This Is a Test

Scott McKay writes:

Thursday saw a media firestorm erupt over a Washington Post report that amid a White House meeting with several members of Congress working on a compromise having to do with the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, President Trump asked why America should have to take in so many immigrants from “s***hole countries” rather than people from places like Norway.

The Post article isn’t exactly the finest example of American journalism, identifying as its source no one actually in the room to confirm what Trump supposedly said but instead naming two anonymous people who were “briefed on the meeting.”

I won’t get into the truth or falsity of the reporting. I suspect that it’s true. And it doesn’t bother me in the least if President Trump characterized some countries as s***holes. They are, and for two very good reasons: the low intelligence of their populations and their anti-libertarian governments (which make the U.S. seem like an anarcho-capitalist’s paradise).

Why are so many people (leftists, that is) upset? Because calling a s***hole a s***hole is a sin against cant and hypocrisy, in which the left specializes.

Here’s the test: If you were forced to live in another country, would you choose Norway or Haiti? Any sensible person — and perhaps even a leftist — would choose Norway.


Related posts:
Ruminations on the Left in America
The Euphemism Conquers All
Superiority
Non-Judgmentalism as Leftist Condescension
Leftist Condescension

Privilege, Power, and Hypocrisy

The Almighty is not a liberal… The Almighty is the driving force for the entire universe and the universe is not a very liberal place. That is what the modern world seems not to understand….

Simon Mawer, The Gospel of Judas

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Complaints about privilege are really complaints about power. How did privilege and power come to be conflated? Let’s begin with an authoritative definition* of privilege:

A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by a person, or a body or class of persons, beyond the common advantages of others; an exemption in a certain case from certain burdens or liabilities.

Are all privileges unjust? Do privileges necessarily confer power or arise from it?

Good Privilege and Days of Yore

There was a time when most privileges were neither unjust nor a sign of power: when younger men ceded their seats on buses to older persons and pregnant women, when a man could hold open a door for a woman and be thanked for it instead of being repaid with a stony glare or silence; when a fit person would cede a seat to a crippled one; and so on.

Was there anything wrong with such behaviors? Only a revisionist who views the world through contemporary mores (of a politically correct hue)  would think so. Such behaviors were in fact widely practiced and accepted as fitting and proper. They were not condescending or demeaning. They did not confer power or arise from it, except to the extent that persons who had the power to grant them did so voluntarily and out of pity or respect for those who received them. But the grantors’ power was only situational, not general. A better word for it would be opportunity, as in the opportunity to do a good deed for a fellow human being.

The Decline of Civility and the Rise of Big Government

Such behaviors have gone out of style, or nearly so, not because they were considered improper but because manners have coarsened. Manners have coarsened because people — not all people but too many of them — have become self-centered and inconsiderate of others. My view is that the rise of the “me” generation in the 1960s curtailed instances of public kindness, thus producing fewer instances of good manners that might be copied and repeated, thus leading to the further recession of good manners, etc.

The “me” generation didn’t arise spontaneously. Its rise was an integral part of the breakdown of the social fabric that big government has abetted and encouraged. What breakdown? Anthony Esolen describes it all too well:

[W]hen we ask, “Why are the churches empty?” we might also ask, “Why are our public buildings so ugly? Why do we no longer have any folk art to speak of? Why do neighbors not know one another? Why are there no dances for everyone of all ages to enjoy? Why is the sight of a young lad and lass holding hands as rare now as public indecency used to be? Why is no one getting married? Why have family trees turned into family sticks, or family briars?

“Why are there so many feral young men and women, tattooed and slovenly, loitering about shopping malls or slouching towards the internet for their porn? Why are there so many old neighborhoods, roads, and bridges crumbling, while millions of young men are unemployed or, worse, unemployable? Why do so many teachers believe it their duty to tear down the glories of their own civilization, calling it ‘critical thinking,’ without a passing thought as to what will remain in their place? Who are what used to be called the ‘leading men’ of an ordinary town? Are there any? Who are what used to be called ‘city fathers’? Are there any?

“Where are the songs of yesteryear? Where are the poems? Where are the holidays? What happened to the parades and the marching bands?

“What virtue do we honor, other than what we call tolerance, which turns out not to be tolerance at all but the ‘virtue’ of demanding that there should be no honor granted to virtue?” [“What Is a Healthy Culture?,” The Imaginative Conservative, June 16, 2015]

Walter Williams puts it this way:

A civilized society’s first line of defense is not the law, police and courts but customs, traditions, rules of etiquette and moral values. These behavioral norms — mostly transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings — represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. They include important thou-shalt-nots, such as thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not cheat. They also include all those courtesies that have traditionally been associated with ladylike and gentlemanly conduct.

