Were Confucians the first internationalists?

Sheng [Hong] uses the term in this broader sense, so that we can say that tianxia zhuyi is the idea of a global civilization that encompasses a diversity of cultures. In fact, this interpretation matches with the historical evolution of the Chinese empire, which was a multiethnic body politic based on certain universal civilizational principles and artifacts such as the Chinese script.

It is essential why Sheng makes that distinction. He claims that globalism, which he considers to be a Western term, is actually violating basic principles of economic liberalism in opting for trade liberalization but containing international migration.

That is from Carsten Herrmann-Pillath, a Professor of Business Economics at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, in a chapter titled “Smith, Confucius and the Rise of China.” The chapter is in Volume 8 of The Adam Smith Review, edited by Fonna Forman, which in turn was a gift from Edwin to me. There is no mention of Mises or Hayek (or NOL!) in the bibliography. Herrmann-Pillath continues:

So, globalism is a conceptual framework which still builds on the conception of the nation state and hence economic nationalism […] Ideas about the transition from the ‘nation state’ to a new political order based on culture and civilization continue to flourish among Chinese intellectuals until today. (88)

Unlike Chhay Lin and Matthew, I don’t know very much about ancient or medieval Chinese political thought,  but I can buy Sheng’s argument. In fact, I’m surprised it has taken this long for scholars anywhere in the world to realize that certain schools of thought in an empire would be internationalist. What is more curious to me, though, is this “new political order based on culture and civilization.” Why not base it on the individual? It seems to me that basing political orders on hard-to-define terms like “culture” and “civilization” will only lead to major problems, such as cultural chauvinism, down the road.

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Goose Pimples and Hypocrisy

This is a micro alert. Be careful, reading this might make you uncomfortable.

It’s a November afternoon, a rather nice November but November all the same. There is a wedding on the little lawn on the cliff right above Steamer Lane. (Note for my overseas friends in Germany, Turkey, and Illinois: Steamer Lane is a famous cold water surf championship spot in Santa Cruz, California. The whole area, on the Monterey Bay, is exceptionally beautiful.)

The bride is late; surprise! The groom’s buddies are milling around in their comfortable enough tuxedos.* The bridesmaids are sitting and flocking together in their bareback, bare-arms, low-cut long dresses. A cool sea breeze is blowing, of course. Anyone could have predicted it. The ladies are obviously cold, as they should be. Anyone would be. Exemplary social scientist that I am, I make it a point to pass close enough to verify that goose pimples prevail. This goes on for at least an hour. It’s true nippling weather. Maybe that’s the point and I am just missing it.

I don’t know why no one in charge of the women of the bridal party planned for this weather. I don’t know why the bridesmaids’ uniform could not have included a tasteful shawl. Frankly, I don’t know if any of them would have used a shawl in preference to shivering though. (One young woman in my entourage says, “No way!”) At any rate, it’s difficult to take seriously the claim that women are tired of being considered sex objects. Those women, and the women of every American bridal party I have ever seen are bravely and determinedly on display. It’s not an intellectual display; it’s not a talent show; it’s not an IQ contest. I would swear they are disturbed, possibly enraged at the thought of not being considered sex objects on this occasion, after so much effort. The chasm between public discourse and reality has rarely been so wide since the Victorian Age. In the long run, political correctness is sure to induce some sort of collective schizophrenia, it seems to me.

Just to be painfully clear: I am not criticizing the bridesmaids’ behavior – bless their hearts! I hear that young men are ever more reluctant to commit. And you don’t catch flies with vinegar. And there must be a reason why Mother Nature placed women’s breasts on their chests rather than on their backs. (It’s so they can watch men watching them and take it from there.) I am not deriding the women in the bridal party at all. Female exhibitionism has been an attractive part of my worldview ever since I can remember (maybe since three or four years of age). I am just not becoming used to the grossly hypocritical denial that forms today the social context of such displays. It even bothers me worse than ever.

Someone has to shout, “Bullshit!” I wish older women would do it. In their regretted absence, here I am! You can count on me.

