Saturday, December 09, 2006

Liberty and Culture in Iraq

John Agresto, former president of St. John’s College’s Santa Fe campus, served as a senior advisor in Iraq from September 2003 to June 2004 and has kept in close contact with friends and colleagues since he left. He describes the situation in Iraq in the journal, Academic Questions, of the National Association of Scholars, of which he is on the board of advisors. He was eager to help his country bring democracy to Iraq by helping to establish educational institutions appropriate to a liberal order. He tried to reopen and reform Iraqi Universities. He describes his quixotic quest: (Academic Questions, Vol. 19, No. 3, page 37)
“[W]e talked all the time about freedom and democracy. Yet we had precious little knowledge of how to bring a stable, mild, moderate, middle-class, and above all free democracy to Iraq. We had, it seemed, scant idea as to what made our own democracy lasting and liberal. Other than holding elections and writing some kind of constitution, we had little idea as to what kind of civic institutions might precede democracy, what character a people might need to have to make democracy work, or what kind of political institutions were needed to make democracy just. We acted as if democracy were natural—just get rid of the tyrant, hold elections, and look: a democracy.”
Agresto explains the lack of understanding of their Iraqi culture and religion is familiar terms to the readers of this blog:
“We generally have a benign view of religion. We always insist that those who kill infidels or torture in God’s name have somehow ‘hijacked’ their religion. We consistently failed to understand that not all religions have the same view as we do of peace, of brotherhood, or of justice. Islam in general, and parts of Islam in particular, are not post-Enlightenment faiths. But why would they be? We desperately kept looking for the supposed ‘moderates’ among the clergy in Iraq. Moderate as compared to what? Just because we believe that God wants everyone to enjoy equal rights, or that killing Jews or stoning apostates is wrong, doesn’t mean that our beliefs are shared in other faiths.

We have so tamed and, in a sense, marginalized religion in the West that we consistently underestimate its ferocity and strength. … we didn’t, I think, realize, the attraction of extremism and fanaticism, especially among the youth, and especially among a people who have so little stability and order in their lives. We don’t understand either killing for God or dying for God. But others do.”
He believes the problem wasn't mistaken policies or mismanagement, although he describes that in detail. The problem is something that simple management can't address. He reiterates that we “misunderstood religion, we misunderstood human nature, we misunderstood the prerequisites of liberty and liberation, we misunderstood democracy.” He notes Iraqis fight oppression, not to establish universal liberty, but to be the new oppressor. He explains the difference between Iraq and the nations we defeated in WWII and why Iraq is less suitable for such a transformation. He sees the imposition of “medieval Islamic law under the protection of a new constitution” that will be illiberal and dangerous to world peace. Finally, he worries that Iran’s influence is all but unstoppable.

Despite all that he says we can’t leave anytime soon. And he contrasts Kurdish success with Arab failure. The above is just a brief description of some of the important points. In reading the interview I kept thinking of the paragraph on my masthead that I’ve had for the last two years. Liberty is the end-result of a long and difficult cultural and philosophical evolution.


Blogger Always On Watch said...

Argesto: “We generally have a benign view of religion. We always insist that those who kill infidels or torture in God’s name have somehow ‘hijacked’ their religion. We consistently failed to understand that not all religions have the same view as we do of peace, of brotherhood, or of justice. Islam in general, and parts of Islam in particular, are not post-Enlightenment faiths.

For at least two generations, university students have been taught that (1) all religions speak to the good in all of mankind and (2) that all religions worship the same God, though that God might be defined in slightly different terms. I submit that those two points account for GWB's blindness to the threat of Islam is those two numbered points--along with certain advice he receives from closet Islamists.

For just a moment, let's consider Kipling's "The Ballad of East and West". Every time I hear about bringing democracy to Iraq, I think of that poem. Oh, I know that the poem is literature, not philosophy; but Kipling's point about Muslim respect for a strongman still applies to the Islamic world.

Tragically, the U.S. mission of bringing democracy to Iraq is not perceived by Muslims as something a strongman would do. Perhaps if the coalition forces had gone in with more strength and exacted a complete defeat, the situation in Iraq wouldn't be what it is today.

12/27/06, 9:23 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Yes, everything we’ve done since Eisenhower’s support of Nasser (in the Suez war) to helping Afghanistan fight the USSR, to saving the Muslims in Kosovo, to helping Egypt get back the Sinai, to unilaterally advocating a Palestinian state in the West Bank, to trying to bring democracy to Iraq … all of this is seen as weakness. The one thing that impresses Muslims, especially Arab Muslims, is strength. Despite all that Saddam did to his fellow Muslims, he was a hero in the Muslim world as long as he was powerful or perceived as such.

We have yet to understand the enemy let alone learn his weaknesses.

12/27/06, 10:56 AM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

I concur with Jason that our policies are "seen as weakness [while the] one thing that impresses Muslims, especially Arab Muslims, is strength...We have yet to understand the enemy let alone learn his weaknesses."

Perhaps the enemy's weakness is his lack of integrity, in using the sword to spread his faith, of lacking respect for truth & justice, and of unleashing barbarism. Our weakness is the inability to acknowledge his treachery, whereby we live in denial, and hence cannot deny him legitimacy,

12/27/06, 7:14 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

Between troops and private security contractors, America has roughly 280,000 armed men in the heart of the Arab world and all they can muster up is car bombs against each other's kids.

I'd say they respect American strength very much, thank you.

12/28/06, 8:16 AM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

Add to that the 200,000 or so Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga trained by US Special Forces for the past 15 years.

No clearer picture of why all the violence in Iraq is confined to a small percentage of the whole nation is available. The Kurds had a 12 year jump start on democracy, certainly, but their virtual autonomy under the umbrella of the northern "no-fly zone" wasn't without cross-border internecine bloodletting. But you can't deny that they've civilized faster than their Iraqi Arab counterparts.