The failure to fully transmit these values and traditions to subsequent generations represents one of the failings of what journalist Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.” People in this so-called great generation, who lived during the trauma of the Great Depression and fought World War II, not only failed to transmit the moral values of their parents but also are responsible for government programs that will deliver economic chaos….

For nearly three-quarters of a century, the nation’s liberals have waged war on traditional values, customs and morality. Our youths have been counseled that there are no moral absolutes. Instead, what’s moral or immoral is a matter of personal opinion. During the 1960s, the education establishment began to challenge and undermine lessons children learned from their parents and Sunday school with fads such as “values clarification.” So-called sex education classes are simply indoctrination that undermines family and church strictures against premarital sex. Lessons of abstinence were considered passe and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortions. Further undermining of parental authority came with legal and extralegal measures to assist teenage abortions with neither parental knowledge nor parental consent….

If it were only the economic decline threatening our future, there might be hope. It’s the moral decline that spells our doom. [“Culture and Social Pathology,” creators.com, June 16, 2015]

Williams hints at the role of government in the sundering of the social fabric. Let’s spell it out. As government has become all-powerful and crushingly intrusive (with respect to Americans, if not with respect to their enemies) personal responsibility and the civilizing bonds of society have been replaced by dependency on the state and the use of its power to advance the interest of some at the expense of all. (See “The Interest-Group Paradox” for more about this phenomenon and its folly.)

The privileges that are accorded out of kindness, of which I wrote earlier, arise from civil society, and they are dying with it. People seem less willing than they were in the past to accord such privileges to others.

Privilege as a Dirty Word

With the withering away of civil society, privilege is now thought of mainly as something that someone demands or takes because of his rank, socioeconomic status, gender, or race. Privilege-taking was widely scorned until the arrival of the age of identity politics. Consider the phrase “rank has its privileges” (RHIP), which is a term of derogation that applies where persons of high status (judges, elected officials, corporate executives, military “brass”) enjoy perquisites or escape punishments because of their status.

Then there’s the case of the “privileged brat” — a young person who acts haughtily toward others. This is usually someone whose parents are affluent and on whom the parents have lavished money (or the things that it can buy) — someone, in other words, who has come to think of himself as “special” and whose wishes are to be taken as commands by others. I could add examples, but they would be of the same type: the privilege-taker who exploits his status to demand things of others.

Who are today’s dominant privilege-takers?

Unjust Stereotyping

Is a white person — better yet, a straight, white male of European descent (preferably non-Mediterranean) — necessarily privileged in either sense discussed here: a beneficiary of privileges voluntarily accorded by others or a privilege-taker who demands and receives favors based on his race, gender, and ethnicity?

If you select either answer you’re making the grievously wrong generalization that all heterosexual, white males of non-Mediterranean European descent (hetwhims for short) are not alike. Further, many hetwhims who seem to be “privileged” owe their privilege to causes other than gender, race, and ethnicity: Intelligence, other innate traits, and hard work should come to mind. (If you say, factually, that whites of European descent are generally smarter than, say, persons of African descent, you are unlikely to be a person who pigeonholes all hetwhims as “privileged.”)

Let’s make it real by asking if the following types of hetwhim are privileged:

  • a redneck hetwhim of below-average intelligence who comes from a poor Appalachian family
  • any hetwhim of average or below average intelligence who comes from a family with below-average income
  • a hetwhim who has been denied a job or promotion for which he was, objectively, the best candidate because he was competing with non-hetwhims, especially blacks, women, or — nowadays — homosexuals
  • a hetwhim who has a mental or physical condition that makes it impossible for him to enjoy what passes for a normal life
  • a hetwhim who is actively discriminated against in a university setting — as a student, professor, or prospective professor — because of his gender, color, and sexual orientation and not because of his actual beliefs or qualifications
  • one of the tens of millions of hetwhims in the United States who simply does the best he can with his mental and physical endowment, and whose achievements are due to those endowments and his efforts, plain and simple.

Blaming any of them for what befalls others — usually because of their own faults and failings — is nothing less than blaming the blameless. (See my post, “Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck.”)

The Hypocrisy of the Truly Privileged

The stereotyping of hetwims as privileged is laughable when it is done by affluent hetwims in the media and academia. It is especially laughable when it is done by privileged members of the so-called victim groups: the president and his wife, many cabinet members and other high officials, many members of Congress, their counterparts at the State and local levels, a disproportionately high percentage of functionaries at all levels of government, and on and on throughout the ranks of business, the media, and academia. Beginning with the president, these privileged masses include more than a fair share of mediocrities who would not be where they are if they had to rely on their natural endowments, and if they could not exploit the misplaced guilt that underlies political correctness, affirmative action, and other modes of injustice.

