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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

It is said that pragmatism trumps ideology in a crisis. What actually happens in a crisis, certainly in this one, is that the ruling party gets to rechristen its ideology as pragmatism.

Christopher Caldwell

He is talking about the Democrat’s addiction to protectionism. But it is happening all over, and not just with ruling parties, but with would-be ruling ones. The wicked world is disintegrating, and it is all the fault of an evil which whatever commentator you are reading especially hates, and offers a superb opportunity for the bees in his bonnet to rebuild the social honeycomb so that mankind can buzz happily in unison ever after.

I am reminded of the Trotskyist red-greens I met in the 80s, who had the merit of putting it very clearly. Unlike the merely conservation-minded, or deep-green nature-worshippers, they welcomed a predicted ecological collapse: chaos and mass-starvation would turn people to The Revolution out of desperation. A lot of those purveying their own patent medicines for the depression seem to be unconscious that they are engaged in the moral terrorism of the transitional demand.

11 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • In this one respect actually I am quite like them. I see huge opportunities in this crisis and I profoundly hope it leads to the opportunity to figuratively put a great many of my idelogical enemies up against the wall. Well, maybe figuratively.

  • Perry: I too immediately thought of you, not that I agree. As much as I’d like to be optimistic, I just don’t see how is this going to happen. and I don’t quite remember you ever explaining it.

  • By discrediting themselves, not to mention bankrupting not just their hapless subject tax cows but themselves as well, they do more to make people open to alternative world views. If ‘our side’ are too timid to grasp that opportunity, well, someone else will… but it clearly *is* a huge opportunity.

  • If ‘our side’ are too timid to grasp that opportunity, well, someone else will… but it clearly *is* a huge opportunity.

    I readily agree with that. However, timidity is not the only potential problem. An opportunity is not really an opportunity if there are no practical means of taking advantage of it. I’d really like to see some practical suggestions, I have not seen any anywhere so far.

  • Well, perhaps this is what B Hussein is trying to do–mismanage the economy to the degree that we’re all broke and willing to listen to the new fuhrer.

  • Vercingetorix

    “the moral terrorism of the transitional demand.”

    I like that. The verbiage, not the concept.

  • Paul Marks

    Pragmatism is an ideology (if by that snear word is meant a philosophy). Charles Peirce and William “the truth is just the expedient in our way of thinking” James pushed it (and, to some extent, so did John Dewey).

    It replaced the old American conception that truth was objective and that both the human mind (agency – free will) and the physical universe were real. And that the senses brought to us real knowledge of an objective universe (not just a fantasy of the mind) and that the self, the mind, agency was not an “illusion” (if it was an illusion who was having the illusion).

    It also held that good and evil were not just “boo and cheer word” as the logical positivists were later to claim.

    This point of view of that Pragmatism was the shared conception of both the “Scottish philosophy” of Common Sense (represented in the United States by such philosophers as Noah Porter and James McCosh) and Aristotelianism.

    In our own century such philosphers as Harold Prichard and Sir William David Ross were representatives.

    There are fewer Common Sense philosphers around now (although Antony Flew always struck me as being close) but there are still plenty of Aristotelians (both Randian and non Randian) – and the basic points in common are what is important.

    Of course it had a political aspect:

    The Pragmatists did not want anything like objective economic law saying statism could not achieve what they wanted it to achieve.

    Data would be collected in studies to prove…. well anything they wanted to prove . And logical reasoning would be under a ban.

    In the German speaking world it was known as the war of method – with the Aristotelian Carl Menger (taught by Franz Branteno) up against the German “Historical School”.

    Still “come down to Earth Paul”.

    Perry is correct – the ideology of Pragmatist foes (in all countries) is that more government spending (on loans to banks or whatever) is a good thing.

    It is not a good thing – and the economies of Britain and the United States (and so on) are going to go down the toilet.

    And they will be down there long before November 2012.

    In the United States there are some Republicans who understand the above – and can, therefore, make a case to the people on the basis of it. If those Republicans are not in charge of their party yet – they will be.

    Sadly that is not really the case with the British Conservative party.

    If there is a single Conservative M.P. who understands that “quantative easing” and the rest of it is nonsense, then I have not heard of him or her.

  • Paul Marks

    In case anyone says “how can a philosophy attack the existance of the objective material universe AND the existance of the reasoing mind” – David Hume did both these things centuries ago.

    He pointed out that if we say (as so many philosophers do) that the senses do not bring us information from the external world – that the external world is not what we see, hear, taste and feel, but rather we can only experience images in the mind…..

    Well then we have no good reason to believe there is an external world at all.

    David Hume was not saying that there was no such world – but he was saying that philosophy led in the direction of doubing it.