12/28/06, 8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The success of the Kurds is the greatest untold story of the war, PDK and PUK rivalries notwithstanding. I was as ignorant of Islam as anyone when the drain the swamp theory was first floated. Now I have serious doubts as to whether Islam and Democracy can coexist. Democracy is nothing less than tyranny by the majority if minorities are not guaranteed basic civil rights such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech, something Islam denies.

12/28/06, 11:38 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

The Kurds are an interesting case. I wish Agresto discussed their situation in greater detail. There’s still much to learn. Islam is one factor but so are tribal loyalties and differences between Kurds and Arabs, culturally speaking, of course.

If tribal and ethnic loyalties are exploited and found to sustain a stable order, re-invigorated religious passions may stay in the background or simmer more slowly. In the early part of the war, I read how our troops found from experience that working through tribal leaders often brought co-operation; but it was against the policy of a unified Iraq. The traditional reliance on the good judgment of marines in the field was over-written, apparently.

A few months ago I reported how the Kurds can identify and deal with Arab terrorists (using means we won’t dare consider.) I suspect if there weren’t trouble elsewhere in Iraq, our media would find fault with the lack of perfection in Kurdish areas and complain about our “complicity” with their traditionally heavy-handed tactics.

12/29/06, 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


With your permission, I'd like to post the entire article on my Blog.

It touches on many themes that I have spoken on concerning democracy in Iraq, but speaks to the topic mmuch better than me.

Cheers, Ronbo

P.S. Of course, a hat tip will be given to Liberty and Culture.

12/29/06, 11:08 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Sure ... and thanks!

12/29/06, 11:14 AM  
Blogger K2ENF said...


One of these days you've got to get something that does trackbacks.

In lieu of a trackback...

12/30/06, 10:25 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Thanks, Eric, for discussing Argresto's thesis. Actually, you have a long and thoughtful essay. I barely have time to jot down a few thoughts!

12/30/06, 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Passion of the Poultry rears its ugly head. The Marxist Waterfowl is motivated by doctrinaire anti-semitism. Any comparison between the Kurds and the Pseudostinians as an independent people shows the case for the Kurds is superior.

The Kurds have their own language historical identity and are more numerous than Pseudostinians. The far left has invented a fictional ethnic group out of whole cloth.

Okay Ducko why are Kurds, Turkomen and Assyrians not Arab? Try this with Pseudostinians.

Jeapordy music.

If one needs facts and logic avoid Marxist vermin.

By the way Duck where are the Randoid Gulags and Killing Fields?

Score Marx 100,000,000 dead
Rand 0

12/30/06, 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Posted your article on my Blog, and remember that Saddam is still dead...

Rejoice Little People: Saddam is ABSOLUTELY dead

12/31/06, 7:25 AM  
Blogger Jeremayakovka said...

Happy new year Jason!

Am linking to this (along with Jeane Kirkpatrick's "Dictatorships and Double Standards"

12/31/06, 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still no answer from the communist Duck. Why are Psuedostinians sacrosanct while you spit on the Kurds. The answer is they do not fit into your class genocide and global mayhem plans.

Nothing new from the antisemitic illogical insane Duck.

Kim Jong Ill needs a Caligraphy expert so lets send the Duck one way.

1/2/07, 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
HAPPY NEW YEAR Infidels!!!

ignore the threat of Jihad
just keep sleeping like sheep

1/2/07, 6:21 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


"You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." - Leon Trotsky

1/3/07, 8:47 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

I quoted Trotsky to compare and contrast with your Cormac McCarthy quote. They said pretty much the same thing.

Personally, I'm not a Trotskyite, as I find leftists rather intellectually dwarfed by most cans of potato soup.

But, keeping swinging Ducky. Eventually, you'll hit something, even if they take you off the plate.

1/4/07, 12:11 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

"far right Trotskyite neocon"

Just had to make sure no one doubts your IQ does not break into triple digits, didn't you, Ducky?

Here's a fair question:

Have you ever fooled anyone into believing you're not a moron?

1/4/07, 12:15 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Speaking of Trots or ex-Trots, like Chris Hitchens, just to show that I’m not going soft check out my latest on Infidel’s Alliance where I imply he's still ... well read it there.

1/4/07, 1:47 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

"Liberty is the end-result of a long and difficult cultural and philosophical evolution."

And how; it took us in the West around 2400 or so years to "get it," and understanding this point is essential to the proper grasp history.

I have to agree with AOW2 that it's because Bush has never had an integrated, context-oriented lesson in history showing how historical events are idea-driven, that he just doesn't "get it."

He obviously doesn't "get" the problem with pure, unadulterated democracy, either. As Rancher says, "Democracy is nothing less than tyranny by the majority if minorities are not guaranteed basic civil rights..."

Don't you just love Ben Franklin's description of "democracy"? "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb discussing what to have for lunch; 'liberty' is a well-armed lamb."

The arms, of course, as you so aptly point out, Rancher, are the guarantee of the protection of our rights.


Following right along in Ronald Barbour's footsteps, I'd also like to spread the particularly well-crafted words of your post by re-posting it over at sixthcolumn.

BTW, I loved your Cicero post, and I've copied it as a reference work; I'm a huge fan of Roman history (even though my favorite part is 1st century C.E.), and that post was amazing!

1/4/07, 7:53 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


I'm not a Trotskyite. There's no "neo" to my conservatism. I just hate leftists. I believe everyone politically to the left of Barry Goldwater should be forced to find another planet to live on. At their own expense. Bonus if there's video of crying mothers being dragged onto spaceships.

If it were possible to stretch the limits of human imagination to envision a leftist that could formulate a rational argument, I'd probably feel otherwise.

But, just as you wouldn't shop at an auto parts store for cheddar cheese, you don't go to leftists for coherent thought.

It's been that way for centuries.

1/5/07, 2:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is a load of crap from you. What makes the rights of the Kurds whom you dismiss any less sacrosanct than the Pseudostinians whom you obsess over?