* “How gauche,” my snobbish Parisian side is thinking. Tuxedos are evening attire; they should never see the sun.

Morons of the World Unite!

In 1848, before he really had really learned to think, Karl Marx emitted the famous call, “Workers of the World Unite!” That was in the “Communist Manifesto,” communism lite for those who move their lips when they read. The workers of the world never united. They continued enthusiastically to eviscerate one another in war as before. The few times the workers actually came together, mostly but not exclusively on a national basis, they brought tyrants to power. The Communist tyrants proceeded to impoverish them like never before. They also killed many of them, both on purpose and through gross negligence. The remaining Communist countries: China (not communist at all, an amazingly successful Mafia state), North Korea, a deadly operetta permanently set in the fifties, Cuba, barely kept afloat by generous remittances from Cuban emigrants. Incidentally, the open-handed cousins from America mostly reached Florida with the shirts on their backs. They became rich as waiters and parking attendants in Miami while their doctor relatives back in Cuba seldom had enough to eat. You can’t have everything, a socialist paradise and fried chicken on demand.

Since 1848, in the midst of one socialist/communist debacle after another, and unrelated to them, something appalling has happened: Mr Marx’s “workers” evaporated. I mean that it’s completely clear that Marx referred to industrial workers specifically, what we would call today “blue collar” workers. He explicitly did not mean the poor in a general way. On the contrary, he wrote scathing words about the lack of social discipline of the lumpenproletariat, the “poor in rags.” As for the peasantry, still quite numerous in Marx’s day, his followers had to perform intellectual acrobatics to present them as other than natural enemies of the Revolution. Stalin himself spoke eloquently of the “non-antagonistic contradictions” between the working class and the peasantry. That was after he had starved to death millions of the latter to feed the former. He said he had good reasons to do so. (Allegedly “scientific” socialism brought to the world deadly pedantry, a trait seldom before encountered but all around us again as I write. See below.) Anyway, what I wanted to say before I got waylaid is that in the century and half after Marx, the “workers” mostly vanished from advanced countries. In small part, it was because primitive manufacturing moved to poor countries such as China. To an overwhelming extent, it was because of technological progress.: One semi-literate guy half conked out on grass sitting at a machine makes more nails in one day than ten master iron workers made in one month when Marx was writing the Communist Manifesto. (I am sure of this because I watch “How Things Are Made” on TV).

Now, as I have said, I am spending a lot of time at the beach these days, near downtown Santa Cruz. I have almost become one of the Moms there. Speaking of which, a Mom with two little kids addresses me the other day. I am pretty sure she is not hitting on my although there is a dearth of functional males around. I think she is just bored or worried. She is old enough – in her mid thirties- to be used to defer to male authority on how things work. She comments on the fact that the beach where her children and my own granddaughter wade in the water is posted for high E-coli content.* This happens every summer on that beach. (See my moving essay on the topic.) To make a long story short, there are fish in the water and these attract seabirds that do what they must do after they eat. And then, there are the hundred or so resident sea lions. I re-assure the Mom that probably none of these E-coli are of human origin. After two years of drought, there is no running surface water anywhere near the beach. There is no conceivable way for human feces to reach that particular beach, with two exceptions. First, it’s possible to imagine that some homeless, caught short would deposit somewhere on that beach. (Large number of homeless in Santa Cruz, many not quite all there.) In fifteen years frequenting the beaches of Santa Cruz, I have never seen any evidence of such, not once. Toddler with imperfect diapers are another story. But whatever E-coli they leave behind cannot be nearly as bad as, say, your average grocery store shopping cart: I have seen a study (I can’t find it) that said that 75% showed traces of human feces. (I would guess, from adorable toddlers). I point out to the Mom that seagull E-coli would feel uncomfortable in the gut of a child who eats fish once a week at most. She seems unconvinced. Besides, the beach stinks a little at the moment. Offshore winds have brought in a pile of kelp that is allowed to rot slowly nearby. (Myself, I like the smell of marine decomposition, enthusiastic abstract “environmentalists” often less so because they tend to be sissies.)

