“Local Control”

I have written before about the hypocrisy of local control:

[T]he ultimate in local control is the freedom to do as one wishes with one’s own property — barring actual criminality, of course. Dictation by … left-wing city council[s] and the[ir] hired hands in … various bureaucracies isn’t that kind of local control — it’s local tyranny.

I omitted to mention that the very left-wingers who cry “local control” to justify local tyranny are also proponents of national control in a long list of matters ranging from retirement and health care to the suppression of the freedoms of religious exercise, association, and speech.

True local control is at the personal and interpersonal level, not in a city hall dominated by tax-gobbling hacks.

Trump Re-election Watch, Revised and Expanded

Here.

Power Is Power

Most libertarians and conservatives have a reflexive — and negative — reaction to proposals for government intervention to “fix” private-sector problems. The attitude is well-founded, in that many serious private-sector problems (e.g., soaring medical costs, dependency on tax-funded subsidies) are the result of government intervention.

But there are times when government intervention –were it politically feasible — could alleviate serious private-sector problems. Consider two such problems: (1) suppression of conservatives and their views on campuses and in public fora owned by private companies (e.g., Google, Facebook, Twitter); (2) soaring prescription-drug prices caused by Big Pharmacy (not the drug makers of Big Pharma, but the middlemen like CVS who manage prescription-drug plans for the insurance companies with which they are often entangled).

The academic-information and prescription-drug complexes — to name just two — are already exerting government-like power. In fact, it is far more power than was actually exercised by the “trusts” wrongly targeted for government intervention (“trust-busting”) during the Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s. (They were providing new and invaluable products at low prices, thanks to economies of scale.) Contemporary trusts, unlike the ones of yore, are in fact the products of government interventions on behalf of powerful private interests, which is why it will be hard to bring the academic-information and prescription-drug complexes (and others) to heel.

It won’t be easy, but it is possible. And badly needed.

Friendship and Personality

This post at Neo made me think about friendship. Or, rather, it led me to collect some thoughts that have been wandering loose in my mind for many years.

I have no friends, other than my wife and my son, who has become a friend to me as we have settled into middle and old age. I had many friends over the years, but I stopped having them in the mid-1990s, when I made my final break from “liberalism”. (And it is hard to find anything but a “liberal” in quasi-intellectual stratum of the D.C. area, where I then lived and worked.)

I am a kind of reverse anti-Trumper. I eschew close affiliations with those who are on the left or who sympathize with its duplicitous agenda, and thus enable the enemies of liberty. (I make an exception for my wife, to whom I am deeply attached by a long life together.)

It is easy for me to do without friends. I can’t remember a friend who became such through casual social contact rather than through school or work. My friends, in other words, have been friends of the moment, and I am still in touch with only two of them — but I don’t consider them friends. All the rest — dozens of them — faded from my emotional radar soon after I ceased to have regular contact with them at school or work.

My lack of friends outside my nuclear family simply reveals an innate psychological condition: emotional self-reliance. It is also seen — and not wrongly so — as emotional aloofness or coldness, which is consistent with assessments of my personality.

It takes all kinds … but I have little time for them.

Real Americans

Many years ago, in the early 1960s, when the civil-rights movement was in its heyday, an older woman of my acquaintance objected to the idea that blacks are Americans. Americans, to her, were whites of European origin. Bill Vallicella offers a more nuanced view:

There has to be a broad base of shared agreement on all sorts of things….

No comity without commonality….

… “[O]ne people” should not be understood racially or ethnically. An enlightened nationalism is not  a white nationalism.  America is of course  ‘a proposition nation.’ You will find the propositions in the founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence.

I don’t give a flying enchilada whether you are Hispanic or Asian.  If you immigrated legally, accept the propositions, drop the hyphens, and identify as an American, then I say you are one of us. I’ll even celebrate the culinary diversity you contribute.

But…

That being understood, it is also true that whites discovered these America-constitutive propositions and are well-equipped to appreciate and uphold them, and better equipped than some other groups.

My money is on commonality — in language, in culture, in a deep attachment to the view that liberty is incompatible with a government that does more than protect citizens from domestic and foreign predators and leeches.

Thus, as Vallicella puts it:

Do not think of leftists and ‘progressives’ as fellow citizens; they are merely among us as disorderly elements and domestic enemies.  There can be no peace with them because they represent an ‘existential threat.’ Not to our physical existence so  much as to our way of life, which is of course more important than our mere physical existence as animals.

I would add that those who give aid and comfort to the left by consistently and overwhelmingly voting for Democrats are not fellow citizens. In that sense, the vast majority of blacks (but certainly not all of them) must be excluded — not because they are black, as my acquaintance would have it, but because they abet the destruction of liberty. They are far from alone, however, and most of their accomplices are white.

(See also “The British Roots of the Founding, and of Liberty in America“.)

Trump Re-election Watch

REVISED AND EXPANDED 06/17/19

See this post for explanations of the metrics discussed below.

