Arimathea | Philosophy
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Thursday, March 29, A.D. 2012
Did “The Great Society” Ruin Society?

The Left frequently depicts American misery with Dickensian imagery, but how truthful are such tales? We find some surprising statistics at Human Events, where Patrick Buchanan examines American poverty in “Did ‘The Great Society’ ruin society?” Poverty in America is not about material destitution but spiritual destitution. The American poor have stuff, but they have no dignity. Vice and violence rule unfettered in the projects, while the lower classes are treated like unaccountable children by the state and by the elite. I am not against paternalism in itself, as I note in “A Place for Us.” However, such concerns for the lesser among us must impose moral standards and cultivate spiritual formation in addition to providing material assistance, as R.R. Reno argues in “The Preferential Option for the Poor.” Voluntary charity and endeavors by the local political community are the best means to assist the poor. Such an arrangement minimizes the feeding of government’s ineffective bureaucratic monster that slowly drags all of society toward managerial benevolent but maleficent totalitarianism, and it ensures that strategies and decisions remain in the power of those who know the relevant facts “on the ground.” We want effective giving rather than the enabling and subsidizing of a permanent, dysfunctional, dysgenic parasitic class.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 29, Anno Domini 2012
Thursday, March 22, A.D. 2012
Political Medicine

When a society no longer orients itself to the common good, there is anarchy. Each man acts for his own gain, and each collection of men that can cooperate to secure a bigger piece of the social pie operates for its own faction’s interests. Every man and every group become pirates on the high seas instead of citizens in a commonwealth. Unfortunately, interest groups and tribal factions have come to dominate America; one might ask what Madison would think about our current state of affairs. These factions do agree on a few points. They all want to channel as many public funds to themselves as they can. Therefore, they all constantly push for the growth of Leviathan: the bigger the state, the more swollen teats of the public sow from which they may suck their nourishment.

One sees this competition to milk the public treasury in the clamoring for medical research funding. One may justly question the government’s spending public money on medical research; a sure way to avoid interest groups’ meddling is to remove the piglets from the sow altogether. However, one may also reasonably assert that promoting health and fighting disease are fitting actions of a state that aims toward the common good. If we accept that, then public funding should favor epidemiology to prevent outbreaks that would threaten social stability or continuity. I would generally follow utilitarian principles to decide funding for lower medical priorities; more money should go to address medical issues that affect more people. We could also add an element of justice to our consideration. It makes more sense to me to fund medical research for diseases that occur through no fault of their victims rather than for conditions that largely result from irresponsible lifestyle choices. Moreover, public health funding may be better allocated in preventing such unhealthy conditions rather than in treating them. For instance, it might be more efficient to promote healthy eating and exercise than to develop better drugs for diabetes.

However, our medical funding decisions follow from the power of interest groups. Consider the funding for HIV/AIDS research. HIV/AIDS is a largely preventable disease. If people acted responsibly, it would mostly disappear. It also affects a small number of Americans compared to other diseases. The Congressional Research Service states that the federal government has funded $337,324,000,000 for HIV/AIDS since A.D. 1982. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, $129,600,000,000 of that has been spent in the last five years. That is a lot of money. AVERT provides the Centers for Disease Control estimate that 1,142,714 people have been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States in the last thirty years. If we add the number of people with HIV, then we get about about 1,500,000 people who have contracted the disease. If we divide the money spent by the feds by the number of diseased people, we find that the federal governments has spent almost $225,000 for each American who has been infected with HIV, and this does not include state or local funding, private funding, or indirect federal funding.

I could not find any comprehensive figures for federal funding for other maladies, but the National Institutes of Health site lists their funds by category. Last year, N.I.H. spent $2,049,000,000 for cardiovascular research, while it spent $3,059,000,000 for HIV/AIDS. About 1,000,000 living Americans had HIV or AIDS last year. So, N.I.H. spent $3,059 on HIV/AIDS per afflicted person. However, according to the C.D.C., almost a quarter of all American deaths result from heart disease. About 1,255,000 Americans have a heart attack every year, and about thirty million Americans have been diagnosed with heart disease. So, N.I.H. spent about $73 on cardiovascular health per person afflicted. That means that N.I.H. spends almost forty-two times as much on HIV/AIDS per person afflicted as on heart disease per person afflicted. How could that be?

