Saturday, October 15, 2005

Are Conservatives Waking Up?

Jack Wheeler, talking before Accuracy in Media on C-Span, discussed why the left-liberal can’t be trusted with defense: their deeply held fear of envy leads them to policies of appeasement. They are constantly apologizing for our achievements and virtues. Feeling fundamentally unworthy inculcates in the left-liberal feelings of guilt for our wealth given the vast poverty in the world. This guilt leaves left-liberal open to moral blackmail by those that envy our success, blame the West for the world’s problems, and demand constant self-sacrifice. (If you don’t subscribe to Jack’s e-zine, catch him on the C-Span replay and see what you think.)

Jack suggests we hold our head up high and make the appropriate moral judgments of others:
We need to go on the moral offensive. The moral currency of Islam is debased. Islam is infected with a moral virus that has rendered it a morally inferior religion as it stands in the world today. It no longer deserves our respect and if Moslems want our respect back they must earn it by disinfecting their religion of moral poison.

Such a moral offensive requires moral confidence. Not only are liberals are incapable of moral confidence … they are terrified of it …

The good news is that some conservatives, like Jack, talking before mainstream conservative groups are raising the important moral issues of the day instead of getting sucked into the moral relativism and politically correct taboos that makes others – including most intellectual conservatives magazines – unable to address today’s greatest threat.

Here’s another good sign that conservatives are starting to wake-up. I recently received a subscription-offer to the venerable conservative publication Human Events that included a bonus of Robert Spencer’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades. Spencer has had trouble keeping his book on the National Review online book service after complaints by the Saudi-funded group, CAIR. At least some mainstream conservative organizations are starting to look beyond the clichés about Islam.

Finally, even the President is starting to talk differently. His past method of dealing with the Islamic threat failed to convey the fact that this is a broad ideological movement. Instead, like President Clinton, his misconceptions about Islam have allowed the public to believe we are chasing a small criminal group aided by one or two rogue states. I’ve talked about the consequence of this misconception. It’s finally become obvious to the administration that the public is confused and disillusioned over the execution of the war. A large part is the failure to convey the nature and extent of the threat.

This President isn’t suited to an intellectual fight that requires extensive explanation of ideas, refutation of criticism, and fire-side chats. However, had fellow conservatives undertaken such an intellectual assault as they did during the Cold War, the President would have been able to cash-in on the groundwork without playing the central role in the education of the public. It is here that I believe conservatives have fallen down on the job. Last year I’ve written extensively on this issue. Thus it is good to see some signs, noted above, that conservatives are waking-up.


Blogger Caroline said...

Jason - you're back! Hope you had a great holiday!

I would have liked to have seen Wheeler's actual speech, but I did happen to read the entire text of his speech at Pamela of Atlas Shrugged's site, here:


While your post focuses on the conservatives waking up, I found the central point of his speech about liberal fear of envy fascinating. His point reminds me of the liberal belief in the idea of "global immiseration" - which I encountered in an article by Lee Harris on the "Baran-Wallerstein" revision of classical Marxism:

Barran-Wallerstein revision

Harris' article explains a great deal about the left's hatred for America. And the central point - that America's affluence is at the expense of the third world's povery, I think sheds light on one of the central issues that has to be confronted to win the left over. I notice that Harris doesn't answer the question of whether the thesis is true or not? But I am certain that most of the left firmly believes it to be true. And as long as they believe it to be true, they will not join the west's side in this fight. Of interest, Harris points out that Noam Chomsky is the west's premiere proponent of the Baran-Wallerstein thesis. And who just ranked in 1st place in Prospect Magazine's Top 100 Intellectuals but Noam Chomsky!

If anyone is aware of a book that debunks the basic thesis that America's prosperity is the direct cause of "global immiseration" I would very much like to know what it is. Because I think debunking that thesis is critical to winning the left over and curing them of their 'fear of envy'. Of course, if the thesis is correct, then that's another issue entirely and a realistic one that needs to be dealt with.

