2 May 1999...........civil society and social harmony
Let's begin our May Dialogue on the topic of social harmony with an essay by Tom Palmer, Director of Cato University. Click HERE. Comment: The Adam Ferguson Institute, parent organization of TCSR, was founded for the purpose of promoting the study and appreciation of civil society. The Palmer essay does an excellent job of explaining what civil society is and how it is related to social harmony. Questions: Is a highly developed civil society a sufficient condition for social harmony or must social harmony precede the development of civil society? (See the First Postulate of Socionomics.) Is there another factor that may determine both? Since political society and civil society exhibit characteristics of positive feedback loops, does the sensitive dependence on initial conditions concept of complexity theory come into play as a determining factor regarding which system will prevail? Or is it possible to achieve an evolutionary stable state with some combination of these two components of the human environment; co-existing as predator and prey often do in nature? (PD)
4 May 1999............species preservation and social harmony
The following article was written by Vin Suprynowicz, assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Questions: Is the use of state coercion in an attempt to preserve various species a violation of natural law? Are ownership rights more important than obtaining social goals such as the preservation of the environment? (PD)
My column of March 26, on New York state "endangered species" bureaucrats fighting efforts by a business owner there to fence rattlesnakes off his property, brought the following from an Eastern reader:
"One of the worst columns that I've read from Vin. Libertarians have never been able to address species loss and extinction well. Applying 'property protection' to species protection has never been shown to be a viable method of species recovery. Animals do not recognize property lines and do not neatly fit into game parks and reserves, regardless of ownership.
"The answers are never short and sweet. That irritates ideologues.
"One idea of incorporation of a species and allowing this corporation the right was derided in this (Internet) discussion group. Remember the 'turtles can sue' thread?
"Rather than being blinded by ideology, I suggest that policy makers look at the solutions that are most effective at protecting species. Not all species are readily marketable; consequently, I wouldn't trust the market to preserving unpopular species. Relying on the whims of short-sighted marketeers is not good public policy and merely shrugging shoulders when a species is threatened due to human activity is not an option."
How about this for "addressing species loss and extinction well":
Nature's God tries out thousands of new species, all the time, and in this process of trial and error thousands go extinct and are "lost." This is a good thing. If this process weren't ongoing, sudden environmental changes could easily wipe out all life on earth. Thanks goodness there were a few little mammals around to take over, after the meteor wiped out all the dinosaurs. But didn't those mammals probably fill an environmental niche created when an earlier, less successful form of saurian went extinct? Do we really wish that little misfit lizard had been "preserved"?
This process seems to have worked out just fine for many millions of years, before it ever occurred to any smug city dweller with time on her hands to try and interfere. There wouldn't have been room for homo sapiens and some of our favorite eating species, like cows and piglets, if Nature hadn't wiped out all kinds of dinosaurs and trilobites and slimy, crawling things to make room.
Now some will say, "Those earlier species were a mistake." But "mistake" is an odd attempt to impose a moral judgment on a natural process. Thomas Edison (who I do not mean to compare to "God," in any other sense) didn't make "thousands of mistakes" in trying to find the right stuff from which to manufacture light-bulb filaments. The failures were not "mistakes," but part and parcel of the natural process of trial and error.
Besides, earlier species were able to keep "life" going when the world presented a totally different environment, and then pass the torch along to species better suited to new conditions ... as our species doubtless someday will, whether we like it or not.
This "species loss and extinction" is natural, and part of the "will" (or natural evolution) of God or Nature, whichever name you prefer. Certainly, we are free to attempt to educate our fellow men in the concept that shooting every individual of a given rare animal for its fur or plumage is short-sighted. We can urge them to establish private property claims and then husband these resources in a way that will enrich their progeny.
But to attempt otherwise to interfere in any way with this process of ongoing "species extinction" is stupid, hopeless, evil, prideful, counterproductive, likely to be used to justify terrible tyrannies by smug "green" zealots self-assured in the righteousness of their bizarre cause, and an unjustified interference with the will of Nature's God, by creatures too stupid to have any CHANCE of understanding what results their interference might produce ... assuming they had any real power to stop such processes, which is highly doubtful.
The argument is made that some minor species may yet turn out to contain a biological ingredient which can cure cancer. (Not a hint of anthrocentrism there, I hope?) But this only reveals much of the fraud of "species protection" as now practiced. There is NO genetic difference between the Northern Spotted Owl and spotted owls in general -- the only difference is where they live, and some minor variations in coloring, probably due to climate.
Therefore, given that "southern" spotted owls are plentiful, the "species protection" folks, if they were honest, should be telling us, "OK, the genetic heritage is secure, you can go ahead and shoot and kill every Northern Spotted Owl you find."
But they don't. Oh no. Instead, "species preservation" is expanded to mean that the "species" must be preserved in every micro-habitat where it's now present (no matter by what historical accident -- like "threatened" non-native horses in Nevada.) In truth, this is merely an excuse to block all further land development for human use, anywhere -- a blatant cheat, scam, and fraud.
