Friday, 9 November 2007

All Fred, All the Time

I leave you this fine evening with a column about Fred Thompson. It’s not wise to underestimate Fred Thompson.

From the Mailbag

In my lifetime parents who smoke will:

1) Be required to put in elaborate whole-house air cleaners. Then (in YOUR lifetime):

2) Be forced to choose between ceasing smoking or losing their kids, AND

3) Be heavily fined and/or imprisoned if seen driving with their kids while smoking.

I can even see where a couple must certify that neither smoke in order to HAVE children.

Nanny Wins. Eventually.

Will Nehs

Irenic and Polemic

Here are the final two paragraphs of Barbara H. Fried’s essay “Left-Libertarianism: A Review Essay,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 32 (winter 2004): 66-92, at 91-2 (italics in original; footnote omitted):

Most versions of left-libertarianism start with the assumption that the same concept of self-ownership that explains why slavery and forced eyeball transplants are bad also explains, at first cut, why redistributive taxation may be bad. There are so many obvious, morally salient, differences between these three phenomena that it is unclear why anyone with egalitarian/social welfarist instincts would sign on to a program that treats them as homologous. Maybe something is to be gained in disarming a handful of skeptics by conceding the moral power of self-ownership, before proceeding to demolish all the practical implications those skeptics ever thought the concept had. But there may be much more to be lost with those firmly on the right, who will correctly read left-libertarians’ willingness even to take seriously the proposition that taxation is morally akin to slavery as a huge propagandistic triumph. That latter group includes not only respectable academics. It also includes their seamier fellow travelers in a much more disturbing subculture—tax protestors, off-the-grid survivalists, and so on—who, departing from the same dubious (rigid, inviolable rights-mongering) premises, come to rest in a place much harder to digest.

There is, of course, a long tradition of the left’s coopting natural rights talk to its own political ends. In the same spirit, left-libertarians may hope that, by coopting self-ownership to egalitarian ends, they can reclaim the moral high ground from right-libertarians. But in conceding that the libertarian notion of self-ownership is the moral high ground to begin with, they may well give up more than they bargain for in the public relations battle for the hearts and minds of those in the murky center of American politics, who harbor instincts of both liberty and equality (of the decent social minimum sort) that could be played to. At the very least, left-libertarians would do well to keep in mind the old adage: If you eat with the devil, bring a long spoon.

Fried purports to be a scholar, but these paragraphs are sheer polemic. (“Polemic” means war; “irenic” means peace. Polemic is aggressive, controversial writing, designed to conquer; irenic is gentle, conciliatory writing, designed to pacify.) Note first the implication that left-libertarians give aid and comfort to the enemy: right-libertarians. Is this warfare or scholarship? Fried then suggests that right-libertarians seek “propagandistic triumphs.” Gee, I wonder whether egalitarians such as Fried seek propagandistic triumphs. Why would only one side stoop to propaganda? And then comes—you guessed it—guilt by association. Right-libertarians, Fried says, have “seamier fellow travelers.” Is she implying that right-libertarians (such as Robert Nozick) are themselves seamy? How’s that for dispassionate, fair-minded analysis? It’s nothing more than schoolyard name-calling.

The final paragraph sounds more like a revolutionary manifesto than a scholarly essay. Why is Fried even talking about practical politics in a review of books on political philosophy? Perhaps it’s because she has no philosophical training. Her expertise is in law, which is a practical profession rather than an academic discipline. The authors/editors of the books under review are not addressing voters or legislators; they’re addressing their fellow philosophers. They’re trying to show that the old categories—libertarianism, egalitarianism, and liberal egalitarianism—are not exhaustive (or rather, that the category of liberal egalitarianism is complex rather than monolithic). Instead of focusing on logic, Fried focuses on politics. She is worried that left-libertarianism will be viewed as libertarianism first and leftism second. If Fried had her way, there would be no innovation in political philosophy—unless, of course, it was guaranteed to promote egalitarianism. Could there be anything less scholarly?


Here is Peggy Noonan’s latest column. Here is Peg Kaplan’s latest post.

A Year Ago


Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Hillary’s Tough Sell” (column, Nov. 6): Bob Herbert is right to identify female voters’ intense ambivalence as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s big challenge. He writes, “Some seem to like her and loathe her at the same time, and for reasons they have trouble articulating.”

Here’s one reason, articulated: I, and most women I know, would have been thrilled to vote for Senator Clinton two decades ago, when simply gaining access to power was the name of the feminist game. But feminism has come a long way, even in its intuitive everyday forms—galvanized partly by the current administration’s craven abuse of power in cruel, shortsighted forms.

We’re no longer interested in merely grabbing power; we want to redefine its exercise, its priorities, the vision of justice from which it stems, the values it signifies and fosters.

I trust Senator Barack Obama to redefine the exercise of power in foreign policy according to a diplomatic, cosmopolitan perspective. I trust former Senator John Edwards to challenge the power relations propped up by domestic economic injustice. But Senator Clinton hasn’t convinced me that she has a new perspective on power, only that she wants it.

Sarah Miller
Los Angeles, Nov. 6, 2007

Note from KBJ: When you read a moonbat letter like this, it makes you want to support Hillary, or at least not oppose her too terribly. The letter writer doesn’t want a female president; she wants a feminine (or effeminate) president. The same logic is used by those who attack Clarence Thomas and Condoleezza Rice. They don’t want powerful black people; they want powerful progressive black people, i.e., black people who want to perpetuate white guilt and black victimhood.