    Of course one could reply (as Thomas Reid did) that the perception of the world is just that – the world (not “sense data”) and state that it is up to the doubter to prove his case, i.e. that the sceptic has falsely moved the burden of proof.

    David Hume also attaked the existance of the very mind he had just claimed might be making up the entire universe.

    He did this in what many philosophers consider a good way.

    A thought does not mean a thinker (according to Hume) impressions in the mind do not mean there is a a mind – in could all be a stream of sansations (but who is having the sansations…) so there is no such thing as agency ( the mind, free will, the “I”….).

    I confess that I regard this argument (if it can be called such) as a load of dingo’s kidneys, but many philosophers think it is wonderful.

    Thomas Hobbes (long before Hume) was also a sort of materialist determinist, idealist.

    An idealist in that he did not belive that the mind percieved external reality (just what philosphers would now call “sense data”) and a materialist determinist in that he did not believe in the mind (agency – the “I”) either.

    So both the external world and the mind were cast down. All at the same time.

    If someone can do all this – believing there is no objective right and wrong, good and evil, is easy by comparison.

    The Pragmatists, later Logical Positivists and all the rest could point to many philosophers before them.

  • Paul Marks

    And, of course, believeing that political princples have no objective existance, and that there is no such thing as economic law, is easy also.

    Modern politicians and the academics who produce them are being true to their philosophical principles.

  • Mrs. du Toit

    I wish that were the case, but I’m just not seeing it. Perhaps they’re just the same old Obama-bots that have been pervading blog comments for months, but I am not seeing that folks are getting the message (or understanding the message) that it was anti-free markets that caused this problem (or over-regulation in one respect and under-regulation of the slippery slopes the new over-regulation created).

    I just keep hearing (far and wide in just about every political blog site I visit) that it was “the Republicans fault” or other drivel about how “we tried free market Capitalism and look what it got us.” The fact/truth that it was nothing even close to resembling free-market Capitalism is not getting heard or shouted loudly enough above the lies/propaganda.

    Folks (far too many) have been duped into believing that what we had was anything like free market Capitalism.

    I’m seeing a kind of class- and wealth-envy unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Sure, there are always folks willing to blame or tax “the rich” but the Left has done an excellent job of blaming our problems on the evils of Capitalism.

    The problem with any revolution is that it is impossible to predict the outcome. It is just as possible/likely that the doom will toll for MORE socialism, not less, as things worsen.

    I’m also not seeing the calls for more responsibility for outcome, ie, that buying a house you cannot afford is not your neighbors’ problem, or that the cost of state-of-the-art, ever-improving health care is EXPENSIVE. If you want it, then you have to pay for it, or you die sooner (and there is no “right” to a long, healthy life… you have to work hard and prosper to afford it).

    Similarly, the steady input the stock market received in 401K pensions, encouraged by legislation that allowed it to be pre-tax, has brought an ignorant class of “investors” to the table, who have no business being there (they don’t or haven’t realized that it is a huge risk and cannot afford that risk). They really don’t get that the stock market is gambling. They want safety nets.

    The fact that Obama has claimed that he can fund his health care reform and new budget on “the rich” when, even taxed at 100% it would not be enough, just don’t make it through the goop of economics ignorance.

    The message, that MUST get through, is that Due Diligence is your personal responsibility (not the government’s regulators, or any other person/entity besides yourself) and if you lose money, it is YOUR loss. If you can’t afford to lose it, then you shouldn’t be in a stock market (or any other investment vehicle besides your mattress).

    I just keep thinking back to all the people who had invested in Enron, without any clue of what the company did, let alone reading and UNDERSTANDING their prospectus. I tend to believe that folks are just looking at graphs and pick the investment that has an up-trend, without any understanding of why it went up, and how it could dive at any moment.

  • Paul Marks

    True – even Fox News has not performed well.

    With Bill O’Reilly talking vaguely about how the Feds did not police things correctly.

    And almost everyone supporting the first TARP – bar Neil Cavuto.

    However, now there is the Glenn Beck show, and other people on Fox have come to understand that TARP (and the other subsides) just make everything worse.

    They also are explaining the real causes of the current collapse.

    “But what if people do not see Fox News”.

    Then there is talk radio – there are plenty of people out there who know their stuff.

    And on the internet – the Ludwig Von Mises Institute predicted it all and is doing a find trade.

    And the books in the stores (such as Thomas Woods “Meltdown” are selling well).

    Of course in Britain it is wall-to-wall evil.

    But, even though I live here, I tend to not look at Britain much.

    In the United States there is much evil – but there is also resistance to evil.

    In Britain there is no resistance.

    “Hey what about Samizdata Paul”.

    O.K. sorry.