Liberal individualism doesn’t produce the sort of virtuous, self-restrained people that are required to sustain it.
.. But about 300 years ago something that he calls “the Miracle” happened. It was a shift in attitude. For thousands of years, societies divided people into permanent categories of race or caste. But, Goldberg writes, “the Miracle ushered in a philosophy that says each person is to be judged and respected on account of their own merits, not the class or caste of their ancestors.”
.. Tribalism was always there, lurking under the surface. It returns now as identity politics, which is reactionary reversion to the pre-modern world.
.. Identity politics warriors claim they are fighting for social justice, but really it’s just the same old thing, Goldberg argues, a mass mobilization to gain power for the tribe.
Earlier movements wanted America to live up to its ideals. Today’s identitarians doubt the liberal project itself... The core problem today is not tribalism. It’s excessive individualismExcessive individualism has left us distrustful and alone — naked Lockeans. When people are naked and alone they revert to tribe. Tribalism is the end product of excessive individualism... Gratitude is too weak a glue to hold a diverse nation together. Renewal will come through the communitarians on the right and the left, who seek ways to improve relationships on a household, local and national level.
The Constitution safeguards the liberties that the Declaration of Independence represents but did not create.
.. The foundation of Americanism, he posits, is natural law. That does not just spontaneously appear, nor passively persevere. Understanding our natural-law roots, reaffirming our attachment to them in the teeth of the progressive project to supersede them — this is hard work.
.. right reason, “certain definite principles of action from which spring all virtues and whatever is necessary for the proper molding of morals.”
.. “True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting.” It is reason that learning has cultivated for the pursuit of happiness.
.. Natural law is the basis for our conceit that no one may rule over another without his consent.
.. In the absence of natural law, we would be left to the tyranny of will — arbitrary morality and rights, dictated by those who had muscled their way to dominance.
.. For Levin, rationalizing such a muscular state is the 20th-century progressive project spearheaded by
- Herbert Croly,
- Theodore Roosevelt,
- Woodrow Wilson,
- John Dewey, and their progeny.
They built on the utopian foundation of the “philosopher-kings”:
- Rousseau’s radical egalitarianism,
- Hegel’s historicism,
- Marx’s economic determinism and class struggle, and so on.
The rights of self-determination, self-governance, and private property — the blessings of liberty that are the heritage of natural law — are in peril, if not of extinction, at least of irreversible atrophy.
.. Mark Levin has not been content to inveigh against statism. In the last few years, he has offered concrete plans to roll it back, including a campaign for a convention of the states under Article V of the Constitution, aimed at stripping down Washington from without, since it will never reform itself from within.
This gets to a point I tried to make last night on Special Report (scroll to around 9:05 for the video). My friend Mollie Hemingway is absolutely right when she says there are double standards at work here. The Obama administration got away with things — inappropriately sharing intelligence, influencing investigations, attacking the media — without a fraction of the gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth we’ve seen from the mainstream media, and without inviting a special counsel.
But the essential reason we got a special counsel and a media feeding frenzy is that Trump seems determined to do everything he can to invite chaos and hysteria to his administration.
The idea that the media or some shadowy cabal of “Never Trumpers” forced the president to fire James Comey in a comically incompetent manner is ludicrous. No one was holding Ivanka Trump hostage in a Motel 6 when Donald Trump confessed to Lester Holt that his administration’s explanation for why Comey was fired was a lie or forced Trump to admit that he fired Comey for his handling of the Russia investigation.
If Trump could simply hold a tune — about jobs, tax reform, etc. — for a few months, his poll numbers would creep up, some good policy might get enacted, and, crucially for Trump, he would earn some political capital that might take the bite out of whatever Mueller finds, if he finds anything at all. Alternatively, keeping his fan base loyal but alienating everyone else is a recipe for staying in the mid 30s for the rest of his term and taking down the GOP majority in the House.
.. In Western mathematics, our ways of knowing include formalized reasoning or proof, decontextualization, and algorithmic thinking, leaving little room for those having non-Western mathematical skills and thinking processes.
.. Mathematics tells us that individual is intellectually lacking. Mathematics formulae also differentiate between the classification of a war or a genocide and have been used to trick indigenous peoples out of land and property.
.. It was Rousseau who first, or at least most famously, leveled the indictment against the tyranny of science in his First Discourse.
.. All of this prattle about “algorithmic thinking” is just Romanticism with a fresh coat of paint.
..The model we came up with for distinguishing between war and genocide involves this mysterious craft called “counting.” But it also involves other things such as motives, means, and other aspects of what serious people call historical context. These criteria do not come from math, they come from politics, morality, and reason. All math does is count the dead. It takes human intelligence to place the dead in context. The Spanish Flu killed millions. It wasn’t genocide.
.. Blaming math for what people do with it should disqualify you from teaching math.
It’s also immoral, self-indulgent, and dangerous nonsense. We use math to make vaccines and model how to get them to indigenous peoples. We use math to feed the hungry. Teaching children that Western math is pernicious is the very essence of perniciousness. It is also incandescently stupid. Do Chinese computers use Confucian math?
.. How much head-popping hysteria have we had to put up with about the evils of teaching “creationism”?
The Enlightenment philosopher’s attack on cosmopolitan élites now seems prophetic.
Rousseau had little formal education, but he accumulated plenty of experience during a largely unsupervised childhood and adolescence. Born in Geneva in 1712, to a struggling watchmaker and a mother who died shortly after giving birth, he was only ten years old when his father deposited him with indifferent relatives and left town. At the age of fifteen, he ran away and found his way to Savoy, where he quickly became the boy toy of a Swiss-French noblewoman. She turned out to be the great love of his life, introducing him to books and music. Rousseau, always seeking substitutes for his mother, called her Maman.
.. In Rousseau’s view, the newly emergent intellectual and technocratic class did little more than provide literary and moral cover for the powerful and the unjust.
.. Smith argued that the human instinct for emulation of others could be turned into a positive moral and social force.