Thursday, August 20, 2020

Objectives And Constraints, 2020 Edition

     I’ve been trying to minimize my rantings on political and current-events subjects recently. I’ve needed to distance myself from them, lest they swallow me whole. If you come here for such fulminations, I can only hope that the offerings from Linda and the Colonel have satisfied you. I’ve had to refocus on other topics, probably temporarily, for the sake of my sanity.

     A couple of things from my morning reading have me thinking about a peculiar coin, one that philosophers will recognize at once. On one face of that coin is engraved:

Objectives And Methods

     ...while the reverse face is inscribed with:

Moral And Ethical Constraints

     The rim of this coin is milled as is the rim of a quarter, such that one cannot help but feel the ridges. Indeed, you might want to keep a quarter in your hand as you read this. Run your thumb along the edge from time to time. It will remind you that there can never be a coin with only one face.

     This morning, our favorite Bookworm declaims thus:

     Andrew Klavan often talks about the fact that the Republican reverence for the free market beginning in the 1980s had within it the seeds of the Republicans’ downfall because they forgot that capitalism works only when tempered with morality.

     Indeed! Bravo! Unfortunately, Bookworm immediately drives into the weeds:

     China is the ne plus ultra of capitalism without morality. (By the way, another word for what China is now is fascist. That’s what happens when you allow private ownership and a “free” market, but the government maintains complete control.)

     This distorts the meanings of its key words. “Capitalism” and “free market” are synonyms, though one has connotations the other does not. Fascism is not capitalist; it is socialist. In a fascist economy just as in an explicitly socialist one, production and distribution are totally dictated by the State, with a few meaningless property deeds for camouflage and decoration. (Look up the meaning of the German word Betriebsf├╝hrer and its significance in the Third Reich if this eludes you.)

     However, it’s the first of the two cited passages that really caught my eye. The reason is a single, seemingly innocuous word: “works.”

     To say that something “works” – or doesn't – implies an objective to be pursued and a standard for evaluation, and such objectives and standards are seldom explicitly stated. Just now, for example, we have out-of-control riots, violence, and vandalism in several major cities, while local and state authorities alternate between wringing their hands and sitting on them. Yet I have no doubt that some persons are viewing that chaos and saying to one another “It's working.” That is: they believe it’s bringing them nearer to their objective.

     The objective being pursued, and the existence or nonexistence of moral and ethical constraints, are what really matter to the applicability of the word “works.”

     A people who commonly subscribe to the moral and ethical codes of the Judeo-Christian tradition will understand one another reasonably well when one of them says “this works” or “that won’t work.” They’ve agreed on the objective at issue and tacitly accept the same constraints. But if there are among them persons who don’t subscribe to that moral-ethical code, they can use the others’ fallacious assumption to work a great betrayal.

     For example: When the modern American welfare system was established in the early Sixties, it was sold to the public not as a way of life but as “a hand up” for those who became its beneficiaries. That is, it was represented as a way to reduce avoidable privation, particularly among minor children, while the beneficiaries “get back on their feet.” But the welfare system did become a way of life for a steadily expanding population of beneficiaries who remained dependent on the system lifelong. The percentage of persons who accepted welfare support and later became self-supporting was dwarfed by the percentage that remained on it permanently. So if the objective was “a hand up,” the programs failed. However, if the objective was to produce a steadily expanding population of dependents, the programs worked very well indeed.

     But decent people – that is, people who sincerely subscribe to the Judeo-Christian ethic – could not believe that anyone would have inducing helpless dependency in millions of others as his objective. It would be wrong, barely distant from mass enslavement. The idea that persons in government, whether elected, appointed, or Civil Service, would think it acceptable, much less desirable, baffled many good-hearted Americans.

     The objective pursued and the moral-ethical standard that constrained the pursuer clearly mattered. Run your thumb along your quarter’s edge and ponder awhile.

     The aim of the High is to remain where they are. -- George Orwell

     We’ve talked a lot about the political Establishment, here and elsewhere. Since the election of President Trump, that category of persons has chafed over being ejected en masse from federal power. Returning to their previous state of hegemony is their primary objective. They see Trump as the principal obstacle to that aim. Therefore, they seek to depose him, by any expedient means.

     The events of the four years behind us have made it plain that in that campaign, the Establishment recognizes no moral constraints of importance. They will lie, cheat, steal, betray the interests of the country, and possibly even arm America’s enemies if it will get them where they want to go. The revelations about what lies behind the “Russian collusion” hoax have made both their objective and their lack of moral scruple ever more obvious to decent Americans.

