American Liberal Turns into a Nihilist

By Con George-Kotzabasis

It is the cackling of the nihilistic geese, like Kervick’s, embittered by the fact that their loquacious gaggle is persuading no one other than the mentally ‘scleroid’ and unimaginative, that makes them spit their bile over the great political, economic, and scientific achievements made in the image of unflappable rugged individual action of capitalist America imbued by the ethos of captain Ahab—who would strike the sun if it insulted him–and Atlas Shrugged. It is the complete and total failure of Kervick and his ilk to approach, and least of all to reach, the mountain tops of this ethos of unsurpassable individual success that turns them into irredeemable nihilists and whose cynicism attempts to belittle and blemish America, the best of all possible worlds.

Is it conceivable to Kervick, the student of David Hume, that cosmopolitan America would have accomplished all these great achievements in the field of politics, economics, and science, and having the greatest number of Nobel Laureates in its midst, if it was populated by “cretins?” (It is interesting that he uses Lenin’s word which reveals on whose lap he was sitting as a junior learning his politics.) It is clear that Vergil’s apophthegm Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito, is not Kervick’s motto.

The above piece emitted the following replies in The Washington Note

Kervick says,

On the topic of contemporary optimism and pessimism:

…Anyway, the scientific preeminence may not last long. The most intellectually backward elements of our society were once kept culturally marginalized  by an elite committed to the enlightened values that were transplanted from Europe to America in the American Revolution. But increasingly, Republicans have loosed the troglodytes from their enclaves and encouraged them to take over the leadership of our society. They now help write the textbooks and enact the reactionary educational requirements that will help consign their progeny to years of intellectual failure and increasing backwardness. America’s cultural shots are called by the good people of states that consistently rank at or near the bottom in every measure of intellectual and educational attainment. And liberals haven’t helped much either with their decadent postmodern ideas about the nature and purpose of education.

The great blindness of contemporary American political thought, on both the left and right, is its crude and debased understanding of freedom. This understanding teaches that civilizations don’t have to be built. They just happen. They “emerge” almost magically through the mere liberation of the avaricious impulses of free enterprise, and from the disorganized and incoherent pursuit of individual happiness. But simply allowing each man the freedom to follow his own wayward, blinkered path or to dominate his subordinates, without interference or regulation from a government with an organized commitment to a vision of the public good and a virtuous social order, does not build civilization. Over time it degrades it.

This decadence and rot of American popular life, and its hideous, crass ugliness, are now on display for the whole world to see through our mass media. People everywhere can see the idiot sound and fury that comprise our political discourse, the infantile self-delusions self-aggrandizement of our “reality” programming, and the stupefying shallowness of the narcissistic individual greed that has taken hold of most of the places where civic virtues, social vision and ennobling values used to live.

You can’t refute this by pointing to GDP figures.

Posted by Don Bacon, Jul 29 2010, 11:46AM – Link

Kervick: “. . .regulation from a government with an organized commitment to a vision of the public good and a virtuous social order”

There you go again, dissing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The US government was established to safeguard our basic human rights, not to have a vision of the public good. The government should work for us, not the opposite. Your faith in government and your lack of faith in the citizenry is un-American,

“We’re just cretins: bitter and hate-filled paranoids and obsessives, driven by rage and our multifarious addictions and grasping dependencies to defend and spread a way of life we actually hate and resent in our bones. In other words, we’re crazy people.”

Bullshit. You need to get out more.

 You started this discussion off by saying that American citizens are “cretins: bitter and hate-filled paranoids and obsessives, driven by rage and our multifarious addictions and grasping dependencies to defend and spread a way of life we actually hate and resent in our bones. In other words, we’re crazy people” and so we need “interference or regulation from a government with an organized commitment to a vision of the public good” which I claimed was un-American.

And now you flip-flop and say citizens have “the right to work together to build the kinds of communities they want.” Make up your mind, or is it impossible because of craziness.

Posted by Dan Kervick, Jul 29 2010, 9:35PM – Link

“And now you flip-flop and say citizens have “the right to work together to build the kinds of communities they want.”

Don’t cretins have the right to try to improve their lives? Even the Jersey Shore kids are entitled to work together to organize public investment in a better life for their children. And I would strongly recommend that Glenn Beck, John Hagee and Sarah Palin get on board with activist government as well – not that they would be disposed to listen to me.

Posted by kotzabasis, Jul 29 2010, 11:52PM – Link

Kervick adventitiously and foolishly with his “unconstitutional” governmental dirigisme, which Don Bacon correctly characterized as fascistic, has opened a pit of venomous snakes biting him.

Posted by Dan Kervick, Jul 30 2010, 1:34AM – Link

Kotzabasis,

You often sound like you are writing captions or fortune cookies, rather than making arguments.