1/5/07, 6:31 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Thanks, Cubed. By the way, I’m enjoying Cicero; I’ve also been reading some of Gibbon as well as other books on Roman history. When I realized how much Roman history Jefferson and Washington knew, I realized how much I didn’t know. Greek and Roman history was the core of a liberal arts education during the 18th century. I hope to post more comments while I read. Greece and Rome are our first great attempts at civilization on a scale and duration unequaled until modern times. The lessons are important; our founding fathers benefited greatly from their study of history and philosophy.

1/5/07, 9:26 AM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Mr. Beamish writes "I just hate leftists. I believe everyone politically to the left of Barry Goldwater should be forced to find another planet to live on."

However, although I view the left as leading us to suicide, I do not hate them, or seek to apply force against them. The destructive component is less in the person than in the ideas promulagated. Let us note that many of the conservatives and Objectivists of today had been leftists. Some of us were foolish enough to believe that altruism was the way to improve mankind, rather than the non-initiation of force.

Would hatred have been helpful in dealing with the left in the past, or would it be helpful today? I submit that the left earned its victories in the war of ideas primarily by having a clear vision, a supportive theory, and the commitment to carry it out. While I do not deny the evil embodied within the left, I credit them with their effectiveness.

*What we need to do with regard to the left is to outcompete them in the field of ideas*, providing a more compelling vision, supportive theories, strategy and tactics, as well as clear and compelling presentations. I know that conservatives, religionists, libertarians, and Objectivists, believe that they have outcompeted the left, as well as the rest of the right. However, it is my view that their defeats are due to their own limitations in dealing with fundamental matters. At any rate, when it comes to the war of ideas, it will not be helpful to engage in hatred or force.

1/5/07, 9:39 AM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


If that it were the case that in the last 100,000 years of human history a single leftist had emerged with a coherent argument worthy of consideration, I might feel differently.

But instead, we point to leftists, from Robespierre to Hitler to Mao to Saddam, as examples of men we don't need around.

The 20th Century is my evidence in the case that all leftists need to be silenced before their ideas grow legs.

1/5/07, 1:21 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


I would also question how you measure "defeat" in the left-right political sense.

I submit that EVERY government modeled on leftist ideas that has emerged since "leftist" became the politically correct way to refer to absolute morons became a tyrannical order in a very short time.

These "defeats" suffered by liberty-loving people, drenched in blood and sealed in historical horror, eventually get overturned. Usually by force. Always for the good.

The question then becomes - how many times must we be "defeated" before the lesson of history sticks?

All leftist ideologies begin with the flawed premise that "words mean nothing." So, talking leftists out of their collective stupidity is a crap shoot, at best.

To me, the work is beneath me. You don't come to a leftist ideology by any means that can be honestly described as rational thought. Why insult the rational by pretending leftists are ready to compete on that level?

1/5/07, 1:56 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

Take Ducky for example.

Here's a moron / leftist who has gotten himself worked up over the fact that people loyal to the memory of Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr were present at the execution of his murderer, but wants you to believe he's not anguishing over the death of another leftist tyrant.

You can't fix stupid.

1/5/07, 2:15 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Mr. Beamish points out (and I concur) that the leftist position is incoherent. However, what I addressed was not their intellectual paucity, but his response to their ideas by hatred and force. Let us note that, by doing so, Mr. Beamish has accepted their methods, which is precisely what renders them so destructive.

He writes that "leftists, from Robespierre to Hitler to Mao to Saddam [are] examples of men we don't need around. Here it is true that those who have committed crimes warrant a forceful response, which includes death. However, Mr. Ducky (whose beliefs and method of discourse I view as beyond the pale) has not committed any crimes, but has engaged in presenting his beliefs.

Mr. Beamish concludes that "The 20th Century is my evidence in the case that all leftists need to be silenced before their ideas grow legs." I fundamentally disagree, for the premise that we silence views is primarily what is wrong with the left.

Again, we are free to outcompete the left in the realm of ideas. Let one of our ideas be the non-initiation of force, rather than employ force to silence those we hate. As Ayn Rand said, we cannot defeat our adversaries by employing their premises.

I would like Mr. Beamish to explain why his approach of hatred and force *in the realm of ideas* is the recommended approach for dealing with the left.

In his next posting, Mr. Beamish asks, how I "measure defeat" in the left-right political sense.” I do so in the way that a businessman defeats his competition, namely by winning the purchases of the consumer. When for example, we convince the American public that our approach is superior to that of the left, we shall have defeated them. (Note that having a better product is not the same as convincing the consumer that it is better.)

He then states what we agree upon, that governments modeled on leftist ideas are disastrous, and ends with “Why insult the rational by pretending leftists are ready to compete on that level?” In view of the fact that the American public has found their approaches superior to ours, it is we who have been unable to compete.

1/5/07, 2:22 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


If I employed the left's premises, I'd be yammering about how we need to tax corporations out of existence to pay for unemployment programs, or how fighting wars in Islamic lands creates terrorists among people we shouldn't profile at airports (i.e. I'd be doing my best to convince you I'm an idiot).

I'm not a disciple of Ayn Rand, but I think even she would agree that we need not include leftist thought among the many subjects that could be brought up in a discussion of mankind's intellectual achievements. Not even for the sake of being polite.

As as to your measure of "defeat" in America, the left hasn't won jack.

My proof?

We still have elections that can change the body of government.

1/5/07, 3:06 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

As to explaining why "force and hatred" is my recommendation for dealing with the left, it's quite simple really. Force and hatred is the fastest way to turn leftists into thinkers.

How many times a day do you hear a leftist complain about being "censored?" Never mind that we wouldn't hear a damned thing from someone truly censored (we're back to the leftist premise that "words mean nothing"), in order to answer the charge, we have to charitably dignify it as meriting response.

Or do we?

Leftism has never produced an intellectual. Why pretend it has?

1/5/07, 3:27 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

In other words, if I hate leftists, and direct force against them, will they:

A.) Blame themselves for my actions against them and seek to appease and acommodate my demands of them


B.) become rightists?