There are other examples of politically motivated funding discrepancies. Caroline May examines the difference between breast cancer funding and prostate cancer funding in The Daily Caller:

According to estimates from the National Institutes of Health, in the United States in 2010, 207,090 women and 1,970 men will get new cases of breast cancer, while 39,840 women and 390 men will likely die from the disease. The estimated new cases of prostate cancer this year — all affecting men — is 217,730, while it is predicted 32,050 will die from the disease. . . .

In fiscal year 2009, breast cancer research received $872 million worth of federal funding, while prostate cancer received $390 million. It is estimated that fiscal year 2010 will end similarly, with breast cancer research getting $891 million and prostate cancer research receiving $399 million.

There are more prostate cancer cases than breast cancer cases, and there are four prostate cancer fatalities for every five breast cancer fatalities. However, breast cancer funding is 223% of prostate cancer funding. Why?

Political muscle, of course. Homosexualist organizations see HIV/AIDS as a tribal concern, even though they have tried to convince the public otherwise. Similarly, American women have made pink ribbons omnipresent in society. Not only feminists but average American women have successfully lobbied for increased breast cancer funding. Still, breast cancer funding pales in comparison with HIV/AIDS. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 226,870 women and 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, while 39,510 women and 410 men will die from the disease. For comparison, around 40,000 HIV diagnoses will occur and 20,000 deaths. However, HIV/AIDS federal funding is over twenty times higher. We do not really know all the factors that lead to breast cancer, but we absolutely know what causes HIV transmission. Why is there this discrepancy? It is because homosexualists care more about HIV/AIDS than women care about breast cancer. Politicans respond to noisy, persistent interest groups, and red ribbons are more convincing than pink ones.

Beyond red and pink, black remains the dominant color when one thinks of identity group politics in America. However, I have long suspected that the “leaders” in the black community—community organizers, you might say—are not very interested in the good of the community that they allegedly represent. Rather, racial shakedown artists like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and their many bros of ill repute are more interested in lining their pockets with corporate extortion money. The black elite lives the life of Riley even as the black community at large becomes ever more dysfunctional and dystopic. Accordingly, I wondered what I would find when I looked into the federal funding of the most visible “black disease”—sickle cell anemia. Heart disease is the number one health problem of black Americans, but as it kills everyone, it is not a championed cause for any particular faction. Well, “Sickle Cell Disease: A Question of Equity and Quality” in Pediatrics confirmed my suspicions:

For example, for fiscal year 2003, the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s total revenue was $498,577, compared with $152 million for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a 300-fold difference that has substantial implications for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s ability to support research and advocacy.

N.I.H. spent $65,000,000 last year on sickle cell disease. The American Society of Hematology estimates that about 90,000 Americans have the condition. That means that N.I.H. spent $722 on sickle cell disease per afflicted person. That is ten times higher than cardiovascular health but less than a fourth of the HIV/AIDS level. Still, given the clout that blacks have as an interest group, it is surprising to see such a low number. J.J. has other concerns; not being a scientist or medical doctor, he cannot ride the medical funding gravy train to a new fleet of Cadillacs.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 22, Anno Domini 2012
Thursday, March 15, A.D. 2012
Asymmetric Political Warfare

Steve Sailer has an interesting commentary of Ziel’s “Asymmetric Political Warfare” at Your Lying Eyes. Both posts are worthwhile. Ziel writes:

The Republican Party is basically the party of white America, but of course such an entity as “white America” cannot be acknowledged in mainstream outlets (except of course as a source of some evil). A Republican legislator cannot complain that his constituents are being forced to move because their schools are becoming disabled by excessive numbers of non-English speakers or poorly behaved minorities. So instead he must complain about “illegal” immigration in the vaguest of terms and express displeasure with the failure of schools by blaming teacher-unions (bastions of anti-Republican rhetoric). A Democrat, on the other hand, can freely rile up his constituents by denouncing “discrimination” and favoritism, regardless of the facts.

