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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

The Wages of Unbelief

Lawrence Auster, the prolific blogger over at View From the Right, has posted an enlightening letter from a reader, who has summarized the atheism-inspired philosophical declension of John Derbyshire, National Reviews' resident curmudgeon.

I should state, for the record, that neither "peak oil" nor "global warming" impress me as being inherently "liberal", though certain policy responses to either would assuredly be "liberal". And while I'm more in the "how you take your Darwin" camp than the "whether you take your Darwin" camp, the role of untethered Darwinian speculation in the Derb's evolution merits reflection. Were we a people given to myth and legend, Darwinian thought would surely figure in myth as one of those benefactions that can destroy, or as a basis of civilization that also alienates us from ourselves. But enough of my thoughts. Read the letter.

Comments (231)

I read the Derbyshire piece that caused so much consternation. I think the letter-writer is exactly the sort of conservative that Derbyshire is lamenting, and rightfully so. I'm accustomed to watching the left cannibalize its own by declaring any dissent from the creed as open rebellion. Its a shame that so many on the right also live in this ideological bubble.

Derbyshire is, and always has been, an iconoclastic conservative. This used to be one of the strengths of the conservative movement. I confess to being one of those obsessed with the rising tide of Islam, and worry that Derbyshire is over-optimistic on this front, but that does not put him beyond the conservative camp.

Consider this: If Derbyshire were president I have no doubt that his first act after 9-11 would have been to cut off Muslim immigration into the U.S.(at least temporarilly). Our Glorious Leader could not be bothered to enact such a basic conservative measure, instead opting to admonish the good citizens of these United States to "go shopping."

I stopped reading John Derbyshire well over a year ago, and he held most of these opinions at least _two_ years ago, as far as I recall. I remember his lauding the sexual revolution, for example, and the things he said while Terri Schiavo was being murdered were what stopped me from reading him. I was about to burst into flames. In what sense is this guy a conservative, anyway?

And _would_ he have limited Muslim immigration after 9/11? Why so? After all, he's just snottily impatient with people who think Islam is a problem.

I should say though that Derbyshire can't be representative of the whole NER stable, because the mysterious Hugh Fitzgerald writes for them as well (he's the editor, I believe, or one of them, and the only author without a photograph or e-mail address or any other identifying information). And he's very much anti-Islam. A colleague of Robert Spencer and a major contributor to Jihad Watch.

If the truth be told, however, it was Derbyshire who first set out after conservative sub-groups which he found detestable; the first stabs at cannibalization were made from his side of things. Characterizing the concerns of religious conservatives as "cold, pitiless dogma" is not the most charitable way of expressing disbelief in their claims, or skepticism that their positions are electoral winners, in other words. Neither, for that matter, were philosophically impotent, yet rhetorically tumescent, put-downs of the metaphysical claims of Christians and other religious believers charitable. Derbyshire has sought what most intellectually self-conscious people people will seek at some point in their lives: a reasonably coherent, integrated world image. He has settled upon a particular construction of Darwinism as a fixity, and is gradually rearranging his solar system in accordance with it. He needn't have been so caustic about it; we already have Hitchens for that.

Hard to ignore them when you pay them attention.

Peak Oil and Global Warming have been hijacked and are now two horsemen of the anti-West Apocalypse. I sense glee from the left at the prospects of doom. I guess it's just another incarnation of Progress for them.

As for Derbyshire, he's now a nihilist, and yet another case study in What's Wrong with the World.

KW,

Are you intimating that some of Derb's targets are, shall we say, difficult to refrain from attacking?

Sure! I might as well be. It's a fair intimation and a touch better for the eye of the soul than the contemplation of atheism-inspired philosophical declensions.


Pro-lifers are more egregious in what they do than public atheists? Or, perhaps, the public transgressions and excesses of pro-lifers are worse than those of public atheists? It seems dubious that anything the Schiavo advocates wanted could, on any fair reading, be comparable to, say Daniel Dennett's "proscribe the teaching of religion to the young" nonsense.

What I find more interesting here is that Derb's commitment to a reductionist reading of Darwinism enfeebled, and finally extinguished, his faith, and that interesting consequences have ensued.

And, I should note, whatever some protesters might have done, I don't find the demands of Schiavo's advocates at all inappropriate.

KW, I'm gonna try to get you to be a little more explicit: _Which_ of Derbyshire's targets do you think are such embarrassments to conservatism?

First of all, a couple of letter-writers on Auster's blog are not the definitive final word on what the Derb does or does not believe. I have been reading him regularly over the past couple of years (and even reading some of his older stuff) and many of the claims of those letter-writers are either wrong, exaggerated, or interpretations of something the Derb has said that are certainly open to debate. Like Auster, they grab a quote and claim it means "X" and there is no way anyone can convince them it might mean "Y" or "Z". If WWWtW bloggers should stop reading anyone, it is Auster, who I admit can write some intelligent and beautiful prose from time to time, but is often intellectually incoherent and silly. In fact, I'll step up for KW and say that Auster is an embarrassment to conservatism. For just a taste of his madness, you should check out the exchange between Larry and a couple of the women over at "New English Review". It makes for riveting reading.

I've scarcely ever read Auster. I used to read Derbyshire very regularly, and I can attest at least to several of the more unpleasant (from a conservative perspective) claims the letter-writer gives. I don't recall the stuff about global warming. That's probably more recent, since I stopped reading him.

Well, the substance of the quotes concerning religion and social conservatives could certainly be substantiated.

Riveting reading, eh? I only skimmed over it, but I'm unclear as to what was so mad about it; the NER folks were rather prissy over something they probably misunderstood, and Auster responded as well he might - he is a somewhat prickly fellow.

Lydia, I'm not as smooth as Cicero to play paraleipsis, but that isn't as embarrassing as having to pay attention to -isms beginning with Derb.

Well, yes, the "ism" is unpleasant on the tongue, in the ear, and in the mind, but this is still not much of an answer; a silly coinage does not make Derb's targets silly as well.

I find myself agreeing with 7 of the statements attributed to him, or at least I would be willing to make argue for them. Half of the complaints stem from ideological mush. For example, it isn't even controversial that we will run out of oil at some point. Whether that is 50 years or 500 years is another question. What makes either side of that claim political rather empirical? It is just silly. And also, what makes such a claim atheist or anti-Christian? Is a man really saved if he's not willing to sing "God Bless America"?

At some point the authors of this blog may wish to kindly indulge their readers over the threat of Islam. From what I've ascertained, the authors are opposed to militaristic interventions against Islam. However, the authors then tend to mock anyone who doesn't see Islam as an existential threat. Admittedly to be existential, a threat needn't be militaristic.

Honestly, Mr. Forrest, I don't think we are foolish enough to believe that terrorists can easily be defeated by invading this or that country and conquering it. After all, the whole point of being terrorists is playing hard-to-pin-down-to-a-country. Nor do we need to be this foolish in order to think that jihadism is a real threat to America. The question, then, is what to do about it. We might start by cleaning our own house vis a vis immigration and various sorts of cowardly "accommodation" and PC indoctrination on our own shores. No one needs to be shot to take these measures, nor does anyone need to be invaded. But to have the will to take them, we need to stop playing the stupid "religion of peace" game.

Mr. Forrest,

In posting a link to the letter published by Auster, I was hardly endorsing the proposition that each statement attributed to Derb was either liberal or reprehensible. Only certain of them, and certain construals of others. Peak oil and global warming ought to be (though they are not always) regarded as empirical, scientific questions; the left is invested in both theories as a means of compelling certain structural changes in Western civilization (some of which will come in due time, regardless, but the left would like to apply to them its special impress), while the right is invested in opposing them because they confute the mythology of prospectively infinite growth that has been integral to segments of the American 'right' for longer than we'd care to admit. Overpopulation, understood as a combination of excessive numbers and inappropriate lifestyles/levels of consumption relative to the resources of a region, is a problem is regions such as the Southwest, where water resources dwindle, even as absurdities such as golf courses in 120 degree deserts are constructed.

My point was simply that Derb possesses an analytical framework for some of these issues which, even when the issues may be legitimate, may lend itself to 'unfortunate' conclusions. On the other hand, his positions on abortion and life questions, for example, are without defense.

Jeff Singer says, For just a taste of his madness, you should check out the exchange between Larry and a couple of the women over at "New English Review". It makes for riveting reading.

I read the exchange at NER. Auster sounds pretty level headed; Mary Jackson, by my reckoning, sounds like she's fixin' to start.

Jeff Singer also wrote: If WWWtW bloggers should stop reading anyone, it is Auster, who I admit can write some intelligent and beautiful prose from time to time, but is often intellectually incoherent and silly.

Examples of intellectual incoherence? Silliness?

When looking at other conservatives, Mr. Auster invariably seems to see the glass half empty instead of half full. He's always an entertaining read, but his constant harping on the ideological deficiencies of everybody on the right who doesn't quite measure up to his own rather exacting standards can get a bit wearisome.

That said, Derbyshire - though he, too, is always an entertaining read - has been sounding distinctly "wet" on some issues lately.

By the way: isn't it kind of odd to worry about both "global warming" and "peak oil" at the same time? Shouldn't a climate change true believer *welcome* declining oil production?

The explanation for Derbyshire, in my humble estimation, is that he is one of those men (and they are nearly always men) whose mind is so titillated by abstract mathematical processes that they come to fetishize the scientific method as a mathematical distillation of the world-as-it-is when, in fact, what they end up grasping is a mathematical reduction of the world. This perspective is conducive to the harsh (and, admittedly, sometimes entertaining) vituperation of opponents that Derbyshire has always been well known for. The more such a person encounters irrationality in the world, the more narrow they become in their hyper-rationality (and, in addition, the more credulous they become to the opinions of the scientific establishment), forcing them to toss more and more of their former friends into the "irrational" box. The result is that a colorful curmudgeon (the sort of person we should thank God for) becomes both more vicious and more boring. I don't know if Derbyshire is there yet, but he seems to be on his way.

I take Derbyshire's example as a warning: "There are more things in heaven and earth..." Any intellectual filter that seems to bring the world so simply and easily into your mental framework--and, again, men especially are prone to these kinds of mechanistic worldviews; I know I am--is probably going to lead you down a path to a particularly self-satisfying form of madness.

Great comment, Chris. Reductionism is a very good word for it.

Gintas,

Happy to oblige. Below is a comment from "Undercover Black Man" on the infamous "New English Review (NER)" thread on women's voting rights. Amusingly, it speaks to a comment that Zippy made, who as you know is a regular contributor to this blog :

"Zippy might not be offended by the mere existence of illiberal conversation; he might be open to a discussion of revoking brown-eyed people’s voting rights. But do you know who would be deeply, deeply offended by a discussion of the assumed civilizational benefits of disfranchising Jews?

Lawrence Auster, that’s who.

But why? It’s simply “exploring a topic”... just “making arguments that are open to examination and may be correct or incorrect.” What’s the harm in that? Only a Stalinesque PC tyrant would object!

In Auster’s mind, it’s not “Stalinist” (i.e., bad) for him to harshly condemn a Kevin MacDonald, and to urge that he be shunned, because MacDonald writes about how Jews (as Jews) have damaged the soul of the West. There, Auster is on the side of the angels.

And it’s not “Stalinist” for Auster to campaign – as he has since March 2006 – to have Paul Craig Roberts banished from the Vdare website for expressing opinions which “are very close in content and form to anti-Semitism.” No, that’s Auster standing tall in defense of “minimal standards for public discourse in this country” (even as he calls Roberts a “poisonous fruitcake” and a “maniac”).

Yet when Mr. Auster opines about the societal damage wrought by women (as women) and “explores the topic” of removing their political rights, he howls ferociously about the great wrong done him when Mary Jackson voices her objection.

So, on top of all else, Larry’s a hypocrite.

He reserves for himself the privilege of publicly discussing almost every taboo, in the starkest manner (such as questioning black people’s capacity for civilization), and he labels anyone who objects a PC tyrant. Yet when it comes to the subject of Jews, Auster is like a police dog, vigorously ensuring that only certain thoughts get expressed, and only certain people be allowed to speak.

His lack of self-awareness is such that he can’t even see the contradiction."

Now, I'm the first to remind folks that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays virtue, but here it just re-enforces the sense that Larry's own thinking is confused and as I said above, incoherent. In addition, Larry's entire thought experiment concerning voting rights for women shows his intellectual shallowness. As the NER contributors point out, correlation is not causation; so when Larry posits the notion that the welfare state grew with women's voting rights, they rightly point out that other significant events took place either before or after women got the vote that also may or may not have contributed to the growth of the welfare state. If Larry was a serious thinker, he would have thought about what some of these events were (e.g. the rising power of labor unions, the Russian Revolution, etc.) and asked himself how they might complicate his equation of women's voting rights equals nanny state.

The other annoying lazy intellectual habit of his is to assume criticism of Western civilization automatically equals a complete repudiation of all that Western civilization has to offer. Yes, I know that the left is tiresome when it comes to the sins of the West, but that doesn't change the fact that there were indeed sins that occurred in our past and we can happily celebrate their end without rejecting everything that happened during their commission. Or to put it another way, I may not like the fact that Jefferson had slaves, but I can still appreciate and celebrate his contributions to Western civilization and American history. As Mr. Burton pointed out, Larry seems to relish attacking anyone who doesn't conform to his perfect notions of what traditionalism is all about.

Jeff Singer, happily obliging me for examples, instead provides a long "Undercover Black Man" quote.

Translation: "My first bluff didn't work, maybe this one will."

I don't read enough Auster otherwise to speak to some of the things Jeff (Singer) is bringing up. As everyone here knows by now, I'm one of the less "crunchy" or "paleo" folks around here, so maybe there would be other aspects of Auster's writing that would annoy me more than what I've seen so far.

But I did just read what looked to me like about 2/3 of that exchange. And that Mary Jackson is a disgrace. I don't know what she's done elsewhere that might be better, because I'm not a regular NER reader, but in this exchange she apparently cannot argue; she cannot stick to the subject of Auster's views on Hirsi Ali. She cannot even try very hard to keep her temper. She cannot refrain from childish name calling. She _drags in_ the issue of female voting and then harps on it and harps on it. It rather looks like she has a one-track mind, and is proud of it, because of her gender. She overstates wildly. She's just a mess.

In this particular exchange, Auster looks measured and careful by contrast. Perhaps there is something a tad absurd about Auster's sort of pretending he isn't taking much more seriously than people usually do in the U.S. the possibility that we'd be better off without the female vote. (Has anybody else read GK Chesteron on the female vote? Golly! Mary Jackson would be burning him in effigy every 5th of November if she had!) I think Auster would look even better if he'd say, "Yes, I understand that my discussing whether we'd be better off without the female vote with any seriousness is going to look outrageous, and I can even see why it seems that way, but I think it's worth discussing nonetheless." But when it comes to answering Mary Jackson, he keeps (so far as I've read) his temper admirably and more or less just knocks her statements down (there don't appear to be any arguments worth the name) like shooting fish in a barrel.

As a matter of fact, Chesterton expounded his opposition to female suffrage in the book from which we have taken the name of our blog. Feminism is one of the things "wrong with the world." But anyone who sets out to denigrate GKC on this count, without first wrestling with the characteristically brilliant and paradoxical arguments he marshals, will only show himself to be a fool.

Let me state for the record that I think dramatic narrowing of the franchise, as well as the "weighing" of votes, would be good policy -- insane politics, perhaps, but good policy. Hell, I will be the first to volunteer for the degradation: on the grounds that I have not yet lived in one home for long enough (let us say, ten years) to earn a stake in my polis.

Yes, I wasn't meaning to say anything negative about GKC's arguments. I was just pointing out that Auster is in quite decent company and that GKC goes a good deal further than Auster does.

I have a collection of GKC excerpts and essays called _Brave New Family_ and it was there that I read the piece on women's suffrage.

Frankly, though I'm not about to advocate the revocation of voting rights for women (although it is surely legitimate as a subject of discussion), I regard antisemitism and the question of the feminization of American society as utterly disanalogous; this should not even have to be explained, save to note that American society prior to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment was not on the verge of a female Holocaust. Moreover, Roberts has embraced 9/11 conspiracy theories that assign a significant role to Israeli influence in the unfolding of the schemes. This is not to state that nothing MacDonald or Roberts has written represents a worthy contribution; but there is such a category as "things beyond the pale", and Auster is as entitled to his judgments as to what belongs in that category as anyone else.

Of course, correlation is not causation - we all know as much; but there is also the possibility of multiple paths of causation, and with respect to the issue in question, suffrage and other factors could well be mutually reinforcing. In fact, recent mainstream conservative rhetoric concerning the differences between the Mommy and Daddy parties suggests the possibility.

Finally, I second Paul's endorsement of a restricted franchise, as the expansion of the franchise has coincided, historically, with the emergence of mass politics, mass political parties, and the utter abasement of the Western traditions of rhetoric and reasoned public discourse. Does anyone here believe that the last two presidents were elected for rational reasons? Does anyone here truly believe that Mass Man has been a net benefit for Western civilization. Come now.

Maximos, you took the words out of my mouth. Anti-semitism is in no way parallel to contemplating the idea that the country would be better without female suffrage. Moreover, 9/11 conspiracy theories are far, far more irrational than the contemplation of a reduced suffrage, which is arguably not irrational at all and is, in any event, an issue of an entirely different sort.

I have no overwhelmingly strong opinions on the question of who should have suffrage in the abstract. I do tend to think that taking away suffrage is a much bigger deal than not granting it to a certain section of the populace or to a particular person in the first place. For that reason, I'm pretty hesitant to recommend any actual contracting of the suffrage in the U.S. now that the water has gone under the bridge beyond what might be done as a punishment for crime.

I find it difficult to imagine a world in which Lydia McGrew can't vote.

Back up to MZ Forrest: I'm not "opposed to militaristic interventions against Islam." As long as those Islams are attacking us.

I can easily imagine a world in which there exist no politicians Lydia McGrew would wish to support with her vote; it's not too far off, in the realm of possible worlds, from this one, in fact.

...beyond what might be done as a punishment for crime.

Let's at least hold the line on this, lest one side of the political spectrum (which one is obvious) begin politicking in the penitentiary.

It would represent a vast improvement if the entire franchise went to Lydia McGrew.

The reason I said I didn't have a fully formed view on the subject of women's voting rights is that I don't have a fully formed view on the subject of women's voting rights.

Anyone who thinks that I would be "holding back" and concealing my real views hasn't read me very much.

It's one thing to say, that in a well-ordered society, women should not have the vote, and that in the 19th century it was appropriate that woman not have the vote. But to advocate that we take away the women's vote in contemporary America, would be so out of keeping with the hyper-individualized society we have now that it's hard to conceive of. To be made plausible, it would need to be presented as part of a plan of radical traditionalist social reform. If anyone has seen such a plan, let me know.

To be made plausible, it would need to be presented as part of a plan of radical traditionalist social reform. If anyone has seen such a plan, let me know.

The Turner Diaries. =)

Thanks, chaps. Maximos, you are so right (about no candidates I'd want to support). Oh, and that party already politics in the jails. Did a lot of it in the last two elections. And made a huge fuss about how terrible it is that in a few states felons can't vote.

