something entering the workforce and the adult world, he found that confidence shaken. Youthful idealism gave way to some cynicism about the potential for change, recreational drugs served more for distraction than inspiration, everything was unsettled, and the future seemed ominous and ambiguous. His recollection of that decade is drenched in cold sweat.

In the 1980s, in his thirties, he was settling down. His work likely fell into a manageable groove, he was building a family, and concerns about car loans, dentist bills, and the mortgage largely replaced an ambition to transform the world. This was the time when he first began to understand his parents, and he started to value stability, low taxes, and low crime. He looks back on that era as the onset of real adulthood. By the 1990s, in his forties, he was comfortable and confident, building wealth and stability. He worried that his kids were slackers and that the culture was corrupting them, and he began to be concerned about his own health and witness as fifty approached. But on the whole, our baby boomer enjoyed his forties—it was finally his generation’s chance to be in charge, and it looked to be working out.

As the twenty-first century dawned, our boomer turned fifty. He was still at the peak of his powers (and earnings), but he gradually began to peer over the hill toward old age. He started the decade with great confidence, but found it ultimately to be filled with unexpected dangers and unfamiliar forces. The world was becoming less and less his own, and it was hard to avoid the conclusion that he might be past his prime. He turned sixty-five in the middle of this decade, and in the midst of uncertainty and instability. Health and retirement now became prime concerns for him. The culture started to seem a little bewildering, and the economy seemed awfully insecure. He was not without hope. Indeed, in some respects, his outlook on the future has been improving a little is he contemplates retirement. He doesn’t exactly admire his children (that so-called “Generation X”), but they have exceeded his expectations, and his grandchildren (the youngest Millennials and those younger still) seem genuinely promising and special. As he contemplates their future, he does worry that they will be denied the extraordinary blend of circumstances that defined the world of his youth.

The economy, politics, and the culture just don’t work the way they used to, and frankly, it is difficult for him to imagine America two or three decades from now. He rebelled against the world he knew as a young man, but now it stands revealed to him as a paradise lost. How can it be regained? This portrait of changing attitudes is, of course, stylized for effect. But it offers the broad contours of how people tend to look at their world in different stages of life, and it shows how Americans (and, crucially, not just the boomers) tend to understand each of the past seven decades of our national life. This is no coincidence. We see our recent history through the boomers’ eyes. Were the 1950s really simple and wholesome? Were the 1960s really idealistic and rebellious? Were the 1970s aimless and anxious? Did we find our footing in the 1980s? Become comfortable and confident in the 1990s? Or more fearful and disoriented over the past decade and a half? As we shall see in the coming chapters, the answer in each case is not simply yes or no. But it is hard to deny that we all frequently view the postwar era in this way—through the lens of the boomer experience.

The boomers’ self-image casts a giant shadow over our politics, and it means we are inclined to look backward to find our prime. More liberal-leaning boomers miss the idealism of the flower of their youth, while more conservative ones, as might be expected, are more inclined to miss the stability and confidence of early middle age—so the Left yearns for the 1960s and the Right for the 1980s. But both are telling the same story: a boomer’s story of the America they have known. The trouble is that it is not only the boomers themselves who think this way about America, but all of us, especially in politics. We really have almost no self-understanding of our country in the years since World War II that is not in some fundamental way a baby-boomer narrative.

As T. Greer summarizes it:

Many of the associations we have with various decades (say, the fifties with innocence and social conformity, or the sixties with explosive youthful energy), says Levin, had more to do with the life-stage in which Boomer’s experienced these decades than anything objective about the decades themselves.

These were the men who screamed most shrilly

Thursday, November 5th, 2020

It was not until the Korean War was many months old, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), that new Army trainees began to live half their time in the field, and to undergo a third of their training by night:

Slowly, commanders then began to restore the old hard slap and dash that had characterized Grant’s men in Virginia, Pershing’s AEF, and Patton’s armored columns.

[...]

There had been the same arrogance in the march north that had characterized Braddock’s movement against the French and Indians, Dade’s demonstration against the Seminoles, and Custer’s ride to the Little Big Horn. And it was the same conditions of terrain, low cunning, and barbarian hardihood that brought all these forces to defeat by an intrinsically inferior enemy.

