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Lest we forget about the last 8 years regarding religious liberty. A summary

19 Jan

From Andrew Walker and Josh Wester in the National Review:

For eight years, the Obama administration brought fundamental change to American life. As the administration comes to an end, it is appropriate to evaluate its legacy. And though many such assessments will be written, among the most important issues to consider is the Obama administration’s record on religious liberty. As we’ll argue based on episodes throughout President Obama’s time in office, this administration oversaw an unprecedented effort to intentionally malign and dethrone religious liberty as a central pillar in American political and civil life. Notwithstanding this overall record, and though neither of us is a political supporter of Obama, we applaud the efforts made by the administration in a few areas to champion religious liberty. In 2008, Obama was a U.S. senator and presidential candidate publicly opposed to same-sex marriage. Much has changed in eight years. For the foreseeable future, the legacy of the Obama administration will rest on two alliterative, colossal initiatives that have left an indelible crater on the landscape of religious liberty: Obamacare and Obergefell v. Hodges.

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Why I Became a Conservative – Scruton

19 Jan

From the British Political Philosopher Roger Scruton:

I as brought up at a time when half the English people voted Conservative at national elections and almost all English intellectuals regarded the term “conservative” as a term of abuse. To be a conservative, I was told, was to be on the side of age against youth, the past against the future, authority against innovation, the “structures” against spontaneity and life. It was enough to understand this, to recognize that one had no choice, as a free-thinking intellectual, save to reject conservatism. The choice remaining was between reform and revolution. Do we improve society bit by bit, or do we rub it out and start again? On the whole my contemporaries favored the second option, and it was when witnessing what this meant, in May 1968 in Paris, that I discovered my vocation.

In the narrow street below my window the students were shouting and smashing. The plate-glass windows of the shops appeared to step back, shudder for a second, and then give up the ghost, as the reflections suddenly left them and they slid in jagged fragments to the ground. Cars rose into the air and landed on their sides, their juices flowing from unseen wounds. The air was filled with triumphant shouts, as one by one lamp-posts and bollards were uprooted and piled on the tarmac, to form a barricade against the next van-load of policemen.

The van—known then as a panier de salade on account of the wire mesh that covered its windows—came cautiously round the corner from the Rue Descartes, jerked to a halt, and disgorged a score of frightened policemen. They were greeted by flying cobble-stones and several of them fell. One rolled over on the ground clutching his face, from which the blood streamed through tightly clenched fingers. There was an exultant shout, the injured policeman was helped into the van, and the students ran off down a side-street, sneering at the cochons and throwing Parthian cobbles as they went.

That evening a friend came round: she had been all day on the barricades with a troupe of theater people, under the captainship of Armand Gatti. She was very excited by the events, which Gatti, a follower of Antonin Artaud, had taught her to regard as the high point of situationist theater—the artistic transfiguration of an absurdity which is the day-to-day meaning of bourgeois life. Great victories had been scored: policemen injured, cars set alight, slogans chanted, graffiti daubed. The bourgeoisie were on the run and soon the Old Fascist and his régime would be begging for mercy.

Read the rest here from the New Criterion

Critique of National Geographic Transgenderism claims

6 Jan

From The Public Discourse:

The January 2017 issue of National Geographic is dedicated to exploring what it calls the “Gender Revolution”—a post-Sexual Revolution movement that seeks to deconstruct traditional understandings about human embodiment, male-female sexual dimorphism, and gender. In an article titled “Rethinking Gender,” Robin Marantz Henig cites evolving gender norms as a justification for the Gender Revolution. But Henig’s argument is not only unpersuasive, it’s also based on a radical proposal about human nature that is at odds with both natural law and biblical anthropology.

The purpose of this essay is not to address every facet of gender that Henig explores. Rather, our goal is to address some of the more glaring errors in the piece. Many of the criticisms below apply not only to Henig’s article, but to the broader philosophical problems inherent within the transgender movement.

Gender Identity, Category Confusion, and Moral Inconsistency

First (and most problematic): Henig offers no substantive argument for why one’s internal, self-perception of his or her “gender identity” ought to determine one’s gender or have authority greater than one’s biological sex. The essay offers testimonies of people who say that their gender identity is at odds with their biological sex. But testimony is not sufficient. Asserting a claim does not demonstrate the authenticity of that claim. Readers are given no explanation for why we ought to regard the claims of one’s gender identity as reality rather than a subjective feeling or self-perception.

Indeed, this is the crux of the matter that plagues the transgender movement. It is based not on evidence, but on the ideology of expressive individualism—the idea that one’s identity is self-determined, that one should live out that identity, and that everyone else must respect and affirm that identity, no matter what it is. Expressive individualism requires no moral argument or empirical justification for its claims, no matter how absurd or controverted they may be. Transgenderism is not a scientific discovery but a prior ideological commitment about the pliability of gender.

Secondly, Henig commits a fallacy of composition by linking intersex conditions with transgenderism. These are very different categories. “Intersex” is a term that describes a range of conditions affecting the development of the human reproductive system. These “disorders of sex development” result in atypical reproductive anatomy. Some intersex persons are born with “ambiguous genitalia,” which make sex determination at birth very difficult.