Mr. Auster, I was perhaps unclear: I wasn't saying that you were in any way deceptive, and I fully believe that you were honest in saying you don't have a fully formed view. Also, as I said before, your opponent was disgracefully hysterical in that thread and couldn't seem to discuss any of the subjects maturely, whereas you were admirably calm and measured. All I meant was that it struck a slightly odd note to me as a reader when (I don't have the thread in front of me so can't quote exact words) you initially said something like, "Lots of people bring up topics for conversation when they don't at all mean to endorse the positions in question." Well, yes, but it was pretty clear (and still is) that you have a more positive _bent_ towards the idea that the country wd. be a better place without women's voting than is generally considered acceptable in our PC world. This doesn't make _me_ froth at the mouth. I think the subject isn't beyond the pale and we should be able to talk about it like grownups, unlike some of your interlocutors. But it sounded rather as though you were at least right there saying, "Hey, this doesn't imply that I think _anything_ positive about this. I was just sort of bringing it up. I could be light years away from endorsing it. I could hate it as much as y'all hate it." That may just have been the fault of the blog medium, though. Rhetorically, it might to my mind have come off better for you to have admitted that, yes, this is a pretty radically un-PC idea, but that you stand by the value of reconsidering the wonderfulness of female suffrage (even if this has no immediate public policy consequences) despite the outrage you know the willingness to talk about the issue will engender. Something like that.

That's all 20/20 hindsight, though, and merely a mild comment in passing. My own opinion is that the subject of your views on Hirsi Ali is much more interesting, anyway, but that never got discussed, which was a shame.

That may just have been the fault of the blog medium, though.

I think a much better excuse is to blame it on the devil.


Where's that blog devoted to blogging? Metablog.com?

The Turner Diaries. =)

How would you know?; and how would anyone else verify? :)) Have you a dog-eared copy, with a well-creased spine, lying at your bedside?

Seriously, though, national socialism for dummies is not even remotely analogous to pre-twentieth-century America; and the rhetorical tropes of Post-WWII leftism are not humourous.

Since I wrote the message to Mr. Auster that started all this, I'd like to comment.

I did not say that just accepting any of the theories that Derbyshire accepts makes one a liberal. You can believe in any one of the things that Derbyshire believes in, or even several of them, and still be a conservative. But as James Burnham pointed out in his great work "Suicide of the West", liberal and conservative beliefs tend to cluster, even if the beliefs in the cluster might seem to be unrelated. In the past few years, John Derbyshire has adopted numerous positions on issues normally associated with the liberal cluster, and it is the totality of the positions, and the direction of movement, rather than the individual issues, that I find indicative. For example, If someone tells you that he doesn't believe in God, that tells you very little about his politics. If he tells you that he is pro-choice, that tells you more, although it is still far from definitive. Ditto global warming or peak oil or the lack of an Islamist threat, or belief in the sexual
revolution. But if a person tells you that he is pro-choice AND atheist AND believes in global warming AND the sexual revolution AND euthanasia AND thinks that Islam is no worse than Christianity AND thinks that anyone who doubts that Darwinian evolution is the sole mechanism that shaped man is a moron, AND that he has recently moved to these positions from positions that were more traditionally conservative, then I think that it is safe to say that the person in question has moved left. This is what Derbyshire has done.

Of course, Derbyshire still holds numerous positions from the conservative "cluster" - but not as many as he did a few years ago, not as many as he did even a year ago. I of course did not say that Derbyshire was a liberal; I said that he was moving left, and that if this leftward drift continued, he would become a liberal. I stand by this.

P.S. "The Turner Diaries" are a crypto-Nazi document. Nazis are a form of leftist socialist, not traditionalist conservative. But of course you all know that, even the person who brought them up.

If someone tells you that he doesn't believe in God, that tells you very little about his politics.

I can tell you don't do Voegelin or Strauss.

Maximos:
If the truth be told, however, it was Derbyshire who first set out after conservative sub-groups which he found detestable; the first stabs at cannibalization were made from his side of things.

Precisely. He's got absolutely no room to engage in any thin-skinned hand-wringing about how judgmental, unfair or "impolite" other conservatives are being to poor little ole' him when they attack him for his views, as he is wont to do nevertheless.

He's been extremely belligerent, vicious, derisive, and generally low class in his almost entirely unprovoked attacks on other conservatives, so he has forfeited any claim to collegial charity, and it is completely in-bounds when more astute conservatives decide to tear him to ribbons, or attempt to dismiss him from the conservative fold.

I have no desire to be "judgmental, unfair or impolite" to Mr. Derbyshire. He is a fine prose stylist whom I still read every chance I get, and from what I can gather, a good husband and attentive father, and I wish him nothing but the best. But when you put forth rather provocative opinions in a magazine of opinion, you shouldn't be surprised when people are provoked, and respond, especially when that magazine is (or was)the flagship mag of the conservative movement. When you say some of the things Derbyshire has said, flak should be expected. I would think that a mature journalist like JD would realize this.

KW: yes, if people were totally logical in their beliefs, belief in God would tell you a lot, but unfortunately, people are not. Besides, I didn't want to sidetrack the discussion.

Besides, I didn't want to sidetrack the discussion.

Ha! Kudos to you. I wished, and still do, to put in on track, terribly. But around here intentions rank very low. It's what you actually do. And what Maximos has done is directed attention to his greasing a squeaky wheel. And Derb is a particularly squeaky wheel. Like all journalists and artists, they are endowed with that inalienable task of directing attention, telling us where to focus. If (and that's a big if) Maximos can pull it of, he can treat that greasy wheel in such a way that the traffic will leave off circling the roundabout in blogosmog. He will teach us to see through Derb. There's a nice word for it in Greek, dianoia. He promised it, but it's a lot of work. Once we see through Derb, he becomes small fry--like the rest of us.

Well, I don't usually post around here, and I'm not sure if I'm violating any unwritten "rules". I apologize if I have. I just wanted to put my two cents in, and to let everybody know what I meant, and that I have no animosity towards Mr. Derbyshire personally - I just think he's wrong. I'm glad to have (helped) to spark such an interesting discussion.

I think I can speak for the other regulars in saying that we are pleased to hear your views, Tom. KW has a tendency toward the cryptic in his (her?) comments. But that is all part of the fun.

FWIW I think your observations about Derb are right on. (I could risk kicking up a bees nest by accusing him of Darwinian positivism, I suppose: Darwinism has become his verification criteria for everything that lays claim to truth).

Our own Steve Burton is I believe an atheist or agnostic, but I'd be hard pressed at this point to accuse him of political liberalism. The rest of us (with posting privileges) are, it is true, Christians of one flavor or another.

Two thing I would like to clear up.

First, when Jeff Singer was challenged to back up his attack on me as "incoherent" and "silly" and "mad," he had nothing to say of his own, but laughably quoted at length the professional Auster hater David Mills, including Mills's statement that I have been on a "campaign ... to have Paul Craig Roberts banished from the Vdare website."

This is not true. I have consistently urged that the editor of Vdare refrain from publishing the columns of Roberts that are insane and hate-mongering. I have not said he should exclude Roberts altogether. My whole point has been that Vdare's editor should not automatically publish every Roberts column, but exercise discretion. The statement that I've sought to get Roberts "banished" from Vdare is a typical David Mills lie.

Mills is of course the person who actually did conduct a successful campaign to get me banished from FrontPage Magazine, as you can read about here:

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/007752.html


And in reply to Lydia, thank you. There may be something to what you're saying about some soft language by me at some point in this voluminous discussion that was less than consistent. So let me try to clarify again. I am sympathetic to the idea that in a well ordered society women would not have the vote. I believe that it was appropriate in past ages of history that women did not have the vote. I think it's insane that we condemn earlier periods of our own society because women didn't have the vote. I believe that giving women the vote was arguably harmful to society. At the same time, the women's vote is so much a part of our world that I do not have any thought of taking away the vote of women today or of advocating such a step. Maybe someone could convince me of it. But at present it is not something I have thought about. The idea is so radical in the contemporary context that an entire intellectual framework would be needed to make it plausible. If anyone is aware of such writings, let me know about them.

Tom S., I second Zippy. Don't let KW worry you. You're being much nicer to Derbyshire than I've been in this very thread, and I agree with you that conservative and liberal positions tend to come in clumps. I don't, myself, think there's a heavy "essence" to liberalism or conservatism, though _that_ may be a de-tracking comment in itself!

Mr. Auster, I follow your clarification, and there may well be something to everything you say. I certainly agree about the silliness of demonizing our country's own past. Your comments about de Toqueville on the NER thread were knockouts on that topic.

David Mills? Oh, no! I now know of so many "David Mills"'s that I never know which one anyone is talking about. There's a David Mills who is one of the editors of Touchstone Magazine, isn't there? That's not this person, is it? It wouldn't be, by any chance, the pro-Emergent Church professor at Cedarville College in Ohio, would it? Is it yet some third "David Mills"? Or perhaps a fourth? (As of about two years ago, I had no less than five different Russellian definite descriptions in mind matching the name "David Mills," all of them people well-known by many other people, known on the Internet, none of whom I had ever met. I can't even remember them all now. I'm sure some of them were the same person as each other, but I never got it all sorted out.)

"I am sympathetic to the idea that in a well ordered society women would not have the vote."

Let's take a look at some of those "well ordered societies" in recent times shall we?
List of years women gained right to vote.
1989 Namibia
1990 Western Samoa
1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
1994 South Africa
2005 Kuwait
Saudi Arabia is the only country today that denies suffrage to women among countries that allow voting. Strangely, it took Switzerland until 1971 to give their women the right to vote, but most other countries had women's suffrage by the 1950's at the latest.

Well, I cannot hazard an educated guess as to whether the following explanation will satisfy the cryptic KW, but here goes:

Derbyshire has, on occasion, referred to the fact that he derives little pleasure from the company of professed religious believers and conservatives, though there are few enough of either in his environs; he seems to find the company of the secular and unbelieving more congenial. Hence, or so it seems to me, what Derbyshire is doing in his various vituperations against the frigid and pitiless Christians is threefold, ultimately reducing to one imperative, possibly un-or-sub-conscious.

First, Derbyshire, following on his marked preference for the companionship of the unbelieving and, shall we say, somewhat evangelistic-about-it, is defining in-groups and out-groups; he is signifying that he is a member of what he perceives to be the in-group, the high-status group, and angling for the respect and approbation of other members of that group. Simultaneously, he is disparaging the out-group, the moronic and benighted believers, establishing that they are quite far beneath him, intellectually and morally - remember that, as he has argued on numerous occasions, religion can do nothing more than accentuate a person's heritable personality traits; most people being beneath him in intellectual capacity, it can only be expected that religion will augment the baser instincts of the lowly.

Second, Derbyshire is also engaged in status differentiation within his chosen in-group; as with competitive moralism, a pernicious phenomenon among our establishment, the Derb is vying with other members of his in-group for the honour of having written the wittiest, most savage, most withering dismissal of the rubes without. He is angling for the loudest "Huzzah!" or the heartiest round of figurative back-slapping within his self-selected circle of the illumined.

Third, Derbyshire is essentially, metaphorically speaking, confecting the sacrament of this differentiation, re-presenting the drama of conversion; each instance of ritual execration re-enacts a moment in his conversion, or presents an aspect of that intellectual turning. Recalling the substance of his passage from light to darkness, or whatever, solidifies his membership in the 'right' group, testifies to all and sundry - and particularly his fellow brights - of his orthodoxy, and anathematizes the heretics who lie outside the gates in the outer darkness. Perhaps this is as much a means of conjuring faith in the face of doubt - "I disbelieve in God, O Darwin, help thou my belief!" - as it is of bearing witness.

Ultimately, given his reductionism, the Derb's motives must lie in the sort of status seeking requisite to the establishment of reproductive fitness; securing status ensures the survival of one's genetic material. Now, given that Derb is a fine family man, we can safely assume that this instinct operates on a wholly subconscious plane, the primal instinct sublimated, and finally displaced into the realm of criticism. Of one thing more we can be certain, and this is that nothing he has written necessarily has any positive truth-value, for survival value is not sufficient (and possibly not necessary, either) as a basis of truth. In which case there is no necessity of regarding him seriously.

(Tongue out of cheek. Or not. You decide.)

On his own principles, I believe his arguments, if they are that, are self-defeating.

You're a very civilized outfit. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my views, and for the interesting feedback. I'll be sure to brush up on my Greek, Voegelin, and Thomistic philosophy for my next comments ;-)

Tom

(I've now figured out that Undercover Black Man really is black. This helps sort him out from other people of the same name. Or as far as I know it does.)

Step2,

So Switzerland was not well-ordered in 1970? I guess it depends on your definition.

I think I understand Auster's point. Or at least one of his points. When enough other things are different, that one difference (women's not voting) can fit in with the rest in the overall form of a well-ordered society. Saudi Arabia doesn't happen to be an example. Who would say that it is? No one here, and I'm sure Auster least of all.

My own opinion would be that the best shot for a society in which women do not vote that is nonetheless good and treats its women well is a Christian society with a strong sense and tradition of Christian chivalry. Even there, of course things can go wrong and need to be changed. I believe Chesterton himself remarked once that a man could beat the tar out of his wife in England at the time and come to little grief with the law. Chesterton used this as an illustration of the over-valuing of property, as he said that the same man could get in much more trouble for theft (or vandalism, or something like that). But obviously Chesterton didn't think that women's voting was necessary as part of the solution to getting stricter punishments for wife-beating, and he may have been right. Indeed, it's arguable that men give women most of the power they have anyway, in any society, whether the women vote or not.

Indeed, it's arguable that men give women most of the power they have anyway, in any society, whether the women vote or not.

Married men, at least.

I think probably male employers and politicians, too. But I should, perhaps, have spoken more clearly: I was speaking of political and public kinds of power. Clout, in fact. The very differences between the sexes which make it true that men give women most of their public clout also make it true that women often have means of influence other than political and corporate clout.

By the way, one of the most charming writers on the subject of the relations of the sexes is, of all people, Agatha Christie in her autobiography. She drops bits of inside dope on the relations of the sexes in the late Victorian era in between her memories of her childhood in the most enjoyable way. It isn't the main theme of the book but just one of those things that comes up as she rambles her way through narrating her life.

Years and years ago, when I was a Freshman at the University of Chicago, there was an evening set aside for getting acquainted with the various student organizations. And there was a great big room set aside for the various socialist groups. There were about five or six of them, and they seemed to spend all their time either shouting or glaring at one another, because they disagreed on this or that point of orthodox socialist doctrine.

Everybody thought it was funny.

Conservatives should not act like that. They should neither shout nor glare at one another.

It's one thing to disagree, reasonably, with John Derbyshire, on this or that or that point. But it's quite another thing to shun him entirely.

Similarly, it's one thing to disagree, reasonably, with Lawrence Auster, on this or that point. But it's quite another thing to shun him entirely.

And so on, and so forth.

Though this may well be difficult to believe, given the manner of my expression regarding Derbyshire, I have no desire to shun him. He is completely entitled to dissent reasonably from typical conservative positions on religion and social values; but when he does so as caustically and intemperately as he has done, I believe that he has walked away from me, that he intends to shun those like me. A certain forbearance on his part is no longer evident.

Lydia: There’s also a notorious atheist writer named David Mills. I’m not him either. I’m this one. (And yes, I’m a Negro. Don’t let my skin fool you.)

As for Mr. Auster’s charge that I’m a liar, I can easily disprove that. I can clearly demonstrate that Auster has “sought to get Roberts ‘banished’ from Vdare.”

On March 29, 2006, Auster wrote:

“It’s a disgrace that the websites NewsMax and vdare regularly publish the insane rants of Paul Craig Roberts. ... Why do they taint their pages—and the conservative ideals they profess to believe in—with this poisonous fruitcake...?”

He ended that post with this: “I call on NewsMax and vdare to exercise some judgment and turn off this maniac.”

On July 16, 2007, Auster renewed his campaign:

“Vdare, a website mainly devoted to the cause of immigration restriction, continues to disgrace itself by publishing the demented Paul Craig Roberts. ...

“Peter Brimelow's excuse for publishing Roberts is that Roberts is his friend. ... For Brimelow, his friendship with Roberts trumps principle, country, truth, everything.”

As if Auster’s intent weren’t clear enough, he wrote in a follow-up comment:

“If Brimelow doesn't like being attacked for publishing a vile hate-monger he can stop publishing him. ... When the immigration restriction website Vdare hosts the vile hate-monger P.C. Roberts, it is defining itself as a website.”

To repeatedly describe Roberts as a “vile hate-monger” – and to repeatedly proclaim it disgraceful that Vdare publishes him – is clearly to urge Vdare to stop publishing him.

So when Auster declares above that “I have not said [Peter Brimelow] should exclude Roberts altogether,” that’s simply untrue, as you’ve just seen with your own eyes. (“... turn off this maniac.”)

Now, I did indeed (privately) urge David Horowitz to examine Lawrence Auster’s extremist views on race, and to reconsider whether Auster’s writing should appear in FrontPage Magazine. (Mr. Horowitz agreed with me that he shouldn’t.)

That was legitimate for me to do. Just as it’s legitimate for Auster to go after Vdare for publishing Roberts. But when I did it, Auster condemned me publicly as a “character assassin” and a “leftist hit artist.”

My point is not that Auster, in regard to Paul Craig Roberts, is a “Stalinist” (to borrow the label he hung on Mary Jackson). My point is that he’s a hypocrite.

While I certainly agree that conservatives should behave well among themselves, I think it does make sense at a certain point to ask, "In what sense is this person conservative?" Conservatism, IMO, is not like (to use a slightly irreverant comparison) the substance of the Body and Blood in the transubstantiation view of the Mass. That is to say, it's not like you can have the "essence" of conservatism even when all the "accidents" (your actual positions on specific issues) are liberal! Or to put it slightly differently, I don't think conservatism is most usefully thought of in terms of merely a sort of general attitude or vague stance towards life--liking certain old-fashioned things and what-not. It's got to have some cash value in terms of positions on important topics. Now, as Tom S. (who is probably more charitable than I on the subject of Derbyshire) has said, there are a lot of these topics, and deciding which are the most important can be difficult, especially in an organization or group where not everyone will agree on that question. But when you get enough liberal positions on enough subjects, it's understandable that people should begin to wonder whether one should be regarded as conservative at all.

I have written a number of posts on the Roberts/Vdare issue. In reply to Peter Brimelow's repeated excuse that he is under some mysterious compulsion to publish all of Roberts's articles because Roberts is his friend and because Brimelow has paid for all of Roberts's articles, I have repeatedly said that these were not good reasons, that Brimelow could simply not publish the offending articles.

My above quoted calls on Vdare to stop publishing "the vile hate-monger Roberts" are obviously in the context of Roberts's vile hate-mongering columns. If Vdare stopped publishing those columns and published Roberts's articles on economics, then it would no longer be publishing the vile hate-monger Roberts but the economist Roberts.

To underscore this point, in the below post from August 2006 (http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/006243.html), notice how I repeatedly criticize Brimelow for publishing "every" column by Roberts, which obviously means that I think Brimelow should stop publishing SOME, not ALL, of Roberts's columns:

"Consider the way Peter Brimelow publishes every column by that raving bigot Paul Craig Roberts, despite numerous complaints Brimelow has received from readers and colleagues who say that Roberts demeans the vdare website and drives away readers who would otherwise be interested in its immigration restriction message. Why does Brimelow do this? Roberts, he says, is his friend, as though that explains and excuses everything. If Roberts were really Brimelow’s friend, would he insist, as the price of friendship, that Brimelow publish every unhinged hateful thing he happens to write, even if it contributes nothing to VDare's primary mission and actively harms it?"

Now read this (http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/008386.html), posted two weeks ago, about Peter Brimelow's reply to a reader who had asked that Brimelow stop publishing Roberts:

“A reader sent me Peter Brimelow's reply to a Vdare reader who had written politely and respectfully to Brimelow pointing out that Vdare's continuing publication of the insane columns of Paul Craig Roberts will turn people away from Vdare and the immigration restrictionist movement.”

Notice that I refer to Vdare's "publication of the insane columns of Paul Craig Roberts," not to Roberts's columns per se.

Later in the entry I write about Brimelow's second excuse for publishing all of Roberts's columns:

"Now for the second reason: Since Brimelow pays for all of Roberts's columns, he runs them all. Uh, that's it? That's the final, determining factor? In reality, since Vdare has paid for all of Roberts's columns, it would lose nothing if it simply declined to run his insane columns and continued running the others. Clearly, there is nothing that requires Peter Brimelow to run all of Paul Roberts's columns. Brimelow's second reason thus comes down to saying that he chooses to publish all of Robert's columns, because he chooses to publish them.

