1
   

Government...and the promotion of virtue.

 
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Aug, 2004 01:16 pm
george

The Straussian contingent is but one element in the modern republican party, but it has become more powerful and influential in this administration than you seem to realize. I've sent you the title of a very fine reference book on the revolution within the conservative movement, and you may read it, possibly.

As to those damned Romans, I developed a fondness for Cicero at one point in my studies, but my knowledge of the period is pretty superficial. We do have a bunch of good smart people writing here, and you are one of them. You have areas of expertise and knowledge which I envy. I actually like everyone here except walter who has a large wart on his nose.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Aug, 2004 03:20 pm
Blatham,

You know you had me with the Walter bit 'till I got to the wart. I should know better by now. Somehow I'll make you pay.

BTW will you be voting for Harper next week?
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Aug, 2004 04:48 pm
Next week??? George, you may have fallen into a psycotropic time-warp (I frequently do). I was out of the country the day of the election and that night when Mr Harper limped home bleeding to the always-there arms of his evangelical mama.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 04:54 am
You're right. I was. I'm embarased for it.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 02:36 pm
Hell, it's ok. After all, what would it matter? I'm yet uncertain about Paul Martin, but if he doesn't follow through on his promise to decriminalize marijuana, or if he does end up supporting Bush's ridiculous anti-missle defence system...then he's going to hear from me.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 02:47 pm
I have a dark daydream of a not distant day on which the Canajuns, suddenly maddened by the centuries of self-repression, the courtesy, the civility, finally snap, and a rapid irresistible revolution sweeps the PC's and Libs from Ottawa forever.

A New Democrat government takes power, but is quickly winnowed of members who are not down with the Regina Manifesto, in a purge which sends the politically incorrect to live in Oklahoma. Soon, the radar arrays of the DEW line are taken down and cut up for scrap, and British Columbia booms with an economy frantically fueled by the Reefer Bubble, but is thrown in to anarchy by the HK triads flying in to stiffle the competition.

Windsor becomes one vast Cuban-cigar selling strip joint; Thunder Bay becomes a permanent campsite for First Nations gurus pedalling paperback novel philosophy and magic mushrooms; Qu├ębec secedes, but no one seems to notice or care, so they sheepishly pretend it was all a big joke, but relish the new found opportunity to be rude to the Anglais while travelling outside the province . . .

And then my Sweetiepie tells me it's time to walk the dogs and hands me the leashes . . .
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 03:01 pm
A magnificent dream!
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 09:28 pm
As a further address to the Straussians and 'virtue'... from Gang of Five by Nina J. Easton, Simon and Schuster, 2000

Quote:
For Bill and other bright young conservatives on capus in the 1970s, Stauss held intuitive appeal. There was, first of all, the dizzying intellectual high of joining a small cadre of political philosophy students who considered themselves smart enough to mind the complex secrets of ancient thinkers such as Platao. There was, too, the Straussian languare of morality - "good" and "evil", "character" and "virtue" - that offered a vivid counterpoint to liberalism's blurring of social and moral distinctions. ...

The Straussians believed that the measure of a healthy society was how virtuous its citizens were - not how much personal freedom they enjoyed, nor how equal their standing. Indeed, they saw inequalityties as a natural (and old age) element of human life. The rot of modern thinking, Straussians believed, was evident in the presumptuous social engineering by 20th century courts and government in such matters as school busing and affirmative action. Straussians also regarded as dangerous the anything-goes ethos of the 1960s, particularly in sexual matters. They raised alarms about liberation movements that led to legal abortion, single motherhood by choice, and civil rightrs protections for homsexuals. Straussians were concerned with personal behavior, the character, of people - and, unlike liberals, they didn't shrink from judgment...


It becomes rather easy to understand the match between this set of notions and policy preferences with that of the Christian Right.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 09:51 pm
blatham wrote:
As a further address to the Straussians and 'virtue'... from Gang of Five by Nina J. Easton, Simon and Schuster, 2000

Quote:
For Bill and other bright young conservatives on capus in the 1970s, Stauss held intuitive appeal. There was, first of all, the dizzying intellectual high of joining a small cadre of political philosophy students who considered themselves smart enough to mind the complex secrets of ancient thinkers such as Platao. There was, too, the Straussian languare of morality - "good" and "evil", "character" and "virtue" - that offered a vivid counterpoint to liberalism's blurring of social and moral distinctions. ...