It was almost as hard for minds trained on the fields of Europe to adjust to Korea as it had been for British generals to learn to fight colonials — who threw the book of civilized warfare away.

But the most ironic thing, in those bitter days of December 1950, was that the commentators who cried havoc the loudest were the very men who had done most to change and destroy the old 1945 Army. These were the men who had shouted for the boys to be brought home, who had urged the troops to exert civil rights. They were the ones who had hinted that leaders trying to delay the frenetic demobilization, or the reform of the Army, were no better than the Fascists.

And these were the men who screamed most shrilly when some young Americans on the field of battle behaved more like citizens than like soldiers.

The lack of democracy under British rule was a key component of Hong Kong’s ascent

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020

Back in 2005, Bryan Caplan noted that Hong Kong has had the freest economy in the world and had since 1970, the earliest year covered by the Economic Freedom of the World data set:

Indeed, it’s higher now [in 2005] under the Communists than it was in 80’s! And it’s hard to deny that Hong Kong has been an economic miracle since World War II. So even though Hong Kong was not a democracy before the Communist takeover, it’s very tempting to believe that the people of Hong Kong would have voted to retain (if not initially adopt) the free-market policies they had.

[...]

But it turns out that Hong Kong’s support for laissez-faire is only skin-deep. As soon as you ask people their opinions about specific interventionist policies — all of which, note the authors, “have either not been performed by the government or performed only very light or rarely,” they show their true statist colors.

[...]

To be blunt, it looks like the lack of democracy under British rule was a key component of Hong Kong’s ascent. The policies worked wonders, but they never became democratically self-sustaining. In politics, people often resist policy change just because “things have always been this way,” even if the results were never very good. But free-market policies apparently labor under a greater political handicap. Even if “we’ve always left these things to the free market,” even if leaving things to the free market has worked in the past, it just isn’t enough to win over public opinion.

Countless market-oriented intellectuals idolize Hong Kong but I’ve never heard of, much less met, a Hong Kong libertarian. Google confirms my impression, returning no relevant hits for “Hong Kong libertarian.” I’d like to think, then, that Hong Kong’s problem was a shortage of libertarian intellectuals to transform freedom by default into freedom on principle. But sadly, I suspect that wouldn’t have been enough either.

Managers come from the same stultified society as the managed

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

Americans were once accustomed to solving problems themselves, T. Greer notes — less as rugged individuals than as rugged communitarians:

When a novel problem occurred, they would gather together with others affected, and would together take action to resolve the problem before them. This lived experience of jointly solving novel problems has largely disappeared from American life. Americans have spent several generations the subject of bureaucratic management, and are rarely given real responsibility for their own affairs. The “Karen” like impulse of contemporary life is to defer to experts; when a vexing problem disturbs, the default solution is an appeal to management. The problem with all this: managers come from the same stultified society as the managed. Once they attain power they realize they have no more experience building problem-solving institutions than the rest of us.

These are conditional virtues

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Bryan Caplan doesn’t expect policies to get too much worse:

The same psychological force that thwarted the masses’ wishes before 2012 continues to shield us. What is that force? For want of a better term, ADHD — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Populist policy preferences go hand-in-hand with intellectual laziness and intellectual impatience. As a result, populist voters fail to hold their leaders’ feet to the proverbial fire — allowing wiser, elitist heads to prevail.

Take protectionism. Keeping imports out of our country is perennially popular. Never mind centuries of economics classes on the wonders of comparative advantage; the masses are convinced that cheap foreign products make us poorer. Given public opinion, then, it’s amazing that trade barriers are as low as they are. What’s particularly striking is that presidential candidates routinely make protectionist noises to curry favor with the masses. Once elected, however, they get convenient amnesia.

Why would vote-seeking politicians show so little follow-through? Because talking about foreign trade, titillating at first, gets old fast. And actually measuring the change in trade barriers bores the masses instantly. As a result, protectionist promises are cheap to break. The masses delight to hear politicians vow to get “tough on China,” but they don’t want to have to think about Chinese imports months after the election, much less monitor their leaders’ concrete efforts to cut China down to size.