“Injustice” is an apt word:

The obsession of seeing everything in race-coloured terms is itself racist. Anti-racism pursed by zealots transforms itself into the very vice it deplores. This is the cost of identity politics, and its close bedmate, victimology enterprises — the desire to judge, define, represent and indict the individual by the group he or she belongs to. Every human being’s experience in its infinite particularities and potentials transcends category. [Rex Murphy, “‘White Privilege’ on the March,” The National Post, May 15, 2015]

Another apt word is “payback.” The non-victims of non-privilege — with the considerable aid of their privileged allies on the left — are in the process of paying back tens of millions of hetwhims for their imagined sins. Payback may be cathartically pleasurable, but it isn’t justice — social, racial, or other. It’s just plain vindictiveness.

What about “fairness,” which is a favorite word of the racism-sexism-social-justice warriors? “Fairness” is the first refuge of the envious and their morally corrupt allies on the left. Whenever I hear “It just isn’t fair to [insert name of “victimized” group],” I think of a petulant child who lost a game because of his own lack of skill.

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Related posts:

Refuting Rousseau and His Progeny
Liberty and “Fairness”
The Adolescent Rebellion Syndrome
Academic Bias
The F-Scale Revisited
Intellectuals and Capitalism
Greed, Cosmic Justice, and Social Welfare
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice
The Interest-Group Paradox
The State of the Union 2010
The Shape of Things to Come
Sexist Nonsense
Inside-Outside
Asymmetrical (Ideological) Warfare
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Government vs. Community
Social Justice
The Left’s Agenda
More Social Justice
The Evil That Is Done with Good Intentions
Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck
The Left and Its Delusions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
An Economist’s Special Pleading: Affirmative Action for the Ugly
Nature is Unfair
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Our Perfect, Perfect Constitution
Constitutional Confusion
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
Liberty and Society
The Eclipse of “Old America”
The Capitalist Paradox Meets the Interest-Group Paradox
Genetic Kinship and Society
America: Past, Present, and Future
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
Left-Libertarians, Obama, and the Zimmerman Case
“Conversing” about Race
The Fallacy of Human Progress
Political Correctness vs. Civility
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
Defining Liberty
“We the People” and Big Government
Evolution and Race
The Culture War
The Fall and Rise of American Empire
Some Inconvenient Facts about Income Inequality
Modern Liberalism as Wishful Thinking
Mass (Economic) Hysteria: Income Inequality and Related Themes
Getting Liberty Wrong
Romanticizing the State
“Wading” into Race, Culture, and IQ
“Liberalism” and Personal Responsibility
Income Inequality and Economic Growth
Round Up the Usual Suspects
Poverty, Crime, and Big Government
Evolution, Culture, and “Diversity”
A Case for Redistribution, Not Made
Greed, Conscience, and Big Government
Ruminations on the Left in America
The Harmful Myth of Inherent Equality
My View of Libertarianism
Crime Revisited
Getting “Equal Protection” Right
A Cop-Free World?
Nature, Nurture, and Inequality
Tolerance
The Real Burden of Government
No Wonder Liberty Is Disappearing
Diminishing Marginal Utility and the Redistributive Urge
How to Protect Property Rights and Freedom of Association and Expression
Democracy, Human Nature, and the Future of America
The Gaystapo at Work
The Gaystapo and Islam
1963: The Year Zero

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* The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (New York: The Oxford University Press, Sixth Printing in the United States, September 1973), Volume 2, p. 2307, at 3.

Signature

Ruminations on the Left in America

I deplore the adage that “we get the kind of government that we deserve.” I’m not part of the “we,” nor are the millions of other Americans who despise the kind of government that’s been forced upon us. The adage should be “We — who despise big government — have gotten the kind of government that others want and therefore deserve.”

On of their government’s favorite themes is “racism.” It’s threadbare from use; it’s the “global warming” of the 2010s. Another favorite theme is “inequality,” which is as threadbare as “racism.” What’s more, the loudest voices against “inequality” are the very persons who could do something about it, personally, inasmuch as they’re left-wing 1-percenters with plenty of money to hand out. I wonder how many homeless persons they have invited into their homes. I wonder how many of those homeless persons are black.

Speaking of “global warming” — or whatever it’s called nowadays — did you follow the recent march against it? Neither did I, though I couldn’t avoid seeing a few mentions of it in “news” outlets. The marchers looked like a roundup of the usual suspects: overenthusiastic youth; naive believers in the power of government to do good (a lot of overlap with overenthusiastic youth); granola-munching, sandal-wearing Luddites who think they’d like to live in the Dark Ages, but with smart phones, of course; and all manner of lefties who think they’d like to live in a place where an all-wise dictator to tells everyone what to do — though I’ve noticed that they’re not flocking to Cuba.