(Besides which, we are presented in effect with a choice of sharing our world with only one of two distinct groups of species -- those feeble, failing critters which will soon go extinct, and the stronger, more robust ones which would subsequently develop to fill their empty ecological niches. By "preserving" the first set, we prevent the second set from ever being born. Now: If we're going to be pragmatic about this, in which group of species are we more likely to find our proverbial "cure for cancer"? Here's a hint: You have a choice between two piles of pearl oysters. One has already been shucked. The other is fresh and unopened ...)
Why should "policy makers" (our virtually hereditary rulers, like Algore the Second, and their armed thugs) be encouraged or empowered to "find effective means to protect species"? "Protecting species" is the goal of a religion known as Environmentalism and its zealots. Our Constitution forbids our government from doing anything to promote the causes of (to "establish") any specific religion.
"The market" is simply a way of describing the results of an endless series of private voluntary transactions judged to be mutually beneficial by free (human) traders. The market does a great job of preserving species. Once uses were found for cattle and goats and carrots and various types of mushrooms, human beings voluntarily took it upon themselves (as a source of "profit") to propagate and preserve these species, to develop endless genetically engineered varieties of them, to protect (by buying and putting up "private property" signs) the habitats of those species which cannot be easily propagated "in captivity," etc.
As long as private property ownership is allowed, hardly anything of real value ever vanishes. Even in Africa (and directly contradicting our correspondent's claim that "Applying 'property protection' to species protection has never been shown to be a viable method of species recovery,") relatively free Tanzania finds it no longer has any threat of looming elephant extinction since it allowed villagers to claim a "private property right" in the nearest elephant herd, charging fees for those who wish to hunt or merely photograph them. Only in socialist Kenya, where no private ownership of elephants is allowed, does poaching continue to threaten the extinction of the local herds. (See Ike Sugg's "Elephants and Ivory," available from Laissez Faire Books in San Francisco for $12.95; 800-326-0996.)
"The market" again turns out to be the answer, whereas the model of "selfless government protection unsullied by the dirty profit motive" proves a disaster at every turn.
Private "tiger farms" have been proposed in Southeast Asia, where owners could raise tigers in a semi-wild state, harvesting only at sustainable rates to fill the needs of the Chinese medical market, zoos, etc. Their incentive to preserve viable prides to pass on to their heirs would be enormous, and their private security against poachers would doubtless be formidable. Of course, "conservationists" -- who are really only state-socialists in a green cloak -- have fought this proposal tooth and nail, asserting that such "ownership" of animals is inherently evil -- and thus helping to drive the tiger near extinction in many areas, since what no man may own will simply be used up by the first poacher, in a race to beat the second poacher, no matter how many "laws" are passed.
The free market allows bunny-huggers to pool their funds and buy any land they consider "environmentally sensitive" -- as the Nature Conservancy often does. However, that would require these "greens" to put their own money where their mouths are, giving up some of their vacations and BMWs in exchange for part ownership of some desolate desert canyon or mosquito swamp. Not only that, faced with the economic reality that they can't buy and "save" EVERYTHING, they would then have to set priorities and CHOOSE whether to spend millions buying prime commercial real estate in Southern California to save the Delhi sands-loving fly, or rather to let the miserable maggots go and instead spend their money buying up some peaceful riverbank near Tucson, thus preserving dozens of rare songbirds.
(I'd go with the brightly colored songbirds, myself. At least you could enjoy an occasional picnic.)
But they don't want to CHOOSE, and back the real-world economic costs of their choices with their own bank accounts, do they?
Instead, "I wouldn't trust the market to preserving unpopular species" is merely another way of saying, "I propose to force OTHERS to fund my casual warm and fuzzy whims, seizing money from the unwilling to use in forcing private property owners to kneel before and honor (however reluctantly) the dictates of my particularly religious priesthood, by having armed agents threaten them with jail if they do anything with their own land which threatens to harm or even irritate the snails, bugs, weeds, and venomous pests which live there, since under my religion -- which I now want armed government agents in really big trucks to impose by force -- the survival of these obscure molds and leeches is more important than the so-called 'liberty' of a property owner to do what he wants on and with his property, so long as he harm no other human."
"Merely shrugging shoulders when a species is threatened due to human activity is not an option," we are told. Ah, but throwing California farmers in prison for running over rats with their farm machinery IS "an option," apparently, and a darned good one.
Oh, these statists, these acolytes of the Cult of the Omnipotent State. It wasn't the METHODS that were the problem, apparently, when an earlier generation of big-government goons said "Rather than being blinded by ideology, I suggest that policy makers look at the solutions that are most effective at eliminating Jews, Slavs and other subhuman races from our midst," or "I wouldn't trust the market to force these darned Ukrainians to give up their precious private property deeds and join in our cooperative farming schemes, as laid down by Comrades Marx and Engels. No, relying on the whims of short-sighted marketeers is not good public policy, and merely shrugging shoulders when these stubborn Kulaks stand in the way of our grand scheme for a workers' paradise is not an option."