I have never proposed a single policy that is unconstitutional. All of the activist policies I defend have been practiced in the past in the United States, in one form or another, have been brought before the Supreme Court, and have passed constitutional muster. Americans have broad constitutionally unimpeachable freedoms to build roads, canals and airports; appropriate and set aside public lands; regulate commerce; levy taxes on themselves and their fellow citizens; and to undertake whatever projects they desire in pursuit of the general welfare or common good as they see it, so long as those projects don’t run afoul of the fundamental liberties protected by the constitution.

It surely must be a sign of radical right individualistic decadence that the mere pursuit of the common good or public good, one of the central concepts in the western legal and political tradition, now strikes them as some sort of frightening communistic notion.

The founders, even the Madisonians and Jeffersonians, were classical republicans, and took it for granted that pursuit of the common good was one of the very purposes of government. And even more obviously, they took it for granted that pursuing the common good was at least a virtuous and good thing.

Kotzabasis says,

Kervick

No your policies, with one exception applying to this argument, are not unconstitutional, but your arguments in supporting them are intellectually unhinged and laughably incongruous and contradictory. In the present case, in your eagerness as ‘Sun King’, l’état c’est moi, to create the Versailles of the public good, you infuse rights into the American Constitution which does not have, as Don Bacon correctly pointed out. Under the constitution free men can dispose their own time, within a LEGAL FRAMEWORK, in pursuit of their aims and desires that in their opinion and subjective values will be beneficial to their material and spiritual well being. No one tells them what these pursuits should be. It is precisely this unfettered freedom of action, by which individuals achieve a better life and contribute toward, and enhance, the common good, since they live in the same community that the Constitution safeguards for the people. If your predilection is to read Plato, Hobbes, Hume, Russel…in your pursuit of spiritual happiness no government official, in a free society, compels you to read Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, or Milton Friedman that might discomfit your intellectual calmness and put an abrupt end to your spiritual happiness.

Yet in your proposal this is exactly what you suggest, i.e., the replacement of individual value judgments by the value judgments of an ‘Enlightened’ government, a social experiment that has already been buried under the debris of the Berlin Wall. You say, because we are “crazy people” we need “interference or regulation from a government with an organized commitment to a vision of the public good,” which Don Bacon sharply rebukes you for being “un-American, if not fascistoid.

Realizing the weakness of your argument and your error that such government intervention would be incongruous to the spirit and letter of the constitution, as Don Bacon indicates, instead of correcting your mistake you unconsciously further enfeeble your argument by comically saying, “don’t cretins have a right to improve their lives?” Indeed they do! But by doing so they will get the politicians they deserve and in the annals of history will be recorded the establishment of the first Republic of Cretins. And Don Bacon again is asking you to make up your mind as to whether mad people can elect a sane government.

The fact is that under the American Constitution, imbued and replete with liberal principles, men in a realm of freedom can pursue their various individualistic interests and achieve their well being and happiness according to their own propensities, by working during the day, fishing in the evening, and writing and ‘practising’ poetry during the night, to paraphrase Karl Marx.

Sorry for the unkind cut. But you have inflicted it yourself.

Posted by Dan Kervick, Jul 30 2010, 10:53AM – Link

“Yet in your proposal this is exactly what you suggest, i.e., the replacement of individual value judgments by the value judgments of an ‘Enlightened’ government, a social experiment that has already been buried under the debris of the Berlin Wall. You say, because we are “crazy people” we need “interference or regulation from a government with an organized commitment to a vision of the public good,” which Don Bacon sharply rebukes you for being “un-American, if not fascistoid.”

Kotz, I am very perplexed sometimes by the strange reading contemporary hard-right libertarian conservatives give to the word “government.” They seem use it in a way that is far removed from the founding traditions of American political thought.

When conservatives use the phrase “the government” these days, they seem to use it to refer to some kind of alien entity or foreign power, something separate and apart from the American people that lords it over them.

When I use the phrase, “the government”, I use it in a traditional American sense to refer to *us* – we the people. We the people have constituted a government as our instrument for organizing our own lives and advancing the common good. This conception of government is fully enshrined in the preamble to the US constitution. Government isn’t some external *thing*. It is what the citizens in a republic *do*.

The American conception of freedom is not at all limited to the idea that individuals have the right to live their private lives as they see fit: to read what they want, fish where they want, etc. It also embraces the notion that groups of people have the right to work together, in a cooperative fashion, to advance the common good or common weal. In fact, because they all agreed people had this inherent right, and that the very nature purpose of government was a cooperative compact to pursue the common good, the founders also agreed that the the people had the right to abolish their current system of government when they found it no longer suited their needs, and replace that system with something else.