By now, you may have surmised that hypocrisy rankles me. And because it does, I despise most politicians, media types, and celebrities — and all affluent lefties. But I also despise less-than-affluent lefties who simply want to feed at a trough that’s filled by the efforts of others, and who like to chalk up their failures to “society” and discrimination of one kind and another. Those various kinds of discrimination must, of course, be alleviated by government-granted privileges of one kind and another. The idea of making the best of one’s lot, by dint of determination and effort, seems to have vanished from the mental makeup of most Americans (in emulation of Europeans). Claims of victimhood and demands for special treatment by government have become de rigeur.

This is merely a manifestation of the sea-change in the American ethos. Though the origins of the sea-change can be traced to the Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and to the New Deal of the 1930s, its inevitability was ensured in the 1960s. It was then that the Great Society enshrined “entitlements” and the media sanctified unwashed, loud-mouthed, quasi-traitors for their trend-setting effort to ensure that government became incapable of doing the one thing that it should do: protect Americans from predators, foreign and domestic.

Closer to home, there’s the People’s Republic of insert-the-name-of-your-municipality (mine is Austin), which hosts dozens of blood-sucking tax-levying jurisdictions in constant search of ways to make life more miserable and expensive for residents (the indolent and dependent excepted, of course); for example:

  • frequent, traffic-jamming street closings for various politically correct observances
  • four weekends of very loud music festivals (the sound carries for miles)
  • tax breaks to attract “jobs,” which means more residents, but not lower taxes per capita
  • a poor road network that could barely handle Austin’s population as it was 10 years ago, but which could have been improved
  • restriction of the inadequate road network’s capacity by adding bike lanes that are used mainly by Yuppies, for exercise
  • a push to install a very expensive urban rail line that will be disruptive while it’s under construction, will displace traffic lanes and parking spaces, and won’t handle more than a tiny fraction of Austin’s transportation needs
  • lack of interest in a rapid bus system because it’s not “sexy” like urban rail
  • “affordable” (i.e., subsidized) housing, to foster “diversity” (i.e., the indolent and crime-prone get to live near and make life “better” for the aspiring and hard-working)
  • expensive “green” energy because it’s “religiously” correct to believe in AGW.

These and other abominations are supported by local lefties, the core constituency of which is the students and faculty of the University of Texas, and a dwindling hippie population that’s being priced out of Austin (an inadequate but welcome recompense). The core has been augmented by the hordes of Californians who have flocked to Austin to escape their home State’s high taxes and onerous regulations. They, of course, favor the programs that yield high taxes and onerous regulations, but are surprised when they figure out (as some of them do) that there’s a link between the programs, on the one hand, and the taxes and regulations, on the other hand. Unless you’re very lucky, you live in a People’s Republic much like Austin.

Which brings me (don’t ask how) to the final part of today’s sermon: euphemisms. These are much-favored by lefties, who seem unable to confront reality (as discussed in the preceding paragraph). Thus, for example:

  • crippled became handicapped, which became disabled and then differently abled or something-challenged
  • stupid became learning disabled, which became special needs (a euphemistic category that houses more than the stupid)
  • poor became underprivileged, which became economically disadvantaged, which became (though isn’t overtly called) entitled (as in entitled to other people’s money)
  • colored persons became Negroes, who became blacks, then African-Americans, and now (often) persons of color.

Why do lefties insist on varnishing the truth? They are — they insist — strong supporters of science, which is (ideally) the pursuit of truth. Well, that’s because they aren’t supporters of science (witness their devotion to the “unsettled” science of AGW). Nor do they want the truth. They simply want to see the world as they would like it to be; for example:

  • a vibrant economy, but without the “too rich” who inevitably accompany it; they should be punished for the sin of being “too rich” (athletes, media stars, and rich benefactors of left-wing causes excluded, of course)
  • redemption for the left’s pets du jour through government programs that never seem to overcome human failings and foibles but always result in well-fed bureaucrats
  • peace on Earth without without swift and certain justice or a strong military, because “we” don’t want to offend a certain racial group or members of a certain religion (who have shown that they hate America, Americans, and some of the left’s pets du jour, namely, emancipated women and homosexuals) — but don’t take away my bodyguard or his .357 Magnum.

And so it goes in what little is left of the Founders’ America. For more about America’s left and the damage it has done to liberty and prosperity, see the related posts listed below.

Signature

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Related posts:
Socialist Calculation and the Turing Test
How to Deal with Left-Wing Academic Blather
It’s Not Anti-Intellectualism, Stupid
The Case Against Campus Speech Codes
The Pathology of Academic Leftism
The People’s Romance
Lefty Profs
Apropos Academic Freedom and Western Values
Whiners — Left and Libertarian
Diagnosing the Left
Why So Few Free-Market Economists?
Academic Bias
Intellectuals and Capitalism
The Media, the Left, and War
Asymmetrical (Ideological) Warfare
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
Tolerance on the Left
David Brooks, Useful Idiot for the Left
Left-Libertarians, Obama, and the Zimmerman Case
The Culture War
Sorkin’s Left-Wing Propaganda Machine
The Pretence of Knowledge