"Which takes us to a deeper level of the discussion. Even if Brimelow did not feel under some mysterious general necessity to publish all of Roberts's columns without exception, why, given the complete absence of any actual criticism by Brimelow of Roberts's clinically insane columns, would Brimelow choose to do otherwise? There is no reason for Brimelow even to contemplate spiking the crazy articles of Roberts, since, as is evident, Brimelow does not object to Roberts's crazy articles."

Clearly I am calling on Brimelow to exercise discretion and to spike some of Robert's columns. I have not said, "Roberts is such an awful person and has said such bad things that Brimelow must exclude him from Vdare."

Which, by the way, is what David Mills did to me. He sent David Horowitz writings of mine that had not appeared at FrontPage but at my own website. On the basis of things published at my own website (which, by the way, Horowitz told Mills he had never once read), Horowitz then excluded me entirely from FrontPage. Which was the greatest achievement of David Mills's life.

Finally, in a follow up (http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/008404.html) to the previous blog entry, I wrote:

“Vdare pays Roberts's syndication outfit for the rights to publish Roberts's columns. They have the right to publish all of them or none of them.”

My point is that that Vdare is in a position to pick and choose among the articles it has paid for. If I were calling on Vdare to exclude Roberts, then I would have said that they should cease paying Roberts's syndication company and not carry any of his articles, period.

Conservatives should not act like that. They should neither shout nor glare at one another. It's one thing to disagree, reasonably, with John Derbyshire, on this or that or that point. But it's quite another thing to shun him entirely.

But is Derbyshire a "conservative" any more? If he isn't, it's OK to glare at him, right?

Whether or not Derbyshire is a conservative in any meaningful sense is definitely open to question at this point.

I don't think the discussion is helped by personalizing it and making it a matter of whether to "shun" someone. I have written at length about Derbyshire's ever-increasing liberalism and nihilism. I don't think he should be seen as a conservative, and I think that as long as he is seen as one, he has a subversive effect on the conservative movement. But I don't "shun" him, in the sense of never reading him or discussing him--sometimes approvingly, as when he says something good on immigration. And I read and discuss him approvingly despite personal attacks he's made on me.

So this isn't about whether to shun a person, it's about the objective question of the nature of his beliefs.

Also, Derbyshire is not static, he's moving. If he were at the exact same point, but moving rightward, the discussion would be different. But he's moving leftward.

Mr. Auster: So you don't wish to silence Paul Criag Roberts entirely... just to silence certain of his opinions. That's an important clarification.

And in terms of my life's greatest accomplishments, exposing your intellectual flaws doesn't crack the Top 10. Getting hired by the Wall Street Journal right out of college; hired by the Washington Post Style section before 30; winning two Emmy Awards and a Peabody; creating a network TV show... those are achievements.

Critiquing you is not my profession. It's a hobby.

Need help getting those peacock feathers through a standard-sized door, David? Aren't you just all that.

Maximos - I entirely agree that some of Derbyshire's rhetoric - especially that directed against abortion opponents and evolution skeptics - has been pointlessly (indeed, foolishly) "caustic" and "intemperate." So I can hardly complain when others respond in kind.

Still, I find it all very dispiriting, and I wish that someone, at some point, would try to exercise a little more charity.

Like Heather Mac Donald, Derbyshire remains more than sound on some of the most important issues before us - especially immigration. And he has not hesitated to speak up forthrightly on such issues when it might have been safer for him to keep quiet. I have to respect that.

Since I haven't been able to get interested in reading Derbyshire for some time, maybe I just don't know the answer to this question because I haven't been reading him, but:

Since Derbyshire is pretty snottily dismissive of concerns about Islam (and that I have read, in a lengthy quotation), what does he really support re. immigration that's so very conservative? Is it just that he supports cracking down on illegal immigration uberhaupt? That wd. certainly be a step in the right direction (no pun intended), even if it didn't take any special cognizance of worries about Muslim immigration and jihadism.

I do recall seeing, though, that the immigration issue is pretty dispensible for him. He admitted in one of the last of his pieces I saw that Giuliani is likely to be soft on it, but he was pretty much preparing to be an enthusiastic campaigner for Giuliani anyway. Probably that was because this was one of the _few_ issues on which Derbyshire remains conservative and on which he differs from Giuliani. So it wasn't all that hard to bring them together.

Lydia - I take it that Derbyshire's credentials as a conservative depend mostly on his views on economic and foreign policy (i.e., mostly small-government, mostly non-interventionist), and on his "ethnocentric" positions on immigration and affirmative action and stuff like that.

Reading his recent stuff, I think it's pretty clear that the presidential candidate he *really* likes is Ron Paul, but he thinks (quite rightly) that there's no chance.

I think his semi-enthusiasm for Giuliani is partly *faut de mieux*, and partly parochial. Derbyshire is a New Yorker, and, by New York standards, Giuliani is a radical right-winger, whose radical right-wingery really did make things better there, during his tenure as mayor.

Which doesn't mean that Giuliani wouldn't be a disaster for conservatism on the *national* stage - a point which Derbyshire is missing, because of his partial perspective.

Critiquing you is not my profession. It's a hobby.

Well, I've always thought people should take their hobbies seriously. But crying to Horowitz because Auster is dumb enough (but alas I suppose it is an inevitable topic of debate... and just maybe...) to think (so it seems) that black people, as a group, are incapable of higher forms of civilization is not critiquing Auster seriously, however you might try to justify it as public service. It's taking the easy way out - why not, e.g., ask Horowitz to publish your engagement with Auster's thinking? There is a whole intellectual system there to work on. Yet, the UBM plays tiresome victim games (and pointing out that Auster might have fallen into this gamesmanship himself for a moment there is hardly a brilliant point). Is UBM/Mills capable of more or is initiation into the MSM - the Style pages no less! - truly the height of his career? No doubt it takes a lot of skills and determination to write for tv (not that I watch these shows), but intellectually it is not the equivalent of putting Auster in his place because some of what the Auster man says is smart (and some isn't). And since most people will allow an insightful writer some foolish folly (maybe even racial folly among those of us inured to white guilt), one must say, UBM, that you're cherry picking and what kind of hobby is that? People will still suspect your real hobby is protecting the victim status of blacks... How are we going to move beyond that kind of thing if the Austers of this world are not faced head on? He's pissed that you've cut into his income, but in a sense you're still playing his game, maybe your game...

Auster:

"And I read and discuss him approvingly despite personal attacks he's made on me."

What about the personal attacks you made against his wife?

Mr. Auster - agreed, you have an admirable ability, which I have often noted, to quote people approvingly, even after you've read them the riot act. For example, your post on Ayaan Hirsi Ali that gave rise to the whole fracas over at NER.

In fact, the only person I can think of who you've shunned entirely - i.e., refused even to read or to discuss - is Christopher Hitchens. (A mistake on your part, by the way. Everybody should always read him - and his brother Peter, too.)

FWIW, I think that people who refuse even to read or to discuss your own work are making an equally big mistake.

P.S.: this whole dispute between you and David Mills over whether you did or did not call on Peter Brimelow to dump Paul Craig Roberts once and for all seems more than a bit silly. If you didn't, you probably should have.

Lydia,
Before you continue to argue for your own disenfranchisement, I have two questions. Do you think that influence or clout gleaned from men is superior to open and direct decision making on public policy? Is the First Lady in charge of policy or is the President?

Step2, first of all, I actually don't think anybody should be disenfranchised who already is, except criminals. I thought I implied that relatively clearly already. But it's not a matter of importance to the point of blood-shed with me that women *have been given* the vote in the first place. As others have pointed out, time was when plenty of grown men didn't have the vote, either. These are prudential decisions, not matters of fundamental human rights.

To answer your questions: As a matter of sheer prosaic fact, women can and do exercise more political clout in all societies through their influence on men or by permission of men--sometimes through positions given to them because the men feel guilty, or chivalrous, or in some other way think they "ought to appoint a woman"-- than by direct decision-making power earned in gender-blind ways. That, I think, is just a fact. If feminists acknowledge it at all, it makes steam come out of their ears. To me, it's no big deal. I don't think that there is some sort of "superior quality" to getting (for example) your husband to do what you think he ought to do in his position than to having that position yourself and doing the thing yourself. Neither is the quality of such influence inferior. We all have different sorts of influence and use them as best we can, hopefully honorably. Is it demeaning to a parent to raise his child well and thus influence the future through the child's actions and decisions as an adult or through advice and counsel? No more is it demeaning to a wife to influence her husband's public decisions.

As to whether the First Lady or the President is in charge of policy, you know the answers there as well as I do, both the official one and the unofficial one. No doubt the unofficial aspect varies a lot from one First Couple to another. One of my favorite Phyllis Schlafly lines concerned Hillary Clinton, and went something like this: "Like most women, she married her job."

Whoever this UBM is, I checked out his website and he looks Caucasian to me. He sort of reminds me of an Italian freind, with whom I served in the Army who went back 300 years in his family tree to find a Spanish ancestor so that he could claim he was Hispanic. He made Sergeant Major - the problem is he will never know if it was a rank he deserved or if it was bestowed upon him as a quota hire. And yes, the Army does promote by ethnicity. UBM likes to crow - but I wonder if those accomplishments he listed were due to his own talents, or if he was a beneficiary of affirmative action. We will never know.

Still, I find it all very dispiriting, and I wish that someone, at some point, would try to exercise a little more charity.

Steve, I do understand where you are coming from, given that my social environment brings frequent interactions with people who would self-identify as progressives; charity is a prerequisite to there occurring any social intercourse at all. And while I occasionally hear statements to the effect that religion is the source of most of the evil in the world, or that one of the reasons that the Bush years have been so calamitous is that the religionists have been pulling the strings, people tend to rephrase their concerns after learning that I am quite religious. Of course, Derbyshire is a writer, and the social dynamics of the medium are different, being much less personal; but there has been something of a ethos of collegiality to conservatism. Fringe groups like the Randians could be excommunicated because their dogma contravened virtually everything conservatism was, while disfiguring beyond recognition what little they retained. Derbyshire's less temperate outbursts essentially reduce to the claim that half of American conservatism should be jettisoned, which would leave conservatism about as effectual as the Tories. Possibly even less so.

It isn't as though I don't want the Derbyshires and MacDonalds of American conservatism to hang around the movement, such as it is; some gratitude towards the part of the coalition that actually elevated conservatism to electoral viability is all I ask. In the end, it isn't a matter of ignoring Derbyshire, but of approaching his writing differently; any hint of vituperation against his undeserving targets, and I'm done with the piece. There's no added value there. So also with Hitchens, at least the one with the love of lush living. Analogously, do I really need to read another piece in the Nation or American Prospect lauding the wonders of Cuban health care or dismissing, by silence, the concerns over Britons and Canadians who expire while languishing on waiting lists for routine surgeries?

Step2 wrote:

Let's take a look at some of those "well ordered societies" in recent times shall we?
List of years women gained right to vote.
...
1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova"

In high school Europian history class your grade would have been lowered to 'C' just for this doozy.

If that is your level of knowledge and argument, why should I read anything you post?


Underground Blck Man would have fooled me. Is there some kind of indication that he is, in fact, black?

Or he is black in a sense that modern man predecesors came from Africa?

I knew couple of "Hispanic" cops in Chicago who looked like Daniel Craig (blond Bond), apparently self-declaration is virtually sufficient.

Given reality if Affirmative Action in PC Fortune 500 Corporate America, does UBM seriosly think that his after college jobs will impress anybody?

How many job offers from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc a black Math PhD from Bull Frog State Cooking School and Univercity gets?

At least 10.

Steve Burton writes:

"This whole dispute between you and David Mills over whether you did or did not call on Peter Brimelow to dump Paul Craig Roberts once and for all seems more than a bit silly. If you didn't, you probably should have."

I'm in a difficult position. Roberts is an offense. But a lot of people regard me as an offense. Now I don't think there's any comparison. I think I'm a rational person who speaks civilized language. I think Roberts is an insane hate-monger and trafficker in conspiracy theories about President Bush planting bombs in the WTC. Still, people look at me and say, "You want your marginal ideas included, yet you're trying to exclude others with marginal ideas." So, to the extent possible, it's better for me to be a limited censor and say that just Roberts's bad insane articles should be spiked. And that's all I care about anyway. I have no interest in Roberts. My concern was that the paleoconservative and immigration restrictionnist movement has morally discredited itself by publishing such things as Roberts's insane columns.

However, I have to make an exception to what I said before about shunning. I do believe that Christopher Hitchens should be shunned, meaning, I think he should not be published at all by conservative publications. Not that that will happen. I'm talking about the way things ought to be. If we had a decent society, if we even had a society with the standards of 40 years ago, a person like Hitchens would not be published anywhere, except maybe in some atheist magazine, and of course he would not be on television. I believe in standards for society. And a society that treats with respect someone like Hitchens is destroying itself.

And by the way, just so there's no misunderstanding, I never said that David Horowitz had any obligation to publish me. If he regards me as too extreme, that is his right (though I think he's wrong); what I objected to was the shockingly dishonest and treasonous way he handled the situation. At the same time, the fact that Horowitz goes on publishing a true hater like Hitchens, a man who wrote a book called "How Religion Poisons Everything," while he excludes me, who have never written anything remotely of such a vile nature, shows how so-called conservatism today is really a form of liberalism—and shows the true scale of values operative in liberal society. You can demonize Christianity, and continue to be published everywhere. But if you say there are racial differences in civilizational abilities, or if you say that America should remain what it has always been, a white majority country, then you're a non-person.

Is there some kind of indication that he is, in fact, black? Or he is black in a sense that modern man predecesors came from Africa?

Judge for yourself. He looks about as white as they come to me. Still, if he's managed to convince everyone that he's really black, and milked the affirmative action scam for all he can, more power to him.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0589957/

markjaws wrote: "... he looks Caucasian to me."

Does that mean I can date your daughter? Sweet!

Does that mean I can date your daughter?

Maybe he has a prejudice against narcissism.

A follow-up from my previous comment.

A common way of thinking today on the paleo right and among libertarians, is to hate PC strictures and to demand, as their opposite, the removal of all strictures, standards, and judgments. The basic paradigm such conservatives and libertarians are following is that of value-neutral liberalism, the idea of a neutral society in which all things are permitted; and they reject PC because they see it as the violation of value-neutral liberalism. Since they hate PC, and PC is the ruling morality of society, they decide that any public morality is bad, and demand unrestricted freedom.

But in reality it is not possible to have a society without standards and without limits. So the true debate is not about whether we should have PC standards or have no standards. The true debate is about which standards we ought to have. The liberal way is to avoid the question of standards and make everything a matter of equal rights. The traditionalist way is to attempt to articulate what standards are right. For example, if an editor excludes a writer from his magazine, the real question is not the liberal question of whether the editor has the right to do so; of course he has. The real issue is the traditionalist question: are the standards the editor used in excluding that writer the sort of standards he ought to have? Similarly, if a society refuses to admit immigrants from a certain culture or religion, the real question is not the liberal question of whether the society has the right to do so; of course it has. The real question is the traditionalist question: what standards should guide the society's immigration policy? For example, the standard may be an immigrant group's capability of assimilating into the society. By that standard, one group may fit, and another may not.

I don't know why some people obsess about the precise racial index of David Mills. He can't help the particular racial mix in which he was born. That's not something to question or criticize someone about. We know that Mills is a racially mixed person who identifies as black. What do people expect him to do? Identify as white? There is nothing to be gained by criticizing him for some supposed racial unauthenticity on his part.

What is objectonable about Mills is not his race. What is objectionable about him is his behavior.

Well, I don't want to obsess about it, or anything, but A's link above sure is an eye-opener.

What is objectonable about Mills is not his race. What is objectionable about him is his behavior.

Should he be allowed to vote, though? Or maybe, if he's a quarter black, his vote should count for 75% of a white man's.

I say man's, obviously. The thing about women's suffrage is still up in the air. That said, maybe we should take our cue from Islam, which says that a woman's value as a witness, or in terms of blood money, is half that of a man. Half a vote it is then. And we should be very grateful.

Lawrence Auster, August 12, 2007:
“I don’t know why some people obsess about the precise racial index of David Mills. ... That’s not something to question or criticize someone about. ... There is nothing to be gained by criticizing him for some supposed racial unauthenticity on his part.”

Lawrence Auster, May 11, 2007:
“Mills’s arguments doesn’t tell anything about blacks because... he is barely black. Hey, taking off on the name of Ilana Mercer’s weblog, ‘Barely a Blog,’ maybe Mills should change his moniker from ‘Undercover Black Man’ to ‘Barely a Black.’ ”

Lawrence Auster, May 11, 2007:
“[T]he real racial hatred that drives UBM [is] a hatred of blacks. Further... this is not just UBM’s own anti-black revulsion, as a self-hating partially black man (as I said yesterday, since he’s no longer ‘Undercover,’ a better name for him would be ‘Barely a Black’); it is the anti-black revulsion of liberals generally.”

Mr. Auster writes:
"We know that Mills is a racially mixed person who identifies as black."

How do we know that? How do YOU know that? It is not a trick question, just I would like to hear from someone who knows that UBM is not a racial fake.

"What do people expect him to do? Identify as white? There is nothing to be gained by criticizing him for some supposed racial unauthenticity on his part."

If Mr. Mills is, in fact, a (partially) black man, he should not be shocked that people question some of his achievements.

Anyone familiar with how Aff Action operates would do that.

By and large American Blacks like AA. No surprise they have a burden to have their achivements questioned.
That is a burden American Blacks put on themselves.

Thanks to Mary Jackson for providing such eloquent support for my previous observations about her impressive intellectual accuity. What will the next stunning Jacksonism be?

By the way, I don't like the way I worded my previous comment about UBM, because to some folks it could seem as though I'm just talking about race, even though, as the whole context makes clear, the subject is the way he labels himself. Closer to the mark would be:

What is objectionable about Mills is not his racial identity. What is objectionable about him is his behavior.

Mary Jackson - much as I generally love your stuff, over at NER, I really think that you're being unfair here. Neither Mr. Auster nor anybody else is proposing that women should be deprived of the vote, let alone that black votes should count for less than white votes.

But that doesn't mean that it isn't perfectly legitimate to ask whether or not, on the whole, the enfranchisement of women, of the formerly enslaved, of non-property-owners, of the illiterate, etc., etc., etc., has advanced this or that conservative cause.

It's all very academic, of course - but none the less interesting.

Mr. Mills: by all appearances, you have bigger issues than Lawrence Auster that you need to be dealing with.

Neither Mr. Auster nor anybody else is proposing that women should be deprived of the vote

No? Only in "an ordered world" and within an appropriate intellectual framework. Phew!

the enfranchisement of women, of the formerly enslaved, of non-property-owners, of the illiterate...

Which of those is the odd one out, and why?

Perhaps I'd better explain. The formerly enslaved are OK. They are no longer enslaved. Non-property owners can acquire property. The illiterate can learn to read. But women must always be women. In other words, they are to be disadvantaged on the basis of something they can't help.

And, no matter how intelligent, knowledgeable and accomplished women may be, it is considered "interesting" and "legitimate" to discuss the idea that they should not vote, a right available to the stupidest, most useless man.

mik_infidelos,
If your argumentation skills were a grade or two higher, you would have explained what it was about them that deserved a C. As a defense, I was just copying from a list and did go out of my way to mention the anomaly of Switzerland. Sorry if that does not conform to your high standards. Not that I should worry too much, since your comments have been completely speculative.

mik wrote: “By and large American Blacks like AA. No surprise they have a burden to have their achivements questioned. That is a burden American Blacks put on themselves.”

