Globalism: Optimism, Pessimism, and Dystopian Visions (Part Three, Plus References)

In replying to Dean Allen’s remarks (Part Two), I had intended to restrict myself to a few points, but fear I have instead written another book (lol) and can only hope readers will bear with me. While part of me wants to apologize for the length, I do believe there is only one way to approach these issues, and that is substantially, in detail, and with supporting examples. Let me first explain what doubtless looks like “pessimism.” First, pessimism is often where you find it. It is a matter of perspective. Globalists convinced that their worldview is right in all its essentials (they may be struggling with some of the details), and that TINA (There Is No Alternative), are the supreme optimists. They believe that globalization, guided by them, will one day deliver Utopia. Both of us disagree. Neither of us, therefore, wants to continue down that road. To globalists, though, disbelief in their coming Utopia, involving as it does the de-industrialization of the First World, outsourcing jobs to cheap-labor countries, insourcing immigrants for cheap labor, open borders (the primary cause of the present mess in Europe, mixing mutually unassimilable European and Muslim cultures), etc., is pessimism about the “liberal world order” they have been building for the past 70 years, and which seemed to be doing fine at one time!

I am pessimistic about secular political-economic solutions, some of which I have also participated in and seen first-hand the infighting, the jostling for position, the impatient demand for instant results, and sometimes the just-plain-pigheadness of those who can’t admit that what they are doing doesn’t work in the real world. This brand of pessimism stems from my sense of the basic sinfulness of the human condition (Rom. 3:23). While disagreement over theological specifics and their consequences is possible, I no longer understand how one can reject the basic idea that we live in a fallen world in the Christian sense. With this you have a common denominator, why every attempt we have made to organize ourselves politically / economically has ultimately failed, even if some failures are more spectacular than others. We indeed formed a political system in the original Constitutional Republic that became the envy of the world, but compromised it very quickly in ways I documented in my book Four Cardinal Errors (Yates 2011).

The truth is, we seem unable to build political-economic systems that don’t shaft somebody. Go back 175 years and you have slavery, which shafted the black man (even if it is wrong to blame that unhappy state of affairs on whites, as both Muslims and blacks themselves were involved in the international slave trade). Let us realize, moreover, that we only got rid of chattel slavery, which is not the only form slavery can take. Today it’s straight white Christian males who are being shafted, systematically demonized in media and academia. Tomorrow it might be somebody else — groups being vulnerable as long as some are able to soar ahead of others and collectivism remains the prevailing ethos.

My “pessimism” in this sense makes me doubtful of the wisdom of trusting wholeheartedly in any one person, such as Trump or anyone else, or one party such as the GOP, or even one political system (so-called democracy which is really oligarchy — see Part One), or the prevailing economic system (call it capitalism or call it something else). Principles are too easily compromised by money and power. Abstractions fail because they are usually too simple and streamlined when applied against the organic complexities of the real world and real human beings and their inscrutabilities. All leading to why I concluded some time ago, and maybe I should do more posts to emphasize this and work out the implications, our only ultimate hope is in Jesus Christ as our personal savior and in winning souls for Him.

To the extent one believes in basic tenets of Christianity, one is actually an optimist and not a pessimist at all. This brand of optimism places its hopes and faith not in this world but in the world to come. It does not suggest sitting on the sidelines, fatalistically, and allow false premises and bad tendencies to go unchallenged. But it does urge us to temper our expectations with modesty and realism. The majority of our secular efforts are bound to fall short because human nature is fundamentally at odds with that which is principled. We should instead remember that “these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:13-16).

Turning to corporations. Keeping in mind that I am talking about globe-spanning entities, not, e.g., supermarket chains with limited reach, Mr. Allen believes we should have more trust in them than my statements evidence. Following up what was just concluded, though, corporations are run by human beings and subject to whatever sinfulness human beings are prone, which may be aggravated by both a materialist philosophy of life and large amounts of money to support it. When deciding when or whether to trust corporations, this general point must be considered before we get to any specifics. The so-called private sector doesn’t have a special, sin-free status because it’s the private sector and supposedly subject to the “discipline of the marketplace,” whatever that is. The globalist power elite originated within and grew up around private banking leviathans, as Carroll Quigley observes (Quigley 1966). I believe not trusting corporations with global reach is justified. To this extent I disagree with Republicans and Libertarians who trust corporations indirectly out of the trust that their favorite abstraction, the “free market,” will control them with Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”

We need specifics, of course, and they are readily available, in some cases based on personal experience and direct observation. I will cite my own, and I doubt my situation was unique. When managing the affairs of my aging parents, both of whom spent their final years in a private nursing home because they needed round-the-clock care I could not provide, it became clear to me how much of what goes on in such facilities occurs so that corporations can make money. Well, that’s capitalism, some will respond. If so, then “actually existing capitalism” (is there another?) really does have some of the structural faults the “economic left” (not to be confused with the “cultural left”) attributes to it. For starters, the emphasis of so-called “scientific medicine” is not healing but managing chronic conditions using legal drugs. This enriches the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma). Many of the drugs were “approved” under dubious conditions, with Big Pharma’s corporations bankrolling “studies” that “proved” the drug to be safe. When we look at how this happens, a critical thinker is bound to see supposed scientific objectivity compromised by vested interests over and over again (Fitzgerald 2006).