No, no, the only problems were the GOALS of Herrs Hitler and Himmler, Comrades Stalin and Dzerzhinsky -- eliminating various non-Aryan races, or imposing that earlier, less subtle form of communism. THOSE were evil. But the METHODS these gentlemen pioneered for government agents to use in imposing a "brave new vision" on an unwilling populace -- propagandizing children in the government schools to memorize simplistic slogans and snitch on their elders, etc. -- weren't so bad at all. We just need to marry those methods of government force and coercion to a more NOBLE goal, MY goal, which this month happens to be "species preservation ..."
7 May 1999..............free at last?
Quoting from MORAL RIGHTS AND POLITICAL FREEDOM by Tara Smith---------------"Freedom is not a commodity that can be produced by some and doled out to others and which can thus be apportioned to individuals who prove themselves worthy. Freedom is a condition marked by the absence of certain types of interference with a person's actions. Moreover, freedom is a person's natural condition. Breaches of freedom (forceful interference with a person's actions) are the manmade and avoidable deviations. Restrictions of a person's freedom are what must be justified. Consequently, the perspective that asks 'now who's in line to get some?' is completely at odds with freedom's very nature. Freedom is not the sort of thing whose enjoyment must be justified and parcelled in that way.____________ Of course, when left to her own devices, a person still may fail to achieve a good life. But only when free does she stand a chance of achieving well-being. This is why her freedom must be respected. It is important to appreciate that the proposed justification of rights does not attempt to rig conditions so that the desired results become inevitable. No such artful engineering could accomplish that. Wel -being must be self-generated. No external manipulations of a person's actions, however shrewd, could secure that person's well-being. Consequently, there is no predesigned track that could assure her taking only 'life-furthering' actions.?" Questions: What is the purpose of freedom? Are you free? What is the relationship between democracy and freedom? Why do some people value freedom above all else as a social goal? (PD)
9 May 1999...............the libertarians are coming
For an informative interview of Llewellyn H. Rockwell by Brian Doherty, click HERE. Questions: Is there a libertarian position on spontaneous social order versus social engineering and central planning? According to this philosophy, what is the connection between justice, social harmony, and property (ownership) rights? Does evolutionary psychology help in any way to explain why libertarianism has had no impact on the structure of social relationships? Why do socionomists prefer Austrian economics over conventional economics? (PD)
12 May 1999.............a fork in the road?
Vin Suprynowicz, assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, writes below on the institution of democracy. Questions: Is democracy conducive to social harmony, order, and development? Given the path dependent concept of complexity theory (small events can lead to major alterations in outcomes), was there a particular moment in history when the original American political system based on natural rights and political freedom changed directions? (PD)
Why democracy is evil and un-American
J.D. writes in from Orange County, California:
"Hi Vin -- In arguments with my friends who lean heavily to the left and also declare that we live in a democracy (predominantly), with only a few necessary socialistic type programs, I've argued that we do not live any longer in a democracy but instead are governed by a purely socialist autocracy.
"Am I correct in asserting this? If not, please describe precisely just what kind of government in your opinion we now live under."
Howdy, J.D. -- I can tell you one place you're going wrong: You appear to be accepting "democracy" as a definition of the form of government intended by our founding fathers, and counterpoising it to socialism as though the two are somehow mutually exclusive.
If enough children are led into the error of believing socialism is wise and good (as is likely to happen, for instance, if you entrust their "education" to the tender ministrations of our current government youth propaganda camps), then the people almost certainly will, as von Mises observed, realize they can "vote themselves a stipend out of someone else's pocket."
At that point, there will no longer be any distinction between democracy and socialism; they become one and the same.
The founders guarded against this by erecting many barriers against untrammeled democracy, recognizing unlimited democracy as the pernicious system which has been appropriately defined as "three wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for supper."
Yes, the "democratic vote" was the method the people were to use to elect their House of Representatives. But this was to be only one component of our great experiment in a government of checks and balances, giving the common man standing to choose one branch to express his views.
The House could only "propose" laws. Those proposals would go nowhere if not embraced by the U.S. Senate, which was never envisioned as being democratically elected. Instead, the senators were supposed to be the oldest and wisest representatives of the states, chosen by the state legislatures, never in any popular baby-kissing contest.
Their job was precisely to block bad laws (which is to say, most federal laws), to make sure the states always remained sovereign, independent republics -- Jefferson himself warning us we would know tyranny had arrived if the separate states ever degenerated into mere "administrative districts" of the central authority, "like the departments of France" --should the states, for instance, ever have to bow to some uniform federal standard when it came to how they must fund the education of the handicapped ... if at all.
Next, any proposed law which would alter out traditional liberties -- for instance, a tax which weighed more heavily on the man who creates more wealth, rather than a "capitation" tax which assesses the same fee against each adult, like a bridge toll -- would naturally be vetoed by the president, who again was not to be elected "democratically," but rather chosen by a college of electors, who were not and (start ital)are not(end ital) required to cast their votes according to the popular votes in their states. (The first electoral vote cast for a woman was not for Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, but for Libertarian Toni Nathan 12 years before. The man who cast it was not punished in any way; in fact, elector Roger MacBride later became the Libertarian Party's 1976 presidential nominee.)