The Straussians believed that the measure of a healthy society was how virtuous its citizens were - not how much personal freedom they enjoyed, nor how equal their standing. Indeed, they saw inequalityties as a natural (and old age) element of human life. The rot of modern thinking, Straussians believed, was evident in the presumptuous social engineering by 20th century courts and government in such matters as school busing and affirmative action. Straussians also regarded as dangerous the anything-goes ethos of the 1960s, particularly in sexual matters. They raised alarms about liberation movements that led to legal abortion, single motherhood by choice, and civil rightrs protections for homsexuals. Straussians were concerned with personal behavior, the character, of people - and, unlike liberals, they didn't shrink from judgment...


It becomes rather easy to understand the match between this set of notions and policy preferences with that of the Christian Right.


That may be, but it is more a casual coincidence than an alignment of fellow travelers. One need not be a member of the Christian Right, nor a Christian for that matter, for these "notions" to resonate with one's personal convictions. Virtue can readily mainfest in a secular context.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 11:19 pm
finn

Yes, as I said at the outset...what did I say? Let me check...right..."It's an interesting notion (ought government to be in the job of promoting virtue), and not a simple one, I think."

My own notions of the proper role of government, particularly in this complex modern world, make room for the promotion of 'virtue' too. That's a fairly big conversation and I'll continue to delay it (I'm a bit lazy tonight).

However, your suggestion that the neighborliness of the Straussians and the Christian Right is "more a casual coincidence than an alignment of 'fellow travellers' "(I love that this term falls off your keyboard so easily) is, clearly, quite wrong.

Both communities view the social changes of the 60s with a similar disapproval. Both suffer from that particular arrogance which holds that they know better what is good for you and I than do you and I. But more to the point, they are linked together, and have been for nearly two decades, in numerous elements of conservative activism (the book I quote above tells this interesting story with some thoroughness and with pretty fine prose too). This alignment is far more than mere coincidence.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 12:14 am
blatham wrote:
finn

Yes, as I said at the outset...what did I say? Let me check...right..."It's an interesting notion (ought government to be in the job of promoting virtue), and not a simple one, I think."

My own notions of the proper role of government, particularly in this complex modern world, make room for the promotion of 'virtue' too. That's a fairly big conversation and I'll continue to delay it (I'm a bit lazy tonight).

However, your suggestion that the neighborliness of the Straussians and the Christian Right is "more a casual coincidence than an alignment of 'fellow travellers' "(I love that this term falls off your keyboard so easily) is, clearly, quite wrong.

I always enjoy absolute certitude in the morally relatavistic.

Both communities view the social changes of the 60s with a similar disapproval.

So do any number of other "groups." Are they all members of the Christian Right/Straussian coalition? The revolution of the 60's could hardly be that if it had been embraced by the majority. I am reminded of my Father-in-Law who, during the period, was very much the classic Liberal, and yet he found the 60's to be a destructive period in American history. I, as a member of the "Revolution," considered him to be reactionary, by virtue of his refusal to accept the value of sweeping change, and the moral bankruptcy of his generation. While a number of the social changes of the 60's were past due, many were no more than personal self-indulgence. Hedonism may be seen in terms of freedom but never in terms of virtue.

Both suffer from that particular arrogance which holds that they know better what is good for you and I than do you and I.

It is always interesting to me when people describe an adherence to common virtues as suffering from arrogance. Presumably every miscreant in history might consider the disapproving world to be "arrogant." Absolute individual freedoms are inconsistent with society. There is a clear difference between promoting behaviors which are good for society versus which are good for you. I would argue that while the Religious Right may contend that they know what is good for you, Straussians have confined their certainty to what is good for society.

But more to the point, they are linked together, and have been for nearly two decades, in numerous elements of conservative activism (the book I quote above tells this interesting story with some thoroughness and with pretty fine prose too). This alignment is far more than mere coincidence.

I've not read the book and so cannot comment upon it, but I do note that the passage you quoted, which is essentially a capsulated description of Straussians, makes no mention of Christianity, let alone the Christian Right.