[...]

Emotionally, I look down on the public’s ADHD. When I get an idea into my head, it stays there until someone (possibly myself) argues me out of it. I’m a puritan. Once convinced something is true, I tenaciously act on it. But I’m the first to admit that these are conditional virtues. If you’ve genuinely figured out the right thing to do, determination and follow-through are wonderful. Otherwise, though, they’re a menace.

Mankind can and should shape up across the board, but it won’t. I’ll bet on it. And since mankind won’t discover a passion for rationality anytime soon, we should be thankful its ADHD isn’t going away either.

Not every maverick is a new Galileo

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

One of the hardest questions a science commentator faces, Matt Ridley says, is when to take a heretic seriously:

It’s tempting for established scientists to use arguments from authority to dismiss reasonable challenges, but not every maverick is a new Galileo. As the astronomer Carl Sagan once put it, “Too much openness and you accept every notion, idea and hypothesis—which is tantamount to knowing nothing. Too much skepticism—especially rejection of new ideas before they are adequately tested—and you’re not only unpleasantly grumpy, but also closed to the advance of science.” In other words, as some wit once put it, don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.

Peer review is supposed to be the device that guides us away from unreliable heretics. A scientific result is only reliable when reputable scholars have given it their approval. Dr. Yan’s report has not been peer reviewed. But in recent years, peer review’s reputation has been tarnished by a series of scandals. The Surgisphere study was peer reviewed, as was the study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, hero of the anti-vaccine movement, claiming that the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps and rubella) caused autism. Investigations show that peer review is often perfunctory rather than thorough; often exploited by chums to help each other; and frequently used by gatekeepers to exclude and extinguish legitimate minority scientific opinions in a field.

Herbert Ayres, an expert in operations research, summarized the problem well several decades ago: “As a referee of a paper that threatens to disrupt his life, [a professor] is in a conflict-of-interest position, pure and simple. Unless we’re convinced that he, we, and all our friends who referee have integrity in the upper fifth percentile of those who have so far qualified for sainthood, it is beyond naive to believe that censorship does not occur.” Rosalyn Yalow, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, was fond of displaying the letter she received in 1955 from the Journal of Clinical Investigation noting that the reviewers were “particularly emphatic in rejecting” her paper.

The health of science depends on tolerating, even encouraging, at least some disagreement. In practice, science is prevented from turning into religion not by asking scientists to challenge their own theories but by getting them to challenge each other, sometimes with gusto. Where science becomes political, as in climate change and Covid-19, this diversity of opinion is sometimes extinguished in the pursuit of a consensus to present to a politician or a press conference, and to deny the oxygen of publicity to cranks. This year has driven home as never before the message that there is no such thing as “the science”; there are different scientific views on how to suppress the virus.

No ambitious second-year ROTC cadet would have dared quote him seriously

Monday, October 19th, 2020

Half contemptuously, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), American military men spoke of the “elusive” Lin Piao and the “poet” Mao Tse-Tung:

Mao Tse-tung, Premier of China, had already revealed to the world how his Communist armies operated — how they flowed from place to place, fighting when fighting was profitable, biding their time when it was not. What Mao Tse-tung had written was instructive, and intensely practical for a war in Asia — but because the Chinese wrote in poetic language, not in the military terminology popular in the West, no ambitious second-year ROTC cadet would have dared quote him seriously.

After November 1950, many men would grudgingly learn that the thought behind words is more important than the phrases in which the thought is couched. The time would come when every leader in the world would read the writings of the Chinese Communists — for it was barely possible that the war they waged was not so anachronistic as Americans believed. Quite possibly, it was the pattern of all future land wars.

In November 1950, then, one army, in open array, loudly proclaiming its every move to the world, marched against a phantom foe. For the CCF, all that month, was a ghost; now you saw it, now you didn’t. It marched by night, under a foggy moon; it sideslipped into the mountains in front of the advancing U.N., and lurked, biding its time.

When he was ready, the “elusive” Lin Piao would let the Americans find him.

