Morals & the servile mind: On the diminishing moral life of our democratic age.
The evident problem with democracy today is that the state is pre-empting—or “crowding out,” as the economists say—our moral judgments. Nor does the state limit itself to mere principle. It instructs us on highly specific activities, ranging from health provision to sexual practices. Yet decisions about how we live are what we mean by “freedom,” and freedom is incompatible with a moralizing state. That is why I am provoked to ask the question: can the moral life survive democracy?
By “the moral life,” I simply mean that dimension of our inner experience in which we deliberate about our obligations to parents, children, employers, strangers, charities, sporting associations, and all the other elements of our world. We may not always devote much conscious thought to these matters, but thinking about them makes up the substance of our lives. It also constitutes the conditions of our happiness. In deliberating, and in acting on what we have decided, we discover who we are and we reveal ourselves to the world. This kind of self-management emerges from the inner life and is the stream of thoughts and decisions that make us human. To the extent that this element of our humanity has been appropriated by authority, we are all diminished, and our civilization loses the special character that has made it the dynamic animator of so much hope and happiness in modern times.
It is this element of dehumanization that has produced what I am calling “the servile mind.” The charge of servility or slavishness is a serious one. It emerges from the Classical view that slaves lacked the capacity for self-movement and had to be animated by the superior class of masters. They were creatures of impulse and passion rather than of reason. Aristotle thought that some people were “natural slaves.” In our democratic world, by contrast, we recognize at least some element of the “master” (which means, of course, self-managing autonomy) in everyone. Indeed, in our entirely justified hatred of slavery, we sometimes think that the passion for freedom is a constitutive drive of all human beings. Such a judgment can hardly survive the most elementary inspection of history. The experience of both traditional societies and totalitarian states in the twentieth century suggests that many people are, in most circumstances, happy to sink themselves in some collective enterprise that guides their lives and guarantees them security. It is the emergence of freedom rather than the extent of servility that needs explanation.
THIS is why government MUST be limited, restrained, and under the control of the people. The powerless, the poor, the least among us–they are the ones who MOST need to be shielded from the oppressive, suffocating embrace of an all-powerful government. They are the ones who will, as Benjamin Franklin feared, gladly trade their freedom for security.
Government power corrodes and corrupts the human spirit. The Founding Fathers understood this. Today’s politicians, for the most part, do not. Barack Obama sure doesn’t act like he does.
Why Are People Democrats? [*1] — Because they either don’t know any better, or they like the feel of having power over others . . . if you’re a Democrat, which one are you?
The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is (Part 1) [*2]
If you knew it, you’d say, “Wait a minute. The decision I just made does not make much sense. I had better go and get some independent advice.” But when you’re incompetent, the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is. In logical reasoning, in parenting, in management, problem solving, the skills you use to produce the right answer are exactly the same skills you use to evaluate the answer. And so we went on to see if this could possibly be true in many other areas. And to our astonishment, it was very, very true.
. . .
The notion of unknown unknowns really does resonate with me, and perhaps the idea would resonate with other people if they knew that it originally came from the world of design and engineering rather than Rumsfeld.
If I were given carte blanche to write about any topic I could, it would be about how much our ignorance, in general, shapes our lives in ways we do not know about. Put simply, people tend to do what they know and fail to do that which they have no conception of. In that way, ignorance profoundly channels the course we take in life. And unknown unknowns constitute a grand swath of everybody’s field of ignorance.
Which explains why trying to seriously discuss solutions to issues with Democrats is doomed to failure–they simply don’t seem to have the cognitive tools to understand the disastrous effects of the policies they advocate. The concept that “we don’t know what we don’t know” is a very subtle philosophical thought, and I have found it actually much more common among people with right-leaning political philosophies than those on the left. The phrase “it was like talking to a brick wall” very succintly describes many of my attempts to explain reality to Democrats. Which is why I seldom bother any more, except here on this blog, where I still hold out the thinnest shred of hope . . . Is hypo-masculinity the new normal? [*3] — I like my hair, thank you very much . . .