In spite of of her mistrust of my explanations, the woman wants to talk. It happens all the time, either because of my still-advantageous physique or because I have a French accent. (Do I sound snarky? Sure thing.) Soon, the conversation drifts, as often happens in conversations between strangers reveling in their idleness; (as happens all the time between women at the beach, I must testify). Somehow, we end up talking about cheese made from milk that has not been pasteurized. I let her know that such cheese is freely available in France though clearly labeled. I also tell her – twice – that several people die in France each year from consuming such cheese. The woman replies by deploring that non-pasteurized dairy products are generally not allowed in the US. She tells me sadly that it’s difficult to eat only “organic” in this country. I begin telling her that the two things are unrelated. Artisan cheese makers of unpasteurized cheese are free to feed their animals irradiated, pesticide laced, genetically modified feed all they want. The products they offer for consumption must simply have been made from raw milk, milk that has not been brought briefly to a high temperature to kill bacteria.

Get it: An adult woman who is nervous about highly diluted bird bacteria in the ocean is craving the guaranteed concentrated bacteria content of a cheese that is medically proven to kill at least some people.

At last I am curious and I want to find out what deep well of ignorance this woman was pulled out of. The answer feels like a big slap in the face: She works in the radiology department at Stanford University Medical Center, a teaching hospital!

Now, my general expectations are low because I was a teacher for thirty years. It’s an occupation that induces a sort of reflexive humility: Listen to your students and measure the immensity of your failure. But what I am facing here is not simple ignorance. It’s a deeply consistent commitment to inconsistency; it’s the aggressive pursuit of disinformation. It’s militant moronism. As I often say – sagely – what makes a moron is not simple ignorance, which can be innocent, or the result of mere laziness – it’s a fierce attachment to one’s ignorance. To be a moron requires demonstrations of spirited ignorance, you might say. And with numbers comes courage, including the courage to believe stupid things openly. But the numbers of the militantly ill-informed are growing thanks to the Internet because, as everybody knows, “If it weren’t true, they wouldn’t put it on the Internet.” (OK here, I am plagiarizing an old TV ad.) And those who lay in fear of everything except cheese and have no basic understanding of how the world works, those who rely blindly on experts, are bound to live like little children who fear monsters under their beds. They want to believe that there is someone looking out for them, if not God then, the Government. So, after its ignominious defeat under the name of Communism, collectivism has not said its last word. It has returned under the guise of ignorant naturalism, the specifically, urban, unlettered belief that nature is benevolent and that it has a Grand Design just for us. The followers want government to force us to live according to the imagined design. Why not try injections of cobra venom, I asked the cheese-loving woman on the beach, it’s completely organic? The black humor went right above her head. Now, I have a vague fear she might propose it to others. Fortunately, cobra venom is hard to come by.

Militant morons are incomparably better interconnected than the working class was in Karl’s time. They are very good at enforcing conformity to their dogma. More importantly, – stay with me here – they stand in as clear relation to the means of communications as the working class stood to the means of production when Marx was freezing his buns in the British Library. Nothing is lost yet. There can be another try. So, one more time, “Morons of the World Unite!”

*I do not deny that bird E-coli can make people sick. I just don’t know. What I know for sure is that any such case of illness would be on the front page of the local, paper, a liberal rag that adores all bad news. There is also the possibility that bird E-coli cause mysterious illnesses that go underground for a long time so that any causal link between them and symptoms is lost to the view. Do you believe this? If you do I have something to sell you.

Privilege in the Classroom

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I just finished teaching my intro anthropology course on Thursday afternoon. At the end, the students heartily applauded me.

Every year, between 30% and 100% of my students are indigenous women (I’m never totally sure, because I don’t take a survey, and random chromosomal sorting and centuries-long interbreeding mean that you can be half Ojibwa and look like Cameron Diaz): Cree, Ojibwa, Dakota, Metis — you name it.