And obviously, the right invoked in this case isn’t an individual right, but some kind of group or collective right. No one thought that Don Bacon had the right to abolish the government, or that Dan Kervick had the right to abolish government. But the whole people in the body politic had that right.

Posted by kotzabasis, Jul 30 2010, 11:40PM – Link

Kervick

You continue to be stuck to your intellectually rusty grooves. No reasonable person would be against “the ideal of the common good.” But the common good cannot be ENACTED, by government legislation as your argument suggests. It arises from the free and rational actions of people in a laissez faire economy that allows and gives the opportunity to everyone according to his ability, diligence, and mental and physical effort to better his human condition. The government’s function is to safeguard and protect this unfettered freedom of human action from which originates the common good.

No More Free Suntans in Sunny Greece

By Con George-Kotzabasis

As Drew correctly states none of the classical liberal economists, Smith, Mises, Hayek, and I would add in this brilliant constellation Mill, Bawerk, and Schumpeter, ever argued that the free market was perfect and “market failure” was inconceivable. On the contrary they argued that the three cardinal principles of the free market were imperfect knowledge, uncertainty, and risk. How could any rational and economically literate person accuse the classical liberal economists of contending that the free market were free from market failure, when their whole argument was premised on the above three principles? Moreover, they did argue, that market failure could be cured mainly by the ‘elixir’ of the free market, and not by unqualified and ubiquitous government intervention.

It is the critics of the free market that engendered the ‘straw man’ of the perfect market so they could knock it down easily without any effort of critical thinking, which of course they lacked, and replace it with the socialist planning nostrums or, a la Kervick, with the hybrid panacea of the “mixed economy,” whose avatar was and is modern Europe, and which presently is at the threshold of economic bankruptcy. The sun is still shining in sunny Greece, but there are no more free suntans for its denizens.

Israel Must not Renounce its Right to Defend itself

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The UN Tower of Babel talks and walks the anti-Israeli bias that has been drenched with for many years and no changed conduct on the part of Israel, other than depriving itself from its indefeasible right to defend itself, will ever change the virulent hate that many of its member nations have for Israel.

For the Netanyahu government to immerse itself in modifying the international law and making it more explicit in fighting terrorism is, as the Jerusalem Post’s columnist Caroline Glick correctly states, a misguided exercise, as any changes to the covenant will still be short of protecting any future Israeli military actions in its defence and will be condemned as aggression. Further, in the eyes of many people inimical to Israel, including disinterested ones, it will be seen as an admission on the part of the Israeli government that it broke the current international law during its incursion in Gaza. The Israeli government in the present circumstances must desist from changing the law because of the tendentious Goldstone Report of the UNHRC.

General McChrystal and Obama’s Contradictory Strategy

By Con George-Kotzabasis 

Drew, you seem to place formality above entelechy, the vital element of war. Throughout history an ethic, no matter how laudable and worthy, in critical circumstances is degraded to a lower status if it is not made totally inutile. Winning the war is the primal goal and that can only be achieved by professionals, not by ‘drone’ like Bidens. You also seem to forget, that it was precisely this unconditional devotion to “conditional civilian control” that lost the war in Vietnam. My position is, so you won’t misunderstand me, certainly a general has to abide the commands of the executive branch, but no general worth his salt who has the ultimate responsibility of deploying his troops to win a war, a responsibility that has been given to him by his Commander-in-Chief, is obliged to execute commands that are contradictory in winning the war without expressing his deep concerns critically about the incongruence of the war plan that was designed by the Executive. One cannot increase the Surge by thirty thousand more troops and at the same time announce a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in two years time. This is the fundamental contradiction of Obama’s doltish strategy in Afghanistan. No one but a modern Tiresias could predict that the war against the Taliban would be won in two years or that the Karzai forces would be able to handle the insurgency by their own steam. Obama set the scene for a strategy that for the next two years American blood and valuable resources would be spend not for the goal of victory, but for the purpose of a withdrawal. This is the quintessence of McChrystal’s criticism of the Obama administration although he did not explicitly express it in these words.

Moreover, McChrystal could no more “undermine the executive branch” that was already undermined by itself. Also your accusation of McChrystal of being incompetent and of losing the respect of his troops by commanding them to patrol without cartridges in their guns, except maybe in some rare circumstances, is incredulous and is closer to phantasy than reality. McChrystal and Petraeus were the sagacious heroic victors of the war in Iraq. That one of the architects of this unprecedented victory, that even the wise Kissinger considered it to be unattainable, would lose the respect of his soldiers is pure phantasy. Further, that a most competent commander of the elite Special Forces, a “killing machine,” would put his soldiers at risk is beyond belief. I am curious to know the evidence from which you deduced this transformation of a deadly ‘seal’, who all his life has been trained for the tasks of the infernal world, into an unarmed Gandhian votary.