Similarly, any Democrat politician, black or white, can make unlimited hay over alleged racial profiling among the police or “institutional racism” in the law enforcement. But no Republican politician would dare court white voters by defending the police, pointing out, for example, the disproportionately high levels of criminal behavior in the black community. When it was recently revealed that some NYPD officers had the nerve to complain on a facebook page about having to work during the West-Indian Day parade which annually features gun-fire and police injuries, who came to their defense, pointing out that people who engage in gunfights during a parade deserve to be called ‘animals’?

The essence of this asymmetry in political combat is that Democrats are free to rabble-rouse and demagogue their positions without penalty - indeed, often with great showers of media attention for doing so - while Republicans must rouse their constituents only obliquely through proxies - religious faith, gun rights, opposition to gay marriage, and of course “No New Taxes”. Even then, we often hear pundits denounce the “Three G’s” - Gays, Guns and Gods - so even their proxies are derided.

But this leads to dumb policies - or at least failure to enact sensible policies. We can’t have sensible gun laws, because Republicans have to prove that they sympathize with white-Americans’ anxiety over the baneful impacts of minorities on their neighborhoods not by addressing that issue directly but by supporting unrestricted gun rights. Gay marriage is stupid - but the real problem is the insidious “Diversity” mentality that so offends the white middle class, but instead of fighting that, Republicans must single out Gay marriage (and even that fight is being rapidly lost). And Religion leads to unnecessary constitutional battles, while it is just a proxy of course for the desire of white Americans to keep America the way it is - not a banana republic, not a dysfunctional, balkanized economic zone, as it is on its way to becoming.

However, crimethink has affected its leftist supporters, too, who dare not mention their fears that depart from the hallowed script. For instance, Sailer notes how neither side in our nation of cowards can discuss gun control policy honestly:

Gun control in the later 20th Century was a long war between whites in less dense parts of the country and whites in more dense parts of the country. Rural whites, rationally, considered gun ownership to be a good form of self-defense in areas where police response times were slow, the chance of accidentally plugging a bystander were low, and they had practice with guns for hunting. (In contrast, look at how vulnerable unarmed rural people in gun controlled England are to urban criminals’ home invasions.)

Metropolitan whites, rationally, felt that the cops getting guns out of the hands of minorities was a better goal, but they didn’t have any acceptable way to express this in public, so their arguments were generally couched in terms of the pressing need to disarm those vicious white Republicans in the hinterlands before they kill us all (see Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine for the classic expression of this ludicrous, but highly respectable, view).

In New York City, capital of both liberalism for American and pragmatism for New Yorkers, gun control actually did work pretty well in the 1990s. Under Giuliani and the smart, effective Bratton, the NYPD put a huge number of young black men in jail for packing heat. There were complaints, but NYC voters haven’t elected the Democratic nominee mayor in the five elections since. But who even understands what happened in NYC? It’s hard to remember stuff if you aren’t allowed a vocabulary and syntax that helps you categorize What Just Happened.

Similarly, in “Women’s Rights Women,” I note how our society’s political taboos have made both parties’ platforms and rhetoric incoherent.

American political discourse after the Second World War has been hopelessly muddled, given that all sides have not been about to think, much less speak, honestly about political issues. The horror of the Nazis and of the Communists made several aspects of political discourse taboo, and taboos do not facilitate clarity or rationality in men’s thoughts. The Left has tried to pursue an egalitarian agenda while pretending that social democracy is compatible with liberalism and freedom. The Right has tried to uphold the foundations of society without squarely addressing the natural inequality of man, the necessary consequences of social authority, the tension between freedom and order, and the real influence of class, ethnicity, and religion in political life. The partisans in American politics rightly deride the other side’s illogic and inability to present coherent assessments and solutions, though they fail to see how their own side suffers the same, and precious few commentators realize why American political discourse remains so idiotic. It’s the taboos. The “mainstream” is intolerant of any “extreme” voice—that might actually make sense and break through the fog of self imposed blindness.