If even the senate and the president violated their oaths and allowed an unconstitutional law to pass (for instance, a law which in any way "infringed" the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear military-style weapons like machine guns, or the right to persist in an unenumerated 9th amendment "retained right" like buying and selling cocaine), then as few as five members of the Supreme Court (not "democratically elected" by anyone) could and were expected to toss out any enactment offensive to our rights.
Finally, regardless of what any of those turkeys in Washington might say or do, no American can be punished for any newly made-up "crime" if merely one juror in 12 declares it's no crime and all, and sets him free. So the answer is that -- poisonous constitutional amendments having eroded our right to be free of an income tax (with all the government oversight and control of our finances that implies), the safeguard of senators not being popularly elected having also gone a-glimmering in 1913, and current court voir dire procedures having eliminated our right to trial by a randomly selected jury -- we do indeed live today in a full-bore democracy, which (very much as democratic elections in Weimar Germany created the same result in 1933) is now in the process of delivering us into the hands of a national-socialist police state -- fascism being defined as a form of government under which private title to property and industries is still permitted, but where the detailed control of their operation is in fact in the hands of government "regulators," taxmen, and functionaries.
And it doesn't make a damned bit of difference what we call it.
13 May 1999...........morality, spontaneous order, and liberty
In the wake of the events at Columbine High School, and the stunning actions of two teenaged boys that make one wonder whether the social harmony we discuss this month truly exists, it's important to reflect upon the proper relationship between laws and social harmony.
We've seen our disgrace of a president, along with those unprincipled gun control activists who would stoop so low as to make political hay of such a tragedy as this one, calling yet again for more legal restrictions on the ability of the law-abiding citizen to obtain and use a firearm. We've seen the media make the National Rifle Association, despite that organization's ceaseless efforts to educate young people in both the proper use of their own firearms and the proper action toward all other firearms, the chief villain of this horror.
The guns used in the thirteen murders and two suicides at Columbine were obtained illegally. More laws would not have been any more effective than those already on the books that the two (and perhaps more) perpetrators of this unspeakable crime chose to fracture. Those calling for more laws and blaming the NRA know this full well.
The more important point to be made here is that laws will never create a social order. A proper social order is the "evolutionary stable strategy" of sane and rational individuals, and arises spontaneously. (Individuals could -- and did -- legally own fully automatic machine guns in the United States in the 1950s. How many schoolchildren shot their classmates that decade?) Another social order exists in the totalitarian state, in which ruthless overlords enforce their own "order" with the threat of torture and death. (The temporary quelling, by the Tito regime, of the ethnic battles in which we've now involved ourselves in the Balkans is a good example.) Our choice is this: do we prefer the spontaneous order of liberty, or the enforced order of murderous masters? As we accept more and more of the "more law, less freedom" crowd, we assuredly (though not necessarily knowingly) tend toward the latter.
Our problem is this: the spontaneous order requires a populace of some minumum modicum of morality. We seem to be losing steadily the morality required to remain free. And unfortunately, this morality can no more be forced upon individuals than can the order we desire. Does the citizenry of the United States of the new millenium have the maturity and restraint to retain its liberty? (JV)
15 May 1999..............an interesting academic exercise
Quoting from Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Introduction to THE ETHICS OF LIBERTY by Murray N. Rothbard---------------"Did not the illegitimacy of the state and the non-aggression axiom imply that everyone was at liberty to choose his very own non-aggressive lifestyle, no matter what it was?
Much of Rothbard's later writings, with their increased emphasis on cultural matters, were designed to correct this development and to explain the error in the idea of a leftist multi-counter-cultural libertarianism, of libertarianism as a variant of libertinism. It was false--empirically as well as normatively--that libertarianism could or should be combined with egalitarian multiculturalism. Both were in fact sociologically incompatible, and libertarianism could and should be combined exclusively with traditional Western bourgeois culture; that is, the old-fashioned ideal of a family-based and hierarchically structured society of voluntarily acknowledged rank orders of social authority.
Empirically, Rothbard did not tire to explain, the left-libertarians failed to recognize that the restoration of private-property rights and laissez-faire economics implied a sharp and drastic increase in social "discrimination." Private property means the right to exclude. The modern social-democratic welfare state has increasingly stripped private-property owners of their right to exclude.