It’s a cross I gladly bear. It beats the burden placed upon my father, who worked for years in the U.S. government as a messenger (and supervisor of messengers) when that was the only job Negroes could have (before Truman desegregated the civil service). A sympathetic white man once told my father that if he would reclassify himself as Indian instead of Negro (we have Amerindian ancestry also), then he could advance. This my father would not do.

I did, indeed, benefit from AA. When the Wall Street Journal came to my campus recruiting summer interns, the only candidates interviewed were women and minorities. (In the 1980s, the WSJ was well-known for using its internship program to find talented women and minorities.)

I accepted that advantage as America’s settling of accounts with my dad.

Gosh, Steve, didn't you _get it_? Discussing and comparing women's having the vote with women's not having the vote, even as a theoretical matter, is like...oh, I don't know...discussing a world in which all the women are murdered vs. a world in which they are allowed to go on living. Genocide. Something like that. It's TOTALLY TABOO. And anybody who doesn't think so is a "nutter." Some things, y'know, one just doesn't discuss in polite company. This is one of them. That's how we show that we're true intellectuals and professionals.

Hope that's helpful.

/sarc off

I forgot a detail: My father had applied for jobs in the U.S. govt. as a clerk typist. He could type 75 WPM. Because of race and race alone, he couldn't hold such a job.

You anti-AA types like to focus on the advantages I may have received, while ignoring the disadvantages my family endured because my dad couldn't get hired for the job he was qualified for due to race.

I am opposed to positive discrimination, or "affirmative action" as Americans seem to call it, for the very same reason that I am opposed to denying women the vote: it is arbitrary and not based on individual merit. To promote a woman because she is a woman is as silly as to deny her promotion on that basis - and the same goes for ethnic minorities.

Besides, as is evident on this thread, even the slightest bit of positive discrimination is gleefully seized on as "evidence" that any achievement by a black or a woman is not genuine. David Mills is interviewed for an internship and therefore all his achievements to date count for nothing.

Lydia:

Er, no. Women not having the vote is not like all women being murdered. It's like women not having the vote. No more, no less.

A better comparison is that women not having the vote is like men not having the vote. Now that's a good topic for discussion, because we are comparing like with like.

I wonder if those men who think I'm overreacting to the idea of being deprived of the vote would be happy to relinquish it themselves. If not, why not?

Paul Cella, up above, volunteered to be disenfranchised, because he said the franchise is too widely spread. (Paul, we don't accept your resignation from the electorate. You're too good a man to lose. :-))

I think it's very important to distinguish having the legal right to vote taken away with never having been given it in the first place. Auster has said again and again that he is not proposing disenfranchising anybody. How many times does he have to say it? The question of what the effect of female voting is on politics _is_ an interesting one. Politicians think so. It guides how they pitch their proposals so as to garner female votes. Democrat politicians think a majority of women vote liberal. At least they say that's what they think. If some conservatives think the same thing and are sorry to see the female vote pulling the American political scene to the left over time, why is this something to get so upset about?

I suppose one question would be this: If Auster is right and the female vote has pulled American politics to the left, what practical implications does this have for people who don't like to see politics pulled to the left? Part of the problem is the assumption that if he's lamenting this effect of the female vote, he must think it would be ducky if women lost the right to vote. But he, quite sensibly, says that isn't what he's getting at. I believe him.

So maybe it has no practical implications. (And I haven't even yet studied the statistics enough to know for sure if it's true or if it's just one of those pieces of common wisdom that turn out to be false.) Or maybe one of its practical implications is that, pragmatically speaking, we conservatives should be glad in some year of the GOTV folks are more successful among men than among women. Or maybe one of its practical implications is that we should try to convince women not to be feminists, or not to think that the government is supposed to be the Big Mommy in the Sky, so that their vote wouldn't have this effect. There could be a number of entirely unobjectionable practical conclusions to draw.

Ms. Jackson:

If you read upthread, you will see that I have already offered to give up my franchise. Others among our editors are prepared to give their vote to Lydia, which I would be happy to do as well.

Let us indeed consider which men should be stripped of their franchise. Any man, say, who has cheated on his wife. Any man who has viewed pornography in the past year.

In short, there are many principles that I would endorse as a citizen, which would have the effect of depriving me of my vote. I have only owned a home for a few months; I would posit -- as I said upthread -- a decade as the necessary test on those grounds.

But then again, I am a small-r republican and not a small-d democrat; and I am thankful I live in a republic.

Mary Jackson: well, Mr. Auster can speak for himself, here, and will no doubt do so at length.

You're right, of course, that being a woman is something one is born to, and something unchangeable - setting aside exotic bio-technology. And that's certainly a relevant consideration when it comes to assigning rights.

But I can't agree that this makes it uninteresting or illegitimate to dicuss whether the enfranchisement of women has been, on the whole, a force for good, or for evil.

I mean, heck - I think it's equally interesting and legitimate to discuss whether the political empowerment of *men* has been such a good idea. And, to judge by a couple of the plays of Aristophanes, *that* discussion has been going on for well over two thousand years now - as well it might.

I think we need more laughter, here, and less anger.

In answer to mik's question, we know that Mills is partly black from photos of him at his website.

But, as we all know, people with any identifiable black inheritance are called "black" in American society, by both blacks and whites. Look at Shelby Steele. With his aquiline features, he's hardly black, yet the fact that he's not white makes him black. That's the one-drop rule. So he calls himself black, and others call him black.

The same with Mills. When one person after another in recent days, both here and in e-mails, kept asking, is Mills really black, as though trying to verify that he was some kind of fake, I thought that was silly. From his features, he is partly, but not very, black.

Yet, amazingly, in response to my saying that people ought to lay off Mills and not use unfair arguments against him based on some supposed racial inauthenticity, Mills, true to form, goes after me once again, digging up two previous quotes of mine about him which he apparently thinks contradict what I just said. Yes, it is true that after being smeared by him day after day this past May at his website and at Huffington Post after he caused me to be expelled from FrontPage, I got a humorous dig in at him and called him "Barely a Black," a pun on Ilana Mercer's Barely a Blog.

And it is certainly true that Mills, based on his photos, is barely a black. So the statement could hardly be seen as offensive in referring to a person who goes around calling himself Undercover Black Man. Further, in America being barely a black is enough to make one a black, and he has the right to call himself a black, as just I argued above.

Further, what was the context of my saying he was barely a black? Commenters at my site were making racial generalizations based on Mill's vindictive behavior, and I replied that that wasn't right because Mills himself is "barely a black." I was saying we should look at his vendetta against me mainly as a liberal vendetta against a conservative, not as a black vendetta against a white. Yet, for de-racing the issue as I did in May, and for de-racing the issue again today in this discussion, what is my reward? Mills tries to use my statements to suggest once again that I am a hypocrite and a racist.

As for my remark that Mills seems to have a negative view of blacks, that was based on his own comments which anyone can see by clicking on the entry at my website that he links .

think it's very important to distinguish having the legal right to vote taken away with never having been given it in the first place. Auster has said again and again that he is not proposing disenfranchising anybody.

Unfortunately, it isn't as clear cut as that. Auster is toying with the idea of disenfranchising women, and saying that his ideas on this are not fully formed, but in a "well-ordered society" women shouldn't have the vote. The barrier to this is not one of principle, but one of feasibility and acceptability.

Yes, voting patterns are a legitimate topic for discussion. However, arbitrarily depriving people of their rights is not. Nobody, here or on the NER thread has answered the objection that a woman, no matter how accomplished, useful and gifted is - yes, yes, only in theory, or in principle, or hypothetically or whatever - to be deprived of a right given to the stupidest, most useless man.

Nobody has answered this because it is unanswerable.

By the way - I'm thinking, of course, of the Lysistrata and the Ecclesiazusae.

Now *that's* entertainment!

If you read upthread, you will see that I have already offered to give up my franchise. Others among our editors are prepared to give their vote to Lydia, which I would be happy to do as well.

Let us indeed consider which men should be stripped of their franchise. Any man, say, who has cheated on his wife. Any man who has viewed pornography in the past year.

Can't you see my point? All those circumstances that you list are consequences of actions, not of being born with one set of genitalia.

If the vote were awarded on merit, that would be one thing - personally I believe in universal suffrage. But those who want to take it away from women - ooops, sorry, think it is "interesting" to "consider" the "idea" - don't want to award the vote on merit, but on the basis of sex. A brilliant, successful business woman, wife and mother, with proven and exceptional leadership qualities - Margaret Thatcher, for example - is lumped together with criminals, aliens and the insane. Meanwhile, lazy, useless, semi-literate Joe Bloggs elects the leaders who make laws telling her what to do.

I can indeed see your point. You asked a question, however, not realizing that it had already been answered.

I do not regard "merit" as the the exclusive criterion of an ideal franchise. At the least I would insist on hearing a very solid definition of merit before subscribing to such a principle.

I do not regard "merit" as the the exclusive criterion of an ideal franchise. At the least I would insist on hearing a very solid definition of merit before subscribing to such a principle.

That sounds like a cop-out on this specific question: is it legitimate to deny the franchise to women regardless of merit?

In the north of England, where I come from, we have a saying: "Sh*t, or get off the pot."

Is it legitimate to deny the franchise to women regardless of their intelligence, achievements and accomplishments, but not to men, regardless of their intelligence, achievements and accomplishments?

Is it or isn't it? Get off that pot - or fence.

So, is the question, is it _inherently evil_ for any country to have a male-only franchise?

I would say, no, though I think it is unwise. Man, after all, is fallen. And for that matter, I would make the same comment about many limitations on the franchise that come to mind. Universal suffrage for non-criminals above the age of 21 or 22 or so seems to me probably wisest for avoiding a dangerous concentration of power that could harm those not having the franchise. I could be wrong about this, though, as it depends on predictions about consequences.

The question you pose is, in fact unanswerable, though not for the reason you imagine. It is unanswerable because no one here willing to contemplate the ideal scope and extent of the franchise would bother to propose such an absurdity as universal male suffrage, combined with universal female exclusion. Rather, we would propose that a majority of men also be excluded from the franchise; assuredly, the "stupid and useless" would be excluded, to a man. Many men not "stupid and useless" would doubtless also be excluded. For example, hedge fund operators and derivatives traders are neither stupid nor entirely useless, though I'd really rather they not vote, and not have any political influence whatsoever.

So, is the question, is it _inherently evil_ for any country to have a male-only franchise?

I don't think that's the question. In the past we had such societies. They weren't necessarily evil; just not as developed. But I agree that, in our society at least, it is unwise.

The question I have not had answered is:

Is it legitimate to deny the franchise to women regardless of their intelligence, achievements and accomplishments, but not to men, regardless of their intelligence, achievements and accomplishments?

Basically, we've levelled the playing field, and it is a straight yes or no choice. Two people, "alike in dignity" - ie, same qualifications, status, education, IQ, salary, marital status, the lot. One is a man and one is a woman. Should the former be given a vote and not the latter?

an absurdity as universal male suffrage, combined with universal female exclusion.

But that is not, actually, what I am asking. Please see my last comment about one man and one woman, same qualifications/status etc. And please, somebody, answer yes or no.

Mary Jackson: is the phrase "sh*t, or get off the pot" of North English origin?

I would be sorry to think so.

Believe me - it is, unfortunately, all too well known here in the States.

Steve:

But why "unfortunately"? It is a down-to-earth expression, and one that Hamlet could have used.

Thank you, by the way, for what you said about my posts at NER. I don't often have these long, political disagreements. Usually I post about fun things.

But bear in mind - the idea/proposal/theory is being discussed/mooted/tossed/run up the flagpole that it is/may be/might be/ would be acceptable/desirable/conservative/legitimate to deprive me of my right to have a say in the laws that govern me. Yes, really. Seriously.

And I don't like it. And when people say they don't really mean it, I'm suspicious.

Must be the time of the month.

The very fact that some of us occasionally entertain - or are willing to entertain - hypothetical discussions of the franchise demonstrates that the question is not a simple, binary "yes or no" choice. Political deliberation is always - or, at least, always ought to be - the application of wisdom to the contingencies of history; it is, that is to say, prudential. Prudential means "based on more than the merits of respective individuals", at a minimum.

FWIW, some alterations in eligibility for the franchise I would like to see would be more stringent prohibitions/exclusion of convicted felons, returning the age of eligibility to 21 or 22, the exclusion of those living on the dole or receiving outsized percentages of the societal product.

hypothetical discussions of the franchise demonstrates that the question is not a simple, binary "yes or no" choice.

Hmm. Is that a yes or a no?

OK, simple question repeated:

Two people: same qualifications, status, education, IQ, salary, marital status, criminal record or lack of it and same age.

One is a man and one is a woman. Should the former be given a vote and not the latter?

Is this really so hypothetical? In a country of 300,000,000 people?

Why is this so difficult. Yes or no?

Mary (if I may) - no doubt Hamlet *could* have used that expression, but I'm glad he didn't.

Otherwise, pax, and all the best.

Pax tecum.

No one is proposing stripping women of the franchise in present-day America. An hypothetical discussion means exceptionally little in this regard, since the conditions of the hypothetical will never obtain in the actual world. In Actually Existing America, the answer is no. In any number of Possible Americas, mileage may vary. The essential worth and dignity of no one is at issue here. But since you are so attached to the matter of the merit of your hypothetical individuals, I should state that I'd rather devise a means of excluding the cretinous. Intelligent, virtuous, accomplished people should vote; the ignorant and vicious should not.

Maximos wrote: “[S]ome alterations in eligibility for the franchise I would like to see would be... returning the age of eligibility to 21 or 22...”

I think it’s interesting that some of the “liberalizing” of American society -- especially the expansion of civil and political rights -- was linked to wars and the impulse to reward ex-soldiers. After the Spanish-American War, World War I, and especially after WWII, due to their service in the armed forces, blacks felt emboldened to push harder for their civil rights, and whites felt inclined to yield.

If there were no Vietnam War, would there have been a 26th Amendment?

Yes, but I tried to translate "the woman and man should both be given the vote" or "the man shouldn't have the vote if the woman doesn't have it" as "it would be inherently evil if they weren't treated the same," and the answer was, "No, that's not what I meant."

Now, any imaginary country-building (for which I, for one, don't have much taste) is going to consider the extent of the franchise, unless it has no franchise (which I think would be a bad idea). So, are we imagining this hypothetical man and woman existing in _some particular_ country, in any country we want to make up, or what? And when we say, "Should the man have the vote and not the woman?" Or "Is it legitimate for the man to have the vote and not the woman?" are we asking:

1) If you're building some imaginary utopia, and you envisage it as having male-only suffrage, and you think this might be some sort of excellent imaginary country, are you radically misevaluating?

2) Is it _wrong_ in any country whatsoever that women do not vote and men do? (Note that this is pretty much identical to the "inherently evil" version I asked before.)

3) Would it be _wrong_ to disenfranchise women who already have the vote but not men in any country whatsoever?

4) Ditto to 3 for the United States of America?

Or, finally, let's try

5) If you are in a country where women do not vote but are otherwise doing extremely well, should you nonetheless be a suffragette on the grounds that it is a manifest injustice (read, "wrong") in the laws of that land for women not to have the vote and for men to have it?

If we are talking about hypothetical worlds I don't know why we are restricting ourselves to democracies. I have monarchist sympathies myself, though it is impossible to imagine America becoming monarchical through a legitimate process in the next couple of lifetimes.

And Mary, I'll answer your question directly: I have no problem entertaining the notion of a male-only electorate and reasoning my way to the consequences without being offended a priori by the mere postulate. There are conceivable worlds in which all else equal a male-only electorate would have better consequences than a co-ed franchise.

One thing though is that you seem to think it is possible at least in the abstract to postulate men and women with identical attributes like "marital status". That doesn't really work though. Only a man can be a husband and father, and only a woman can be a wife and mother. That people not yoked to modern liberal autonomy theory don't immediately bite on the hypothetical may be related to the fact that they don't share your assumptions about the very possibility of "all else equal".

I'd be a happy and loyal subject with Lydia as queen though.

Oh, my answers to 1-5 above are as follows:

1, 2, and 5, are "no." 3 and 4 are "probably yes, but this has next to nothing to do with gender."

Is it legitimate to deny the franchise to women regardless of their intelligence, achievements and accomplishments, but not to men, regardless of their intelligence, achievements and accomplishments?

Yes. The converse would also be legitimate, as would denying the franchise to all citizens. It would be legitimate because natural justice, i.e. what is due to a person qua person, does not demand anyone be given the franchise. As such, it does not violate natural justice to deny anyone the franchise.

Now, would it be politically just, i.e. would it best provide for the commonweal? That question cannot be answered without examining the specific character of the people to be governed and their current political system, in which any number of other factors will play a role in deciding which, if any, citizens should be extended the franchise. Which renders the question unanswerable, insofar as we are discussing politics. Which, unless I have erred in reading his responses, was Maximos' point.

Maximos, your comment about disenfranchising hedge fund managers is interesting. Just as a related notion, perhaps a progressive poll tax with a minimum ante and otherwise indexed to income would produce interesting results.

Brendon writes:

"Now, would it be politically just, i.e. would it best provide for the commonweal? That question cannot be answered without examining the specific character of the people to be governed and their current political system, in which any number of other factors will play a role in deciding which, if any, citizens should be extended the franchise. Which renders the question unanswerable, insofar as we are discussing politics."

Precisely. And this is the immediate reason why I have no notion of taking away the women's franchise in the actually existing America. We would have to visualize a radically different America. It couldn't just be the women's vote that would be different; all kinds of factors would have to be different.

As far as Jackson's question is concerned, IF there were such a retraditonalized, more family-oriented, less individualistic society in which it was appropriate to return to smaller franchise, including a more restricted franchise for men and no franchise for women, then I would have no problem saying that a woman equally as intelligent as a man could not vote, while the man could, because this is not about the individual, it is about the organic structure of society. If an exceptionally intelligent woman could vote, then soon all women would demand the vote, and we're back where we started.

At the same time, I could visualize yet another system of social organization in which, while most women could not vote, women who had exceptional qualities could vote.

The point is: women's franchise is NOT an absolute moral issue. It is a prudential issue, contingent on the specific character of the society.

In any case, there is no possibility of women's vote being taken away in the foreseeable future in this country, or of any effort to make that happen, so Jackson's obsession on this point has been odd indeed. But we cannot expect reasonable statements on any subject from a person who thinks and who publicly stated that my criticisms of Hirsi Ali over the Islam question are driven by my feeling that Ali is "too uppity." Until Mary Jackson takes that statement back, she remains sub-intellectual in my book.

OK, at least that's clear, if contemptible. And since that is the opinion, there is no need to couch it in waffle. Best that women know where they stand.

In any case, there is no possibility of women's vote being taken away in the foreseeable future in this country, or of any effort to make that happen, so Jackson's obsession on this point has been odd indeed.

No it isn't. There is no possibility of Jews/blacks being disenfranchised in the foreseeable future, or of slavery being brought back. But those who can tolerate with equanimity the idea of such injustices are worthy of ridicule at best.

Yes, Mr Auster. Hirsi Ali is indeed too uppity for you. No perhaps about it. As am I and any other intelligent women.

What a sad commentary on the state of "conservatism." Modern men, even "Christians," can't quite bring themselves to state clearly and unequivocally to feminist liberals like Ms. Jackson that of course women should not have the franchise. Why must they not? Because there is such a thing as hierarchy in the created order. It is not the role of women to stand as equals with men. It is not natural or desirable that nations should be swayed by the council of women.(Gasp! Shriek! Horrors!)

Have you all really not noticed that the Democrat candidate always carries a majority of the white female vote? I think Ms. Jackson has, and it is the source of her bile. (At least some of it.)If women didn't have the franchise, there would never be another Democrat president. Of course Ms. Jackson is right that it is not respectable to say these things. In a thoroughly corrupt society one can never utter the truth without consequences. Today, everyone is a liberal. So-called "conservatives" are as much in thrall to the principle of equivalence as any liberal. So, here it is in black and white: Men and women are not "equal" in any respect save that of dignity in the eyes of God. The failure to recognize and respect this empirical fact is at the root of much of our current malaise.