1/5/07, 3:33 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Mr. Beamish denies that he employs the left’s premises, by giving examples of where he doesn’t. However, I referred explicitly to the premises of hatred and coercion. Somehow he thinks that by stating premises he disagrees with, this shows that he doesn’t accept the very premises that he previously presented, namely the use of hatred and force in the realm of ideas. Let me asseverate that *it is the use of force for human betterment that is the quintessential premise of the left*.

Next he claims that the left “hasn't won jack [since we] still have elections that can change the body of government.] Here he argues that because they haven’t been more successful, they haven’t been successful at all. Yet since WWII the left has had enormous influence in the body politic, moving us ever closer to social-democracy. I do not know of a single support of our civilization that hasn’t been undermined by the left over the past two generations.

He writes that “Force and hatred is the fastest way to turn leftists into thinkers” but provides no evidence. Yet even if that were the case, it would not show that it had a good effect on the rest of the population, or on himself. I submit that *the premise of bettering the human condition by force and hatred is the essence of what goes wrong within society, whether by fascism, communism, or Islam.*

As an aside, he writes “Leftism has never produced an intellectual. Why pretend it has?” Somehow he is of the opinion that I have so pretended.

Mr. Beamish asks whether hating leftists, and directing force against them, will result in their accommodating his demands, or becoming rightists. They will do neither, but will be pleased that he has sunk to their level. Leftists would enjoy dealing with ideas by emotion and coercion. They fear and avoid addressing ideas on their merit. Yet, the important thing is not how the left would respond, but how it would undermine the public at large (who would find that the left does better at mudslinging than does anyone), and how it would undermine himself, by substituting animal drives for reason.

I submit that the central moral issue is whether force is employed for human betterment, or solely for defensive purposes. Mr. Beamish, advocates the former, as does the left, and most of the right. He has exemplified why the right has lost out to the left in the war of ideas, namely because they have accepted the fundamental ‘moral’ guide of the left.

1/5/07, 4:31 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


Is it not logically true that we'd have no problems with leftists if there were no leftists? ;P

Brains on the pavement win moral victories all the time.

So what?

1/6/07, 2:08 AM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

(I don't seriously hold the above amoral view, just admiring Weingarten's handiwork)

1/6/07, 2:15 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Let’s stop subsidizing them with our taxes. Here’s one major historical problem:

After WWII we had GI benefits that included money for college. That was a reasonable compensation for service. However, the federal government expanded its subsidy with grants and loans for everyone even without service. Combined with the military draft, this encouraged a generation of leftists to stay in school (during the Vietnam War) and eventually become the next generation of professors.

Let’s get rid of all federal subsidies for education (except GI benefits) and grants to the humanities. We can start, of course, with (1) ending all subsidies to schools that haven’t had ROTC programs and (2) expand the ban subsequently.

The left controls the universities and has the opportunity to influence the minds of our children for four formative years of their life. Let’s break this monopoly (in the true sense of government franchise) by cutting the umbilical cord.

We’ll have to educate the voters to understand that other institutions will arise and some will have to attend college part time or in night school as once was common. However, when they spend their hard-earned money, they’ll want value. When I taught (in the 70s) I noticed the difference in motivation between the day students and night students. And they knew what they wanted to learn and why. They were less tolerant of bull.

The next step (3) would be to have a federal law prohibiting the states from funding higher education.

If we can’t do this much, we don’t have sympathy for our ideas. Let’s at least try (1) ending subsidies to schools that don’t have ROTC programs. If we can’t do that now, after the next attack.

1/6/07, 8:07 AM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

I concur with Mr. Beamish that if there were no leftists, we would not have problems with them. However, I believe that we create our problems by our susceptibilities. It is akin to challenges that arise in science; they serve to bring attention to our failings. Consequently, were there no leftists, we would create them. We need them for example to show us our fault in attempting to better the world by force. Nonetheless, I concede that Beamish is right -- skewer the duck!

I of course concur with Jason, that federal subsidies for education (except GI benefits) are disastrous. Our school system has become a means of indoctrination, with the insidiousness of the view that students are given a balanced education. I submit that this indoctrination occurs even in public schools, where political correctness, not civility, is instilled.

It is not clear to me how to break the mold of a public that believes it helpful to have education governed by the state. Perhaps it is feasible to raise the question as to whose beliefs should be taught, yours, mine, or the next guy’s. Some of the public would acknowledge that indoctrination is unacceptable, so that teachers should not aim at getting across their viewpoint, but of giving a balanced picture, and permitting the students to make up their own mind.

I have argued that for the same reasons that there be separation of Church and state, there be separation of education and state, namely to protect the public from the state, and permit the state to engage in its proper functions. My theory is that voluntary areas (i.e., culture) should be separated from coercive areas (i.e., government). However, I don’t get very far, since people believe in using force for human betterment.

1/6/07, 9:21 AM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


You successfully demonstrated how easy it is to debunk a leftist, even if I had the unenviable role of being the leftist in the exchange.

I don't think anyone seriously believes I want to see leftists forcibly loaded into spaceships and sent to another planet where they can only harm themselves.

But I'm going to have fun with the next leftist that tries to argue against it.


1/6/07, 12:57 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Mr. Beamish writes "I don't think anyone seriously believes I want to see leftists forcibly loaded into spaceships and sent to another planet..."

No, but perhaps you would like to say "Go f--- a duck."

1/6/07, 1:17 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


What I'd really like is to see Jason do a post on the libertarian non-initiation of force doctrine before I try to initiate force against it again.

1/6/07, 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll second the motion.

1/7/07, 2:20 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Mr. Beamish writes (and Farmer Jones concurs) "What I'd really like is to see Jason do a post on the libertarian non-initiation of force doctrine..." Now there are many libertarian writings on the subject, such as by Leonard Read “Anything That’s Peaceful”, Reverend Opitz “The Libertarian Theology Of Freedom”, Murray Rothbard “The Ethics of Liberty”, etc. However, Jason may have too much to handle at this time to take on another task. Perhaps an easier approach is to consider some quotes from Ayn Rand, as follows:

The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others.
Force and mind are opposites.
Reality demands of man that he act for his own rational interest: your gun demands of him that he act against it.
The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships.
An attempt to achieve the good by physical force is a monstrous contradiction which negates morality at its root by destroying man’s capacity to recognize the good.
The principle of using force only in retaliation against those who initiate its use, is the principle of subordinating might to right.

