Socratic Dialogue

The other day IOZ took some shots at the practice of compulsory, institutionalized education.  This brought out the usual progressive types, who invariably view opposition to tax-funded, federally mandated government schools as opposition to learning and teaching.

Anyhow, down in the comments section, one guy took exception to IOZ’s “anarchist position,” calling it “simply stupid,” before following up with this nice bit of self-contradiction:

The obvious way forward is radical expansion and improvement of the nation’s schools.

Alas, that’ll never reach the agenda, as its implications are way to dangerous to the status quo.

I responded:

It looks like you’re halfway to the anarchist position yourself. The problem with the public school system, aside from the fact that it’s compulsory, is that its purpose is to reinforce the status quo.

A little further down (there were other people taking the “anarchist” position) an anonymous commenter chimed in:

Fuck school. I want to live in a Cormac McCarthy novel like a real anarchist!

Unable to resist, I shot back:

Yes, because clearly the only thing standing between civilized society and a post-apocalyptic nightmare scenario is a compulsory “educational” system. Thank god for them public schools.

To which (presumably the same) Anonymous replied, with crushing, unanswerable logic:

You people are douchy.


Manning the Gate

Matt Yglesias on why it’s bad that Kentucky voters nominated a “lunatic” like Rand Paul to run for the Senate, even though it helps the Dems’ chances of winning the election:

My view of how politics works is that there are very strong forces at work in the two party system driving it toward long-term equilibrium. Ideological extremism, tactical blundering, bad luck, etc. can hurt a party and reduce its odds of gaining power. But ultimately the odds don’t ever stray all that far from 50-50. So it matters a lot what’s going on. I’m sure David Axelrod is hoping Sarah Palin gets the Presidential nomination in 2012 since she’ll be somewhat easier to beat than the alternatives. I’m hoping the GOP nominates someone who stands some chance of doing a decent job if he or she wins.

First off, of course he doesn’t bother elaborating on just what exactly makes Rand Paul a “lunatic”; this is supposed to be self-evident, I guess.  (In fairness, I don’t read Yggie very often, so he may well have gone into this before.  Also, I’ll admit I don’t know much about Paul either—I’ve seen a video of one of his campaign ads, which was peddling the usual conservative mix of jingoism and xenophobia—so Yglesias’ assessment may well be correct.)  However, my suspicion, based in part on the passage quoted above, is that what makes Paul a nutjob is that his views fall outside of the pathetically narrow confines of “acceptable opinion,” which, when you get down to it, is the line of shit that people like Yglesias are peddling—“long term equilibrium,” “odds [that] don’t ever stray all that far from 50-50”—in other words, a mushy, middle-of-the-road, vanilla-flavored centrism that eschews any even slightly controversial position for fear of being viewed as some kind of “extremist.”  This is the way things are, and the way things ought to be.  Opposition to imperial wars and the national security state?  How about idiotic drug laws that imprison thousands of people for a victimless crime?  Nah, those are positions that only a nutbar would take.  Back to the center folks, between the painted lines.  I mean, why not dispense with the charade altogether and just come out and say it: What we need is a one-party system—of an enlightened, “progressive” variety, of course.

When your interaction with others begins to resemble a beer commercial…

…it may be time to stop interacting with others.  Or at least some others.

I went over to a coworker’s cubicle yesterday to ask him a question, and as I was turning to leave I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that he was pointing a fist at me.  It took me a second to realize that he was waiting for a fist bump.  A fucking fist bump!  I hesitated, seriously considering leaving him hanging, but I decided to play nice.  I went over and tapped his fist with mine and then walked away, waiting for the music to begin and someone to walk over and hand me a Budweiser.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

Here’s an excellent piece by Crispin Sartwell on the false dichotomy of individualism versus collectivism.  To summarize: The former does not preclude the latter; not only that, but you can’t really have the latter—a genuine version, at least—unless you have the former.

But that doesn’t stop certain leftist types from portraying opponents of any and all government programs or regulations as selfish children who don’t want to share their toys with the other kids, or as willful adolescents who refuse to accept the fact that they can’t live without other people.  As I mentioned in the comments section at Sartwell’s blog, I’ve actually seen libertarians, or others of an individualist persuasion, dismissed outright by such people as “children” and “adolescents.”  Ironic, considering that what individualists are objecting to (in part, at least) are laws that treat people like children.

Of course, the real division, as Sartwell notes, is not between individualism and collectivism, it’s between individualism and authoritarianism.

The “Liberal Media” Plumps for War (again)

According to NPR, “experts” are “at odds” over how to deal with Iran’s alleged desire to acquire nukes.  On one side, we have former foreign policy advisor to John McCain and research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Kori Schake, who thinks “military attacks on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure may eventually be necessary”; on the other, we have  self-proclaimed neo-con Michael Rubin, who opposes military attacks because they “would set back regime change” (which would be achieved by “supporting independent trade unions, setting up a clandestine communication system and recruiting defectors”) by causing Iranians to “rally behind their government.” 

“Anyone who says that the Iranian people might rise up and support bombing their country has never been to Iran nor talked to Iranians,” Rubin says.

I had no idea that a desire to not have bombs dropped on their heads by a foreign government is a character trait unique to Iranians.  But then, I’ve never been to Iran or talked to Iranians.  Having been to Iran and talked to some Iranians apparently also makes one uniquely qualified to determine what’s in the best interest(s) of the 70 million or so people who live there:

“We don’t know where the chips will fall if everything collapses,” Rubin says. “But we should at least have a discussion first about where we would like to see Iran, and then walk backwards from that in policy to determine what we can do to sort of push and nudge the Iranian people and any post-Islamic republic government in that direction.”

A third “expert,” Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, suggests flaccidly that regime change might not work, pointing to Cuba as an example.  If he has any doubts about the efficacy (forget about the morality) of dropping bombs, the article doesn’t mention them.

So here we have NPR, the supposed epitome of all things despicably librul, telling us that the U.S. has only two options for how to deal with Iran: overt war or covert war.  And since the latter “might not happen,” it may just have to be bombs away by default.  Missing from the discussion, of course, is anyone who opposes meddling (of either variety) in yet another Middle Eastern/South Asian country.  Clearly no expert would take such a ridiculous position.

George W. Obama

Our Nobel peace laureate comedian-in-chief delivered this knee-slapper, among other no doubt hilarious jokes, at the recent White House Correspondents’ dinner:

The Jonas Brothers are here; they’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans; but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?

As Roderick Long points out, this bears some resemblance to Obama’s chimplike predecessor’s attempt at humor when he pretended to look for the missing WMDs under the furniture in the Oval Office.

This reminds me of the scene in the movie Hearts and Minds in which footage of Richard Nixon doing schtick at some kind of formal affair is juxtaposed with a clip of a Vietnamese man anguishing over the deaths of his two young children who were killed by an American bomb.  The man says, “What have I done to Richard Nixon?”  Indeed.  To Nixon’s credit, at least he didn’t make any jokes about indiscriminately bombing villagers in Vietnam—instead he tried to rationalize [a particular bombing raid apparently] with the “it was the hardest decision I had to make as president” line.

We’ve come a long way.  Apparently there used to be some shame attached, at least publicly, to the practice of killing foreigners for no reason.  Now we just laugh at it.  Is this some of that change we can believe in?