The result is Fox News style stupidity, obfuscation, and muddied waters instead of clear principles. Sailer continues:

The problem is that when your enemies control the vocabulary of public discourse, it’s hard to maintain a sophisticated private understanding of what is going on. Thus, the GOP lacks a brain trust of realists who determine strategy. It’s fun to assume that, like in the Big Reveals at the end of 1984 and Brave New World, that there is an Inner Party of cold-eyed realists who understand all, but there’s negligible evidence for this.

For example, here are a number of high life priorities for vast numbers of Republican-leaning, conservative-minded voters:

—They want to be able to continue to live in their suburban communities where they’ve put down roots without being driven by demographic change to the exurbs.

—They want to be able to send all their children to the local public school, which will be culturally dominated by the children of people like themselves.

—They want their children to be able to get into State U.

Is this too much to ask?

But, what would happen to a conservative politician who outlined these goals and endorsed policies for achieving them?

Instead, we get “conservative” politicians advocating crackpot radical ideas because they aren’t supposed to advocate for what their constituents really want.

I do not agree that Republican politicians pursue “crackpot radical ideas.” Recent, highly publicized Republican concerns include homosexual “marriage,” abortion, the federal takeover of healthcare, profligate spending and the consequent debt, money printing that weakens our currency, public sector unions, illegal immigration, and the perennial complaint about the growth of the managerial, regulatory state. Where are the “crackpot radical ideas”? The problem with Republicans (when they sincerely disagree with leftist policies) is that they do not appear to have a clear understanding of conservative principles by which to oppose the enemy—whom they do not even recognize as such.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 15, Anno Domini 2012
Thursday, March 8, A.D. 2012
A Dollop of Good Sense

I have lessened my postings during lent to two a week instead of three. As such, I have been amassing a collection of articles to discuss, and the expanding list of links in my Firefox bookmarks has triggered some O.C.D. anxiety. So, I present you the posts without substantive commentary. The following are posts from View from the Right and The Orthosphere that I recommend.

“Replying to Richard Lynn’s argument that higher-IQ people are atheists” by Auster on View from the Right.

“Romney’s threatening whiteness” on View from the Right, wherein Auster discusses Lee Siebel’s “What’s Race Got to Do with It?” By the way, Siebel’s article was rather fancied by our new correspondent from the netherworld, Grünald.

“Only a mass apostasy from liberalism can save us” by Kristor on View from the Right.

“Are whites brain-dead—or toiling under the reign of fear?” by Auster on View from the Right. I note with interest how liberalism’s reign varies among different cultural (and likely class) backgrounds. It makes me appreciate having been born and bred in Cincinnati, where white guilt is noticeably lacking in a great portion of the population.

“Why whites allow blacks to get away with the racial double standard” on View from the Right, where Auster suggests how “right-liberal” whites who believe in a color blind society should respond to racially conscious tribal affirmations like the “African-Americans for Obama” campaign:

This is completely unacceptable. The rule that we all subscribed to coming out of the Civil Rights movement was that Americans must practice race-blindness and avoid race-conscious speech and behavior, at least in the public square. Whites have followed this rule religiously: they never speak about the collective interests of whites or make negative generalizations about people of other races. And when an occasional white person breaks that rule, he is instantly fired or otherwise ostracized. Yet blacks openly speak about the collective interests of blacks, and collectively blame whites for blacks’ problems. Blacks such as Cornel West address each other as “brother” in public settings where there are both whites and blacks, thus using an in-group identifier of a type that is totally forbidden to whites. Blacks have formed innumerable black-only professional organizations, which whites wouldn’t dream of doing. The government has created “African-American History Month,” and a vast system of special group recognition of blacks as blacks. And now President Obama forms a race-conscious black political organization to help in his election. And he does this, even while piously declaring that he supports an America where we “all play by the same rules”! And, by the way, that “we all play by the same rules” America is an America where (according to the Weekly Standard) blacks are admitted into elite colleges with SAT scores a standard deviation lower than those of whites and Asians.