In distinct contrast, a libertarian society where the right to exclude was fully restored to owners of private property would be profoundly unegalitarian. To be sure, private property also implies the owner's right to include and to open and facilitate access to one's property, and every private-property owner also faces an economic incentive of including (rather than excluding) so long as he expects this to increase the value of his property". Questions: Both Hayek and Rothbard ended their careers with an increased emphasis on the importance of culture as a determinant of the nature of social relationships. Isn't culture a complex adaptive system that is fundamentally out of our control (like the weather)? If so, is there any point to social philosophy other than as an interesting academic exercise? Comment: Of course social engineering will always tend to benefit the social engineers (even if it wreaks havoc on everyone else) and therefore it has some practical purpose. (PD)
16 May 1999................cultural unification
Here is an address by Walter A. McDougall. Question: Does Western civilization provide a unifying framework which tends to promote inter-cultural social harmony and development? (PD)
THE MERITS AND PERILS OF TEACHING ABOUT OTHER CULTURES
An Address by Walter A. McDougall
To a History Institute for Educators on "Multiculturalism in World History" Organized by the History Academy of the Foreign Policy Research Institute May 1-2, 1999
Walter A. McDougall is Co-Director of FPRI's History Academy and Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the International Relations program. He is author of Promised Land, Crusader State: America's Encounter with the World Since 1776 (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). Vol. 5, No. 7 May 1999
An Address by Walter A. McDougall
Nothing in my experience sums up the merits and perils of studying other cultures better than an appalling week I spent at Fort Sill in February 1969. Almost all of us recent graduates from artillery school had orders for Vietnam, and so we were herded through a week of what the Army called "In-Country Orientation." A model Vietnamese village had been constructed there on the Oklahoma plains, and our instructor, a butter-bar lieutenant no older than I, assured us that the defenses in such villages were impregnable. We were told what to do in case of an ambush: which is not to get pinned down, but charge the enemy's guns! And we learned all about poisonous serpents and insects. Far from boosting our morale and making us gung- ho, the course left us feeling utterly terrified and unprepared. But worst of all was when they herded hundreds of us into an auditorium to hear a lecture on Vietnamese culture and society. The instructor was not an academic expert on Vietnam, nor even a veteran Green Beret who knew Vietnamese and had lived with the people. Rather, the teacher was a grizzled drill sergeant who read the lecture, stumbling over words, from a manual. "Awright, you mens, listen up! You will now git orientated into Vit-mese so- ciety. Da mostly thing y-all gots to know is dat Vit-nam is a Confusion So-ciety. Dat means that ever-body is in a kind of high-arky: like the chilun obey deir parents, and the womens obey deir mens, and ever-body obeys the guv-ment. It's sorta like da Army chain o' command."
I must have stopped listening, because that's all I remember. But looking back, I can imagine that orientation as a metaphor of the whole U.S. enterprise in southeast Asia. As our current fiasco in the Balkans demonstrates anew, Americans make a habit of declaring a war, sending over massive firepower, then expressing amazement when the locals do not bend at once to our will. Only then do we finally decide that it might be a good idea to learn something about the history and culture of the people we are trying to bludgeon, help, and change. Not that a common soldier needs an advanced degree in multicultural studies, but it would help if our policymakers took time to study the world over which they profess to exercise a benevolent hegemony.
The value of studying other cultures is not something we Americans, or Westerners, discovered only recently, thanks to the advocacy of the multiculturalists. Medieval Christians were fascinated by their Muslim adversaries. The Age of Exploration inspired Europeans to collect information about the strange lands they discovered, begin to think of themselves as one civilization among many, and to ask what caused the differences, as well as similarities, among cultures. The Enlightenment systematized cultural studies, and eventually gave birth to world history and cultural anthropology. In the 19th century archaeology and comparative religion, and the renewed burst of European imperialism expanded and enriched the study of other cultures, however much Westerners took for granted the solipsism that they were the measure of high civilization, and that all other peoples must inevitably follow in their path. As Walt Whitman wrote,
"One thought ever at the fore That in the Divine Ship, breasting time and space All peoples of the globe together sail, sail the same voyage And are bound to the same destination."
Today's radical multiculturalists accordingly disparage what they call Europe's "Enlightenment Project" as a campaign to explore, subdue, and study the whole world for the purpose of controlling it, exploiting it, and ultimately making it an extension of western civilization. That is tendentious in the extreme, but it does have a measure of truth. At Amherst College in 1964, all of us freshman were obliged to take History 1, a course that developed themes in world history, and as such was very progressive. But the themes were invariably Western themes projected on to the history of other civilizations. One early block of material dealt with the conquest of Mexico by Cortes. To be sure, we were taught about pre-Colombian cultures, but whereas I remember a good deal about the Spanish side of this culture clash, literally all I remember about the Aztec side was their belief that a hummingbird-on-the-left was an omen of good luck--or was it bad luck? Anyway, "hummingbird-on-the-left" became a stock laugh line for Amherst students.
A later instruction block compared the Mexican, Chinese, and Young Turk revolutions of the early 20th century, which was really an interesting exercise. But the theme uniting them was, not surprisingly, "paths to modernization." At issue was not the essence of historic Mexican, Chinese, or Islamic culture, but rather the struggles of those civilizations to come to grips with their backwardness, and adopt Western ways. Indeed, I do not think I ever studied other cultures on their own terms--independent of Western intrusions--until my graduate years at Chicago, when I read every book written by William H. McNeill, beginning with The Rise of the West, a History of the Human Community. To be sure, Amherst and Chicago had many professors who specialized in other cultures and offered courses on them. But those of us in mainstream fields such as European and American history were not exposed to true multicultural education in the survey courses of high school and college.
McNeill was a tireless advocate for world history, and genuine study of other cultures, long before it became fashionable. But alas, no sooner did his campaign for world history, as opposed to Western Civ surveys, begin to gain ground than the whole movement was captured by the ideological Multiculturalists, Afrocentrists, ethnic lobbies, and victim groups who damned curricula that implied that Western Civ was a story of progress, but often substituted curricula that damned Western Civ as a story of plunder, rapine, imperialism, exploitation, and slavery. In other words, the focus was still on the West, while other cultures appeared mostly as virginal victims.