To the extent that there have been alignments between the Religious Right and Straussians, perhaps "convenience" should replace my use of "coincidence."

While I, occassionaly, find myself defending the Religious Right from what I perceive to be bigoted attacks, I, personally, don't have much of an affinity for them. I assure you, however, that the mere fact that Straussians believe that they can find a transcendent wisdom from Greek classicism as opposed to the Bible, places them in the category of, at best, lesser apostates.


There is a certain smug assurance, that I find objectionable, in your attitude about the so called Religious Right which is that much more irritating when you attempt to lump them with Straussians. While I'm sure it scores numerous points with your fellow travellers, I consider it too pat by a half.

That you sleep the sleep of the blessed, despite my irritation, is assured, but this is all about expressing opinions.


0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 01:09 am
Quote:
I always enjoy absolute certitude in the morally relatavistic.
You know, I actually had my sentence originally with the qualifier "I think", but I replaced it with "clearly" because the organizational connections (which I spoke of later) are real and numerous. But you have to dig into this story, and the book I've noted is the best one I've found for this particular point.

Quote:
So do any number of other "groups." Are they all members of the Christian Right/Straussian coalition? The revolution of the 60's could hardly be that if it had been embraced by the majority. I am reminded of my Father-in-Law who, during the period, was very much the classic Liberal, and yet he found the 60's to be a destructive period in American history. I, as a member of the "Revolution," considered him to be reactionary, by virtue of his refusal to accept the value of sweeping change, and the moral bankruptcy of his generation. While a number of the social changes of the 60's were past due, many were no more than personal self-indulgence. Hedonism may be seen in terms of freedom but never in terms of virtue.

It is a point of affinity or similarity in view/values, and that facilitates cooperation. There are other points where disagreement exists (Creationist/intelligent design in schools, for example) which have strained cooperative efforts. It's a mixed bag, as always. The significance of these two groups is that they are now two of the most powerful ideologies in the New Right, and behind this administration and the modern Republican machine.

We could have a big talk here about 'self indugence' (personal accumulation of wealth is what?), but let's save that one. Likewise the opposition (is it?) between virtue and hedonism/pleasure.

Quote:
It is always interesting to me when people describe an adherence to common virtues as suffering from arrogance. Presumably every miscreant in history might consider the disapproving world to be "arrogant." Absolute individual freedoms are inconsistent with society. There is a clear difference between promoting behaviors which are good for society versus which are good for you. I would argue that while the Religious Right may contend that they know what is good for you, Straussians have confined their certainty to what is good for society.

You probably ought to read more from the Straussians. Your differentiation here between them and the Christian Right is valid, but that doesn't make what the Straussians say necessarily peachy. It is a vision of a republic which is exactly Platonic in its elitism and in its distrust of the democratic idea. However, both groups DO assume that they have the moral justification - indeed, the moral duty - to over-ride your own sense of values and your own choices for your life. This isn't a matter of absolute individual liberty, it is a matter of liberty from the meddlesome nosyness of community busybodies.

Quote:
While I, occassionaly, find myself defending the Religious Right from what I perceive to be bigoted attacks, I, personally, don't have much of an affinity for them. I assure you, however, that the mere fact that Straussians believe that they can find a transcendent wisdom from Greek classicism as opposed to the Bible, places them in the category of, at best, lesser apostates.

There is a certain smug assurance, that I find objectionable, in your attitude about the so called Religious Right which is that much more irritating when you attempt to lump them with Straussians. While I'm sure it scores numerous points with your fellow travellers, I consider it too pat by a half.

That you sleep the sleep of the blessed, despite my irritation, is assured, but this is all about expressing opinions.

Agreed as to paragraph one. I understand well the temptation of the Platonic/Straussian notions. But I think them cowardly, and that real bravery in social matters involves allowing as much individuality and liberty amongst ones neighbors as is possible.

I may sound smug, I have no idea. As regards the presently constituted Christian Right, I think them a significant danger to liberty and to social and intellectual progress. That's not an opinion I hold regarding Christianity generally, nor Christians generally. The American manifestation is pretty much unique, though a variant exists here as well, with much less political consequence. It is an intellectually impoverished tradition when compared to the Anglican and Catholic traditions and I'm not a fan.