There is no possibility of Jews/blacks being disenfranchised in the foreseeable future

Yes there is. Jewish women, black women.

Must be the time of the month.

I've heard this advanced as an argument against making any woman president. And if she can't be president, should she be allowed to vote for one? Lydia, any thoughts?

I think Auster was foolish to raise the question of re-considering the female franchise. But Hirsi Ali is not uppity (and Auster cannot be so divorced from modern reality to think so). In other words, she does not put on airs but has earned the humble freedom-loving righteousness she effects. She knows her place. In fact, her true individuality, out of Somalia, should be seen as an important revelation of our times. This is so quite aside from what one thinks of her limited understanding of religion in general, especially Christianity.

Have you all really not noticed that the Democrat candidate always carries a majority of the white female vote? I think Ms. Jackson has, and it is the source of her bile. (At least some of it.)If women didn't have the franchise, there would never be another Democrat president.

Not at all. I'm from England. We had Margaret Thatcher, the best Prime Minister since Churchill. And she was, of course, Conservative.

Should women be allowed to vote after the menopause?

Bill, it's actually an interesting question to what extent or in what areas the existence of female, er, emotionalism, conditioned by hormones, should influence public policy. My own opinion is that, though the phenomenon is certainly real, its severity varies sufficiently from one woman to another, and men have enough of their own stereotypical but real problem tendencies, that it probably shouldn't have a major effect on public policy--e.g. on who has the vote--by itself.

I do think it's entirely legitimate that such considerations influence hiring decisions, when an employer has seen how they affect his own business. And in public life, they should certainly influence direct life-or-death areas of work--e.g. the army.

What is astonishing is that any woman should get furiously indignant at the possibility of group differences as an influence on public policy and then should excuse her obsession on a particular point on the grounds that it's "that time of month." Was that a joke, an apology, or just an unintended irony? I'd like to think that when any of us--male or female--behaves irrationally because of physical causes, we would be embarrassed by this and would apologize for it (perhaps without naming the causes in mixed company) and back off.

Was that a joke

You have to ask?

Oh, I forgot - this is an American website.

Ms. Jackson:

I wonder what the comment that "this is an American website" implies. I wonder if it is a jab at that old American earnestness which so bemused your esteemed countryman Chesterton. If so, I feel constrained to point out that your demands for answers to abstract propositions -- that is to say, propositions entirely divorced from the tangle of real-world facts and distinctions -- strike several of us here as annoyingly earnest, and even a bit pedantic.

Might you take a moment to reply to the point made (now several times, with admirable clarity) in reply to your insistent question, namely that, as Brendon put it, "it cannot be answered without examining the specific character of the people to be governed and their current political system"?

I might add that this sort of response to political abstraction has a very British pedigree indeed: from Oakeshott to Burke and Hume, British political theorists have long emphasized the importance of the particular.

Self-evidently, I'm talking about Western-style democracies rather than totalitarian societies.

So my comparison of an American/British/Australian/French etc man and woman, equal in qualifications and achievements and so forth. Should the man have the vote and the woman not? The answer, according to some, is an honest yes.

I value the honesty, but have nothing but contempt for the opinion.

Well, now look here: this is exactly the sort of thing some of us are talking about -- the peril of political abstraction, "abbreviations" of living traditions, in Oakeshott's fine phrase, is that they often obscure more than they reveal. Here we are presented with a simple binary: "Western-style democracies" and "totalitarian societies." As if those were the exclusive options.

Consider this: America is not a democracy, strictly speaking. She is a republic, and though I fear to tread with my pedantry here, this seems relevant to the discussion at hand. For example, it is a plain pulverizing fact that a Wyoming woman's vote in a Senate race counts for a great deal more than a New York woman, quite independent of intelligence, dignity or anything else.

To take another specific policy question, I would favor the repeal of the 17th Amendment (not, mind you, the 19th), which might be interpreted as a pretty severe narrowing of the franchise.

Again, it's all in the particulars.

Husband and wife - living in the same town/state, obviously, both lawyers, neither has criminal record, same educational qualificatiions, one votes one doesn't. Right or wrong?

At least some people have given an honest answer.

The argument against the female franchise isn't really about the intellectual capacity of the female, although admittedly it is brought up. The denial is based on male headship of the household. When the franchise is further restricted to landed men, I think it is quite apparent that the restriction of the franchise is being done in recognition of higher institutions than the individual but lower than the State.

As for me, I've advanced to being a fledgling monarchist. How we arrive at who is in authority is not as important to me as long as he is just or I'm free to leave his lordship.

Husband and wife - living in the same town/state, obviously, both lawyers, neither has criminal record, same educational qualifications, one votes one doesn't. Right or wrong?

Both lawyers? Then they're both out. No franchise for lawyers.

Do they have children? My ideal republic would weigh votes based on size of household, and I wouldn't much care which one of them casts the weighted vote.

Do they depend for their income on the state? Here I follow another Englishman, John Stewart Mill -- and a Liberal at that -- and say that anyone who derives his or her income from the commonweal should have no vote. Corrupt voters are worse than corrupt politicians. So if the wife is a government employee, she's out.

Husband and wife - living in the same town/state, obviously, both lawyers, neither has criminal record, same educational qualificatiions, one votes one doesn't. Right or wrong?

It is not wrong in principle for anyone at all to be denied the franchise, according to virtually any group lines.

Suppose that racially white people had by and large and quite distinctively developed a self-destructive urban subculture. Suppose it would be inordinately difficult and expensive to screen potential white voters for the relatively small number of sane voters who will vote intelligently and for substantively good policy from among whites in general. There would be nothing wrong with simply excluding whites from the franchise in such a case. The same holds true for any ethnic or religious group. In particular it might be wise to explicitly exclude Moslems from the franchise at this particular contingent point in history.

The hysteria with which Mary Jackson discusses such abstract possibilities as (e.g.) racial exclusion from the franchise in a modern democracy leads me to conclude that while perhaps not all women should be excluded from the franchise there is at least one particular one which should. And that isn't because of that one's uppitiness, it is because of that one's irrational prejudice against the discussion of what effects policy has on the common good.

No franchise for lawyers? What about accountants?

Mmm, I rather like the idea of government employees not having the vote. In the UK, the public sector has become bloated as the Labour government expands its voting base. (State employees, obviously, tend to vote left because they want to expand the state.) But that isn't directly a male/female thing, though it may be indirectly if more women are employed by the state..

I think it important to re-emphasize that the genesis of this little contretemps over the franchise and its extent lies in a juxtaposition of incommensurables: a discussion of hypothetical conditions, entailing an entirely different societal order, under which the franchise might be restricted, and a discussion of the actual political agitations of Hirsi Ali, involving fulminations against the public influence of Christianity, the suppression of conservative political parties which sought to preserve a Western and national patrimony, and remarks to the effect that gradualist Islamization is acceptable provided that it transpires democratically. In other words, substantive objections to Ali's public philosophy have been transmuted, by some mysterious alchemy, to insubstantial objections grounded in irrational animus, with the process justified by reference to a theoretical discussion. But the reasons operative in the respective discussions are incommensurable; one does not deduce a pragmatic position on issues of current moment from a theoretical discussion without reference or relevance to present circumstances. Unless, of course, one is engaged in psychoanalysis of the sort practiced by the left.

That is true Maximos, but I don't understand the hysteria - the reduction to pure unreason - even over the abstract discussion. There isn't anything inherently wrong with excluding people from the franchise by race, sex, religion, propensity to commit sodomy, particular connections to history, professed affection for particular forms of art, or choice of pet.

In particular it isn't inter alia morally wrong nor even a bad idea as a practical matter to, as a new initiative, exclude Moslems from the franchise in Western democracies as they stand right now. That is precisely a case where it isn't at all obvious that the value of adding that particular voice to outcomes warrants the cost and effectiveness of screening for sane individuals

Zippy, my suggestion that hedge fund operators and derivatives traders be excluded from the franchise is not an idle one. Given the distortions of policy and economic development that such practices, along with those of the modern, mercenary CEO, who boosts "shareholder value" by gutting the company, outsourcing production and most services, and reducing the corporation to a shell, a glorified middleman function, have introduced into the commonweal, I would like to contemplate something like a steeply progressive poll tax. One that rises imperceptibly as income rises through the majority of the quintiles, but then reaches a certain point at which it begins to increase logarithmically, to the extent that it acts as a deterrent to voting on the part of the inhabitants of richistan. Some people - many people - really ought not vote, and that for the sake of the common good.

The hysteria, I believe, derives from a conviction that the liberal belief in absolute nondiscrimination between groups and individuals, and absolutely equal treatment of groups and individuals by public authority, is a sine qua non of morality. This conviction may be fudged by reference to historical development or progress, but it seems to me to be a sort of universalism, an ideological postulate.

It is worth noting, as you have done here and over at NER, that - in my words - the natural law does not entail a representative form of government, let alone a particular construction of the franchise. That simply is not how natural law works.

The other tacit shibboleth operating here is the idea that if it's *not your fault* it's wrong that you suffer or lose anything for it, at least wrong if that suffering is the result of some explicit and widespread policy.

Now, in lots of cases, it's probably best to avoid such situations. But it certainly isn't always wrong. It isn't wrong that young men in their twenties should pay higher auto insurance rates than young women of the same age, even though it isn't their fault that they are male, and even if some given young man is a careful driver.

Examples could be multiplied, both formal and informal. Usually your garden-variety liberal doesn't complain when these sorts of inductively driven policies disadvantage men. When they disadvantage women or minorities, though, look out. And I gather the auto insurance thing has been challenged by suit in the EU, so I guess they're trying to get super-duper consistent with the metaprinciple.

Zippy,

How would you reconcile such a view to Nostra Aetate?

Lydia, that is quite true. Speaking as a male, I can verify that those statistical generalizations penalized me during precisely those years when I both owned high-performance automobiles and had no traffic citations. But that did not render the policy, or its effects, unjust.

As regards the EU, well, all that means is that every motorist will be subjected to higher premiums, which will engender additional suits, ad nauseum. Sounds like hell to me.

They tried to do that in the EU but either didn't succeed or didn't succeed in the UK, where differential rates, rightly apply. Similar differential rates work the other way round with annuities, which are more expensive for women because they live longer.

This is common sense. It is not on a par with taking away something as basic as the right to vote.

How would you reconcile such a view to Nostra Aetate?

I am not under the impression that Nostra Aetate says anything prescriptive about the particular form of government under which we live and, in this particular form under which we happen to live, who in particular should and should not as a prudential matter exercise the franchise power on behalf of the common good.

Ms. Jackson, given that most of us here have disavowed the proposition that "the right to vote" is indeed as basic as you assume, you might want to try a different tact.

You anti-AA types like to focus on the advantages I may have received, while ignoring the disadvantages my family endured because my dad couldn't get hired for the job he was qualified for due to race.

Boo hoo hoo, you want some cheese with your whine? My grandfather had to leave school and go to work at age 12 because of his class and nationality. My mother suffered numerous career disadvantages due to her gender. Does society owe me any favors because of the bad things my ancestors have experienced? And should others be penalized to make up for past injustices? No, of course not.

When does all this stop? Does society owe your family an unlimited debt for all time? When do we cease penalizing poor white kids in order to reward middle class black kids?

given that most of us here have disavowed the proposition that "the right to vote" is indeed as basic as you assume, you might want to try a different tact.

I think you mean "tack".

To me the right to vote is basic. It was to those who fought for it, and in some cases died for it certainly here in the UK. In America too, presumably, there was a struggle for the vote, for men as well as women.

Perhaps some posters here are taking for granted a right that their ancestors did not. They would not be the first to do this.

The right to vote is basic as an historic achievement of our civilization; it is not basic as a human right, as any consideration of the obvious exceptions will make manifest. Once one has enumerated the obvious exclusions, an exercise tantamount to stating that the franchise is conditioned upon a variety of factors, evaluated prudentially, it becomes plain that the franchise is not requisite to human dignity.

Perhaps some posters here are taking for granted a right that their ancestors did not.

The phrase "taking for granted" implies that the value and status of the thing is misunderstood or underappreciated. But that is precisely what is at issue, or at least is part of what is at issue. So when you say that people who don't agree with you are taking the franchise for granted that is begging the question, isn't it?

No, it isn't begging the question. It's disagreeing on the importance of something.

However, I suspect that the vote, which is said to be a secondary matter when it comes to women having it, would suddenly get more important if men stood to lose it.

No, it isn't begging the question. It's disagreeing on the importance of something.

Then why didn't you actually say "Perhaps some posters are disagreeing about the importance of something that some of their ancestors thought was more important?"

Doesn't have quite the same punch, precisely because it doesn't beg the question.

Eh? That's very convoluted.

I think the vote is a basic right. Your ancestors recognised this when they fought for it. You do not, ostensibly. In practice, however, I suspect that the right would be seen as basic if men stood to lose it rather than merely women.

Oh, and Mary: it is a wee bit ironic for you to think I in particular would get upset about being disenfranchised or discussing my disenfranchisement, because I don't vote. I think voting as today's public ritual has a lot more to do with reinforcing moral consequentialism and affirming one's personal loyalty to the advanced liberal order than with acting as a popular constraint on the concentration of power (the latter being a legitimate prudential use of a fairly widespread franchise). You can threaten to take something away from me that I neither have nor want to have all you want without setting fire to my knickers.

Zippy,

I would think such a prescription would violate the following:

No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.

The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to "maintain good fellowship among the nations" (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men,(14) so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.


(Nostra Aetate 15)

In this country at least, you would have difficulty establishing that voting wasn't a universal right. This right would be restricted certainly on such grounds as imprisonment or having been a felon. How one would do so on religion, I don't see, not that I would be opposed to it. Personally, I would be willing to limit the franchise to Catholics. I'm not sure I can licitly make such a declaration though.

In this country at least, you would have difficulty establishing that voting wasn't a universal right.

No I wouldn't. Voting in this country - in any and every country which has ever existed, in fact - is manifestly not a universal right.

Zippy - you don't vote. There's a world of difference between that and not being allowed to vote. Your non-vote is your way of expressing your choice.

If the vote is such an insignificant thing, not worth bothering about, why do Auster and co think it's such a dangerous thing for women to have?

Wiki Scholar says:
Universal suffrage (also general suffrage or common suffrage) consists of the extension of the right to vote to all adults, without distinction as to race, sex, belief, intelligence, or economic or social status. Universal suffrage in colloquial speech often indicates nearly universal suffrage; for example, according to the CIA World Factbook, the United States is considered to have universal suffrage [1] despite the fact that roughly 5.3 million of its citizens cannot vote due to felony convictions.

If the vote is such an insignificant thing, not worth bothering about, ...

If you think that I've said that, you have misunderstood. I don't vote precisely because of voting's particular significance as the cornerstone public sacrament of today's secular liberal religion. This interesting tempest in a teapot has reinforced my perception of it as such. To you, and probably to the majority of modern people, denying women the vote is like denying women the Sacraments; the outward signs of the inward embrace of moral consequentialism and the liberal religion. I don't vote precisely as my personal negation of that.

...the United States is considered to have universal suffrage...

Three points:

(1) That somebody somewhere considers something to be true doesn't make it actually true or even coherent.

(2) Stipulating that a thing is universal does not constitute establishing it as a universal right of the sort required by the natural law.

(3) I've stated before my reservations about the use of rights-talk in general when trying to make precise points of this nature.

I think I understand now. I would still argue that, without the right to vote, your moral or principled stance would be invalid because you would have no choice.

In the UK we have storms in teacups rather than tempests in teapots. This may be because our country is smaller than yours. I never trust Americans on the subject of tea, not after than Boston Harbour business.

I would still argue that, without the right to vote, your moral or principled stance would be invalid because you would have no choice.

I don't think so. An episcopalian has no right to Communion at a Catholic Mass, but that doesn't make him any less a Protestant. It makes him more of one, if anything.

I never trust Americans on the subject of tea, not after than Boston Harbour business.

I can't blame you for that. I enjoy my earl gray enough to pay the 2% tax without complaint.

The criticisms of Mary here strike me as silly, intellectualism for the sake of intellectualism. Mary's original criticism of Auster was not some abstraction about an inherent right to the franchise: Auster's discussion was clearly about modern America. And anyway, while one might argue that there is no inherent right to the franchise in natural law, it should be clear that we have evolved the near universal adult franchise as part of an ongoing revelation into the nature of humanity: the fact that what is most fundamental to our Being is the exchange of signs. That exchange surely did begin as an all-male affair, to regulate or defer male violence, but that's no argument to deny women membership in the franchise, in a fuller realization of our humanity in this day and age (shouldn't we want women to become more fully human, as history expands the range of the human, and less animal?). If women were clearly making insane choices with the franchise, men might wish to take it away, but that is a pragmatic question that any serious reference to our world will surely show to be dubious. Who here has made the case beyond vague references to the female propensity to vote Democratic (a party I too despise, in its current configuration, even as I think a two-party system is much preferable to one)?

We don't have the franchise to realize some perfection but to increase the feedback loops by which we learn (slowly, with time) from our mistakes which we must assume will characterize all voting patterns. Now, if a certain people, say orthodox Muslims, profess a religion that is clearly antagonistic to the expansion of human reciprocity, to free political and economic markets, then one has a case for denying them membership in our society. But letting them in AND denying the franchise strikes me as a recipe for trouble. Whatever women's political stupidities, most generally, I don't notice many American women taking religious stances fundamentally exposed to the expansion of human freedom (notwithstanding the insanities of academic feminism). And if you want to argue, as a general rule, against the expansion of freedom, in some fey conservative mysticism, you probably don't understand what the survival of any human order (survival of itself and of the resentments it generates) ultimately depends on.

And anyway, while one might argue that there is no inherent right to the franchise in natural law, it should be clear that we have evolved the near universal adult franchise as part of an ongoing revelation into the nature of humanity: the fact that what is most fundamental to our Being is the exchange of signs. That exchange surely did begin as an all-male affair, to regulate or defer male violence, but that's no argument to deny women membership in the franchise, in a fuller realization of our humanity in this day and age (shouldn't we want women to become more fully human, as history expands the range of the human, and less animal?).

That is as good an expression as I have seen of how modern people treat voting like a religious sacrament. It is precisely this understanding of voting which must be utterly overthrown if the feeble remains of Western Christendom is to survive.

Sensible comment, John. As for the insanities of academic feminism, I regularly and mercilessly ridicule these. See, for example, my post here - These charges of political correctness are absurd.

I don't fully understand your argument to engage it Zippy. Do you propose that humanity can live without a "secular" form of the sacred, that it is sufficient to order society on a strictly Christian sacrament? Christianity separates church and state for a reason, but surely it is not to disavow the need for Christians to participate in the state or to seek to own their own state. And if they are to participate in politics, then surely they need some kind of political sacrament, not to be confused with the Eucharist.

Most people don't hold opinions worth holding, and so increasing the scope of the feedback loops that accommodate the expression of their negations of wisdom only multiplies, logarithmically, the quantity of folly within society. The franchise was only extended within Western society because it was believed that each individual had a right to the expression and representation of his views; if one does not think a view worthy of either, this problem does not present itself.

Do you propose that humanity can live without a "secular" form of the sacred, that it is sufficient to order society on a strictly Christian sacrament?

The problem isn't public ritual in the abstract, I suppose, but the inward political "graces" which this particular public ritual has come to represent, as illustrated concretely by your comment in particular and this whole discussion more generally.

To Mary Jackson... seeing that you have so much to say about this topic, why didn't you keep the thread OPEN on your own site (the New English Review) instead of closing it just when Lawrence Auster was attacked by Undercover Not-So-Black Man??