Another expression of the multicultural trend is less subjective, but in its own way just as anodyne, and that is the "non-Western" requirement so many majors, including the International Relations Program which I direct, impose on their students. We feel we must bow toward multiculturalism, so we just insist that students take one or two courses that are non-Western in focus. The implicit purpose would seem to be to sensitize students to other cultural traditions, and alert them to the astonishing fact that there's a whole world out there, beyond Great Neck, Long Island, and Newport Beach, California. (I recently asked an I.R. major if he had had any experience traveling abroad. He proudly said yes, he had been to Cancun.) But what good does one course on sub-Saharan Africa or Ming China really achieve? It is not enough to make one really conversant in African or Chinese history, religion, culture, and society, and it certainly tells one nothing about the variety of human experience. All non-Western cultures are not "like China": each is unique. And thus, instead of acquiring new categories to use in thinking about human nature and history, the student merely receives a smattering of knowledge that is hors de categorie: outside Western norms, and therefore just strange. It's like the high school physical education curriculum that--in addition to swimming, wrestling, gymnastics, and basketball--schedules two days of lacrosse or handball: just to let students know that those games exist.
Should we teach our students about other cultures? Absolutely! But do we succeed? I don't think most of us do. First, because how many of us are qualified to teach about Islam, or India, or traditional China or Japan? We may do better than that sergeant, but do we risk just conveying new stereotypes to students, rather than getting beyond stereotypes? And how do we integrate non-Western material into existing courses? The recent debate over the National History Standards reveals the difficulty in doing this, even leaving aside all political controversy. The easiest way is to retain the old Western Civ chronology, but to insert flashback sections on other cultures at the moment Europeans first come into contact with them. Needless to say, that is still Eurocentric. Another way is to relegate Western Civ to merely equal status, and study each culture in turn: a month on China, a month on India, a month on Europe, and so forth. But that artificially disconnects civilizations from each other, ignoring perhaps the most powerful theme in McNeill's works, which is the cross- cultural borrowing, challenge and response mechanism that is so often the engine of historical change.
What is more, to go into some depth about other cultures on their own terms, clearly a good thing to do on the face of it, runs the risk, the frightening risk, of offending someone's self-esteem and landing in the principal's or dean's office on charges of insensitivity or even racism! If you are going to teach about other cultures on their own terms, and not just as victims of Western imperialism, then we must stress the bad and ugly as well as the good: the oppression, slavery, and reciprocal racism and brutality among Asian and Africans peoples themselves. We must teach about the binding of girls' feet in China, the forced suicide of widows in India, the Islamic texts that place women somewhere above goats but below cattle, the genital mutilation of women in Africa. Now, we can try to deflect criticism by drumming into children's heads that they must not make value-judgments, especially ones based, after all, on Western traditions: the Bible and the Enlightenment. But to try to be value-free about, for instance, Aztec human sacrifice or the barbaric tortures practiced by the Comanches and Apaches, is to do exactly what we all say must not be done with regard to the darker chapters of Western history! Thus, even as we try to explain to students why the Spanish Inquisition was set up, or how the Nazis could come to power in Germany, we quickly add that whereas we must try to understand the past on its own terms, to understand is not to forgive: zu verstehen ist nicht zu vergeben. So we cannot just give all other cultures a "pass" when it comes to their inhumane practices. But to condemn the bad in other cultures is by definition to impose a Western standard of good and bad.
Above all, to treat other cultures in isolation, to censor aspects of their history that might damage some student's self-esteem, or to refrain from making any moral judgments at all, is to cheat students of the one thing they need to learn most, and which only multicultural history can teach them: and that is, the many ways in which all human beings, all cultures and civilizations, are alike. For no real toleration among peoples can exist unless they are given a reason to imagine themselves as "we", and not just as "we" and "they". In what ways are all people alike? They are all homo sapiens, they are all conceived and born the same way, and they all face the certainty of death. They all live on the same planet and need food and shelter. They all wonder about the meaning of life, love, tragedy, and what if anything happens after they die. They have different answers to the eternal questions, and they invent different political and social forms to order their brief and toilsome time on this earth. But at bottom they are all alike. Thus, Chinese are not angels, but neither are they aliens.
I have no solution to the curricular issues, except to insist that all high school students take at least three full years of history--one being world history. Alas, in many states the trend is to cut back, not expand, history requirements. But I did hit upon a technique this semester for handling the "self-esteem" issue that seemed to work. At least, I have not as yet been summoned to the office of the Penn ombudsperson. In my last lecture in the modern history survey, I asked students to recall a question that I had posed in the first lecture: not why people and societies so often do bad things, but rather why on occasion they do good things, why on occasion people have taken risks and made sacrifices in order to improve the lot of others? Evil is banal and universal. What is shocking and in need of explanation in history is the good.