My indigenous students are extremely diverse intellectually and culturally. Some of them grew up telling their friends they were Italian in the hopes of avoiding getting called a dirty Indian. Some of them grew up declaring, loud and proud, who they are. Some of them grew up thinking they were of pure French stock, and only later found out the dirty family secret that they were Metis.

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Some of them are energetically engaged in shamanic rituals. Some of them are fiercely Christian. Some are quiet atheists.

What my students were applauding was that I’d kept a strict classroom environment (so the douchey cellphone-wielding students don’t interrupt us), provided a welcoming discussion environment (so the dedicated students can engage verbally in the class), provided clear evaluation criteria that incentivize learning, entertained them with jokes and anecdotes, and helped them understand interesting phenomena in human nature and their lives.

What I find is that my indigenous students (and everyone else) are fascinated and empowered by my course if I drop hints along the way explaining how their own experience and their family’s history of anarchic indigenous traditions, recent domination by the state, discrimination by everyday racists (and very often, internal cultural breakdown and internalized, self-hating racism) connects to broader phenomena of human nature and cultural diversity.

Throughout the course, I make sure to cover a few cultures that have similar experiences of anarchic tradition and colonial oppression. There are some striking similarities with the once-nomadic Ju/’hoan of southern Africa, for instance.

And when my students eventually start raising their hands to say “Hey, that’s just like on the Indian reserve I grew up on!” Or “Is that like what happened in Canada to the Aboriginal people?” I encourage them enthusiastically: “Yes, that’s exactly right!” By the end of the class, when we actually do talk a bit about North American indigenous cultures, these students are confident and curious enough to engage fully and bring their personal knowledge to bear.

I developed this technique based on the good things I learned from the privilege-oriented leftists I went to grad school with. Actual aggression (especially by states and state-backed corporations) against the indigenous people is one layer of the problem. Hostile racism and other douchey attitudes (especially by state officials and rightists) are another layer. But there’s a subtle, third layer, which is patronizing racism (especially by academics and leftists: “Oh your people are so in tune with nature! So egalitarian!”) and the assumption that only experts have the ability to explain “exotic” cultures. Layers 2 and 3 can be stupefying and degrading even when they aren’t violent.

So if the professor goes into the classroom and (as some of my colleagues do) starts talking right away about how evil Western cultures are and how dignified and beautiful indigenous cultures are, the students can fall prey to that third layer. They never develop their own voice and vision.

If you go in and lay down a bunch of conclusions and facts to memorize for the test, the students never get the incentive do their own intellectual work of asking how their own individual lives connect to the broader themes of academic study. Maybe they adopt the prevalent academic interpretation (capitalism BAD!). Maybe they just shut up and don’t share their vision with the class because they know it’s not “what the teacher wants to hear.” Or maybe they simply decide that they must not really know what their own life means.

So instead, I like to drop some breadcrumbs and let the students do the detective work.

Yes, yes, yes, “privilege” is all around us. And yes, yes, yes, I’m a white dude privileged to teach in this environment. But what makes my classes work, for me and my students, is not some guilt-ridden confession session about privilege, nor some moralizing lessons from me, lecturing them on how valid their life experience is, and lecturing the white students on how privileged they are. Instead, what works is to set up the incentives for my students to study hard and talk lots, and then to set up the clues so they can do the work of connecting the dots on their own.

Furthermore, “privilege” guilt sessions and “antiracist” moralizing have a very high rate of turning off the white folk in class, because they feel (somewhat rightly) that they’re being attacked. So, 9 times out of 10, they lash out or dumb down their own voices and visions. But when I drop the breadcrumbs, the white students can connect the dots too. And because I use fun, discussion-based classes, they can discuss the evidence and discover the truth step by step along with their indigenous peers. Fun is a better motivator of learning than guilt.

I do hope that my teaching leads in the long run to some liberation in the NAP sense. But I am certain it leads to some liberation in the psychological sense of shaking off the subtle, sneaky, racist, collectivist assumptions that tend to sneak into classrooms.

***

Originally published at Liberty.me.