Prepare for the worst, enjoy the present

Sunday, October 18th, 2020

Fortitude Ranch — “prepare for the worst, enjoy the present” — describes itself as “a survival community equipped to survive any type of disaster and long-term loss of law and order, managed by full time staff,” and plans to activate for the first time over fears of violence following the presidential election on Nov. 3:

“This will be the first time we have opened for a collapse disaster, though it may end up not being so,” said Miller in an emailed statement. “We consider the risk of violence that could escalate in irrational, unpredictable ways into widespread loss of law and order is real.”

Fortitude Ranch set up its first camp in West Virginia in 2015 and has two more in Colorado. For an annual fee of around $1,000, members can vacation at camps in good times, and use them as a refuge in the event of a societal collapse. Members are required to own either a rifle or shotgun to defend the communities. The company does not disclose membership numbers.

Only peasants have any political importance

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

From the first, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the Communists understood that in a nation almost wholly peasant, only peasants have any political importance:

Within two years, they won not only the war but the peasants’ minds. For the peasants would not understand, until too late, that the Communists wanted not justice for them, but to overthrow the entire fabric of Chinese life.

The popular morality of what the Communist Chinese have done will probably be judged only in the light of whether or not they made China a great power, and only the future will tell that. If they fail, history will condemn them for the enormous suffering they inflicted upon their land; if they succeed, their own history will largely regard them as heroes, even as Soviet history regards Peter the Great of Russia as a hero, or as the French revolutionists or the Irish Sinn Fein, who resorted to naked force and political murder, are looked upon favorably by millions of their countrymen.

It will never happen, and when it does, you will deserve it

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Two years ago, Handle reviewed Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option:

Almost all Dreher’s critics accuse him of crying wolf or being a Chicken Little at best… Meanwhile, I’m saying that Dreher is underestimating his enemy, painting an overly rosy picture, and not being nearly alarmist enough.

Now he reviews Dreher’s Live Not By Lies:

“Live Not By Lies” is a sequel of sorts to “The Benedict Option”, in what I’m sure will one day be called “Volume 2 of Dreher’s Benedict Option Trilogy.” It’s is a good book, you should read it, and Dreher is in general right about the soft totalitarianism, and if anything, not right enough.

[...]

As a friend of mine put it, “The single biggest problem is lag-seriousness. We are always just at best about grim enough for yesterday’s battle.”

That is where “Dreher’s Law of Merited Impossibility” comes from. “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.” If it were possible, despite denials, and by pointing out a clear logical implication of progressive ideology — and even going so far as to supplement with the early appearances of those explicit proposals — to scare conservatives enough, early enough, to do whatever it takes to avoid it, then the impossible wouldn’t keep happening to them, over and over again.

[...]

The anti-audience already believes Dreher is far more of a kook and Chicken Little than his Christian critics do, and just a continuation of “The Paranoid Style In American Politics.” To them, Dreher can get in the back of the line behind the McCarthyists, “Eisenhower was a Commie!” John Birchers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and low-status judgment-day-is-just-around-the-corner-all-the-signs-are-actually-happening prepper types. They are once again proclaiming the first half of the law, “It will never happen.”

And without the list of lies, their argument wins the day. It seems fully plausible and convincing. It sounds like this:

Oh look at these idiots going off again. Here we are, just trying to make sure love wins and hate loses. Our ‘radical ideology’ amounts to “Don’t be a bigot, help your fellow man, and keep your toxic hatefulness to yourself.” Everybody should be included, and nobody ought to be unjustly discriminated against. Simple, self-evident, human universals, really, do real, loving Christians really disagree so much with any of those? And because the white supremacist homophobes can’t think of anything else to say in response, the hide behind ‘Christianity’ as a pathetic rationalization for their simple irrational animus, and resort to inventing fantasies like gulags and torture rooms and KGB agents. Like *they’re* the victims! Delusional! What kind of creepy psychological problems do they have to really imagine that with all their wealth, comfort, freedom, privilege, and petty first world problems, that they are remotely spiritual kin with people who endured the worst suffering possible? Crazy!

Do you see the problem? It’s the ‘merited’ part of the law. Dreher wants to respond with the simple truth, “We’re not bigots, and we don’t deserve it.” The response would be, “Ok, let’s find out. What is it exactly that you are going to insist on believing or doing, that we would possibly think was worth throwing you into a gulag?”