10/16/05, 7:07 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Sorry - link to the Prospect list messed up:

Prospect Top 100

10/16/05, 7:15 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

By analogy a right conservative cannot be trusted with defence because the belief that acquisition of wealth is the definition of success and that all else shall be put aside in the pursuit of wealth. That strength of faith is admirable, even more so when cojoined with great wealth. This belief in aquistion leaves right-conservative America open to financial blackmail by those that possessing great wealth, purchasing cooperation and demanding immunity from moral condemnation.

Any moral action is going to have a finacial cost.

10/16/05, 7:28 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

I'm afraid the far left finds capitalism morally objectionable and then only after do they look for a reason to hate capitalism and America. Now that it is clear that the working class gains from capitalism, the far left has to see America as the scapegoat for the poverty of underdeveloped nations (as Harris explains.) Of course many non-Western nations have progressed: South Korea, Japan, etc. These are the ones where we have most influence. We have least influence in places like Morocco and we get little from them as well – so their poverty is greatest. The far left was never moved by the facts but by a moral antipathy to individualism. This is where I think Ayn Rand is right: moral arguments move people more than becoming experts in economics. How many of us are experts in economics?

But speaking of economics, one of the facts that the left has never come to grasp is that wealth isn’t something that’s shifted around – it's something that's created and consumed. We create $12 trillion of wealth a year, consume two thirds of it and invest the rest. We do this every year! The fact that we are so productive is something we are rightly proud of. It's not just being materially well-off but having got that way by honorable productive activities involving mutual gain in a free exchange.

It's funny how the left is so much like the Arab culture in its hatred. First they (the left) say we make countries poor by our involvement, like in Cuba under Batista. Now they say we make Cuba poor by our boycott. Of course Cuba can trade with every other country but they produce little of value. The Arabs say we are to blame for our support for Saddam in the 80s, for our boycott of Saddam in the 90s and for our removal of him just recently. We'll be damned if we do and damned if we don't. These are people who are bent on hating us.

However, many people on the moderate left and young leftists who’ve never heard the other side are reachable. So too are Arabs who hear nothing but the government's propaganda.

But here too I think a moral argument comes first. Critics have to be willing to consider the moral ideal of mutual benefit in a free exchange where each person is motivated by their own interest but respects and takes pride in producing something of value for the other. That leads to individualism, liberty, and property rights. If instead they believe one should suffer for others, deny oneself until others are taken care of, renounce personal achievement, and denigrate material production, they will never come around to liking individual liberty or America. We are not a country that feels superior by suffering as an end in itself.

10/16/05, 9:36 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Oh, yes, thanks for the links and the welcome back!

10/16/05, 9:37 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Jason: "But speaking of economics, one of the facts that the left has never come to grasp is that wealth isn’t something that’s shifted around – it's something that's created and consumed"

Yes - a point that Wheeler makes also when he notes:

"Take for example the primitive atavism of left-wing bromides like “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.” By the same logic, one can be healthy only at the expense of others. That in order to be in superior health, bursting with energy and vitality, one has to make someone else sick or in poor health -- just like in order to be rich you have to make others poor. The healthy are healthy because they unjustly exploited and ripped off the sick, spiriting away the sick’s fair share of health with black magic."

I've heard the term "zero-sum game" to describe the way the left imagines economics to work. It is reminiscent of the whole supply-side, trickle-down economics debate. Lord knows I am not an economist and it seems that even prominent economists disagree about these things so where does that leave us average folks?

I do know that whenever I've tried to broach some of the points you make with leftists I know, they bring up the same stuff: Bechtel's attempt to privatize water in Bolivia a few years ago, which raised the price of water enormously and then the poor Bolivians rioted, Bremer apparently trying to force the Iraqis to purchase seeds patented by Monsanto (or something like that) - which Galloway even brought up in that debate with Hitchens! and of course the infamous IMF, International Monetary Fund, which moves in and takes over a country's economy to our advantage and the poor country's disadvantage.