In fact, I'm not trying to make points with anyone on 'my side'. I'm in the process of trying to understand the dynamics of modern American political movements and I am merely sharing what I have come to perceive. But I normally do sleep well.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Aug, 2004 07:48 am
More virtue for everyone...huzzah huzzah

Quote:
Madame Cheney's cultural revolution
How the vice president's powerful wife makes sure that historians and other scholars follow the right path.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Mary Jacoby

Aug. 26, 2004 | Stumping for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, vice presidential spouse Lynne Cheney, ferocious culture warrior of the conservative movement, has been trying to soften her image. The controversial former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities in the Reagan and first Bush administrations no longer mentions her signature issues: the evils of feminism, or how liberal academics are teaching students to hate America. Mostly she talks about her grandchildren, beaming with pride that one of them calls her "Grandma of the United States."

Such a sweet old lady would never presume to meddle where she has no authority, would she? After all, Cheney has long shuddered at the horror of Hillary Clinton. "Mrs. Clinton got herself in a certain amount of trouble by operating from a platform where she really didn't have a mandate from the voters to establish policy," Cheney sniped to the Daily Telegraph of London in 2001. And in a Hillary-bashing forum at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in 2000, Cheney remarked about the then-first lady: "The hypocrisy is the thing that is most distressing."


But now, unelected and unappointed, Lynne Cheney is back in charge at the National Endowment for the Humanities, operating without that pesky "mandate from the voters" through handpicked surrogates in key positions. "It's pretty obvious that she's running the agency," William Ferris, a history professor who headed the NEH from 1997 to 2001, said of Cheney.

The endowment's chairman, Bruce Cole, a Renaissance art scholar from Indiana University, is a conservative ally of Cheney whom George H.W. Bush had appointed to the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory body that oversees grant-making for scholarly research, preservation, media and teaching projects at the $137 million agency. At Cole's swearing-in as chairman in December 2001, Cheney and her husband, Vice President Dick Cheney, showed up to clink glasses. The unusual high-level attention sent a message that was not lost on the endowment's staffers.

Moreover, two close Cheney friends have been installed in key positions at the agency. In charge of day-to-day operations is deputy director Lynne Munson, who was Cheney's special assistant at the NEH from 1990 through 1992 and later followed Cheney to her fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute. And Celeste Colgan, a member of the National Council on the Humanities, is a former Halliburton official and longtime Cheney family crony who was Cheney's deputy at the NEH from 1986 through 1992. Both women, according to many sources close to the endowment, are widely perceived to be responsible for an Orwellian atmosphere of secrecy and paranoia that has descended over the agency, a Cheney family hallmark.
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/08/26/lynne_cheney/index.html
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Aug, 2004 12:18 am
blatham wrote:
Quote:
I always enjoy absolute certitude in the morally relatavistic.
You know, I actually had my sentence originally with the qualifier "I think", but I replaced it with "clearly" because the organizational connections (which I spoke of later) are real and numerous. But you have to dig into this story, and the book I've noted is the best one I've found for this particular point.

I may very well have been clearly wrong. I have no problem with such a notion whether it be applied to me or someone else. Like Straussians and the Christian Right, I don't shrink from judgment, but I also believe the same of many who would argue otherwise.

Quote:
So do any number of other "groups." Are they all members of the Christian Right/Straussian coalition? The revolution of the 60's could hardly be that if it had been embraced by the majority. I am reminded of my Father-in-Law who, during the period, was very much the classic Liberal, and yet he found the 60's to be a destructive period in American history. I, as a member of the "Revolution," considered him to be reactionary, by virtue of his refusal to accept the value of sweeping change, and the moral bankruptcy of his generation. While a number of the social changes of the 60's were past due, many were no more than personal self-indulgence. Hedonism may be seen in terms of freedom but never in terms of virtue.

It is a point of affinity or similarity in view/values, and that facilitates cooperation. There are other points where disagreement exists (Creationist/intelligent design in schools, for example) which have strained cooperative efforts. It's a mixed bag, as always. The significance of these two groups is that they are now two of the most powerful ideologies in the New Right, and behind this administration and the modern Republican machine.

That they may engage in politically cooperative efforts is not something I would argue against, and since I don't consider either to be a force of evil in this country I don't find such cooperation particularly troubling. Politics makes for strange bedfellows and all that (Now I suppose you're going to accuse me of plaigarism again).