Rasmussen Reports publishes a presidential-approval poll that I have been recording since the fall of 2008, when Barack Obama was elected to his first term. One of the statistics that I glean from the polling results is what I call an enthusiasm ratio. Obama won re-election on November 8, 2012, in the 198th week of his presidency. His enthusiasm ratio in the week before the election hovered around 0.75. Trump’s enthusiasm ratio hasn’t been that low since the first year of his presidency:

On the other hand, there is the “right track”/”wrong direction metric”:

In the week before the election of 2012, the ratio stood at 0.80. That was as high as it had  been since the beginning of Obama’s presidency, and a good omen for Obama’s re-election. The metric has been near 0.8 for much of Trump’s presidency, but it should probably rise to or above 0.80 in the week before the 2020 election if one is to feel confident (or dismayed) about the prospect of Trump’s re-election.

Note: The slight discrepancy in the horizontal scales of the two figures is caused by the frequency of the underlying statistics: daily in the case of the first figure; weekly in the case of the second one. Converting days to weeks (as is the case with the first figure) causes the slight discrepancy. Specifically, 366 days/7 days per week = 52.29 weeks and 365 days/7weeks = 52.14 weeks, not 52 weeks. Over a span of 4 years, there’s a difference of 0.71 week between the two methods.

Through a Glass Darkly

In yesterday’s post I touched on epistemology, “the study of the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief”. I have been touching on the subject for a while. (See, for example, “Rationalism, Empiricism, and Scientific Knowledge“, “Further Pretensions of Knowledge“, “The Fragility of Knowledge“, “Deduction, Induction, and Knowledge“, “The Pretence of Knowledge“, and especially “Words Fail Us“.)

The most compelling writer on the subject is Alfred North Whitehead, whose concept of the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness” I apply in “Diminishing Marginal Utility and the Redistributive Urge“. The fallacy, as described by Wikipedia, is this:

[O]ne commits the fallacy of misplaced concreteness when one mistakes an abstract belief, opinion, or concept about the way things are for a physical or “concrete” reality.

What, then, is physical reality? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Whitehead sees it thus (citations omitted):

Whitehead was dissatisfied with Hume’s reduction of perception to sense perception because, as Hume discovered, pure sense perception reveals a succession of spatial patterns of impressions of color, sound, smell, etc. (a procession of forms of sense data), but it does not reveal any causal relatedness to interpret it (any form of process to render it intelligible)….

Whitehead rejected Newton’s conception of nature as the succession of instants of spatial distribution of bits of matter for two reasons. First: the concept of a “durationless” instant, “without reference to any other instant”, renders unintelligible the concepts of “velocity at an instant” and “momentum at an instant” as well as the equations of motion involving these concepts. Second: the concept of self-sufficient and isolated bits of matter, having “the property of simple location in space and time”, cannot “give the slightest warrant for the law of gravitation” that Newton postulated….

In Whitehead’s eyes, however, the development of Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism constituted an antidote to Newton’s scientific materialism, for it led him to conceive the whole universe as “a field of force—or, in other words, a field of incessant activity”. The theory of electromagnetism served Whitehead to overcome Newton’s “fallacy of simple location”, that is, the conception of nature as a universe of self-sufficient isolated bits of matter. Indeed, we cannot say of an electromagnetic event that it is

here in space, and here in time, or here in space-time, in a perfectly definite sense which does not require for its explanation any reference to other regions of space-time.

….

Whitehead … noticed that, in a sense, physicists are even more reductionist than Hume. In practice they rely on sense data, but in theory they abstract from most of the data of our five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) to focus on the colorless, soundless, odorless, and tasteless mathematical aspects of nature. Consequently, in a worldview inspired not by the actual practices of physicists, but by their theoretical speculations, nature—methodologically stripped from its ‘tertiary’ qualities (esthetical, ethical, and religious values)—is further reduced to the scientific world of ‘primary’ qualities (mathematical quantities and interconnections such as the amplitude, length, and frequency of mathematical waves), and this scientific world is bifurcated from the world of ‘secondary’ qualities (colors, sounds, smells, etc.). Moreover, the former world is supposed, ultimately, to fully explain the latter world (so that, for example, colors end up as being nothing more than electromagnetic wave-frequencies)….

Whitehead’s alternative is fighting “the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness”—the “error of mistaking the abstract for the concrete”—because “this fallacy is the occasion of great confusion in philosophy”. The fallacy of misplaced concreteness is committed each time abstractions are taken as concrete facts, and “more concrete facts” are expressed “under the guise of very abstract logical constructions”. This fallacy lies at the root of the modern philosophical confusions of scientific materialism and progressive bifurcation of nature. Indeed, the notion of simple location in Newton’s scientific materialism is an instance of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness—it mistakes the abstraction of in essence unrelated bits of matter as the most concrete reality from which to explain the relatedness of nature.

Inasmuch as human beings are incapable of knowing the true essence of reality, true knowledge is beyond our ken. We can only see the world through a glass darkly.

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