Blacks cannot have it both ways: they cannot demand that whites be race-blind and race-neutral, while blacks continue to be aggressively race-conscious themselves and gain massive favors and privileges in this society by a race-conscious, pro-black double standard. Since blacks (along with their elite liberal facilitators) do not feel themselves bound by the race-blindness rule, then whites should no longer bound by it either.

“Streep looking like an empress” on View from the Right, where Auster writes of his admiration for Streep’s unmodern basking in pride after winning her Oscar. In an interesting tangent, Auster notes:

The demeanor and personality of people, both well known and not, are expressions of our culture, our way of being. Never to remark on these things—and mainstream conservatives virtually never remark on them—is to make oneself blind to the reality in which we live. That reality does not just consist in facts, principles, political positions, and statistics. It consists of qualities. Contemporary people are blind and indifferent to qualities. And maybe the reason they are indifferent to qualities, is that qualities cannot be equalized. They cannot be technically and rationally arranged. The modern mind says it’s best to deal only with that which can be technically and rationally managed, and to ignore everything else.

Here’s an example of this that I was discussing with an intelligent liberal acquaintance the other day. I said to him that it seemed to me that even as recording and playing technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, the actual quality of sound we hear is much worse, for example, iTunes. Confirming my subjective impression, he replied that iTunes only contain 60 percent of the sound data contained in CDs (and for course CD’s contain far less of the original sound than vinyl recordings). Further, he said, no one cares. No one is bothered by or even notices the poor sound quality of iTunes. People are so excited and satisfied by the technical aspects of iTunes—being able to have so many recordings in a portable format wherever you go, and so on—that the actual quality of the music they are hearing doesn’t matter to them.

“Credo: Before all Worlds” on The Orthosphere in which Kristor ponders eternity.

“The Good, the Real, & the Fake Economy” on The Orthosphere where Kristor examines the waste of regulatory regimes and offers a simple but powerful critique of libertarianism. Moreover, Kristor provides an excellent test for any public policy:

Where there is in respect to the finer points of policy any doubt remaining, a simple thought experiment can quickly tell us whether a given option ought to be ruled out. All we need to do is ask ourselves, as between two otherwise completely similar societies, and holding all other things equal, if one of them allows the behavior in question while the other does not, which of them will prevail. Such questions generally answer themselves.

Notice that the question is not, what policy would be nicer or more fair, but what policy would be prudent – would, i.e., lead to the prosperity and prevalent success of society against its competitors, and vis-à-vis the challenges posed by the natural environment. Such questions of policy confront any form of government. The issue, then, is not whether legislative authority ought to be, or is optimally, vested in a monarch, an oligarchy, or a Parliament, or whatever; for any such authority would have to make the same decisions about policy. When we ask what form government should take, we should understand ourselves as asking which form of government would be most likely to make prudent policy – i.e., policy that leads us, individually and corporately, toward the Good.

To which I replied:

Your policy test is so obvious and self evident. Why is it never taken? Indeed, why is it so fastidiously ignored?

Has the success of the West made its people so stupid about reality? Just as trust fund babies need not develop virtue because their inherited money shields them from the consequences of their poor choices, our society’s wealth, bequeathed to us by our ancestors, has blinded us to necessity.

We are spoilt children of woe.

“Liberals’ new/old god: Moloch” on View from the Right where Auster considers the evil that surrounds us.

“Is it really true that feminists think pregnancy is an injustice to women from which society must rescue them?” by Auster on View from the Right with a link to the invaluable Mark Richardson of Oz Conservative: “Anna Smajdor: pregnancy is unjust.” Children of woe, indeed!