     Would these people ever admit openly to their objective? Doubtful. Would they ever admit to their lack of moral constraint? Really, now! They progress entirely because most Americans are good-hearted, naive believers in the good will of all their countrymen. They assume as a matter of course that we’re all decent sorts who want the same things and respect the same moral-ethical rules. It falls to us who see more clearly to make matters plain.

     Which brings me to this excellent piece from Sundance at The Last Refuge. In his exposition on Cold Anger, Sundance expresses our objective with maximum clarity and precision:

     You know why the entire apparatus is united against President Trump. You know why the corrupt Wall Street financial apparatus is united against President Trump. You know why every institutional department, every lobbyist, every K-Street dweller, every career legislative member, staffer, and the various downstream economic benefactors, including the corporate media, all of it – all the above, are united against Donald Trump.

     Donald Trump is an existential threat to the existence of a corrupt DC system we have exposed to his disinfecting sunlight. Donald Trump is the existential threat to every entity and institution who benefits from that corrupt and vile system.

     They too have nothing to lose; their desperation becomes visible within their apoplexy; and they’re damn sure displaying it.

     Do not look away.

     Throw aside the sense of discomfort and bear witness to the evil we oppose. Do not turn your eyes from the hatred focused in our direction. Stand firm amid the solace of our number and resolve to the task at hand.

     Leftists who oppose our efforts hold positions that are weak, push back against them. They rely on fear…. they relish misery and despair… do not give it to them. Let them stare into the Cold Anger furnace.

     Our constraint? It is the same as our objective: justice, nothing else. If the existing institutions will not grant us justice, we will make it for ourselves, with our own hands.

     We must.


SWVAguy said...

We must indeed Francis. Never thought about owning a gun until occupy Wall Street. I won't say I saw all this crap coming, but I had a feeling something bad was coming. So now I have about 700 rounds of .380, 1000 rounds of 9mm and over 1000 of .223. You can't have too much ammo.

Pascal said...

Please forgive this tangent. You asserted:

"But decent people – that is, people who sincerely subscribe to the Judeo-Christian ethic – could not believe that anyone would have inducing helpless dependency in millions of others as his objective."

Emphasis added for this reason. In past generations, including my own, "decent people" (all is implied in that phrase) warned their children not to accept candy from strangers. Indeed, you are accurate in your reporting that initially the intent of welfare had constraints in it to avoid the damage which ensued after the constraints were tossed.

Clearly their was wisdom in that advice warning of covert intentions behind warm smiles. Have contemporary generations stopped issuing such warning? When exactly did any generation ever lose sight of the dangers? I don't think any did. But they remained silent? Why?

This suggests that there is something else missing from the decency of "decent people." Could it be that they are no longer as decent as they believe? That they may be witless of it is a great tragedy. Worse, can their society can withstand that failing?

Let me suggest a cause for the failing that should (heh!) not be met with pleasure (to put it mildly) to anyone hearing the charge. Cowardice. An unwillingness to see evils because admitting to seeing it demands a counter-offensive. And people today seem to equate decency with never giving offense of any kind.

If I offended anyone here. Good. Say something. Stop shirking you idiots. Your life and the society (and those who sacrificed so you might have the greatest liberty in all the world) to which you owe so much is calling for your courage to emerge. Engage it.

Linda Fox said...

OK, I admit it - I'm ignorant of the coin referred to. What is it?

Francis W. Porretto said...

(chuckle) It's a notional coin, Linda. It symbolizes our inability, regardless of the end pursued or the cleverness of the pursuit, to escape the constraints of the moral law. Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to that union in his essay "Compensation:"

-- This Law writes the laws of the cities and nations. It will not be baulked of its end in the smallest iota. It is in vain to build or plot or combine against it. Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Res nolunt diu male administrari. Though no checks to a new evil appear, the checks exist, and will appear. If the government is cruel, the governor's life is not safe. If you tax too high, the revenue will yield nothing. If you make the criminal code sanguinary, juries will not convict. Nothing arbitrary, nothing artificial can endure....

The ingenuity of man has been dedicated to the solution of one problem: how to detach the sensual sweet, the sensual strong, the sensual bright, etc., from the moral sweet, the moral deep, the moral fair; that is, again, to contrive to cut clean off this upper surface so thin as to leave it bottomless; to get a one end, without an other end....

Steadily is this dividing and detaching counteracted. Up to this day it must be owned no projector has had the smallest success. The parted water reunites behind our hand. Pleasure is taken out of pleasant things, profit out of profitable things, power out of strong things, the moment we seek to separate them from the whole. We can no more halve things and get the sensual good, by itself, than we can get an inside that shall have no outside, or a light without a shadow. Drive out nature with a fork, she comes running back. --

"Compensation" remains one of the wisest, most profound statements ever composed on the inexorability of the moral law.