Nightcap

  1. Praise for John Calvin Batchelor Anahad O’Connor, NY Times
  2. The resentment of the creative class Nick Nielsen, The View from Oregon
  3. The return of anti-communism Francis Sempa, RealClearHistory
  4. John Rawls and the God Trick Susan Bandt, Commonweal

From the Comments: Power and the Rhymes of History

Over the past couple of days, Notes On Liberty‘s house conservative, Dr Delacroix, has created quite a few waves with his fanciful thoughts about punishing Russia for its bad behavior of late. (Somebody remind me again about George W Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, and then let me know if that could have possibly set a bad precedent.) Professor Amburgey’s thoughts on power are worth another look:

In general, comparing a nation state to a human being is not useful. However, comparing the leader of a nation state to a human being can be sensible. The utility depends on how much power the leader has. I think there are several nation states where leaders have acquired enough power to assume that, in general, they are the decision maker. Iran springs to mind, as does North Korea. I’m beginning to think that Russia falls into that category.

I can buy this. However, dictators cannot be dictators without also having the broad support of the populace. This is why libertarians argue that it’s better to declare war than to topple a dictator.

Elsewhere, Dr Amburgey observes:

True. However Russia is turning into a dangerous regional power with dangerous territorial ambitions. Pretending otherwise is silly.

Russia only turned dangerous after the United States spread itself too thin. Keeping our own house in order will do more for world peace and prosperity than bombing other countries indiscriminately (or having the world-renowned CIA engage in “secret” terrorism!).

NEO adds his own eloquent thoughts to the mix. In response to my observation that the Cold War is over, NEO writes:

Maybe, Brandon. But the surest way to make sure it does, or something similar in Asia, is to believe it can never happen again.

The comparison for that is the “War to end all wars” leading to the new 30 years war.

That the weakness in libertarianism, actually. The oceans aren’t nearly as effective a barrier as they were in the days of the Royal Navy controlling them for us, and unless we only want free trade in CONUS, we’d best take care of it ourselves.

Will it be the same? Nope. But it will happen. If not Putin, somebody else.

As Mark Twain observed, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

Again, I think NEO’s observations tie in well with Dr Amburgey’s about the potential for rising, autocratic powers to do bad things. However, we have only ourselves to blame for their rise.

For instance:

  • Was the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq a good idea?
  • Was bombing, invading, and occupying the Balkans a good idea? (Why don’t you tell me what the Russians think…)
  • Is it smart to still be occupying Afghanistan long after Osama bin Laden’s death?
  • Is it really necessary to have tens of thousands of troops along the 38th Parallel?
  • Does bombing poor countries in the name of liberation (not liberty) solve the underlying structural problems that poor states face?
  • Does supporting dictatorships that actively oppress Islamic fundamentalists help or hurt individual liberty?

In my mind, Russia has not grown to be a mid-major power. The United States has simply been caught with its pants down. This is why you read about ideas like terrorizing Russian citizens in Kaliningrad as a way to counter Moscow’s deft calculations. I cannot think of a better signal to the world that the US is weak then a resort to state-sponsored terrorism. Can you?

Is President Obama the culmination of American Marxism?

I recently tried my hand at prodding Jacques to blog more often about Marxism and Marxist thought. As an immigrant from a country with a strong Marxist tradition and – more importantly – with his educational background (Stanford’s sociology department in the late 60s/early 70s; arguably the time period with the most sophisticated understanding of Marxist thought ever), I think he provides readers with a nuanced and sharply critical glance into Marxism, something that is very tough to do. Alas:

Brandon: Thanks for the suggestion and for the incense. However, the charm of blogging has much to do for me with following whatever my inspiration whispers at any one time. Once in a while, it lands on Marxism, not often. When it does, it’s often in the context  of conversations in French with French speakers. (You may have noticed something on my blog called, “Le dernier Communiste.” )

To the extent that I am impelled to do the needful rather than the natural, I direct my steps to whatever I think I do well and that is also in demand. In general, I am not sure waking up Marx for the benefit of young Americans is useful or much in demand. Almost no one in America calls himself a Marxist anymore . (There were many when I was young.) The people who would have been Marxists in 1974 call themselves “environmentalists” today.  Aside from this, I suspect
that the Obama administration is the result of wet dreams by Marxists of my generation but I don’t know how to talk about it. It’s just my sense of smell telling me.

I make a mental note of your expressed demand for Marxist critiques. In the meantime, feel free to pillage whatever you find on the subject in my blogs.

Oh, I’ve pillaged. His knowledge of Marxism is too important for me to ignore it. You can find Jacques’s thoughts on Marxism here. Jacques is also working on his memoirs, and you can find excerpts of those here (it’s also located on the top right side of the blog’s navigation bar).

As far as President Obama being the culmination of American Marxism, I think Jacques is woefully wrong. However, I also think Jacques’s assessment of Marxism in the US today (it’s irrelevant) is spot on. There is a recent, well-written essay in Dissent by a political scientist at Columbia arguing that the Obama administration is simply kowtowing to a neoliberal (and, by extension, racist) agenda, and this, I think, suggests that my suspicions are correct.