"Anti-racism" & Prohibition

Here, John Derbyshire considers the possibility that the American ruling class, after 50+ years of failing to eradicate racial inequality through social engineering, will turn around and become racist themselves. Personally, I find his argument intriguing, but unconvincing ... especially when he envisions "a sort of Indian-reservation policy in which the elites 'fence off' the low-IQ underclass": essentially, white flight with the abandoned territory sealed off by barbed wire. That might be how it plays out; and it might, regrettably, be the least bad option ... but it'd totally go against the Puritanical, busybody, command-&-control ethos. After all, back in the day it was missionaries who believed in going forth to uplift and civilize the Indians; the settlers just wanted them out of the way.

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The Last of the Doughboys

This is an awesome book. Its author spent years in the early part of this century tracking down the last extant American veterans of The Great War for interviews, visiting battlefields and monuments, and collecting memorabilia; he came out of all that to write a truly unique and irreplaceable work of history — history at its best, as it could be and should be.

For the most part.

The book is too long, padded out with too much stuff that any reader could have gotten from any ordinary history of the war, with fewer minor but irritating errors of fact and interpretation. In particular, he indulges in fashionable retrospective moralizing about an earlier America's treatment of women, immigrants, and coloreds; but it's not unrelieved. For instance, he uses the term "coloreds" freely and without scare-quotes, in deference to the parlance of a not-so-sensitive time. He's also an ethnocentric Jew, which wouldn't have been an issue for this reader, if he hadn't made such an issue of it himself.

But, mercifully, and thanks to Whatever Gods May Be, he mostly sticks to his primary sources, to give us a sense of the past as those who lived in it actually lived it. There is not a trace of that poisonous seepage from trendy literary criticism that has polluted all-too-much of "history" writing: no pretentious blatherskite and sophomoric wordplay. This is not a venture into "critical studies theorizing the (re)construction of discourse(s)," quack quack quack. This is a book that comes from the heart of one who truly cares about what he's writing about. And for that, I am deeply grateful.

Attack of the Bluenose Millies

Dear Class of 2014 [Millennial Generation, 1992 Cohort]: Thanks for Not Disinviting Me

Members of the Class of 2014, I salute you. My warmest wishes on the occasion of your graduation from this fine institution.

And, before I go any further, I would like to express my personal thanks to all of you for not rescinding my invitation. I know that matters were dicey for a while, given that I have held and defended actual positions on politically contested issues. Now and then I’ve strayed from the party line. And if the demonstrators would quiet down for a moment, I’d like to offer an abject apology for any way in which I have offended against the increasingly narrow and often obscure values of the academy.
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Political Correctness

... is a strenuous effort to stand athwart History, yelling "Stop!" Its purpose is to make everyone forget that things were ever different in the past (while simultaneously making everyone believe that the past was irredeemably wicked — to prejudice them against the idea that anything in the past might have been at least as good as the present, and might have something to teach us), and that things may ever be different in the future.

More Anti-Racist Than Thou

I gotta admit, I kinda like Ken Burns. Sometimes. Loved his Civil War and Jazz documentaries. (How could I not? I'm a nationalist: I love the Union, and I love jazz.) Problem is, he's a typically sanctimonious degenerate post-Puritan "anti-racist." Every time the issue of race comes up, his mind just goes all wonky. I've seen it in his other films ... I hadda surf away from the one on Mark Twain when it started harping on this one theme so tone-deafly. His latest product is, by all accounts (full disclosure: I couldn't stomach the thought of actually watching it) demented.

So, just out of "'satiable curtiosity," I looked up ol' Ken. Turns out (according to Wikipedia) he was born in Brooklyn (as of 2010, "49.5% White (35.8% non-Hispanic White)"; his alma mater is in Amherst, Massachussets ("As of the 2008 U.S. Census, the ... racial makeup of the town was 76.7% White, 5.10% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 9.02% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 2.89% from other races, and 3.35% from two or more races. 6.19% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race"); and he now lives in Walpole, New Hampshire ("As of the census of 2000, the... racial makeup of the town was 98.30% White, 0.14% African American, 0.25% Native American, 0.17% Asian, 0.08% from other races, and 1.06% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.47% of the population.")

Then, just to amuse myself, I looked up "reaction formation": "a defensive process (defense mechanism) in which emotions and impulses which are anxiety-producing or perceived to be unacceptable are mastered by exaggeration (hypertrophy) of the directly opposing tendency." Hmmm ....