He can’t beat around the bush with something general and evasive, “For being devout Christians.”

The response (at least from the rare one who knows anything about Christianity) would be as follows:

Look, we just think your religion is mostly a collection of mythological fantasies and superstitious prohibitions, but combined with a salvageable core of a worthy moral perspective that, like almost all ancient and traditional lines of philosophy, represents an incomplete and imperfect grasping toward the same ethical framework we now hold dear. That’s why Jefferson rewrote the bible, removing all those superfluous distractions. Following the actual bible seems kind of nutty and backward to us, but now that it’s in clear political retreat in terms of numbers and influence, and since most self-identified Christians don’t really seem to live like they take most of it seriously, we regard it as mostly harmless. So long as you keep it to yourselves.

So, nobody is going to throw you in the gulag for going to church. Or for believing Jesus is Lord, that he is the Savior of humanity and God’s only son, that he was born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary who in turn was immaculately conceived, that he performed miracles, made water into wine, multiplied bread and fishes, walked upon water, healed the sick, raised the dead, died for our sins, and was resurrected. That he saves his people by means of their repentance and confession to sin and commanded his followers to love each other and their neighbors and their enemies, and to spread his word and the gospel of the good news of their salvation to every soul.

Seriously now, is that not Christian enough or you? Are these not the central claims of Christianity? Is that not enough freedom to be a Christian?

And we aren’t going to do a single thing to anyone for any of that. Why would we even care? Maybe if proselytizing is done obnoxiously in an imposing manner and makes people feel unsafe and not included. But let’s face it, 99.99% of American Christians aren’t ever doing that anymore, so it’s kind of absurd to spook them, right? Now we will insist that you not discriminate against LGBTs, and not to teach people to hate them, and yes, you will indeed get merited punishment if you persist in doing so. But seriously, is Hate the hill you are choosing to die on?

As another friend of mine put it, “We do not want you to subtract from your faith, only to add to it. Just don’t be a jerk and you’ll be just fine.”

It does not present a grand universal rational system

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

A progressive (but non-woke) friend asked Razib Khan why the bench of conservative intellectuals is much shallower than that of the Left:

First, if you are a high IQ individual you are more amenable and comfortable with abstraction, system-building, and rationality. Various forms of Leftism, liberalism, and libertarianism have something to offer you immediately since they start with rationalized systems. Historical materialism, Rawlsian political philosophy, and neoclassical economics or Natural Rights. Conservatism is a less clear and distinct option because it does not present a grand universal rational system. Rather, it leans on custom, tradition, and disposition. History in an empirical sense, not theoretical. There is suspicion of excessive rationalization of cultural practices and mores. Conservatives argue that you shouldn’t overthink things! You don’t understand the ultimate big picture. Intellectual conservatism, ironically, cautions against dense, clear, and compact answers.

That’s pretty infuriating for someone whose raison d’etre is to understand in a rational manner. Thinking is exactly what intellectuals are good at. Making systems where they have reflective access to the guts of the machine and the chains of cause and effect.

The conservative argument would be that this is not really possible in a deep way when comes to human affairs, as opposed to the natural sciences. Social and cultural practices have within them embedded wisdom accrued through trial and error. That is, it’s a natural Darwinian process. Bottom-up, not top-down “intelligent design.”

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Professors themselves are overwhelming on the liberal/Left today. Far more so than in the past. What happened?

I think this goes to my second reason for why intellectuals are mostly progressive: humans tend to conform to their ingroup. All things equal progressivism appeals to the cognitive comforts and experiences of intellectuals more than conservatism. But there will be deviations from this expectation. But, in a group where 60% start out as progressive, over time more and more will become progressive due to pressures to align oneself to group identity. Only the most disagreeable will hold out, at least in public. I’ve seen this myself over the last ten years, as many people who were centrists or moderately liberal have now gone fully “woke.” There was no particular moment, rather, the whole subculture simply changed and most people moved along with it. These “woke” intellectuals often express great displeasure when I bring up their old pagan beliefs, before their baptism. They have been born anew in Justice.