The Scent Of Fear [*4] — Wherein four possibilities for explaining the inexplicably incompetent government response to the oil spill are presented. Like the author Jay Tea, I have no idea which of the four is more frightening and ominous for the future of this country.
Hugh Hewitt: Obama is in over his head [*5] — Wherein we discover yet again that campaigning for President requires a very different skill set than actually being President . . .
My Evening with Bill Ayers, Cindy Sheehan, and Some Creepy Communist Lady: A Chicago-area library hosts a skin-crawling night of violent, dopey, and crazy. (With video!) [*6]
Illinois: Study Finds No Benefit To Chicago Red Light Cameras: Analysis examining Chicago, Illinois red light cameras finds no clear safety benefit. [*7]
Hundreds of Possible Alien Planets Discovered By NASA Spacecraft [*8]
Enraged to engaged: Tea party backers explain why [*9]
I asked Helen Thomas about Israel. Her answer revealed more than you think. [*10]
What I Saw at the Lakers Riots: If you thought L.A.’s mayor and police brass learned from last year’s embarrassment, you are not a police officer, certainly not one with the LAPD. [*11]
Toxic Citizens?: Banks are cutting American expatriates adrift [*12] — Americans living around the world are seriously considering renouncing American citizenship because of the onerous American reporting laws. That isn’t right. It’s not the citizens that are toxic, it is, yet again, the government.
The euro’s inevitable failure will be horrendous for all of us: The single currency is a disaster, but the cost of its life support will devastate Europe’s economies, says Charles Moore. [*13]
Another Bubble? [*14] — Why has a college degree become “the new high school diploma?” Why were people in the past who dropped out of school after eighth grade able to go on to successful careers–including business and science? Is it possibly because “progressive” education initiatives have utterly ruined our primary and secondary education systems?
Dare to ask the question. Dare further to honestly consider the answers.
Overlords [*15] — “Progressives” and leftists: modern-day would-be tyrants. Read, and learn . . .
Ten dead among 54 shot aross city over weekend [*16] — Wow, bad day in Baghdad. Oh, wait . . . Chicago?
Delta adds international flights at Minneapolis-St. Paul [*17]
Morning Bell: Time to Stand Up to the National Standards Agenda [*18]
Something funny happened on the way to the South Carolina mudfight [*19]
Republicans’ Midterm Voting Enthusiasm Tops Prior Years: Relative enthusiasm advantage for GOP over Democrats largest in Gallup history dating to 1994[*20]
Rasmussen poll: the end of activist government? [*21] — We can hope . . . for change . . .
Dunning–Kruger effect [*22]
Wary of iguanas, bored Germans finally venture out [*23]
Penn Jillette Is Willing to Be a Guest on Adolf Hitler’s Talk Show [*24]
I believe very much that the most damning thing you can say about Muslims is that you’re afraid to say anything because they’ll hurt you.
Researchers see chimps waging “war” [*25]
Chimpanzee Gangs Kill for Land, New Study Shows [*26]
Obama’s Experts Cry Foul; They Didn’t Support a Drilling Moratorium [*27]
Individuals see health insurance costs jump [*28] — But . . . I thought Obamacare was going to fix all of this. Maybe it did, eh? I sure feel fixed. If you know what I mean.
A Broken Immigration Court System [*29]
Life Imitates the Onion [*30] — There are days I just want to hang my head and weep for the stupidity of my fellow man . . .
Obama’s Broken Inauguration Day Promise to Gulf Coast: ‘Never Again Such Failures’ [*31] — But then, we now know that “never again” like all Obama promises comes with an expiration date . . .
Jindal vs. Obama: Time to End the Drilling Moratorium [*32]
The ‘Bumpy Ride’ of Linguistic Change [*33]
Gallup: GOP enthusiasm highest ever [*34]
Tried to Boycott Israeli Ship, Blocked Chinese Ship Instead [*35] – They didn’t know what they didn’t know . . .
Oil spills into the debate [*36] — And more people who didn’t know what they didn’t know . . .