Like I said - I'm not an economist and so I haven't a clue what to say in these situations except to point out as you do in general terms that a rising tide floats all boats and that the overall picture supports that view (as you point out re the 3rd world countries that capitalism has impacted vs those it hasn't).

Still, these leftist folks are getting a steady supply of their economics talking points from somewhere! Guess I'll have to read some of the books Harris cites - "Empire", for example. I was hoping to find the lazy man's way out - one great book that conclusively debunks the idea that America's affluence is the direct cause of global immiseration - something I could throw at my leftist friends to prove them wrong. It's probably not a black and white issue though. Maybe the most we can hope for is that the left will not go so far as to literally be willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. :-)

10/17/05, 6:45 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

I think you hit on the key: keep the big picture in focus. When leftists drag-up or manufacture some obscure detail or point of minutia – like Monsanto – how can a debate continue? These points even if they are true are minor and often not significant in the way they insinuate. If they can't see the big picture it's hard to find common ground.

I don't know of any good book on economics but I suspect Thomas Sowell has written one recently that looks promising. If you find a good book, recommend it to others. If a person is open-minded like you and I, we welcome reading other opinions.

Also, there are many things worth changing about American foreign policy. For example, we should stop giving Egypt Mubarak $2 billion a year. However, it won't make a difference to Egypt's future. Our money is not why Egypt is so backwards and has problems. Some leftists try to imply it is. Watch out when they use the word "complicit." It means we are somehow connected to the problem and as far as leftists are concerned that means it is all our fault.

The tough part is trying to see the whole context, getting perspective, and seeing matters in proportion. Often when you meet someone who holds other views it is because their whole worldview is different. And a person's worldview is constructed over years and decades. It seems to each person that this worldview explains everything or has potential to do that. Changing a worldview isn't easy. The most one can do is plant a seed and politely suggest there are other ways of looking at things. Sometimes it's best to just explore the differences rather than try to argue.

10/17/05, 8:40 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Here are two books on economics: Thomas Sowell and Andrew Bernstein. I've read part of Sowell's book in the bookstore and I've read about 20% of Bernstein's book. I'm not the best judge since I know too much about the subject. If you or if anyone else here reads them, I'd like to know what you think. They both look promising. Bernstein brings together many facts and keeps the big picture in focus. Sowell is a great writer who makes many important points obvious (or perhaps they are to me.)

10/17/05, 8:54 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Jason - thanks for the recommendations. The Bernstein book looks particularly promising for what I'm looking for.

I suspect you're absolutely correct about the left's focus on minutiae. Because I've been following the news so closely for the past few years I cannot be taken in by certain kinds of anti-American myopic arguments my leftist friends would try to get away with. Take Gitmo, for example. My leftist friends would cite Amnesty International! which called Gitmo the "Gulag of our Times"! We're runnning modern concentration camps for God's sake! Our moral authority is a sham! Abu Ghraib is opened under new management! Who are we to talk about human rights? Haven't you seen the picture of that hooded guy with the wires attached?!

What if I were only 14 years old right now and not following the news daily and that was what I was reading in my textbooks 3 or 4 years from now when I was old enough to start evaluating America's human rights record in comparison to that of the Middle east? I would suffer from a total loss of perspective and proportion.

However, it's harder to fool people on the human rights side of things because the workings there aren't totally mysterious. They are within the realm of everyone's daily experience and understanding. Economics is a much more hidden and mysterious thing.

Fortunately, Islam's human rights record is SO egregious, that even if it is hard to get leftists to understand that islam is the primary cause of the Muslim's world economic stagnation, they can hopefully grasp the horror of honor killings, artists getting murdered in the street and peaceful Buddhists getting their heads sawed off!

Again - thanks for the recommendations. I will add the Bernstein book to my growing list of must-reads...

10/17/05, 9:52 PM  

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