Ferguson: the Problem is Collectivism

We Austrians emphasize the fact that only individuals act.  This may sound like a dry academic pronouncement, but sometimes events bring its meaning dramatically to the fore.  The Ferguson story is one such event.

While lunching in Palo Alto recently, I looked outside to see the street briefly blocked by demonstrators chanting and carrying signs with slogans like “black lives matter.”  I wished I could confront one of them with a few facts, but then again, facts matter little to such folk, even in trendy Palo Alto.

The racially mixed grand jury took seventy hours of testimony.  That’s a lot.  They know what happened better than you or I or anyone besides the officer involved.  The shooting was justifiable.  Another fact that seems to have gotten buried: Michael Brown was a criminal, just having completed a robbery when he was shot.  It’s too bad that he died, but hey, criminal activity is risky.

In light of these simple facts, how can people propound such irrationality as the demonstrators exhibited?  The answer lies in the fallacy of collective guilt, a sub-species of collective action.  Because white police officers sometimes shoot innocent black citizens, the fallacy implies that any white police officer who shoots a black civilian is necessarily guilty.

Now I want to extend this piece to the idea of reparations for slavery, a grotesque bit of nonsense that pops up from time to time, most recently, sad to say, in a piece by our own Brandon Christensen, albeit in passing.

Let me get this out of the way: slavery was a vicious, horrible institution.  The idea of reparations or restitution has some rationality on the face of it.  In general, people should be compensated, where possible, for violations of their rights, and what could be a more vicious form of rights violation than slavery?

From an individualist point of view, the idea of reparations is preposterous.  I for one know pretty well who my ancestors were, and I’m quite sure none of them held slaves.  But suppose I did have such an ancestor.  The next question is how much benefit I might have received from his slaveholding.  To answer that, we have to examine the counterfactual situation in which my ancestor did not hold slaves.  How much bigger was the bequest that he passed on (if any) versus what it would have been without slaves?  How much of that bequest filtered down to me, among possibly dozens of his descendents.  Clearly this is a preposterous undertaking, especially at this late date.

Well then, why not force all white people to pay something to all black people?  This of course is the idea of collective guilt, an idea nearly as repulsive as slavery itself.  But let’s carry on with it anyway.  Now we have to decide who is a white person and who is black.  Does Barack Obama count, being half white and half black?  Is one quarter black enough?  One eighth?

Carrying on, where will the loot come from?  White people will have to reduce their consumption and/or savings.This will exacerbate unemployment, at least temporarily, and reduce future productivity.  What would black people do with the money?  Some would judiciously save and invest it but most would not.  I say this because studies have shown that the majority of the winners of large lottery prizes blow the money, unaccustomed as most of them are to saving and investing.  Most blacks, I contend, would blow their reparations windfall on short-term consumption and possibly, like many lottery winners, end up in debt to boot.

Let’s keep things in perspective.  Racism is a minor problem in our society compared to the crushing burden of the welfare-warfare state that we all bear.

I’m a “Centrist Anarchist Non-Interventionist Humanist Libertine”

Both Rick and Warren have introduced us to the World’s Smallest Political Quiz here at NOL, but now there’s an even better one: The 5 Dimensional Political Compass!

It’ll score you from 100% to -100% on five dimensions (duh): Collectivism, Authoritarianism, Internationalism, Tribalism, and Liberalism

Here are my percentages:

  • Collectivism score: 0% (Centrist)
  • Authoritarianism score: -100% (Anarchist)
  • Internationalism score: -17% (Non-Interventionist)
  • Tribalism score: -67% (Humanist)
  • Liberalism score: 83% (Libertine)

100% means you totally agree, negative 100% means you totally disagree. It’s unscientific and undignified, but that’s what makes it fun!