It is precisely on this point that intersexuality is very different from transgenderism. Those who identify as transgender are not dealing with ambiguity concerning their biological sex. Transgenderism refers to the variety of ways that some people feel that their gender identity is out of sync with their biological sex. Thus, transgender identities are built on the assumption that biological sex is known and clear.

Original Link

Two Americas

20 Oct

Gertrude Himmelfarb in her book One Nation, Two Cultures (2010) argued that America is comprised of two distinct cultures.  A traditionalist one (conservative, Puritan heritage) and a dissident one (counterculture of the 1960s).  She wrote:

As a minority, the traditionalist culture labors under the disadvantage of being perennially on the defensive.  Its elite — gospel preachers, radio talk show hosts, some prominent columnists, and organizational leaders–cannot begin to match, in  numbers or influence, those who occupy the commanding heights of the dominant culture; professors presiding over the multitude of young people who attend their lectures, read their books, and have to pass their exams; journalists who determine what information, and what ‘spins’ on that information, come to the public; television and movie producers who provide the images and values that shape the popular culture; cultural entrepreneurs who are ingenious in creating and marketing ever more sensational and provocative products.  An occasional boycott by religious conservatives can hardly counteract the cumulative, pervasive effect of the dominant culture.

Clearly, there is a sense in which men and women are not equals sociologically

29 Aug

Excerpt from Glen Stanton at First Things:

Anthropologists have long recognized that the most fundamental social problem every community must solve is the unattached male. If his sexual, physical, and emotional energies are not governed and directed in a pro-social, domesticated manner, he will become the village’s most malignant cancer. Wives and children, in that order, are the only successful remedy ever found. Military service is a very distant second. Nobel Prize winning economist George Akerlof explains that “men settle down when they get married; if they fail to marry, they fail to settle down,” because “with marriage, men take on new identities that change their behavior.” This does not seem to work with same-sex male couples in long-term relationships.

Husbands and fathers become better, safer, more responsible and productive citizens, unrivaled by their peers in any other relational status. Husbands become better mates, treating their wives better by every important measure—physical and emotional safety, financial and material provision, personal respect, fidelity, general self-sacrifice, etc.—compared to boyfriends, whether dating or cohabiting. Husbands and fathers enjoy significantly lower health, life, and auto insurance premiums than do their single peers, for a strictly pragmatic reason. Insurance companies are not sentimental about husbands. Husbands get lower premiums because they are different creatures in terms of habits, values, behavior, and general health.

This is why Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a tale not so much about the dark nature of humanity as about the isolation of the masculine from the feminine. Had there been just a few confident girls amongst those boys, its conclusion might have been more Swiss Family Robinson

Whole thing here.

Manners R.I.P. and what it means

18 Feb

From Steven Klugewicz:


On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee met General Ulysses S. Grant at the McLean House in Appomattox, Virginia, for the purpose of surrendering the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee had asked for the meeting and had prepared by putting on his finest uniform: a new, long dress coat with a high collar buttoned to the top, a bejeweled long sword at his side, a pair of high-topped boots with spurs. Grant appeared in his typical attire, the simple uniform of a common soldier: a short coat and plain, spur-less boots, both much spattered with mud.

The contrast in attire matched the contrast in the men themselves: Lee was tall, straight in his bearing and solemn in his manner; the silvery-white hair and beard that ringed his visage befitted a king. The younger Grant was four inches shorter, somewhat stoop-shouldered, with a close-cropped brown beard. He was clearly ill at ease in the presence of Lee and nervously attempted some small talk. Grant offered that he still remembered Lee well from their one meeting during the Mexican War, almost two decades earlier. Lee confessed he could not recall anything about the occasion. Hearing Lee’s response must have been an awkward moment for Grant.

This climactic scene of the American Civil War has often been cited as emblematic of a watershed moment in history, the allegorical surrender of the Old World with its regal personalities, chivalric bonds, and inherited wealth to the New World embodied by Grant, a man of humble origins who had failed repeatedly in business and who finally made himself by making war (albeit with overwhelming advantages of men and material on his side). And it was indeed this.

appomattoxBut it was more. Less often noted is Grant’s careless disrespect to Lee in failing to dress properly for this meeting. Excuses have been made that Grant hurried to the meeting preoccupied with its impending business, that he was suffering from a days-long headache that morning and that consequently such “trivialities” as proper dress were the furthest thing from his mind. Grant’s admirers even point to his crude attire as a badge of honor: here was the real rough-and-tumble American of the frontier, the true democrat, whose worth was to be found in his inner fortitude, his stick-to-it-tiveness, and not in the superficiality of his dress, the foppish concerns of an effete and decaying era.