The advantage of Rand’s views are that they follow from her first principles, so one knows where she is coming from, and can comprehend a clear and succinct derivation. The libertarian views can be religious, economic, political, social or historical, so whereas they have much to offer, there is not to my knowledge a coherent overview.

1/8/07, 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...but doesn't guile and deception achieve the same result as physical force? I go further than Rand.

I like the way Berlin addressed it in his letter to George Kennan (author of the US' Containment Strategy for the USSR)

This letter was written in response to an appreciative letter from George Kennan about Berlin's essay "Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century," which appeared in the "mid-century issue" of Foreign Affairs in 1950. The essay is one of the important documents of twentieth-century liberalism. It was reprinted in 1969 in Four Essays on Liberty, where Berlin commented in a note about the journal in which it was originally published that "its tone was to some extent due to the policies of the Soviet regime during Stalin's last years. Since then a modification of the worst excesses of that dictatorship has fortunately taken place; but the general tendency with which the issue was concerned seems to me, if anything, to have gained, if not in intensity, then in extent: some of the new national states of Asia and Africa seem to show no greater concern for civil liberties, even allowing for the exigencies of security and planning which these states need for their development and survival, than the regimes they have replaced."

New College, Oxford
13 February 1951

Dear George,

I have ill rewarded your wonderful letter by leaving it so long unanswered. I received it towards the end of term here when I was genuinely worn out by teaching and examining, and scarcely capable of taking anything in, but even then it moved me profoundly. I took it off with me to Italy and read it and re-read it, and kept putting off the day on which I would write an answer worthy of it, but no such day ever came. I began many letters but each seemed trivial, and what the Russians call suetlivo ["in a fussy or bustling manner"]--full of hurrying sentences, scattered and moving in all directions at once, inappropriate either to the theme or to your words about it; but I cannot bear (if only because of the feelings which your letter excited in me) to say nothing merely because I am not sure how much I have to say. So you must forgive me if what I write is chaotic, not merely in form but in substance, and does little justice to your thesis. I shall simply go on and hope for the best, and beg you to pardon me if I am wasting your time.

I must begin by saying that you have put in words something which I believe not only to be the centre of the subject but something which, perhaps because of a certain reluctance to face the fundamental moral issue on which everything turns, I failed to say; but once forced to face it, I realise both that it is craven to sail round it as I have done, and moreover that it is, in fact, what I myself believe, and deeply believe, to be true; and more than this: that upon one's attitude to this issue, which you have put very plainly, and very, if I may say so, poignantly, depends one's entire moral outlook, i.e. everything one believes.

Let me try and say what I think it is; you say (and I am not quoting) that every man possesses a point of weakness, an Achilles' heel, and by exploiting this a man may be made a hero or a martyr or a rag. Again, if I understand you correctly, you think that Western civilisation has rested upon the principle that, whatever else was permitted or forbidden, the one heinous act which would destroy the world was to do precisely this--the deliberate act of tampering with human beings so as to make them behave in a way which, if they knew what they were doing, or what its consequences were likely to be, would make them recoil with horror and disgust. The whole of the Kantian morality (and I don't know about Catholics, but Protestants, Jews, Muslims and high-minded atheists believe it) lies in this; the mysterious phrase about men being "ends in themselves," to which much lip-service has been paid, with not much attempt to explain it, seems to lie in this: that every human being is assumed to possess the capacity to choose what to do, and what to be, however narrow the limits within which his choice may lie, however hemmed in by circumstances beyond his control; that all human love and respect rests upon the attribution of conscious motives in this sense; that all the categories, the concepts, in terms of which we think about and act towards one another--goodness, badness, integrity and lack of it, the attribution of dignity or honour to others which we must not insult or exploit, the entire cluster of ideas such as honesty, purity of motive, courage, sense of truth, sensibility, compassion, justice; and, on the other side, brutality, falseness, wickedness, ruthlessness, lack of scruple, corruption, lack of feelings, emptiness--all these notions in terms of which we think of others and ourselves, in terms of which conduct is assessed, purposes adopted--all this becomes meaningless unless we think of human beings as capable of pursuing ends for their own sakes by deliberate acts of choice--which alone makes nobility noble and sacrifices sacrifices.

The whole of that morality, which is most prominent in the nineteenth century, in particular in the romantic period, but implicit in both Christian and Jewish writings, and far less present in the pagan world, rests on the view that it is a marvellous thing in itself when a man pits himself against the world, and sacrifices himself to an ideal without reckoning the consequences, even when we consider his ideal false and its consequences disastrous. We admire purity of motive as such, and think it a wonderful thing--or at any rate deeply impressive, perhaps to be fought but never despised--when somebody throws away material advantage, reputation etc. for the sake of bearing witness to something which he believes to be true, however mistaken and fanatical we may think him to be. I do not say that we worship passionate self-abandonment or automatically prefer a desperate fanaticism to moderation and enlightened self-interest. Of course not; yet nevertheless we do think such conduct deeply moving, even when misdirected. We admire it always more than calculation; we at least understand the kind of aesthetic splendour which all defiance has for some people--Carlyle, Nietzsche, Leontiev [Konstantin Nikolaevich Leontiev, nineteenth-century Russian philosopher and critic] and Fascists generally. We think that only those human beings are a credit to their kind who do not let themselves be pushed too far by the forces of nature or history, either passively or by glorying in their own impotence; and we idealise only those who have purposes for which they accept responsibility, on which they stake something, and at times everything; living consciously and bravely for whatever they think good, i.e. worth living and, in the last resort, dying for.

