Three Years Ago: Question Authority!

Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal[*1] , noting (once more) the intellectual intolerance of the Left:

What is most missing from the left in America is an element of grace–of civic grace, democratic grace, the kind that assumes disagreements are part of the fabric, but we can make the fabric hold together. The Democratic Party hasn’t had enough of this kind of thing since Bobby Kennedy died. What also seems missing is the courage to ask a question. Conservatives these days are asking themselves very many questions, but I wonder if the left could tolerate asking itself even a few. Such as: Why are we producing so many adherents who defy the old liberal virtues of free and open inquiry, free and open speech? Why are we producing so many bullies? And dim dullard ones, at that.

Most reasonable folks on the center/right of the political agenda (and I’d hope to be included in that number) are desperate for a level of intellectual discourse with those on the left that rises above mindless angry sloganeering and outright suppression of speech, as happened recently at Columbia University.

Is there intelligent life on the Left?

Three Years Ago: Is multiculturalism good for society?

On October 10, 2006, I posted:

The banners of “diversity” and “multiculturalism” have been held high for decades as goals to be assiduously striven for by right-thinking people everywhere. From the painfully ham-handed diversity of Star Trek: The Next Generation to the chirpy happiness of Sesame Street, we are fed a daily diet of messages saying diversity is in and of itself a good thing, with the implicit and unquestioned belief that those who question the relentless march of diversity are the worst kind of bigots.

Now comes this Belmont Club article[*1] , highlighting a Financial Times article[*2] discussing a new study by Harvard professor Robert Putnam, author of the popular book Bowling Alone[*3] . His new work casts doubt on the social desirability of diversity and multiculturalism.

From the Financial Times article[*2] :

The core message of the research was that, “in the presence ofdiversity, we hunker down”, he said. “We act like turtles. The effectof diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that wedon’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, wedon’t trust people who do look like us.”

Prof Putnam found trustwas lowest in Los Angeles, “the most diverse human habitation in humanhistory”, but his findings also held for rural South Dakota, where”diversity means inviting Swedes to a Norwegians’ picnic”.

When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, theyshowed that the more people of different races lived in the samecommunity, the greater the loss of trust. “They don’t trust the localmayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other peopleand they don’t trust institutions,” said Prof Putnam. “The only thingthere’s more of is protest marches and TV watching.”

Richard Fernandez (Wretchard) of the Belmont Club then comments:

But if Putnam is correct, then one of the central tenets of multiculturalism— that it brings people together if they simply “respect” eachothers differences — immediately requires qualification. In fact, it becomesentirely conceivable that the multiculti program is actually the driver behindmany of the tensions which are now rising in places like France, the Netherlandsand the UK.

Tribalism is programmed deep into the human animal. That’s why it’s World Problem #1.

Different political systems deal with this tribal urge in different ways. One reason why totalitarian governments keep springing up is that they are brutally effective in suppressing the tribal urge internally, in large part by directing the tribal urge outward toward external enemies.

This is also why pure democracies almost always collapse. Democracy is fundamentally unable to manage the tribal urge. The biggest tribe always winds up in power and then begins to impose its tribal customs and mores on the minorities. If the Majority decides it is undesirable for the minorities to ever regain power, a pure democracy can quickly devolve into a totalitarian state–we see it over and over and over again throughout history, from the Romans to the Third Reich.

We can try to pretend that humans don’t have this tribal urge, or recognize the wisdom of the American Founding Fathers in promoting a federal republicanism and a careful separation of powers between a central government and soverign State governments. This provided a structure within which different self-selected “tribes” can interact. This I think is what Benjamin Franklin meant when he famously replied to the question “what have you given us?” with “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.

34.9 pounds

I’m going backwards again–on the scale, at least. After last week’s 0.7 pound weight gain, I clocked in again with another 0.7 pounds gained. At least I’m consistent.

But, there are other indicators of progress besides the scale. My new belt, which I started at the very last hole, is now tighter by two holes. And I visited my regular doctor on Monday to update her on my weight loss progress. She responded by reducing two of my prescriptions by half–Vytorin (cholesterol) and lisinopril (blood pressure), and stopping two others–hydrochlorothiazide (blood pressure) and gemfibrozil (triglicerides).

That makes me quite happy, as you can imagine.

Still, I’m sitting at 244.1 pounds, with my Halloween goal of 230 14.1 pounds and only 24 days away. The pressure is on!

Pancake topped with vanilla pudding

We have house guests this weekend, so as usual the challenge will be to stick to the diet and exercise while being a proper host. Speaking of which, I need to go clean up the downstairs and scrub some toilets.

Thought for the day

From the book Power in the People by Felix Morley, as linked by Gary Galles at the Ludwig von Mises Institute[*1] :

Exalting the State is steadily to augment its physical power at the expense of Society. The more that power can be concentrated, the more perfect the State becomes as an instrumentality of suppression in the hands of those who believe in suppression…