Greco, as I said, that thread had run its course and was becoming a platform for silly arguments. I didn't even read David Mills' comment, though naturally, if anyone is going to have the last word, I'd rather it were someone sympathetic to my views.

Lawrence Auster was given plenty of space to express his views. If you go on a website and call the host a sub-intellectual idiot, finding the thread eventually closed is the least of it - on other sites such people generally get banned.

I note that LA does not even have open comments and never seems to post dissenting views.

Step2:

Kazakhstan, Moldova had women voting (for what it is worth under communism and chaos since then) at least from 1925 on.

One would think that a commenter at this site knows that.

"When do we cease penalizing poor white kids in order to reward middle class black kids?"

Especially upper middle class black kids when blackness is deduced from a bad photoshopped photo.

Of course Mr. Auster with his magic ability to deduce race from such photos is the only known exemption.

mik: I only became "upper middle class" in the last 15 years. My father was born poor... and the U.S. government did its best to keep him in the lower class by denying him a job for which he was qualified. (Again, until Truman desegrated the civil service in '48).

Also, I don't believe in AA as a permanent entitlement. I think it served its purpose (a little balancing the books, a little settling of accounts, a temporary shifting of unfair advantages) and should now be abandoned. Today, I am a strict meritocrat. (And even under those rules, you couldn't carry my jock strap.)

john, I entirely disagree. The discussion ostensibly began concerning Auster's views of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As far as I know, that subject was never discussed!!! How silly, and unfortunate, as it could have been an interesting discussion.

Auster, in the post of his that generated such comment, was discussing whether, as an historical matter, women's having been given the vote had been a good or bad thing for America. Yes, he was discussing the _history_ of the United States. No, he was in no wise proposing that in the _future_ we take away the vote in the U.S. from women. Is that so hard to keep straight? Or are we just calling him a liar to his, er, keyboard (or whatever one says in cyberspace)?

It is _precisely_ Mary Jackson who has turned this into an abstract discussion. She's positively insisted on being told whether some man and some woman in some non-specified country (just in some sense a Western democracy) who are otherwise entirely equal in abilities, etc., "should" both have the vote. And without defining "should," yet! She insisted on discussing the voting issue on the original thread and insisted on discussing it here. How is this not all about an abstract right? It sure sounds like it to me. What would have been more concrete would have been a discussion of why Auster actually thinks Hirsi Ali isn't an ally against Islam. Discussing it in particular, with reference to the arguments he really gives.

As for all this stuff about how the "exchange of signs is most fundamental to our Being," that's getting so abstract I can scarcely breathe at the elevation! Please, is anyone seriously under the impression that the American revolution was fought and the country founded so that people could exchange signs as part of what is "fundamental to their being"?

Our founders made quite a big deal about "no taxation without representation." But it's clear from sheer and easy history that what counted as "representation" was not, and was not intended to be, universal sufferage--one man/one vote. So what this all pretty much comes down to is outrage over the notion that men can represent the women in their families, or in their regions, or in their towns, or whatever, in the exercise of the franchise.

I tend to think it wouldn't be the best prudential idea, but certainly it is possible, was in fact done for well over a hundred years of our country's history, and is in itself not a horrible insult to women.

Most people don't hold opinions worth holding, and so increasing the scope of the feedback loops that accommodate the expression of their negations of wisdom only multiplies, logarithmically, the quantity of folly within society.

-Well, two issues here: 1) if it is worth holding good opinions, and if the disenfranchised become sufficiently and stupidly resentful and thus a threat to the system (which i think is the real reason behind the historical expansion of the franchise - a reasonable fear of mob violence or unruly women) how do we improve the quality of opinions and maintain the political system (protecting it from the resentments it inevitably creates) without increasing the scope of feedback loops and hoping people will slowly learn to become more rational about their stake in the system? You seem to deny that the stupid ever learn. I think you should at least admit that stupidity today in the West is not what it once was. 2) a certain amount of irrationalism is a necessary part of any political system or any free market. Politics is not meant simply to represent fundamental truths (not that one can ever finally destroy the uncertainty on which political or economic market freedom depends); it is in large part a pragmatic business of getting people to go along with others or to oppose with a minimum of violence. A certain amount of cheap religion is necessary to any form of politics (whether democratic or not), which is why it should be separated from the higher religious pursuits (separated through the multiplication of thinking, talking, and even liturgical, sites and their feedback loops - is this blog so much unlike thousands of others?), even as politics remains in discussion with the religious sacred.

We should denigrate democratic politics for its limits, which are never fixed, but this politics is still part of a necessary learning process by which more people can hope to become more fully human. Absent a democratic world and only a clerical elite, or the occasional genius (Joan of Arc) can realize the spiritual truths of Judeo-Christian religion. The idea that we are a less Christian society today than a thousand years ago is one I would debate.

The problem isn't public ritual in the abstract, I suppose, but the inward political "graces" which this particular public ritual has come to represent, as illustrated concretely by your comment in particular and this whole discussion more generally.

-well, I am in search of grace, and i can only assume it comes from God or from an acceptance and understanding of the more religious, not political, forms of the sacred. But I don't see how my argument about freedom concretely illustrates what I take you to be calling a form of Gnosticism. I will admit that I have been a Gnostic, and that my rehab has entailed the understanding that we can never be completely freed of Gnostic impulses; one definition of the word, after all, is simply "imagination", some form of which is necessary to allowing society to create and survive its limits, which is not to say imagination doesn't also often get us in trouble.

I think you should at least admit that stupidity today in the West is not what it once was.

A quick flip through the cable channels confirms that as hands down the funniest line of the thread.

But I don't see how my argument about freedom concretely illustrates what I take you to be calling a form of Gnosticism.

I don't believe I brought up the term. But my polemic against voting as a sacrament of modern liberalism, as an outward sign of that inner affirmation of the primacy of abstract political equality and moral consequentialism above all other values, will have to wait for another day. Pax.

Lydia, I'll go along with your history of Auster and Ali. Ultimately, my criticism of Auster would have to do with his interpretation of history; maybe he was only being completely open to debate but I think he was raising criticisms of the female franchise, as distinct from criticism of women's voting patterns; and to the extent I think the franchise for women has been more a good than bad thing I disagree with his historical interpretation (and on other matters too). And I agree that discussion of Ali's views would be useful, not that I see her as a deep thinker worthy of much attention. Her contribution is in turning against Islam, telling people about her experience and defending freedom with the sincerity only someone who hasn't had it can do. Auster is right that this doesn't make her a serious commentator on Western society and Christianity. But it bothers me less than it does Auster that she is lauded for what she is. Ultimately this difference between us, about what or whom to laud, does not seem to me to be a matter that can lead to any profound discussion. I could be wrong.

As for all this stuff about how the "exchange of signs is most fundamental to our Being," that's getting so abstract I can scarcely breathe at the elevation! Please, is anyone seriously under the impression that the American revolution was fought and the country founded so that people could exchange signs as part of what is "fundamental to their being"?

Well, a certain amount of abstraction is inherent to language and discussions of how language works. But I am trying to keep things simple: what's the most basic definition of humans? what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal world? We are the species defined by our exchange of signs or symbolic language (which is not like the indexical signals of the animal world). What is our shared Being? It's our sense of a shared membership in a world of sacredness and significance that is only possible because we have symbolic language, for which God is the ultimate guarantor. The exchange of signs is fundamental to everything people do, unless you think we can be explained as animals. I am a Canadian in part because some of my ancestors, who once lived in the Carolinas, refused to share in the sign that was the Declaration of Independence, preferring to retain membership in the signs of loyalty to King George.

mik_infidelos,
Very good of you to explain. Sadly, I am the lone representative of the sub-intellectuals around here.

Mary,
I love how conservatives get all worked up about laws that would limit their right to own guns, but give them a chance to surrender their vote and it somehow fails to register that all other legal rights are contingent upon that vote.

Okay, I understand why you say what you do about signs and humanity and such, whether or not I agree with it en toto. But it certainly doesn't follow from any of that that it's incredibly important that women have the vote. Again, if some smaller number of adults can exercise the franchise "for" other adults who don't have the franchise, trying to represent the legitimate interests of their region and so forth, then why couldn't some of the ones who get represented by the vote only in this very indirect way be women?

I think part of the problem is this: Whenever someone tries to give an argument based on some other mutually acceptable and more basic principle to the conclusion that it's wrong to have a male-only franchise, it founders on the fact that it's morally okay for some men not to have the franchise. So, for example, it doesn't work to argue that the vote is a fundamental human right. And it doesn't work to argue that women must have the vote as a way of acknowledging their humanity (because otherwise we'd be denying the humanity of, say, non-landowners if they don't have the vote).

When this point is brought up, the response is that non-landowners can become landowners. Young men under 21 can grow up and be 21, and so forth, but women can't stop being women. Well, okay, but so what? Well, this is so what: The person making this argument just thinks it's something like a fundamental principle that it's always _wrong_, _unfair_, to restrict the franchise on the basis of gender. That's it. There really _is_ no other argument that can be given for it. You take it as self-evident or you don't.

Quite a number of us don't accept that overarching principle as self-evident, whether or not we think (as I do) that a fairly broad suffrage, including female suffrage, is a good idea for a lot of prudential reasons.

Step2, it's an odd thing, but the Founders evidently _did_ think the right to keep and bear arms more fundamental than the individual's right to vote, inasmuch as they wrote the former into the Bill of Rights but not the latter. I wonder, now, why might that be?

Here's an idea: How about we take away Mary Jackson's vote and give it to Lydia? That's a doubleheader sweep in my book.

Doesn't Mary Jackson have her own blog to ru(i)n? Isn't is called "Iconoclast"? Oh, don't you have fun smashing the idols of the Age!

David Mills: sorry, but AA has tainted your...body of work. It doesn't look so impressive over here, anyway. It's just a bunch of Hollywood dreck. Keep the bilge pumps running, Mr. Mills!

Lydia,
Because it was written in the Constitution proper. See Article One.

Gintas wrote: Keep the bilge pumps running, Mr. Mills!

You bet I will! It has made me a millionaire!

Lydia, I agree that it is largely a question of what you call prudential, or historical (contingent) reasons. But from whence this prudence if it cannot tell us something fundamental about our humanity? Of course there is no such thing as a fundamental human right, in the sense that all rights are bestowed by a political consensus that is not stable over time. Still, the powerful modern idea of a fundamental human right emerges as part of a growing intuition about: a) the basic (and conflicting) human imperatives of equality and freedom that are inherent to sharing in symbolic language - in order to work, a new sign must first emerge from individual freedom and then be shared more or less equally by the politically relevant parties (raising the question of who is a proper initiate or franchisee in the sign, something that depends on a political relevance which cannot be determined a priori, but is a product of events and their resolution); and b) what makes society more successful when put to the test of history - a society that values individuals becomes more successful and powerful compared to those that don't. At least that is what history has taught us so far. No doubt we are about to learn a further lesson.

As to the basis of representation... I think the fundamental institution of Western society is the nuclear family, whose essential product is the free individual who must compact with other members of small, mutually inter-dependent families. Ultimately it is nuclear families that must be represented politically (not individuals per se) but this is done through the free individuals that the Western family structure creates. At a time when it took the efforts of a whole family to produce (and even then many failed) one or a few competent public individuals, there was a certain logic in making the male head the free individual representative of the family. As we have become more productive by valuing the production of free individuals, we have had good reasons to want families to produce more of them, and some women, for such good reasons and not just from vanity, came to demand a role in this system of representation and the right to be treated as fully human individuals. While the sacralization of the individual has caused problems in the family and put in question our ability to reproduce ourselves, I think we will best learn from our mistakes and carry on by continuing to value women as free individuals who can learn from the mistakes of destructive freedom, e.g. of dogmatic feminism, careerism, etc.

It is certainly true that representative government does not mean that everyone has to be involved in every institution. To a large extent it depends on forms of voluntary self-sacrifice of time and energy, with individuals focussed on discrete parts of a huge network of institutions and representations. While this network is articulated through myriad "feedback" loops or interlocking representations, we still have to ask where ultimate legitimacy lies. Would it suffice that our neighborhoods, towns, cities, etc., be ultimately represented only by those who put in the time and effort to get involved in specific local institutions? Or do the people involved ultimately need feedback from the population at large? For various reasons, I think they need that ultimate feedback in order to do their jobs effectively, which is not to say I want to see specific institutions inundated with popular prejudices or daily referenda.

John - very good points. Our view of fundamental human rights does change over time. Thomas Jefferson had slaves. If a man has slaves now, it is repugnant; then it wasn't.

The British Empire was the best thing that ever happened to the world. But it did lots of things that we now regard as dubious.

Very small quibble - it is actually "referendums", not "referenda", because this is an anglicised Latin gerund, which has no plural. If anyone cares about this stuff, there's more here.

How about we take away Mary Jackson's vote and give it to Lydia?

Well, that's odd, because I vote Conservative. (In England, of course. If I lived in the USA, I would probably vote Republican.)

Have any posters an opinion on Margaret Thatcher, Reagan's ally and the UK's best Prime Minister since Churchill? She had "the body of a weak and feeble woman" as another great English leader said, but she could knock today's leaders, male and female, into a cocked hat.

Lydia seems very articulate and feisty, though I don't necessarily agree with her. I don't think she needs my vote to help her along.

Mary Jackson says that I called her a sub-intellectual idiot in her own blog. That is not true. I would not use such insulting language about the host of a blog where I was commenting. It was in an e-mail to her, after she had refused to post my answer to David Mills, adding the snotty comment that I should "lighten up," that I called her that. And then I posted the e-mail at my site.

In other words, when there is civilized discussion going on, one observes the rules of discussion. But when the other party violates the rules of discussion, as Jackson did when she posted Mills's untrue statement about me and refused to allow me to reply, then the discussion has ended and one is permitted to franker language.
.
By the way, the strongest language I used about Jackson at NER was this:

"Where do I start replying to this stunning display of incomprehension, undiluted liberalism, political correctness, and cheap ad hominem attack by the senior editor of what I had thought was an intellectual conservative website?"

In his comment of 4:14 pm, John misconstrues the basis of my criticisms of Hirsi Ali. I have not criticized her for not being a "serious commentatator on Western society and Christianity," nor have I criticized her for not being a "deep thinker." I have criticized her for her positions, namely that she is anti-Christian (attacking Christianity as "theocracy," which she sees as the equivalent to Islam, and equating Catholicism with Nazism); that she is a radical secularist, seeking to remove religion from society; that she opposes by totalitarian means attempts to reduce Muslim immigration (calling for the OUTLAWING of immigration restrictionist in Europe); and that her real aim is not to defend historical and modern Western civilization from Islam, but to turn the West into the radical left vision of the Open Society and a laboratory for the liberation and empowerment of Muslim women.

Here are several of my articles about her:

Hirsi Ali, the conservatives’ hero, wants to ban Belgian party...
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/005274.html

Hirsi Ali, the conservatives’ hero, lets it all hang out
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/007249.html
Ali equates Catholicism with Nazism

Hirsi Ali's anti-Christian agenda
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/005191.html

Why does Robert Spencer, a Christian conservative, support Hirsi Ali?
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/005608.html

Secularists who oppose religion instead of Islam
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/005176.html
The secular anti-Islamist manifesto signed by Ali and Ibn Warraq

Draft manifesto: Together facing the new Islamic jihad
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/005230.html
My alternative manifesto to the secularists' manifesto

Now we finally know for sure where Ali is really at
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/007288.html
Ali only opposes the promotion of sharia if it's promoted by violence and intimidation

What Hirsi Ali wants
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/007381.html
She doesn't believe in the West, but in using the West to spread "the open society," "a world-wide open field of radically liberated individuals."

I'm amazed to see this type of ignorant and stupid commentary at New English Review. I thought this was a, excuse the word, intellectual website.

Lawrence Auster at NER on this thread.

Larry, dear, do lighten up. For your own sanity.

Americans use the word "snotty" differently from English people. We would say "snooty". For more, see here.

"Larry, dear, do lighten up. For your own sanity."

You could do a lot worse than go and read Mr. Auster works. Instead of offering your deep thought advice that I'm sure Mr. Auster will take to the heart.

It is a virtually universal agreement that Mr. Auster is difficult to deal with (in domain of political punditry).

There is not so universal agreement that Mr. Auster is a first rate political intellect.

Unfortunately Mr. Auster does not help.

I used to write many email to Mr. Auster urging him not to get entangled in unending semi-personal disputes.

I don't do it anymore. He is what he is. I usually just skeep such squabbles.

Auster's Path to National Suicide that is almost 20 years old, was the first and still is one of the best calls to national sanity in dealing with immigration.

3 years ago, Mr. Auster starting from scratch as far as knowledge of Islam is concerned, developed doctrine of Civilizational Separation. I haven't seen anything out there that is implementable and has a very good chance of working.

Compare that with the best pundits from MSM. Practically no one even comes close.

Compare Auster's work in immigration and Islam War on the West with the best neocon pundits.

Will? Brooks? Girly Boys from National Review?
Bushbots like Rush and Ann Coulter? Are you kidding?


Auster's Path to National Suicide that is almost 20 years old, was the first and still is one of the best calls to national sanity in dealing with immigration.

I have recently read it, and I agree wholeheartedly. It is excellent.

He could still lighten up, though. Cleverness and frivolity are not mutually exclusive.

Step2, there is nothing in Article 1 that implies a general individual right to vote. Not one thing. You'd be on stronger constitutional grounds if you quoted Amendment 9 to me and told me I can't use the enumeration of rights in the Bill of Rights to disparage those unenumerated. But I certainly do disagree with you that being able to vote is more important than being able to bear arms. With the latter, we're talking about the means of self-defense against imminent personal attack. Even some minors should be allowed to bear arms, IMO, and cd. probably save a number of lives doing so.

john: "As we have become more productive by valuing the production of free individuals, we have had good reasons to want families to produce more of them, and some women, for such good reasons and not just from vanity, came to demand a role in this system of representation and the right to be treated as fully human individuals."
There you go again, as a famous man said. It just doesn't follow from the fact that someone doesn't have the vote that he isn't being treated as a fully human individual. Really. It doesn't.

I don't want to say, John, that there are no fundamental human rights if that's taken to mean that there are no fundamental human wrongs. Slavery was wrong even before it was seen to be so by society. Wife-beating the same. And if a society has legal slavery and wife-beating, these are moral blots on its legal landscape, in and of themselves. The trouble is that I don't agree that discriminating against women in voting is in the same bag--a blot on a country's legal landscape, in and of itself.

Gintas, thanks for the vote of confidence, but Mary is welcome to vote in England as far as I'm concerned. But I'll just note that if I'm getting credit on this thread with my paleo friends, I'll probably have to cash it in on some other thread when I start defending capitalism. :-) Still, it's nice to _have_ credit. :-)

OK, Mr. Auster, you criticize Hirsi Ali for her positions. But you evidently think these leave much to be desired, which leads one to think you possibly think she is in some respects shallow... But ok, maybe not, maybe she's just dangerously wrong-headed about Christianity. I agree that to the extent people take her seriously on Christianity and conservatism, she's doing no good. But then again, what does it mean that someone born into Somali tribal society has reached the consciousness level of, say, a hyper-Voltairean Enlightenment and is, perhaps, thus on a par with Hitchens (who has barely traveled from the positions of his youth)? And all this while showing the life and death courage to stand up to and give compelling testimony about Islam. To call her shallow would indeed be wrong. I think her achievement testifies in all kinds of ways to the superiority of the Western tradition in encouraging growth in consciousness even if she is still missing parts of the puzzle in understanding this tradition. So I agree we must insist on the subtleties of how to discuss such a case. Do you find anything about her achievement laudable?

Mary, thanks for your "pedantry" link, good stuff. I'm not sure I entirely agree with you about Jefferson. Already in his time slavery was starting to look pretty objectionable. But yes, we rightly condemn, say, classical Athenian slavery less (or not at all) than we do nineteenth-century American slavery, or we fail to respect history and its changing mix of freedom and necessity. Which maybe takes us back to Hirsi Ali....