We could have a big talk here about 'self indulgence' (personal accumulation of wealth is what?), but let's save that one. Likewise the opposition (is it?) between virtue and hedonism/pleasure.

I don't know that either Straussians or the Religious Right consider the accumulation of personal wealth as a virtue. That individuals within either "faction" are focused on the practice doesn't invalidate the general principles anymore than an Environmentalist flitting around the country in a private jet invalidates the argument against excessive energy consumption.

Quote:
It is always interesting to me when people describe an adherence to common virtues as suffering from arrogance. Presumably every miscreant in history might consider the disapproving world to be "arrogant." Absolute individual freedoms are inconsistent with society. There is a clear difference between promoting behaviors which are good for society versus which are good for you. I would argue that while the Religious Right may contend that they know what is good for you, Straussians have confined their certainty to what is good for society.

You probably ought to read more from the Straussians. Your differentiation here between them and the Christian Right is valid, but that doesn't make what the Straussians say necessarily peachy. It is a vision of a republic which is exactly Platonic in its elitism and in its distrust of the democratic idea. However, both groups DO assume that they have the moral justification - indeed, the moral duty - to over-ride your own sense of values and your own choices for your life. This isn't a matter of absolute individual liberty, it is a matter of liberty from the meddlesome nosyness of community busybodies.

It is not axiomatic that Platonic elitism is detrimental to society. I will acknowledge though that I am not entirely sanguine about its value. Elitism works just fine when one is a member of the elite. At the same time, I feel there is a need for a reigning back on individual liberties.

Quote:
While I, occassionaly, find myself defending the Religious Right from what I perceive to be bigoted attacks, I, personally, don't have much of an affinity for them. I assure you, however, that the mere fact that Straussians believe that they can find a transcendent wisdom from Greek classicism as opposed to the Bible, places them in the category of, at best, lesser apostates.

There is a certain smug assurance, that I find objectionable, in your attitude about the so called Religious Right which is that much more irritating when you attempt to lump them with Straussians. While I'm sure it scores numerous points with your fellow travellers, I consider it too pat by a half.

That you sleep the sleep of the blessed, despite my irritation, is assured, but this is all about expressing opinions.


Agreed as to paragraph one. I understand well the temptation of the Platonic/Straussian notions. But I think them cowardly, and that real bravery in social matters involves allowing as much individuality and liberty amongst ones neighbors as is possible.

I can't agree that "cowardly" is the proper adjective, but I will agree that
allowing for as much individuality and liberty among the members of society as is possible is a worthy premise. The rub, of course, is in where the outer limit resides.

Somehow, the limits must be set. On that I think we will agree, and it is there that our agreement will probably end.

Based on our exchanges in other threads, I would contend that you have less faith in the democratic process to set these limits than you would otherwise argue. When courts intercede, at the bequest of individuals or advocacy groups, to override the will of the majority, as expressed by legislation, an Elitist influence has come into play. Elitist influence is not limited to the establishment of laws.


I may sound smug, I have no idea. As regards the presently constituted Christian Right, I think them a significant danger to liberty and to social and intellectual progress. That's not an opinion I hold regarding Christianity generally, nor Christians generally. The American manifestation is pretty much unique, though a variant exists here as well, with much less political consequence. It is an intellectually impoverished tradition when compared to the Anglican and Catholic traditions and I'm not a fan.

Your perceived smugness is a matter of style, and it is somewhat unfair of me to accuse you of it. My problem with your characterization of the Christian Right is that there are quite a few people who identify themselves with this faction who present no danger whatsoever to anything. Fundamentalism is a dicey proposition and can present the sort of danger you warn of, but I think you overstate the danger of America's Christian Right, and irrespective of the level of danger they represent, not all of their positions are necessarily wrong or dangerous.

In fact, I'm not trying to make points with anyone on 'my side'. I'm in the process of trying to understand the dynamics of modern American political movements and I am merely sharing what I have come to perceive. But I normally do sleep well.

Accusing you of making points with your "side" is unfair, and I regret it. I can appreciate how the rendering of seemingly absolute statements can actually be a part of the process of synthesis.
0 Replies
 
 

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