Thus, I granted that European and American civilization has been imperialistic and exploitative. But so has every other civilization in history! What is unique about the West is that it invented anti-imperialism. I granted that the West practiced slavery. But so has every other civilization in history! What is unique about the West is that it gave rise to an anti-slavery movement! I granted that the West has waged war on a ferocious scale. But so has every other civilization at one time or another. What is unique about the West is that it tried over and over to devise international systems that might prevent war. I granted that women were in a subordinate status throughout Western history. But so were they in every other civilization. What is unique about the West is that spawned a movement for female equality. And I granted that the West has known tyranny and indeed totalitarianism of the most brutal sort. But forms of tyranny and even genocide have appeared in all other civilizations. What is unique about the West is that it alone has declared universal human rights and devised governments to expand, not crush, liberty. What is needed to ensure that multicultural education can be a glue and not a solvent of American community, is dedicated, knowledgeable, and above all honest teaching. All civilizations are worthy of celebration by dint of their being civilizations, that is, extraordinary examples of collective human invention. But all have also been horribly flawed by dint of their being human creations. If Western civilization appears to have done quantifiably more nasty things in recent centuries, it is not because it is worse than others, but only because it is more powerful. What is more, the three ways in which people from all the world, while cherishing their diversity, can nevertheless identify themselves as part of a single human community are gifts of Western civilization. Those unifying forces are science and technology, the Enlightenment doctrine of natural law and natural rights, and the astounding Judaeo-Christian theology to the effect that all human beings are children of one and the same loving God.
Unfortunately, the radical multiculturalists attack science and technology as an evil, masculine "discourse" that oppresses, pollutes, and privileges "linear thinking." They attack the "Enlightenment Project" as an ideological cover for Western cultural imperialism. And they hate the Bible for promoting patriarchy and heterosexism. In so doing, they are attempting to destroy the very principles under which toleration of diverse cultures has in fact the best chance of flowering! In so doing, the multiculturalists help to perpetuate the tragedy that Alexander Solzhenitsyn called "A World Split Apart." Asked to deliver the Harvard commencement address in 1978, Solzhenitsyn, a survivor of the Soviet gulag, shocked his audience by proclaiming that the line that divides the world does not run between communism and capitalism, or along the boundaries between nations, races, social classes, or genders. The line that splits the world apart runs straight through the middle of each human heart.
FOREIGN POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE, 1528 Walnut Street, Suite 610, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102-3684 For information, contact Alan Luxenberg, (215) 732-3774, ext. 105.
The purpose of the Center for America and the West is (1) to conduct well-founded inquiries into the elements of Western civilization and America's role in the West; and (2) through our History Academy, to relate the teaching of history to questions of America's identity. Since 1996, two major volumes have been published -- Walter McDougall's Promised Land, Crusader State and David Gress's From Plato to NATO -- and five weekend-long history institutes for educators have been held. Currently, Drs. McDougall and Gress are jointly writing a book on "The Use and Abuse of History."
18 May 1999..............property wrongs
To read a book review by James V. DeLong, Adjunct Scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, on the subject of property rights, click HERE. Questions: Does social engineering such as urban planning, zoning, and historic preservation promote harmonious social organization? If not, are the benefits greater than the costs? Has there been a steady decline during the last century in respect for property (ownership) rights? If the answer is yes, who or what is to blame (or praise)? (PD)
19 May 1999..............NL appreciates JV input
JV's contribution on the topic of the relationship between laws and social harmony is outstanding (13 May 1999). I trust that it will soon appear on the front page of The New York Times. JV, your most trenchant assertion is that laws cannot create a social order. I agree. (NL)
21 May 1999..........an instrument of injustice
Quoting from THE LAW by Frederic Bastiat---------------"What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of a plunderer.
Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.
It is a most remarkable fact that this double LEGAL CRIME---a sorrowful inheritance from the Old World---should be the only issue which can, and perhaps will, lead to the ruin of the Union. It is indeed impossible to imagine, at the very heart of a society, a more astounding fact than this: The law has come to be an instrument of injustice. And if this fact brings terrible consequences to the United States---where the proper purpose of the law has been perverted only in the instances of slavery and tariffs---what must be the consequences in Europe, where the perversion of the law is a principle; a system?
Mr. de Montalembert (politician and writer) adopting the thought contained in a famous proclamation by Mr. Carlier, has said: ' We must make war against socialism.' According to the definition of socialism advanced by Mr.Charles Dupin, he meant: ' We must war against plunder.'
But of what plunder was he speaking? For there are two kinds of plunder: legal and illegal. I do not think that illegal plunder, such as theft and swindling---which the penal code defines, anticipates, and punishes---can be called socialism. It is not this kind of plunder that systematically threatens the foundations of society. Anyway, the war against this kind of plunder has not waited for the command of these gentlemen. The war against illegal plunder has been fought since the beginning of the world. Long before the Revolution of February 1848---long before the appearance even of socialism itself---France had provided police, judges, gendarmes, prisons, dungeons, and scaffolds for the purpose of fighting illegal plunder. The law itself conducts this war, and it is my wish and opinion that the law should always maintain this attitude toward plunder.