Racism, racialism, racial realism

"Racism," in the parlance of our time, has come to mean "anything connected (however vaguely, remotely, or tangentially) to race* that the hypersensitively-neurotic members of the white overclass consider offensive." This usage has become so thoroughly established in our language that it's probably useless to try to do anything about it ... so when someone calls you a "racist," you might as well just say something like "Sez you."
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Inequality, Left and Right

Inequality Today: The Left-Liberal Narrative

Unequally Republican: The Right Wrestles with the Inequality Debate

Significantly — cluelessly — the "I"-word only appears once in either of these articles, in passing, invidiously: "Right wing demagogues exploit public concern over healthy and positive [sic; emphasis added] social change (the acceptance of homosexuality, women having the freedom to start families without male breadwinners, immigration, abortion on demand, a changing racial demographic) to deflect public attention from the economic roots of our problems." Never mind the impact of an endless influx of cheap labor, subsidized for employers at the expense of native taxpayers. Never mind the stark conflict in class-interests between private-sector employees, who suffer from this competition, and public-sector employees, for whom immigrants are clients, and therefore profit from them.

The truth of the matter is this: It's plutocrats + apparatchiks + foreigners vs. working and taxpaying Americans. All those "healthy and positive" changes are pet causes of rich, white, deracinated, degenerate Lefties — and their promotion of these issues, provoking a healthy but negative backlash from the Right, is what's "deflect[ing] public attention from the economic roots of our problems."

Status is a zero-sum game

The economics of political correctness

A positional good is a good that people acquire to signalise where they stand in a social hierarchy; it is acquired in order to set oneself apart from others. Positional goods therefore have a peculiar property: the utility their consumers derive from them is inversely related to the number of people who can access them.

Positionality is not a property of the good itself, it is a matter of the consumer’s motivations. I may buy an exquisite variety of wine because I genuinely enjoy the taste, or acquire a degree from a reputable university because I genuinely appreciate what that university has to offer. But my motivation could also be to set myself apart from others, to present myself as more sophisticated or smarter. From merely observing that I consume the product, you could not tell my motivation. But you could tell it by observing how I respond once other people start drinking the same wine, or attending the same university.

If I value those goods for their intrinsic qualities, their increasing popularity will not trouble me at all. After all, the enjoyment derived from wine or learning is not fixed, so your enjoyment does not subtract from my enjoyment. I may even invite others to join me – we can all have more of it.

But if you see me moaning that the winemakers/the university have ‘sold out’, if you see me whinging about those ignoramuses who do not deserve the product because they (unlike me, of course) do not really appreciate it, you can safely conclude that for me, this good is a positional good. (Or was, before everybody else discovered it.) We can all become more sophisticated wine consumers, and we can all become better educated. But we can never all be above the national average, or in the top group, in terms of wine-connoisseurship, education, income, or anything else. We can all improve in absolute terms, but we cannot all simultaneously improve in relative terms. And that is what positional goods are all about – signalising a high position in a ranking, that is, a relation to others. This leads to a problem. Positional goods are used to signalise something that is by definition scarce, and yet the product which does the signalling is not scarce, or at least not inherently. You can increase the number of goods which signal a position in the Top 20 (of whatever), but the number of places in that Top 20 will only ever be, er, twenty. Increasing the number of signalling products will simply destroy their signalling function. Which is why the early owners of such a signalling product can get really mad at you if you acquire one too.

We have all seen this phenomenon. Those of my age (1980 vintage) have probably witnessed it for the first time in their early teens, when an increasing number of their schoolmates tried to look like Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, and being a fan of that band lost its ‘edginess’. ‘Being alternative’ is a positional good. We cannot all be alternative [1]. Literally not.

Now remember how the ‘early adopters’ responded when Nirvana fandom went mainstream, and their social status was threatened, because there are clear parallels with PC: some of them went on to more extreme styles; others tried to repair the broken signal by giving endless sermons about the differences between ‘those who are in the know’ and ‘the poseurs’.

PC-brigadiers behave exactly like owners of a positional good who panic because wider availability of that good threatens their social status. The PC brigade has been highly successful in creating new social taboos, but their success is their very problem. Moral superiority is a prime example of a positional good, because we cannot all be morally superior to each other. Once you have successfully exorcised a word or an opinion, how do you differentiate yourself from others now? You need new things to be outraged about, new ways of asserting your imagined moral superiority.

You can do that by insisting that the no real progress has been made, that your issue is as real as ever, and just manifests itself in more subtle ways. Many people may imitate your rhetoric, but they do not really mean it, they are faking it, they are poseurs .... You can also hugely inflate the definition of an existing offense .... Or you can move on to discover new things to label ‘offensive’, new victim groups, new patterns of dominance and oppression.

If I am right, then Political Correctness is really just a special form of conspicuous consumption, leading to a zero-sum status race. The fact that PC fans are still constantly outraged, despite the fact that PC has never been so pervasive, would then just be a special form of the Easterlin Paradox.

H/T: Vox Popoli

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