All this may seem an enormous platitude, but, if it is true, this is, of course, what ultimately refutes utilitarianism and what makes Hegel and Marx such monstrous traitors to our civilisation. When, in the famous passage, Ivan Karamazov rejects the worlds upon worlds of happiness which may be bought at the price of the torture to death of one innocent child, what can utilitarians, even the most civilised and humane, say to him? After all, it is in a sense unreasonable to throw away so much human bliss purchased at so small a price as one--only one--innocent victim, done to death however horribly--what after all is one soul against the happiness of so many? Nevertheless, when Ivan says he would rather return the ticket, no reader of Dostoevsky thinks this cold-hearted or mad or irresponsible; and although a long course of Bentham or Hegel might turn one into a supporter of the Grand Inquisitor, qualms remain.

Ivan Karamazov cannot be totally exorcised; he speaks for us all, and this I take to be your point, and the foundation of your optimism. What I take you to say, and what I should have said myself if I had had the wit or the depth, is that the one thing which no utilitarian paradise, no promise of eternal harmony in the future within some vast organic whole will make us accept is the use of human beings as mere means--the doctoring of them until they are made to do what they do, not for the sake of the purposes which are their purposes, fulfilment of hopes which however foolish or desperate are at least their own, but for reasons which only we, the manipulators, who freely twist them for our purposes, can understand. What horrifies one about Soviet or Nazi practice is not merely the suffering and the cruelty, since although that is bad enough, it is something which history has produced too often, and to ignore its apparent inevitability is perhaps real Utopianism--no; what turns one inside out, and is indescribable, is the spectacle of one set of persons who so tamper and "get at" others that the others do their will without knowing what they are doing; and in this lose their status as free human beings, indeed as human beings at all.

When armies were slaughtered by other armies in the course of history, we might be appalled by the carnage and turn pacifist; but our horror acquires a new dimension when we read about children, or for that matter grown-up men and women, whom the Nazis loaded into trains bound for gas chambers, telling them that they were going to emigrate to some happier place. Why does this deception, which may in fact have diminished the anguish of the victims, arouse a really unutterable kind of horror in us? The spectacle, I mean, of the victims marching off in happy ignorance of their doom amid the smiling faces of their tormentors? Surely because we cannot bear the thought of human beings denied their last rights--of knowing the truth, of acting with at least the freedom of the condemned, of being able to face their destruction with fear or courage, according to their temperaments, but at least as human beings, armed with the power of choice. It is the denial to human beings of the possibility of choice, the getting them into one's power, the twisting them this way and that in accordance with one's whim, the destruction of their personality by creating unequal moral terms between the gaoler and the victim, whereby the gaoler knows what he is doing, and why, and plays upon the victim, i.e. treats him as a mere object and not as a subject whose motives, views, intentions have any intrinsic weight whatever--by destroying the very possibility of his having views, notions of a relevant kind--that is what cannot be borne at all.

What else horrifies us about unscrupulousness if not this? Why is the thought of someone twisting someone else round his little finger, even in innocent contexts, so beastly (for instance in Dostoevsky's Dyadyushkin son [Uncle's Dream, a novella published in 1859], which the Moscow Arts Theatre used to act so well and so cruelly)? After all, the victim may prefer to have no responsibility; the slave be happier in his slavery. Certainly we do not detest this kind of destruction of liberty merely because it denies liberty of action; there is a far greater horror in depriving men of the very capacity for freedom--that is the real sin against the Holy Ghost. Everything else is bearable so long as the possibility of goodness--of a state of affairs in which men freely choose, disinterestedly seek ends for their own sake--is still open, however much suffering they may have gone through. Their souls are destroyed only when this is no longer possible. It is when the desire for choice is broken that what men do thereby loses all moral value, and actions lose all significance (in terms of good and evil) in their own eyes; that is what is meant by destroying people's self-respect, by turning them, in your words, into rags. This is the ultimate horror because in such a situation there are no worthwhile motives left: nothing is worth doing or avoiding, the reasons for existing are gone. We admire Don Quixote, if we do, because he has a pure-hearted desire to do what is good, and he is pathetic because he is mad and his attempts are ludicrous.

For Hegel and for Marx (and possibly for Bentham, although he would have been horrified by the juxtaposition) Don Quixote is not merely absurd but immoral. Morality consists in doing what is good. Goodness is that which will satisfy one's nature. Only that will satisfy one's nature which is part of the historical stream along which one is carried willy-nilly, i.e. that which "the future" in any case holds in store. In some ultimate sense, failure is proof of a misunderstanding of history, of having chosen what is doomed to destruction, in preference to that which is destined to succeed. But to choose the former is "irrational," and since morality is rational choice, to seek that which will not come off is immoral. This doctrine that the moral and the good is the successful, and that failure is not only unfortunate but wicked, is at the heart of all that is most horrifying both in utilitarianism and in "historicism" of the Hegelian, Marxist type. For if only that were best which made one happiest in the long run, or that which accorded with some mysterious plan of history, there really would be no reason to "return the ticket." Provided that there was a reasonable probability that the new Soviet man might either be happier, even in some very long run, than his predecessors, or that history would be bound sooner or later to produce someone like him whether we liked it or not, to protest against him would be mere silly romanticism, "subjective," "idealistic," ultimately irresponsible. At most we would argue that the Russians were factually wrong and the Soviet method not the best for producing this desirable or inevitable type of man. But of course what we violently reject is not these questions of fact, but the very idea that there are any circumstances in which one has a right to get at, and shape, the characters and souls of other men for purposes which these men, if they realised what we were doing, might reject.

We distinguish to this extent between factual and value judgement--that we deny the right to tamper with human beings to an unlimited extent, whatever the truth about the laws of history; we might go further and deny the notion that "history" in some mysterious way "confers" upon us "rights" to do this or that; that some men or bodies of men can morally claim a right to our obedience because they, in some sense, carry out the behests of "history," are its chosen instrument, its medicine or scourge or in some important sense "Welthistorisch"--great, irresistible, riding the waves of the future, beyond our petty, subjective, not rationally bolsterable ideas of right and wrong. Many a German and I daresay many a Russian or Mongol or Chinese today feels that it is more adult to recognise the sheer immensity of the great events that shake the world, and play a part in history worthy of men by abandoning themselves to them, than by praising or damning and indulging in bourgeois moralisings: the notion that history must be applauded as such is the horrible German way out of the burden of moral choice.