Just do it, and don’t forget to show off your score. (h/t goes to Elizabeth Nolan Brown over at Hit & Run)

The Myth of Common Property

An Observation by L.A. Repucci

It has been proposed that there exists a state in which property — whether defined in the physical sense such as objects, products, buildings, roads, etc, or financial instruments such as monetary instruments, corporate title, or deed to land ownership — may be owned or possessed in common; that is to say, that property may be possessed of multiple rightful claimants simultaneously.  This suggestion, when examined rationally and exhaustively, is untenable from the perspective of any logical school of economic, social, and indeed physical school of thought, and balks at simple scrutiny.

In law, Property may be defined as the tangible product of enterprise and resources, or the gain of capital wealth which it may create.  To ‘hold’ Property, a Party, or private, sentient entity, must have rightful claim to it and be capable of using it freely as they see fit, in keeping with natural law.

Natural resources, including land, are said to be owned either jurisdictionally by State, privately by party, or in common to the natural world.  If property may be legally defined only as a product, then natural resources may be excluded from all laws pertaining to legal property.  If property also may be further defined by the ability of it’s owner to use it as they see fit, in keeping with Ius Naturale, then any property claimed jurisdictionally by the State and said to be held in common amongst the citizenry must meet the article of usage to be legally owned.  Consider Hardin’s tragedy of the commons as an argument for the conservation of private property over a state of nature, rather than an appeal to the economic law of scarcity or an appeal to the second law of thermodynamics ,

In Physics:  Property may be defined as either an observable state of physical being.  The universe of Einstein, Kepler, and Newton rests soundly on the tenet that physical bodies cannot occupy multiple physical locations simultaneously.  The laws that govern the macro-physical world do not operate in the same way on the quantum level.  At that comparatively tiny level, the rules of our known universe break down, and matter may exhibit the observed property of being at multiple locations simultaneously — bully and chalk 1 point for common property on the theoretically-quantum scale.

Currency:  The attempt to simultaneously possess and use currency as defined above would result in praxeologic market-hilarity in the best case, and imprisonment or physical injury in the worst.  Observe: Two friends in common possession of 1$ walk into a corner shop to buy a pack of chewing gum, which costs 1$.  They each place a pack on the counter, and present the cashier with their single dollar bill.  “It’s both of ours!  We earned it in business together!” they beam as the cashier calls the cops and racks a shotgun under the register…

The two friends above may not use the paper currency simultaneously — while the concept of a dollar representing two, exclusively owned fifty-percent equity shares may be widely and innately understood — the single bill is represented in specie among the parties would still be 2 pairs of quarters.  While they could pool their resources and ‘both’ purchase a single pack of gum, they would continue to own a 50% equity share in the pack — resulting in a division yet again of title equally between the dozen-or-so sticks of gum contained therein.  This reduction and division of ownership can proceed ad quantum.

This simple reason is applicable within and demonstrated by current and universal economic realities, including all claims of joint title, common property law, jurisdictional issues, corporate law, and financial liability.  A joint bank account is simply the sum of the parties’ individual interest in that account — claims to hold legal property in common are bunk.

The human condition is marked by the sovereignty, independence and isolation of one’s own thought.  Praxeological thought-experiments like John Searle’s Chinese Room Argument and Alan Turing’s Test would not be possible to pose in a human reality that was other than a state of individual mental separation.  As we are alone in our thoughts, our experience of reality can only be communicated to one another.  It is therefore not possible to ever ‘share’ an experience with any other sentient being, because it is not possible to perceive reality as another person…even if the technology should develop such that multiple individuals can network and share the information within their minds, that information must still filter through another individual consciousness in order to be experienced simultaneously.  The physical separation of two minds is reinforced by the rationally-necessary separation of distinct individuals.  There may exist a potential hive-mind collectivist state, but it would require such a radical change to that which constitutes the human condition, that it would violate the tenets of what it is to be human.

In conclusion, logically, the most plausible circumstance in which property could exist in common would be on the quantum level within a hive-minded non-human collective, and the laws that govern men are and should be an accurate extension of the laws that govern nature — not through Social Darwinism, but rather anthropology.  Humans, as an adaptation, work interdependently to thrive, which often includes the voluntary sharing and trading of resources and property…none of which are held in common.

Ad Quantum,

L.A. Repucci

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