Mik doesn't understand. In replying to Jackson's personal and politically correct comments on me, or in replying to David Horowitz's and David Mills's collusion against me this past May, I am not being personal. I am combatting the efforts of others to marginalize me and my writings. I am thus doing my bit to push back against the forces of political correctness, and help secure a territory where a different kind of conservatism can be advanced.

Also, I must say that I do not respect it when people take some supposedly neutral and above-the-fray position, and say, "this is just a personal squabble, it's beneath me." That's so easy to say, when you're not the one in the arena.

I read the bit on the advancement of sharia by peaceful means. I get the impression that she'd want to make a cut between its being okay for there to be some organization that advocates sharia and its being okay for there to be sharia--even by democratic means. Now, you might say that if she's worried enough about sharia, she should "have a problem with" any organization that promotes it. But whether to outlaw such an organization is a different question altogether. Maybe we should, but reasonable people can differ on that question. I think when she said she "wouldn't have a problem with" such an organization, she just meant she wouldn't outlaw it.

Sure, this is ironic given her over-the-top comments about the Vlaams Belang. I mean, really--they're just waiting until they have a majority to engage in acts of violence? Maybe she counts protecting unborn babies from being torn to pieces as an "act of violence."

So her ideas are very skewed. All messed up in ways you'd expect from a person whose only true exposure to the West has been to (heaven help us!) the secular Netherlands. These things need to be pointed out. But not everybody can be everything. Maybe if she'd been rescued from Somalia by a bunch of traditionalist nuns and spent a long time with them before going anywhere else, she wouldn't have the silly ideas she does have. Still, so far, I'm not all that shocked by the revelations of her bad ideas, and I still think her admirable for her courageous and really quite classy responses to Islam.

Maybe if she'd been rescued from Somalia by a bunch of traditionalist nuns and spent a long time with them before going anywhere else, she wouldn't have the silly ideas she does have.

Then again, her insight into Somali "culture" and with it Islam, is invaluable.

As I argued in the "thread from hell" at NER, Hirsi Ali's arguments are changing and becoming more cogent.

It is a lot to ask that someone - especially a woman - brought up in a primitive, barbaric, misogynist culture, and one that is suffused with Islam, should overnight become a logical, knowledgeable, dispassionate, articulate and flawless opponent of Islam. But, all things considered, she's doing very well.

Left wing policies, in Holland, saved her from barbarism. It is hardly surprising that she's a bit lefty, but she'll grow out of t.

John asks me about Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

"Do you find anything about her achievement laudable?"

Again, this may come as a shock to John, but I am not interested in Hirsi Ali as a person. I am interested in defending and strengthening the West against Islam. The focus on Ali as a "hero," as a "star," and so forth, is wildly excessive and is part of the silliness of our time. Ali is already a celebrity, with all the attention she needs. Is John saying that without my praise, Ali will be deprived of something? Is this his concern?

Also, I did say in my most recent blog entry about her, the one that set off Jackson, that Ali's discussion of the oppression of women under Islam was "eloquent." But the reason I was positive was that her discussion was not, as usual, limited to the oppression of Muslim women, but moved into the larger problem of the threat Islam poses to non-Muslims. When it comes to the oppression of Muslims under Islam, I don't think we can do ANYTHING to reform the internal characteristics of the Muslim world. We cannot save Muslims. We must save ourselves. Let the Muslims take care of themselves. The exaggerated concern about helping Muslims leads inevitably to either (1) the disastrous Bush idea of democratizing Islam, or (2) the even more disastrous idea of bringing more and more Muslims to the West. In fact, in the wake of the failure of Bush's democracy policy, people will be saying that since Islam can't be reformed, the only way we can help these poor people is to bring them all here. Ali will probably be all for that.

To my last comment, let me add one other point. I think it is a serious mistake and a confession of weakness when conservatives look to some member of a minority group, like Ali, to be their spokesman against the bad or threatening aspects of that minority group. The only way the West can survive is if Westerners defend themselves, not seek non-Westerners to do it for them.

The reason people do this is that they don't believe in their own legitimacy. They don't think that white Western people are morally legitimate. So they lean on some minority person with a halo to do it for them, and they end up making a huge deal about someone like Ali. The make the celebration of Ali a substitute for actually defending their society.

This will not work. If you don't believe in your own legitimacy, if you don't have confidence in the value of yourself, of the historic Western people, of Western civilization, then you're beyond help.

Western conservatives need to break free of liberal guilt and rediscover the true value of their society and their own moral right to defend it from Islam; they need to lose this idea that they are somehoow illegitimate unless they have a minority mascot attached to them at the hip.

There you go again, as a famous man said. It just doesn't follow from the fact that someone doesn't have the vote that he isn't being treated as a fully human individual. Really. It doesn't.

Lydia, it depends on what we mean by fully human. What is minimally human, i.e. what is universal to all people in all times and all places, is rather little. On the other hand, what we mean by human is also a question of how evolved or differentiated our consciousness has become, in other words how much historical insight into the human universal we have acquired through study and experience of particular traditions. Of course it is not pc to say some given culture is less human than ours. But we have no trouble saying one of our own psychopaths is less than human. And frankly, some cultures are relatively more barbarian than ours.

I'm not going to call your average hunter-gatherer tribe less than fully human, just because they don't do elections. It's not polite unless you are going to carefully explain yourself. But, if the exchange of signs is fundamental to who we are, then, in the context of a hunter-gather tribe, any restriction of the right to exchange signs is in some sense a restriction on one's humanity. If, in the most primitive tribes, the language was minimal and largely restricted to ritual purposes, and thus largely in the hands of men, then the females would be, compared to the males (and both sexes compared to you or me today) operating relatively more on animal instincts and less on linguistic or cultural inhibitions, even as the sacred-empowered inhibitions they did have would be, measure for measure, far more psychologically profound, transformative, than is some sundry symbol for those of us who are full of them.

Now, in the modern society, we have evolved countless ways of becoming somewhat less animal and more human. Maybe there is a way to consider the distribution of these, in terms of a sexual division of labour, in which women and men are equal but different. But many women who have claimed that being barred from public or economic activities means they are "less than fully human" may also have a point, if that barring in fact entails a lesser share of the cultural or linguistic things that make us more fully - as fully as one can be at this point in history - human and less animal. And if the specifically human thing - i.e. the sign - first emerges in the context of public events or artistic/intellectual scenes (as in fact they do), the unhappy because publicly excluded women are probably right about being less than.... (Now one can be highly public and not vote, but this just means we are talking about a lesser "less than"...)

The woman who is perfectly happy focussed on family and social life may well be worthy in many respects. But her share and mastery in the human - in the signs of language - is what has already been distilled from public life and made available in private life. Like a school teacher, she initiates her children into the tried and true; she is not at the cutting edge where the latest understandings of the "fully human" are being tested - these "understandings" often in time fail the tests of history, but not always. We can deride the false "progressives", but not the real ones, those we often call conservatives. And if there is such a thing as real progress - a conservation, i.e. renewal, of tradition - it is a matter of becoming more fully human, though of course we have always been human since the origin of language.

I don't think, Mr. Auster, that anybody is saying that Hirsi Ali is missing something if you or I or anybody else doesn't acknowledge the value of her bravery. But I think _you_ might be missing something if you were to refuse to admire what is admirable.

There are lots of people--I think I'm one of many--who haven't the slightest smidgen of white guilt or assumption of illegitimacy, as far as introspection can detect these things, but who nevertheless admire Hirsi Ali's courage and good style in response to Islam. We also admire her for having come so well out of such a wretched background, as we might admire someone of far less celebrity status who had also come very well out of a wretched background and who is continuing to meet a difficult life with guts.

I have many heroes far higher in my estimation than Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I just posted here recently about ex-Sheikh el Akkad, a Christian convert in Egypt who spent two years in a desert prison with enormous courage. He's much more of a hero to me than Ayaan Hirsi Ali will ever be. And that's as it should be. But is the world so full of the good qualities that she does have that we can afford to brush them off when they come along?

You're doing a good service by pointing out some of the crazy and really rather sophomoric things she is saying. That's gotta be done, because some of us don't know about them otherwise. Maybe she'll grow out of them and maybe she won't. As a confirmed pessimist, I'm not making any bets. But no one will take you for a stage-struck toady if you throw in an occasional positive word for her courage and perseverence.

John, I really disagree enormously with your evaluation of the relative importance of the woman who teaches her children vs. the person ostensibly on the "cutting edge," in public life. I'm sorry to have to say this, but what pernicious nonsense! GKC could have told you better. It is the woman teaching her children at home who is on the cutting edge. She has to be inventing things all the time, and she holds in her hands the possibility of cultural renewal. To be making social experiments in the political world may have some value. More often it does untold harm. But it certainly isn't the force of human progress (cue inspiring music), hauling the rest of mankind onward and upward, farther and farther above the dumb beasts along the Great Experimental Way.

I am not interested in Hirsi Ali as a person. I am interested in defending and strengthening the West against Islam. The focus on Ali as a "hero," as a "star," and so forth, is wildly excessive and is part of the silliness of our time. Ali is already a celebrity, with all the attention she needs. Is John saying that without my praise, Ali will be deprived of something? Is this his concern?

-No, of course I don't worry Ali is somehow deprived, at least not by any of us. But in some sense, I think it is a mistake not to be interested in Ali as a person. It's not because I like thoughtless cults of celebrity, or because I need a black woman mascot to overcome my liberal guilt which I think I have largely if not entirely lost by now. I believe in Western society because I believe in the culture that advances the arts of personhood through building on various historical revelations (largely Judeo-Christian) about the relationship of the individual to society and God and the need to free the individual from crude tribal and scapegoating logics, without making him into some useless libertine. The profounder lessons of history are only "learnable" in terms of persons. Invoking impersonal material forces, as many Marxoid historians do, is only a way of misrepresenting the ethical motor that is the true motor of history.

In the context of a globalizing world - and here is where I really differ with Mr. Auster - a certain amount of interaction between the West and Islam is (however difficult and risky) going to be inevitable and necessary. We can try to shape this interaction by taking relatively offensive of defensive stances vis a vis the Jihad and Sharia. Auster wants to separate Islam from the rest of the world. I doubt this is fully possible for various reasons, primarily because any real isolation would lead to mass starvation, murder, and contagious disease in the Islamic world and watching and allowing this spectacle would rip our own society, or Western/international alliances, apart.

I believe we should try to shape our interaction with Islam by doing it in ways that actively promote and renew our values at home and, yes, even to the extent this is possible in the Muslim world where we are obviously up against a thick wall, though one not without holes and not without courageous apostates and converts who deserve whatever support we can reasonably give them. In this context, the personhood of Hirsi Ali, the courage of someone who can testify against Islam, is invaluable, for she is a lesson (however incomplete), a revelation, in becoming more like us and less like them.

I don't believe we can make great changes in the Islamic world anytime soon, though Islam will not survive forever. But to the extent we can't just ignore or quarantine that large part of the world, for reasons I won't go into further since I've written too much here already today, we need to promote our values and encourage all the apostasy over there that we can. But to do that we need new signs of apostasy, and the personhood of Hirsi Ali is just such a sign. Sure championing the Alis is risky, the West may be destroyed in all of this, but sometimes taking risks is the only way out of a mess. Doing nothing, or little, to try and change Islam is a greater risk to the West it would seem to me if quarantine or isolation is not realistic.

I find gradations of "fully human" to be quite odd. All of us are born into situations well beyond our control, and have reality pressed into us. I can't see how one person in the Gulag labor camp in Siberia is even remotely less than human. In fact, with the right eyes he can appear the embodiment of humanity. Solzhenitsyn had such eyes and created Ivan Denisovich (and many others). Some people might say he was "stripped" of his humanity, but it was his very humanity that shone, in contrast with the System under which he lived.

Being "fully human" has nothing to do with whether or not you enjoy this or that right. People like Mary Jackson focus on having the right items checked off on their Full Humanity Rights Checklist, thus some things are simply not up for discussion.

It is the woman teaching her children at home who is on the cutting edge. She has to be inventing things all the time, and she holds in her hands the possibility of cultural renewal.

Well said, Lydia. The decisive and unparalleled influence of mothers is acknowledged almost universally, and the scoffed at when that is applied to social conditions.

I would also point out that before the advent of modern feminism, women were also managing larger households, with less resources, and probably less attention from the husband. So, to cite Chesterton again in one of his classic reversals or illuminating paradoxes, women before the suffragettes may have held more political power: less direct, more lasting; less obvious, more pervasive; less fashionable, more creative.

Lydia, just to clarify, I value mothers teaching much more than I value most intellectuals or politicians. There is no doubt much creative work in mothering. But it's of a particular kind - I think it is the creativity involved in a hopefully successful initiation of a child into society. In other words, a great mother teaches morality, how to behave person to person, among other things; but she can't teach or perform much of the ethics appropriate to all kinds of public life and organization when she is not part of that life when she is raising children. So of course we need self-sacrificing mothers, more than anything else. But I just don't think society's ethics - its forms of public and economic organization - are renewed or evolved much in the mother-child relationship. And to the degree that participation in the ethical debate is part of being human, child rearing is a sacrifice we must greatly respect.

Self-sacrifice, btw, is not a negative thing. It is of course the road to great rewards.

John, but to give only one of several responses that cd. be given here, one of the things you teach your children about is public life--how to view it, how to participate in it, what you think they should or should not do, what you think other people should or shouldn't be doing. We talk politics at my house all the time. And suppose that women didn't have the franchise? They would still have sons, and husbands. The values of the Republic are and can be taught around the dinner table. This is all the more true when the children are home schooled and think of their mother as their teacher in academic subjects, including civics.

women before the suffragettes may have held more political power: less direct, more lasting; less obvious, more pervasive; less fashionable, more creative.

Well, what a very convenient reason for taking not giving them the vote/taking it away.

Sophistry. Sneaky sophistry - fools nobody.

And anyway, while one might argue that there is no inherent right to the franchise in natural law, it should be clear that we have evolved the near universal adult franchise as part of an ongoing revelation into the nature of humanity: the fact that what is most fundamental to our Being is the exchange of signs.

Now, I should preface my remarks by indicating my broad agreement with the notion of symbolic exchange as being integral with human nature, our common humanity. Nevertheless, the (near) universal franchise either is, or is not, a derivation of the natural law. In order to demonstrate that the franchise is a mandate of natural law, one would have to elaborate a complex proof, essentially demonstrating that justice itself, as the rendering to each of what is due him, requires the franchise; in other words, one would need a clear and convincing proof that the individual, by virtue of his humanity itself, and not with respect to contingent factors of history, requires the franchise for the fulfillment of his nature. It must be something that man qua man, man in himself, prior to all social formations, requires in order to be/become what he is.

This, I submit, is a tall order at best.

The franchise, therefore, is best conceived not as a requirement of the natural law, but as the product of a contingent process of historical development. However, if it is a product of such a contingent process, it is not a revelation of the innermost depths of human nature, but a manifestation of the potentialities of that nature for a particular culture, in a particular phase of history. It may be a revelation of diseased, disordered, or negational potentialities, for all we know. I don't know how else to interpret the notion of a revelatory history, inasmuch as history lacks an immanent telos; as for the eschatological telos of the Kingdom of God, present, yet not manifest in its full glory, it has nothing to do with the franchise. our president is quite mistaken on this score. Deluded, in point of fact.

You acknowledge as much by conceding that prudential reason may counsel either an expansion or contraction of the franchise, contingent upon circumstances. The franchise is nothing more than a contingent deliverance of the positive law.

We don't have the franchise to realize some perfection but to increase the feedback loops by which we learn (slowly, with time) from our mistakes which we must assume will characterize all voting patterns.

It is of the nature of a feedback loop in any sphere of society that it must conduce to the accomplishment of its innate end, and that without the imposition of hardships upon those who may not require the particular form of feedback. In a family setting, a child who requires the feedback of discipline does not ordain punishment for his siblings by his own misconduct; he ordains it for himself. The purpose of feedback is to correct erroneous opinions, to chastise for inappropriate or wicked conduct; as such, it must be tailored to the individual, for it is the individual who transgresses. Similarly, in an educational institution, an entire class will not be disciplined for the failure of one idle student to master his sums, or learn the rudiments of grammar. In political society, the idle and destructive opinions of individuals and factions may be proscribed, curbed, or denied access to the commonweal, because societally, the pernicious or impetuous reasonings of a few men, possessed by the fire in their minds, will not redound solely to their chastisement, but to that of an entire social order. If for no other reason, opinion may be circumscribed, and the franchise restricted as an element of this power, so that the injustice of compelling many to suffer for the folly of a few is not committed. If seditious sentiment is rife among a certain segment of the population, as sharia-peddling and jihad-agitation are among Muslims, then it is just for their 'rights' of political participation to be curtailed or abolished, for a just magistrate will not consent that many should suffer for the evils of a few.

Succinctly stated, it is not of the nature of political institutions to function as tutelary systems systemically, to permit "experiments in living" and then bidding the people, collectively, to endure their consequences. It is the nature of political institutions to approximate justice, an aspect of which is visiting upon malefactors the recompense of their wrongdoing; the law also teaches by means of its declarations or stipulations. In these senses only is the law a tutor - for the wrongdoer, not for the great majority, who will have no intercourse with the law.

how do we improve the quality of opinions and maintain the political system (protecting it from the resentments it inevitably creates) without increasing the scope of feedback loops and hoping people will slowly learn to become more rational about their stake in the system?

The quality of political opinions can be improved by means of the educational process, the wisdom imparted by elders within families, the teaching authority of a magisterium, the inculcation of virtue and discipline in accordance with custom and tradition - in short, multifarious means of facilitating social feedback without impinging upon the sphere of politics. There is no necessity of dragooning the political into the process of experiential education; it is sufficient that the law teach by means of its pronouncements and punishments. There is a powerful reason to limit the scope and extent of political feedbacks loops, as I have argued.

Politics is not meant simply to represent fundamental truths (not that one can ever finally destroy the uncertainty on which political or economic market freedom depends); it is in large part a pragmatic business of getting people to go along with others or to oppose with a minimum of violence.

Societal consent is always established by some mechanism or another; I do not perceive the necessity of this mechanism being political. In past ages of the West, consent has been established by various means, and in most centuries, was scarcely even an issue, provided that customary feudal rights were respected, and so on. The franchise is merely one mechanism by which consent can be achieved or manufactured - and in modern, managerial politics, be not deceived, it is either manufactured or conjured wholesale - but it is merely a modern conceit, contingent in its historicity.

But from whence this prudence if it cannot tell us something fundamental about our humanity?

Prudential reason will lead us to an understanding of how fundamental truths of nature may be instantiated in contingent circumstances; it will not disclose hitherto unknown depths of nature.

Of course there is no such thing as a fundamental human right, in the sense that all rights are bestowed by a political consensus that is not stable over time. Still, the powerful modern idea of a fundamental human right emerges as part of a growing intuition about...

The modern notion of fundamental human rights is a symbol therefore, perhaps even a useful fiction, deriving from a powerful intuition about.... a relationship between two other foundational symbols of modern politics, equality and freedom. These lack determinate content; their content can only be specified circumstantially; but the course of modern political history has been such that, in order to relate them logically as symbols of modern politics, with its peculiar preoccupations, and to derive from them the third symbol of modern politics, fraternity, it has been necessary to expand the franchise. Which is to state that this intuition concerns the relation of contingent symbols, bearing contingent construals, in a contingent history. The intuition, that is, is as correct as it is possible for something to be while partaking of political modernism - which might not be saying much at all - but is hardly sufficient to bear the weight of a more intimate relationship with natural law and human nature. An expansive franchise is both utile and "just" within" the framework of various political modernisms; however, it is the very desirability of these modernisms that is in question.