If pushed to the extreme, this doctrine would, of course, do away with all education, since when we send children to school or influence them in other ways without obtaining their approval for what we are doing, are we not "tampering" with them, "moulding" them like pieces of clay with no purpose of their own? Our answer has to be that certainly all "moulding" is evil, and that if human beings at birth had the power of choice and the means of understanding the world, it would be criminal; since they have not, we temporarily enslave them, for fear that, otherwise, they will suffer worse misfortunes from nature and from men, and this "temporary enslavement" is a necessary evil until such time as they are able to choose for themselves--the "enslavement" having as its purpose not an inculcation of obedience but its contrary, the development of power of free judgement and choice; still, evil it remains, even if necessary.

Communists and Fascists maintain that this kind of "education" is needed not only for children but for entire nations for long periods, the slow withering away of the State corresponding to immaturity in the lives of individuals. The analogy is specious because peoples, nations are not individuals and still less children; moreover in promising maturity their practice belies their professions; that is to say, they are lying, and for the most part know that they are. From a necessary evil in the case of the education of helpless children, this kind of practice becomes an evil on a much larger scale, and quite gratuitous, based either on utilitarianism, which misrepresents our moral values, or again on metaphors which misdescribe both what we call good and bad, and the nature of the world, the facts themselves. For we, i.e. those who join with us, are more concerned with making people free than making them happy; we would rather that they chose badly than not at all; because we believe that unless they choose they cannot be either happy or unhappy in any sense in which these conditions are worth having; the very notion of "worth having" presupposes the choice of ends, a system of free preferences; and an undermining of them is what strikes us with such cold terror, worse than the most unjust sufferings, which nevertheless leave the possibility of knowing them for what they are--of free judgement, which makes it possible to condemn them--still open.

You say that men who in this way undermine the lives of other men will end by undermining themselves, and the whole evil system is therefore doomed to collapse. In the long run I am sure you are right, because open-eyed cynicism, the exploitation of others by men who avoid being exploited themselves, is an attitude difficult for human beings to keep up for very long. It needs too much discipline and appalling strain in an atmosphere of such mutual hatred and distrust as cannot last because there is not enough moral intensity or general fanaticism to keep it going. But still the run can be very long before it is over, and I do not believe that the corrosive force from inside will work away at the rate which perhaps you, more hopefully, anticipate. I feel that we must avoid being inverted Marxists. Marx and Hegel observed the economic corrosion in their lifetime, and so the revolution seemed to be always round the corner. They died without seeing it, and perhaps it would have taken centuries if Lenin had not given history a sharp jolt. Without the jolt, are moral forces alone sufficient to bury the Soviet grave-diggers? I doubt it. But that in the end the worm would eat them I doubt no more than you; but whereas you say that is an isolated evil, a monstrous scourge sent to try us, not connected with what goes on elsewhere, I cannot help seeing it as an extreme and distorted but only too typical form of some general attitude of mind from which our own countries are not exempt.

For saying this, E.H. Carr has attacked me with some violence, in a leading article in The Times Literary Supplement last June. This makes me believe I must be even more right than I thought, since his writings are among the more obvious symptoms of what I tried to analyse, and he rightly interprets my articles as an attack on all he stands for. All this comes out particularly in his last oeuvre--on the Russian Revolution--in which the opposition and the victims are not allowed to testify--feeble flotsam adequately taken care of by history, which has swept them away as, being against the current, they, eo ipso, deserve. Only the victors deserve to be heard; the rest--Pascal, Pierre Bezukhov, all Chekhov's people, all the critics and casualties of Deutschtum or White Man's Burdens, or the American Century, or the Common Man on the March--these are historical dust, lishnye lyudi ["superfluous men," in Turgenev's and Dostoevsky's term], those who have missed the bus of history, poor little rats inferior to Ibsenite rebels who are all potential Catilines and dictators. Surely there never was a time when more homage was paid to bullies as such: and the weaker the victim the louder (and sincerer) his paeans--vide E.H. Carr, Koestler, Burnham, Laski, passim? But I must not waste your time any further.

Once more I should like to say how deeply moved I was by your formulation of what it is that excites in us the unparalleled horror which we feel when we read of what goes on in Soviet territories, and to convey my admiration and unbounded moral respect for the insight and scruple with which you set it forth. These qualities seem to me unique at present; more than this I cannot say.

Yours ever,

Doesn't the above sound like Kant's... men must be treated as ends unto themselves, never means to an end. Ellsworth Toohey? I don't think so.

1/8/07, 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot recommend Berlin's "Four Essays on Liberty" highly enough. No twentieth century philosopher surpassed him. Not Rand. Not anybody.

1/8/07, 9:46 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Farmer John writes "...but doesn't guile and deception achieve the same result as physical force? I go further than Rand."

Ayn Rand wrote "Fraud involves a similarly indirect use of force: it consists of obtaining material values without their owner's consent..." She in no way disregarded guile and deception, and contended that evasion was man's basic vice.

1/8/07, 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not that weingarten... anybody can make up 50 rules to cover morality. The difference lies in having one, and only one, that covers all 50 points.

1/10/07, 7:09 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Farmer Jones writes "anybody can make up 50 rules to cover morality. The difference lies in having one, and only one, that covers all 50 points."

Fine, Ayn Rand would say that none have the right to initiate force, but the obligation to resist it.

What is your sentence that covers the field?

1/11/07, 8:18 AM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

"Let’s get rid of all federal subsidies for education (except GI benefits) and grants to the humanities. We can start, of course, with (1) ending all subsidies to schools that haven’t had ROTC programs and (2) expand the ban subsequently.

"The left controls the universities and has the opportunity to influence the minds of our children for four formative years of their life. Let’s break this monopoly (in the true sense of government franchise) by cutting the umbilical cord."

"The left controls the universities and has the opportunity to influence the minds of our children for four formative years of their life."