Kagan: Bork Hearings ‘Best Thing that Ever Happened to Constitutional Democracy’ [*37] — Teddy Kennedy’s final outrageous monument is the irreparable rending of the political discourse of the country. When you talk about “the politics of personal destruction” just remember who took it to its current shrill level. Teddy Kennedy, the Democrats, and current Supreme Court nominee Elaine Kagan.
Iran Banning IAEA Inspectors [*38] — Wow, who didn’t see this coming? OK, who–who isn’t on the left–didn’t see this coming?
3.6 Million-Year-Old Relative of ‘Lucy’ Discovered: Early Hominid Skeleton Confirms Human-Like Walking Is Ancient [*39]
The American Left’s New Game Plan: Stalinism Without All The Killing But Still Lots of Cooperation and Comradeship. And Probably Banjo Playing. [*40]
Confirmed: Obama’s No-Proof-of-Income Mortgage Program Collapses [*41]
Progressive Classiness Rears Its Lovely Head… Again [*42]
Higher Ed May Finally Be Crumbling [*43]
MSNBC, Joke Network [*44]
The Law of Supply and Demand Strikes the Law Business [*45]
Obama Voter General McChrystal Says Community Organizer was Unprepared in First Oval Office Meeting [*46] — He didn’t know what he didn’t know. And when he found out, he didn’t like what he discovered.
Harmful Bacteria Carried by Pigeons [*47]
Bacteria in the Nose and Throat: Most Comprehensive Comparative Analysis [*48] — With luck, not pigeon bacteria . . .
Lemurs Lose Weight With ‘Life-Extending’ Supplement Resveratrol [*49] — Lose weight! Drink red wine! No?
Development analyst charts a possible course for KC’s future[*50] — Lord save us all from “planners” . . .
Enemy At the Gates [*51] — One of the head rats, Peter Orzag, contemplates jumping off the sinking ship, the S.S. Obama Administration . . . he wants to reduce the deficit but has read the handwriting on the wall–Obama isn’t about reducing anything government-related . . . except perhaps the military–and the Border Patrol . . .
Nebraska town latest to fight illegal immigrants [*52]
Nothing In Moderation [*53]
Obama is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent. He’s totally useless in the face of foreign aggression, or a domestic crisis like the Gulf oil spill. His behavior has led state governors to the same conclusion as the passengers on the Underwear Bomber flight: if you want to survive, forget he exists and fend for yourself. His incompetence is partially a result of his single-minded focus on what he views as his true mission: increasing the power of the State, without reason or purpose, discussion or accountability. It will take a spectacular President, following a disciplined Republican Congress, to undo the damage Obama has done… and we need them to do more than that. We need them to address the systemic flaws that would have detonated our unsustainable entitlement state only a few years later, if Obama had never come along.
Global Average Sea Surface Temperatures Continue their Plunge [*54]
SDSU/Nebraska game ‘holds a lot of clout’ [*55]
Carter’s Energy Fascism [*56] – History does not repeat itself–but it does rhyme . . .
Money vs. Wealth [*57]
Technology “sweeping away” books, says Stoppard [*58]
Cordoba Mosque Epiphany [*59]
Is U.S. Now On Slippery Slope To Tyranny? By THOMAS SOWELL [*60] — In other words, LISTEN UP.
It’s Official – Obama Is Worst President in History on Job Creation; Worse Than Hoover on Job Losses [*61]
The thug culture [*62] — The only good thing is that the Thug In Chief is Wile E. Obama, Genius . . .
Gen. McChrystal Ordered to the White House Over Rolling Stone Remarks [*63] — I hope he delivers a good old fashioned paint-stripping dressing-down of Wile E. Obama. It’s a little dream I have . . .
Obama Can’t Fire McCrystal [*64] — Oh, sure he can. He’s Wile E. Obama, Genius!
Southwest announces fare sale [*65]
McChrystal Should Be Fired [*66] — Or, this could be a “if you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” moment . . . we’ll see, won’t we?
Republicans to boycott Kagan hearing? [*67] — I wonder if the Republicans have the cojones to scuttle the Kagan nomination . . .
Humans Have a Mighty Bite, New Research Shows [*68]