As to the basis of representation...

The principle of representation is essentially that of headship, which only our various purblind modernisms obscures from the gaze of the mind. This is most evident upon contemplation of the office of kingship, but leave that aside for the present time. It is axiomatic that diminution of the principle of headship - ie, the ability and authority of some to stand in the place of many, to embody their interests and, in a sense, their persons - diminishes the representative function: individuals increasingly stand alone, "representing" only themselves, for it is considered an affront to their democratic dignity that others should represent them. Hence, in modern, mass politics, the Congressmen represent, not so much the substantial interests of communities, but abstractions of them: an aggregation of individual votes, refracted through the expressed interests of vocal factions. The deliberate sense of the community is repressed by the passional sense of the mass, which is all that crude, quantitative instruments such as the franchise are capable of registering.

Or do the people involved ultimately need feedback from the population at large?

Some theory or other of tacit consent will always be invoked to justify the allegiance of those who do not involve themselves in practical politics, since it is impossible that each discrete opinion be weighed and considered. Whether it is legitimate to predicate consent of the apolitical is conditioned by the substantive value of that to which they are supposed to be consenting. However, if it is legitimate - as it surely is - to place limits on the feedback of the 'population at large', the normally apolitical, on the grounds that they are only inadequately acquainted with the issues and processes of governance, then it is surely legitimate to do so on the basis of an analogous ignorance or incapacity: some, by their opinions, demonstrate that they are untrustworthy as bearers of public responsibility.

Finally, at least for me this evening, if you'd truly like to contend in the arena of argument, we could initiate a new thread, dedicated to the proposition: The modern age is not less Christian in form and substance than the medieval age. I rather gravely doubt that the affirmative position will be sustained.

Well I too must beg off tonight, with thanks to all for the stimulating conversation. A few last thoughts: Maximos, I don't doubt the Christian form and substance of the medieval age, though I'm sure the daily practice of many left much to be desired, from a Christian p.o.v. - if not, why the great energy to further realize Christianity that characterizes the rise of modernity. As to the modern age, what is it? On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the Voegelinian interpretation that it is the product of Gnosticism, of a heresy that takes on a particularly Christian form. As such it is perhaps both Christian and not Christian. But more generally, how can the emergence of a historically unprecedented free market society have occurred in any society other than the Christian, as a desire to realize some model of the promised kingdom's reciprocity? How could all the esthetic paradigms of modernity - from the medieval and Renaissance neoclassical (i.e. the Christianization of the classical) on to the postmodern (with its various (re)interpretations of the "Road to Damascus" revelation on the sacredness of the victim position) be interpreted as anything else than a contest both with and within Christianity? The point I'd make is that you have to be all too certain about the essence of Christianity to deny much of this modern cultural history Christian status, whereas to my mind it's easier to argue that the medieval era remained limited by certain classical social restraints from fully experimenting with a religion that I think is a radical force in human history. But I'm not sure it would make for a great debate in such broad terms and you would discover my ignorance of the medieval soon enough. But will you agree that for better and worse, modernity is essentially an outgrowth of the Christian West? What else could it be? Maybe I will have time to return to your other points tomorrow. Thanks for thinking through my argument.

Gintas:
I can't see how one person in the Gulag labor camp in Siberia is even remotely less than human. In fact, with the right eyes he can appear the embodiment of humanity.

- i agree, the human can only be embodied in the particular historical experience, which puts in doubt concepts like "fully human". But... no one would choose to endlessly embody the experience of the Gulag, for obvious reasons, but also because the profundity of rising to the horrible historical experience depends on it not being a highly ritualized, repetitive experience. At least one sense of being "fully human", the one I guess I am defending, is being free and disciplined to meaningfully face the new. This involves us in "gradations" of the human in the sense that we Westerners come to see ourselves as part of an evolving history of insights into the human and some of us desire to take a lead in that evolution, no less or even more so if this is in conservative directions. So, is someone in a highly ritual bound society "fully human"? Human, no doubt, but he won't ask the question anyway because to live in a highly ritualistic society is to understand yourself in reference to the gods or animal-nature spirits, not to model your life on an idea of humanity struggling to realize itself. Christianity, by maximally minimizing the difference between God and man, makes us more fully historical beings...

Lydia, you're right of course. Women can and do teach their children much about public life. And to the extent that teaching can, through the mother's public engagement, continue as the children become immersed in political and ethical struggle it is almost unlimited. Ultimately what I'm trying to get at is what is involved in our participation in public scenes. It's not that the mother-child relationship doesn't impinge on this in many ways; it's just that for a successful public scene to emerge, the mother-child relationship also has to be transcended in recognition of new kinds of relationships and realities, or else we have the immature political desire for a "mommy state"... I'll leave it to others to decide how many historical feminists crying about being treated as less than fully human truly wanted to participate in a free public life of self-ruling people, and how many wanted a niche in the security of a mommy (or maybe daddy) state. Whatever the failure of the "progressive" movements I can still sympathize with women who truly want some role in the public scene that rightly transcends the familial one. But to the extent that we've seen a lot of mommy stateism, I can also sympathize with the other side in this debate.

Auster writes:
"I must say that I do not respect it when people take some supposedly neutral and above-the-fray position, and say, "this is just a personal squabble, it's beneath me." That's so easy to say, when you're not the one in the arena."

In most cases I'm quite un-neutral. Case may or may not be personal.

But in all cases it takes enormous amount of your mental energy.

Why not concentrate on Path to National Suicide, Jihad Edition.

Much more useful than involvement with pathetic Underground Possibly-Black Man.

I cannot believe that Horovitz took that sick moron seriously.

I used to write many email to Mr. Auster urging him not to get entangled in unending semi-personal disputes.

It is too bad that he spends so much time and energy at VFTR responding to what others think about him. For example, today he posted about Conservative Swede's loss of respect for him.

Lawrence, just let it slide sometimes! Some people just ain't gonna like you or understand you, that is axiomatic. In fact, you should regard it as a badge of honor when marginal intellects take up cudgels against you. If someone like that refuses to post any further comments from you on their site, they have admitted defeat intellectually, and really no more need be said.

As mik_infidelos said, don't waste your mental energy on personal disputes, especially with creepy cyber-stalkers like UBM. Rather than swatting at gnats, focus on the issues. That's what you do best!

John says, "Tt's just that for a successful public scene to emerge, the mother-child relationship also has to be transcended in recognition of new kinds of relationships and realities, or else we have the immature political desire for a 'mommy state'.I'll leave it to others to decide how many historical feminists crying about being treated as less than fully human truly wanted to participate in a free public life of self-ruling people, and how many wanted a niche in the security of a mommy (or maybe daddy) state...."

Now, I never said anything negative about the motives of women who wanted the vote. My guess is that they decided it was insulting for their husbands to represent them with the vote. Or else they thought the male-only franchise wasn't working well in practice. Maybe both.

But the above as an argument against the male-only franchise is exceedingly odd and poor. What's the point? That women who don't vote and are devoted to their vocation as mothers are themselves childish? That children raised by mothers who don't vote never grow up and learn to be adults? Neither of these seems plausible, and the first one is insulting.

Is the point that women need to think about more than mothering in their lives? But mothering may be a given woman's vocation. You can say that anyone with a vocation needs other hobbies and interests, shouldn't be narrowly focused on just one thing. You can say this to a priest, a doctor, or a politician. "There's more to life than ______." And so one could give the same cliched advice to a mother: "You should have some other interests too. There's more to life than mothering."

Is the point that every adult should be concerned about politics? That's a pretty strong statement, but even if it's true it doesn't apply in any special way to mothering. If someone is so involved in his profession that he cares nothing for the public realm, you might tell him, "You should be more concerned about current events and politics." But this could apply to a professor or scientist in the ivory tower as much as to a mother.

In other words, there is nothing whatsoever in statements to the effect that "the mother-child relationship needs to be transcended" that supports the proposition that women must vote. There may be decent arguments for that proposition, but that isn't one of them.

Certain people see as merely personal controversies what are in fact legitimate and worthwhiile discussions. How anybody could read my recent blog entry on Conservative Swede and think that it's about my complaining that he doesn't respect me, shows a complete failure to read what's actually there.

I'm reminded of the saying: If a pickpocket met Jesus, all he would see would be his pockets. Well, for a lot of people today, if they read an article that contains any reference to personalities, all they can see from that moment forward is "personal controversy." They form an image of what's before them, and don't read what's there before their eyes.

Lydia, no doubt I've articulated the difficult argument poorly. I think all people, men and women, have trouble getting a good balance between respecting, loving, and transcending their mother-child relationships. While this is a question that is only partly biological and we see important differences among various cultures, my impression is that it is, most generally, harder for women to find this balance and while some would use this as a reason against the woman's vote, I take the opposite view.

What are perhaps signs of such an imbalance? We can think of young men with unsubtle notions of women as only madonnas or whores, or "hyper-patriarchal" men with a total lack of sympathy for marginal people in society . We might think of hysterical mobs of Muslim men calling for Islam to destroy the West. We can think of the current leftist rhetoric that explicitly says the Democratic Party is the mommy party that wants to be sure everyone is taken care of, and equally. That rhetoric seems to me to get at a psychological key: the desire to elevate the mother's indiscriminate love for all her children as a political principle, in face of a reality, human/political and natural, that I believe requires all kinds of discriminations, freedoms, inequalities, for humanity to build strong societies.

Men in groups and women in groups behave differently, though there is something to the argument that today's young men are more feminized than ever and the women less feminine than ever. Without trying seriously to characterize this difference which is poorly studied - just try finding substantial writing on how women treat women, the topic feminists touch on risk of ostracism - let me just say as a rough approximation that men, once initiated into an extra-familial all-male political culture, tend to develop a form of bonding that is different from female bonding. The maternal relationship of mother and child seems to model a more nurturing female attitude towards the Other (an attitude that can also turn to a certain matriarchal contempt for those out of line) than one commonly finds in all-male groups where a more aggressive bonding against the alien Other, usually as a group, is accented. (Though I was suggesting above that groups of clannish and hysterical Muslim males are poorly initiated into extra-familial patriarchal values and remain trapped in honor/shame dynamics focussed on their mothers.) One could also compare men's and women's different ways of rationalizing (getting beyond the Muslim mob dynamic) or ritualizing aspects of "group psychology". Now, one has to work through the many political consequences of this difference - and certainly we don't want to embody just patriarchal or just matriarchal values, but to some degree both - something I am not going to do, beyond re-affirming that the rise of the Total Welfare State suggests the relative ascendance of maternal over patriarchal political values.

Here's an article that I admire that explores the question much better than can I.

Maximos:

However, if it is a product of such a contingent process, it is not a revelation of the innermost depths of human nature, but a manifestation of the potentialities of that nature for a particular culture, in a particular phase of history.

-yes, but this qualification hardly disproves the Bushian notion that the various traditional cultures of this world, when faced with the life and death imperatives of finding a way to accommodate themselves to a now single global economic system, will not be able to realize some accommodation to Western norms, of which the franchise is one that may be chosen. The question you are really raising is whether freedom - i.e., most simply, the ability to increase the range of significant differentiations in one's cultural systems - is a universal human possibility or imperative (even if the expansion in degrees of freedom is much slower in some areas than others, it surely has happened everywhere - whose language today is limited to just one or a few words which must have been the condition of humanity at the origin of language?) and whether an ongoing expansion of freedom (however relatively unfree/free some cultures are at present) will require something akin to western liberal modernity. This latter is a legitimate question, in the sense that we can't really know the answer yet; i tend to believe the western liberal model maximizes the individuality that is conducive to success in a global free market and so it will be a standard that many people in places like China and India and even Iraq will eventually aim for. But we could be talking several hundreds of years. But I admit that it is also possible that the Chinese, say, will find their own way of accommodating to and succeeding in the global market place that will not, in fact, be much akin to western liberalism, but will retain many traditional forms of the Chinese authority.

I don't know how else to interpret the notion of a revelatory history, inasmuch as history lacks an immanent telos

-what I meant to imply was that we understand our history as a series of unfolding historical revelations into ethical possibilities inherent in human origins. These are at first religious: Abraham, Moses, Jesus (and all the lesser lights). But starting with the Greeks and lasting to the postmodern age, the emphasis in Western culture then moves to the esthetic, with the craftsman or artist as the leading figure in creating revelatory scenes or effects. We are now, I think, at the dawn of a new era in which further insights into the ethical possibilities of our traditions will be coming from our discussion of how sundry (fortuitously chosen) individuals respond, as free and inadvertently exemplary individuals, to global political events, e.g. the revelation of a new era in how to deal with hijackers that spontaneously unfolded on Flight 93. This is not about revelation into the end of time; most serious revelation is actually premised on a faith in the open-endedness of our cultural systems. As the man says, if you want to be truly creative, don't immanentize the eschaton.

Succinctly stated, it is not of the nature of political institutions to function as tutelary systems systemically, to permit "experiments in living" and then bidding the people, collectively, to endure their consequences.

-what I think is missing in this argument - though you do get into it in your following comment - is an appreciation of the role of civil society in Western modernity, the location of the institutions that are taxed with tutelary functions in making us into better citizens and productive people but also in serving as feedback mechanisms for our politicians.

Societal consent is always established by some mechanism or another; I do not perceive the necessity of this mechanism being political. In past ages of the West, consent has been established by various means, and in most centuries, was scarcely even an issue, provided that customary feudal rights were respected, and so on. The franchise is merely one mechanism by which consent can be achieved or manufactured - and in modern, managerial politics, be not deceived, it is either manufactured or conjured wholesale - but it is merely a modern conceit, contingent in its historicity.

-well you are trying to assert a narrow understanding of the political; surely you admit that in some sense consent is always a political question. In a highly religious or ritualized society, dissent will be interpreted as sacrilege or profanity but we can see the ethical or political quality to that. I think you are too cynical about modern politics. Of course there are all kind of attempts to manage the opinion-making process. But, among other things, all the cynical, manipulative opinion polling has the effect of teaching people that their opinion matters and the managers cannot control the freedom that grows with knowledge of the system and how to play the game. I have known a few elected politicians. They have been genuinely concerned with what people are thinking because they want to keep their jobs - they often have few other employable skills - and they truly worry about the outcome of elections. Even when they are sitting high in the governing party they don't assume that their future is safely being managed by the spin experts. They take the market in opinions deadly seriously; because it is a market, with freedom in it. Of course, in that marketplace many people are sheep, but some people learn to be good players to both selfish and selfless ends.

this intuition concerns the relation of contingent symbols, bearing contingent construals, in a contingent history. The intuition, that is, is as correct as it is possible for something to be while partaking of political modernism

-well I agree that our intuition is in large part a question of contingent history. But all history is but an unfolding insight into possibilities inherent in our common human origin. I believe the most powerful intuitions we have on freedom and equality (the modern idea of fraternity, which confuses biology and culture, among other things, is hardly their equivalent) come from our anthropological hypotheses of how humanity, or symbolic language, got started in the first place.

The principle of representation is essentially that of headship, which only our various purblind modernisms obscures from the gaze of the mind.

-Now it seems you are taking a historically contingent intuition and making it a question of natural law. In fact, I think, a hypothesis of language origins will require that you see both headship, or "firstness", and the equality of those who share in exchange of the sign (signs, by their nature, imply reciprocity), as originary principles of representation. Keep in mind that the early kingships were often offices that were temporarily bestowed on people who were royally treated only in anticipation of their sacrifice (and apotheosis) to the mixed and focussed resentments of the common folk. Later on, kings who wanted to stay on their thrones learned to substitute others in this sacrificial role.

individuals increasingly stand alone, "representing" only themselves, for it is considered an affront to their democratic dignity that others should represent them. Hence, in modern, mass politics, the Congressmen represent, not so much the substantial interests of communities, but abstractions of them: an aggregation of individual votes, refracted through the expressed interests of vocal factions. The deliberate sense of the community is repressed by the passional sense of the mass, which is all that crude, quantitative instruments such as the franchise are capable of registering.

-there is something to this but again I think it's half the story. For one, modern politics is also witnessing a return to the primitive in the figures of victimary identity politics. This tribalism is not a return to the kind of "community" I want. I basically assume that we are fated today to live as individuals - hopefully as more or less Christian persons - in a historically less compact form of "community", or, the present global system will fall apart and, after a mass die off, we will return to some kind of neo-tribalism. So, if we face up to the disciplines that our age of individuals requires, we may learn to create forms of "community" within a diverse civil society that give us, if not what we want, at least what we need.

Wow! What a thread...I've been following it to the exclusion of my own middle-class virtue posting...

I'd just like to point out to Mr. Auster, in case he missed it, that Mary Jackson gave high praise, above, to his "Path to National Suicide" piece, which she described as "excellent" (and which, indeed, it is).

A very generous gesture, on her part, I think, after some of the harsh words that have been said here.

Would it be too sexist for me to notice that it was, of course, the woman who was the first (and so far the only) to make such a gesture?

I'd just like to point out to Mr. Auster, in case he missed it, that Mary Jackson gave high praise, above, to his "Path to National Suicide" piece, which she described as "excellent" (and which, indeed, it is).

Credit where credit's due. Unfortunately Mr Auster only wishes to see things in terms of black and white.

What a sad, pathetic game by Steve Burton. Because Mary Jackson, in addition to smearing me (and she has not only refused to retract the smears but has repeated them), has also praised something I've written, therefore I'm supposed to say something nice to her, and, further, my not doing so shows that she is taking the high road, and I'm not.

Is Steve Burton a wuss? Has he never heard of honor? Does he not realize that the "let's all make nice" sensibility he wants to inject into this debate is something more appropriate to the management of small children than to adult public discussion?

Is Steve Burton a wuss?

This from someone who thinks ad hominem attacks are "sub-intellectual".

Has he never heard of honor?

This from someone who thinks that women are too emotional.

This from someone who thinks that women are too emotional.

Is it dishonorable to think that women are too emotional?

Evidently Ms. Jackson's has stumbled upon a modified definition of honour and found it more fitting for her production of twaddle than the old one.

I wonder if Mr. Auster has ever asked himself why he (sooner or later) ends up on everybody's bad side.

He really is the original awkward cuss.

But I'm enough of a "wuss" to go on reading him every day.

Cheers! And thanks to Mary Jackson, for trying to be patient.

My strong language was appropriate. Mr. Burton was engaged in an unworthy, sneaky little tactic designed to isolate me, and I called him on it.

His comment had the message: "Mary Jackson has said something nice to you, but you haven't said anything nice to her." As though all the things Jackson had said about me, in an attack she initiated, were somehow now canceled out by her compliment (which was irrelevant to this discussion) of a past work of mine.

In reality there was a battle going on here, and Mr. Burton was trying to make it appear that a mere compliment canceled that battle out, and that I was in the wrong for not going along with his little fraud.

And now, in his latest comment, he has carried foreward the same unworthy tactic. Instead of dealing honestly and directly with the disagreement between us, he uses the PC (and, frankly, feminine) device of trying to isolate me, appealing to the invisible authority of "everyone" who supposedly disapproves of me.

Steve,
No good deed goes unpunished. Auster's victimization routine gets old, real fast.

"I wonder if Mr. Auster has ever asked himself why he (sooner or later) ends up on everybody's bad side."

Hmmm, “everybody” is quite an inclusive category, so it, at least, should include all contributors to this thread. But that, even after a cursory examination, is not the case. Does Mr. Burton believe that the combined authority of himself, Ms. Jackson, Mr. Mills and Stop2 is enough to cancel the difference between the meaning of “everybody” and “some”?

Oh, for heaven's sake, Mr. Auster: you really are your own worst enemy.

And people accuse *me* of suffering from "asperger's syndrome!"

Mr. Burton, I don't know what that syndrome is, but if you would stop objecting to my personality and simply admit that your initial comment to me was off-base as I have explained, I'll be happy to retract my rough comments about you.

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