One little comment about the educational timeline before I explode about the subsidy issue: The postmodernists influence the minds of our children for their entire school lives, from K-12 and through college, not just the four years of univesity level education.

The basic "mindset" that is established prior to puberty forms the framework for the garbage that they are exposed to at the university level, and once someone hits puberty, it gets progressively harder and harder to convince the kid that what he has learned is incorrect. We truly have to actively teach (somehow, the split infinitive just sounds better) our youngsters our values right from the beginning.

As it stands now, the postmodernists are filling the void with political correctness, moral equivalency, diversity, and junk "science."

The Kant-Hegel-Marx crowd got into the act the minute the whole government school system was established in the early to mid-1800s. This was a golden opportunity to recruit entire generations to their way of thinking, and they weren't about to miss it! Most people have heard of Dewey, who helped spread Progressivism throughout the government system, but there were others...many others.

For example, there was a guy named Henry Brokmeyer, a Prussian immigrant (1827 - 1906) who convinced another guy, William Torrey Harris, of the value of Hegel. Harris went on to found the "St. Louis Hegelians," an amateur philosophers' group, and later became the Superintendant of Schools in St. Louis in 1867. He held that position until 1880, plenty long enough to instill Hegelian thinking in the local schools.

This is pretty typical of the story of the hijacking of the minds of America's children by the postmodernists and their predecessors.

Now on to my next explosion (can you tell you have pushed my button?):

Yea! Stop the subsidies! That would solve SO MANY problems! The only way ANY product that is so bad that it can't appeal to enough customers to pay for it - and that includes education - is to parasitize off of others under threat of force.

In the case of education, the postmodernists' schools can survive only because their betters - that would be us - support them financially. The quality of what they have to offer is so poor that very few would be willing to pay for it voluntarily. It absolutely requires the use of force - taxation in this case - for them to survive at all.

I do not believe for a nanosecond that the kind of education the government school system is offering could survive in the free market. The minute something better appeared on the scene, the customers - e.g. the parents - would flock to it, and the trash that passes for education would fail.

In study after study, parents of all racial, economic, and religious groups (don't know about Muslims...), when asked to choose what they consider to be the most important feature of education for their kids, they say in the overwhelming majority of cases, "academic excellence."

This is the case even among most religious groups, where the expectation was that the infusion of religious belief throughout the curriculum would top the list. It wasn't so - apparently, most parents agree that religion is a private issue that they can take care of themselves, and in the schools, given a choice between religion and academic excellence, they want academic excellence.

The same principle applies to our enemy, Islam; it is only since the Industrial Revolution, with the West's technical advances requiring the heavy use of petroleum, that the intellectually paralyzed Muslims have been able to successfully parasitize our technology and use it against us. Without oil income, they would have no means of financing their aggression against us.

It drives me crazy. There are so many sources of energy around. Not only are there traditional domestic sources of new oil (Gulf of Mexico, Anwar), but there are new methods of getting the most out of "exhausted" wells (one bacterial method can very cost-effectively extract 40% of the oil that remains behind in "exhausted" wells!), but there are also non-traditional sources like the oil-bearing shale deposits in Colorado, which contain more oil than all other known deposits in the world combined. Canada, which has some lower grade oil shale, is already extracting it commercially. Why we don't do this absolutely defies reason, given the circumstances.

And then there are the programs such as the one at Titan Technologies which can recycle old tires (we have over three billion a year stockpiled, and another quarter billion a year disposed of) to extract the oil, as well as the steel and carbon black from them for resale. It goes on and on.

Of course, there are the non-petroleum-based energy sources; solar is making very significant advances, hydrothermal and geothermal sources are well developed, water currents - well, that list goes on and on too.

Why the hell are we paying our attackers to attack us? Talk about subsidy programs that must end!

1/12/07, 1:48 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Cubed writes, and I agree that “The postmodernists influence the minds of our children for their entire school lives, from K-12 and through college, not just the four years of university level education.” It also makes sense that the earlier years are more formative than the later ones.

Cubed, Jason, and I, seem to agree about the destructive effect of the government upon education. Jason and I gave suggestions for dealing with the situation. If Cubed disagrees, it would be helpful for her to provide better alternatives.

1/12/07, 5:58 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Well, cubed, I'm glad I pushed that button ... and got a jackpot of good comentary. Thanks. You did your homework. I still have much to learn about the sorry state of our educational institutions.

1/12/07, 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Treat men as end unto themselves, not a means to an end.


It is better to suffer an injustice then commit one.


Do unto others as you would have them do to you.


The world is will to power, and you too are this will to power.

If that is Rand's morality, it would appear that Randians must always be reactive, and never proactive in the use of force. Sounds kinda lame if you ask me.

1/14/07, 2:40 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Farmer John, in response to Ayn Rand’s morality of the non-initiation of force, offers some ‘competing’ views.

These include “Treat men as end unto themselves” and “It is better to suffer an injustice then commit one”. Yet these, however sound, give no hint as to how to respond to aggression. Then “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” is relative to each individual, so that for one it means always fighting, and to another it means never fighting. Next is the “will to power” which permits fascism, communism, and barbarism.

Finally, he rejects Rand’s morality as reactive, which is its prime virtue, for it leaves others free to do as they wish (so long as they don’t initiate force). Proactive morality permits coercion to those who have done no wrong. Note that each of the 'competing' views permit proactive morality (even if that was not the intention of their authors). What better morality can there be than that which begins with allowing the free will of others?

1/15/07, 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does your morality allow you to teach children? Teaching is immoral by its' very nature... it puts a boc around the mind. Rand is mute, and cannot teach. Your children would be compelled to resist and rebel.

1/15/07, 7:30 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Teaching is empowering! It gives students tools and knowledge with which to conquer the world. It opens avenues! It opens eyes! It opens the world!

1/15/07, 8:03 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

I completely agree with Jason about the positive virtues of teaching, and would only add its negative virtues of avoiding disasters.

1/15/07, 11:35 PM  

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