But it does not always do this. Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame, danger, and scruple which their acts would otherwise involve. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons, and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim---when he defends himself---as a criminal. In short, there is a LEGAL PLUNDER, and it is of this, no doubt, that Mr. de Montalembert speaks. This legal plunder may be only an isolated stain among the legislative measures of the people. If so, it is best to wipe it out with a minimum of speeches and denunciations---and in spite of the uproar of the vested interests.
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law---which may be an isolated case---is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.
The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his ACQUIRED RIGHTS. He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.
Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.
Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole---with their common aim of legal plunder---constitute socialism.
Now, since under this definition socialism is a body of doctrine, what attack can be made against it other than a war of doctrine? If you find this socialistc doctrine to be false, absurd, and evil, then refute it. And the more false, the more absurd, and the more evil it is, the easier it will be to refute, Above all, if you wish to be strong, begin by rooting out every particle of socialism that may have crept into your legislation. This will be no light task." Questions: Was the tariff less of an affront to the goal of political freedom than slavery? If not, did our Civil War address only half of the problem that Bastiat has identified? (PD)
24 May 1999.................hotels, shopping centers, and towns
Quoting from THE ART OF COMMUNITY by Spencer H. MacCallum--------------"At first, it was thought that the development of a shopping center entailed no more than building the physical facilities and leasing them. The role of the owner or his representative in the on-going, daily management of the shopping center was underestimated or even over-looked. There had yet to develop in the shopping center field a concept equivalent to that of "hotel service" which marked the line of departure from the inn to the hotel in the nineteenth century. The major postwar event besides the introduction of the regional center was to be the development of service-oriented center management--management oriented toward serving the tenants in the same way that they in turn were oriented toward serving their customers.______________
The importance of both of these aspects of shopping center management--effective leadership and skillful leasing--led to a disagreement, recurrent in the trade media, about the fundamental nature of a shopping center. Some held that a shopping center essentially was a merchandising operation and should be sponsored by merchants--men familiar with promotion and able to work closely and continuously on behalf of the tenants. Others held that a center essentially was a real estate proposition and should be promoted by people experienced in real estate.
Shopping center operation has little in common with land brokerage or speculation, the traditional supports of the real estate business. It has everything to do, however, with property managemnt, that youngest branch of the real estate business which promises to become the most important. With the exception of hotel administration, professional property management is little developed. Shopping center management, in turn, is among the youngest divisions of this new field; yet it requires skill and specialization surpassing that of the management of the most complex hotel. It is basically a question of community management, requiring the continuous coordination of many private interests, a new function for real estate." Comment: Property management has become much more developed since this book was written in 1970. Questions: What if a town, say, Oro Valley, Arizona, was run like a hotel or a shopping center instead of being a political unit? Would this be an improvement? (PD)
28 May 1999...............the ultimate product
Quoting from THE ABOLITION OF MAN by C.S. Lewis---------------"I am not yet considering whether the total result of such ambivalent victories is a good thing or a bad. I am only making clear what Man's conquest of nature really means and expecially that final stage in the conquest, which, perhaps, is not far off. The final stage is come when Man by eugenics, by pre-natal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology, has obtained full control over himself. HUMAN nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man. The battle will then be won. We shall have ' taken the thread of life out of the hand of Clotho' and be henceforth free to make our species whatever we wish it to be. The battle will indeed be won. But who, precisely, will have won it? For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what THEY please. In all ages, no doubt, nurture and instruction have, in some sense, attempted to exercise this power. But the situation to which we must look forward will be novel in two respects. In the first place, the power will be enormously increased. Hitherto the plans of educationalists have achieved very little of what they attempted and indeed, when we read them--how Plato would have every infant 'a bastard nursed in a bureau,' and Elyot would have the boy see no men before the age of seven and, after that, no women, and how Locke wants children to have leaky shoes and no turn for poetry--we may well thank the beneficient obstinacy of real mothers, real nurses, and (above all) real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses. But the man-moulders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please. The second difference is even more important. In the older systems both the kind of man the teachers wished to produce and their motives for producing him were prescribed by the Tao--a norm to which the teachers themselves were subject and from which they claimed no liberty to depart. They did not cut men to some pattern they had chosen. They handed on what they had received: they initiated the young neophyte into the mystery of humanity which overarched him and them alike. It was but old birds teaching young birds to fly. This will be changed. Values are now mere natural phenomena. Judgements of value are to be produced in the pupil as part of the conditioning. Whatever Tao there is will be the product, not the motive, of education. The conditioners have been emancipated from all that. It is one more part of Nature which they have conquered. The ultimate springs of human action are no longer, for them, something given. They have surrendered--like electricity: it is the function of the Conditioners to control, not to obey them. They know how to produce conscience and decide what kind of conscience they will produce. They themselves are outside, above. For we are assuming the last stage of Man's struggle with Nature. The final victory has been won. Human nature has been conquered--and, of course, has conquered, in whatever sense those words may now bear." Questions: Is "the moral animal" destined to be the ultimate product of our social engineers? Could this be the final solution to problems like war and poverty? (PD)