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 8, Anno Domini 2012
Thursday, March 1, A.D. 2012

Last week on View from the Right, Lawrence Auster mentioned Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba’s ideas about evolution. Frequent commentator Laura Wood then criticized Baba’s views and noted how they contrast with her understanding of Christian doctrine. Wood comments:

Baba’s pantheism is as faulty and erroneous as Darwinism, and far more pernicious as few people truly believe that earth was created in a mindless, random process whereas many people believe in pantheistic creation and the idea that we have many lives in which we might gradually improve ourselves and correct our mistakes. The God Baba admits into the evolutionary scheme is superseded by his creation: the god-like evolving soul assured of ultimate union with its Creator, who is immanent in nature. In essence Baba says the soul creates itself, progressing from mindless matter into intelligence through its own seeking, its own internal purposiveness. You wrote: “[T]he soul is seeking ever greater intelligence, ever greater consciousness.” In other words, it possesses intelligence and consciousness even in inanimate forms. This entails some form of divinity in matter, a notion that in one sense is not all that different from the Darwinian idea that consciousness evolves from matter. The difference in the Baba view is that matter has been endowed by God with awareness from the beginning. But if a stone had a soul in the beginning, it would have a soul now. And if there is this spiritual kinship between human beings and all of nature then we must naturally identify with some of the passivity and indifference of non-human creation. Genesis is then entirely wrong in its distinction between human beings and the rest of nature.

Indeed, we do identify with the passivity and indifference of nature; I am often mindful of my animality. Moreover, that there is a distinction between man and the rest of creation does not equate the rest of creation’s utter lack of relationship with God. The Seraphic Doctor teaches that the world is God’s footprint (vestigium) and man is his image (imago); both bear a resemblance to God, though in different ways. Consider also psalm 148. It is poetry—but poetry that reflects the truth that all creation worships God in its proper manner—even a stone. Similarly, the Prophet Isaiah declares: “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Of course, those Hebrew prophets were known for their rampant pantheism.

Auster replies by noting how Baba’s teaching differs from pantheism:

However, Baba’s scheme is not pantheism. He does not say there is anything divine in matter. To the contrary, he says that the material universe, and all the living forms through which the soul passes, are God’s dream—a dream God experiences (in the form of evolving souls) in order to come to full consciousness. Also, the soul as he describes it not immanent in nature. To the contrary, the soul is beyond nature, beyond not only the physical body, but the astral and mental bodies. The soul, which he describes as an individualized drop in the infinite ocean which is God, takes on bodies and has experiences through them, but is beyond all bodies. The main point of Meher Baba’s teaching is that only God (and the soul which is a part of God) are real. The universe and all its phenomena and experiences are a dream or illusion through which the soul must past in order to come to the truth.

This is what you would expect from Ammonius were he to become a Hegelian. I suppose that we see something similar with Teilhard de Chardin, who seems to be a Hegelian Empedocles, though perhaps such is a bit redundant.

Anyway, Auster and Wood’s brief Babasque discussion reminds me of a quick note that I sent Andrew a few months ago:

When I first started delving into metaphysics and theology at college, I remember reading about panentheism. I think that [Bishop Timothy Kallistos] Ware brings it up as a possible Orthodox position. However, I recently realized that non-Platonists are incapable of understanding the transcendent/immanent relation of God to the world. For them, “panentheism” is how they interpret what we believe. They do not have the necessary metaphysical categories in their own world views. As such, non-Platonist Christians accuse us of paganism, which is what panentheism would imply, though perhaps the very best form of paganism. It’s another example of the flatland principle.

As hypothetical two dimensional intelligent beings would have much difficulty comprehending three dimensional reality, folks with a flat metaphysical horizon have trouble understanding any view that denies that God is a being among beings. Just ask John W. Robbins.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 1, Anno Domini 2012
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