But appearances do matter. As a student, the young George Washington once performed a copy exercise, titled “Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation,” based on a 16th-century Jesuit text. At the top of this list of 110 rules was this guiding admonition: “Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.” This maxim had presided over Western culture since the Middle Ages, and it was exemplified in the courtly manners of the upper classes everywhere and at all times, from the knights of the Frankish kingdom to the nobles of the Elizabethan Age to the American Southern aristocratic class represented by Washington and Lee. Where the upper classes led, the lower classes followed. Manners trickled down, so that even the common laborer of nineteenth-century London attempted, when wearing his Sunday best, to emulate the attire of his betters. His top hat and waistcoat may have been worn and of inferior quality, but he wore them proudly nonetheless.

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The Vision of Wilhelm Roepke

12 Feb

From the Imaginative Conservative:


June 20th, 1998, marked the fiftieth anniversary of the German “economic miracle.” Of course, there was nothing miraculous about it. Germany’s success was not due to the hard-working character of her people, or to foreign aid, or to any other special reason. It was the natural outcome of a market economy and currency reform. And yet it was originally intended as something more than that by the men who helped shape this policy, not least of whom was the outstanding economist, Wilhelm Roepke. Instead of a return to nineteenth-century capitalism and its laissez-faire ideology, he wanted a socially responsible economy which avoided and corrected past abuses. His ideas had been well­ articulated in his earlier books which, though banned by the Nazis, were read surreptitiously, even by the later finance minister, Ludwig Erhard, whose contents he said he “devoured like the desert the life-giving water.”[1]

But it is for more than his influence on policy-makers and German recovery that Roepke commands our attention today. His writings deal with the deeper issues that continue to afflict the West and his policy prescriptions are correspondingly rich and complex—a situation in which it is easy to misunderstand him. For example, his view of the good economy was at once conservative and radical. It combined liberal (in the older, honorable sense) elements of free markets, private property, and limited government with radical proposals to jettison those developments and trends of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that had been undermining the traditional family, local communities, and basic values, clearly an approach confounding classification by those who insist that the world has only two pigeonholes, laissez-faire or communism. It is an approach that assumes the market system can have more than one form which we are free to shape within certain limits indicated by economic science. Roepke’s question is: What form is most congenial to the flowering of human personality but which still yields needed material benefits? It was a delicate problem of balance and integration, and yet it is precisely this aspect that is often overlooked—or denied—by some “conservative” writers today who choose to emphasize other aspects of his thought, or who dismiss his social concerns as mere sentimentalism. To avoid the same mistake as well as to grasp the real, the essential, Wilhelm Roepke without analyzing his over 800 articles and books,[2] it is helpful not merely to sample his representative work but to divide it into two sections and consider Roepke first as a technical and then as a social economist; naturally, both aspects overlap in his writings.


For his technical economic work, we may identify such books as Crises and Cycles (1936), Economics of the Free Society (1937), International Economic Disintegration (1942), and International Order and Economic Integration (1959), plus numerous professional papers. In these volumes, Roepke affirms the importance of maintaining private property, the free operation of prices, and economic competition, and he vigorously defends multilateral trade as opposed to systematic protectionism and various forms of collectivism.

But of these, perhaps his most interesting, if not also his most important book, is his Crises and Cycles,published in 1936, the same year as John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory, and within a year of Hayek’s Prices and Production (1935). It deals with the problem of business cycles, the boom-and-bust tendency in an industrialized economy. His key contribution which distinguishes him from both Hayek and Keynes is his over­ capitalization/monetary model of the business cycle. The issue is not a disparity, says Roepke, between the relative rates of saving and investment, the former stable and the latter volatile, the way Keynes thought. Nor is it a problem of undersaving relative to investments the way Hayek thought. Nor is it a strictly monetary problem the way some Austrian economists such as Mises were inclined to think. Most fundamentally, it is the nature of the industrialized economy itself. The same specialization and division of labor that powers a modern economy and economic growth is also the property that causes economic booms and depressions. The problem originates in the difficulties of coordination that such a division of labor brings about.[3] A slight increase in demand at the retail level, say, for shoes, will become accelerated as the demand signal extends upstream to the foreproducts of production in something of a geometric proportion. Ultimately, such production will be out of proportion to the original demand. Inevitably, the boom must turn into a recession or depression. Of course, this expansion is financed through loose credit policies as Austrians, including Hayek, emphasize and with which Roepke basically agrees, but adds: “In our view, it is the steep rise of the absolute amount of investments which matters, not the fact that our economic system must rely on credit expansion to make this rise possible.”[4] This is important not only because it is essential for understanding Roepke’s technical contribution, but also because it leads to an understanding of Roepke as social economist, and his corresponding policy recommendations.

Roepke also explained that in the instant case, the Great Depression had gone beyond the economy’s ability to initiate a functionally corrective downswing that would restore a healthy balance. Instead, it had turned into a “secondary depression” where economic activity stalled out at the bottom more or less permanently, and the usual “self­-correcting” market forces were not operative. The problem, then, was a lack of confidence, a failure to spend, a pervasive pessimism so that demand was simply too low. In such an extreme case, Roepke reluctantly recommended, as did many other economists at the time, including Keynes, the need for the famous pump-priming, the need for government to run a deficit to stimulate demand. But he was painfully aware that this was a dangerous course, and he spent some time elaborating its pitfalls.[5]

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