There is truth to the adage that we do not have a health care system but a sick care system — because managing chronic conditions is extremely profitable! Which goes to the heart of why the most advanced civilization in the world is also now the sickest, most drug-addicted, most lethargic, most obese, etc. Unhealthy food is also extremely profitable because nutrition is not taught in schools (private or public); hence the uninformed masses have no idea they cannot live indefinitely on fast food and diet drinks without this eventually damaging their health. They spend their money accordingly. “Health care reform” has never been about health, or healing, but how the accelerating costs of managing chronic conditions are handled. This mess is systemic. I do not want to say that “socialized medicine” is the answer, because (in accordance with earlier paragraphs) that will surely come with its own train of abuses. But what we can note is that a genuinely healthy population does not need to spend money on doctors, clinics, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, etc. Most doctors do what they are trained to do, which is identify chronic conditions and prescribe drugs to manage them. Most are clueless about nutrition-based health which they consider pseudoscientific “quackery.” The truth: good health doesn’t fatten corporations’ bottom lines.

Again, I saw first-hand evidence for this. At one point, the nursing home doctor (who made two visits to the facility per week!) had my father on a narcotic, presumably to control his reactive confusion caused by vascular dementia. I told him in no uncertain terms I wanted my father off of it, and threatened to put both my parents in a different facility. Interestingly, my demand was honored and not countered by an argument that the drug was necessary for such-and-such. Both of my parents were overmedicated, and it is just possible that too much medication shorted their live spans. In the end, during the last six weeks of my father’s life (spent “in hospice”), the facility took him all his medications. Result: for those six weeks we basically had him back! He was his old self again, asking how the stock market was doing, how my classes were going, those sorts of familiar things. My mother had parallel issues, including a blood problem possibly related to her having been on blood-thinners since a 1999 stroke. The only “cures” appeared to be transfusions and, of course, more drugs!

I have no reason to believe my parents’ cases are somehow unique. It is likely that there are millions of overmedicated people in nursing homes across the U.S., and that tens of thousands of prescriptions are written every year unnecessarily, forcing patients, many fearful and therefore not thinking critically, to spend money. One of the biggest causes of preventable deaths in the advanced world is the medical / hospital system itself. There is overmedication; there is physician error including false diagnoses sometimes the product of ridiculously long shifts which can run to 12 hours; and there are hospital-acquired sicknesses, e.g., from bacteria such as MSRA which kills more people every year than AIDS. My sister died in early 2016 from complications related to an MSRA infection she acquired during an earlier hospital stay. She was only 54.

For some history of how we’ve allowed the “artificial” to triumph over the “natural” in food, public health, and medicine over the past 100 years, with the primary benefits going to private corporations often to the detriment of our long-term health, and how we have been taken to the cleaners by decades of pseudoscientific “studies” supposedly showing nonexistent benefits of chemicals additives to foods as well as insidious practices such as factory farming, all in the name of the Almighty Dollar, I recommend  Patrick Fitzgerald’s The Hundred-Year Lie (Fitzgerald 2006).

That’s just one example of why people who want to be free shouldn’t trust corporations, or politicians backed by corporate donors (the mainstreams of both the Republican and Democratic Parties), any more than they should trust expansionist governments. There are plenty of others. John Perkins (2004) described how his employer, a private “consulting firm,” sent him into so-called Third World nations to cajole their leaders into accepting massive IMF loans to build up infrastructure and move in the direction of Western mass consumption. They did so, and the money went not to the country but to huge construction firms. The countries, as the nominal recipients, found themselves in massive and often unrepayable debt that could be used to control them (e.g., forcing them to allow U.S. military bases on their soil), as well as providing another means of making money, via interest payments, for the global banks that ultimately back such loans. Local political elites could do very well if they cooperated and were willing to sell out their own people. If the people elected a “populist” who saw what was happening, that a corporate noose had been drawn down around his country’s neck and began to drag his feet, the country experienced a “coup,” or the man himself had an “accident” such as a fatal plane crash. Someone “more reasonable” would then be placed in power. Has this happened? Ask informed Panamanians. Or Ecuadorians. Or for that matter, many Chileans who will tell you this kind of thing was going on here in the 1960s and explains why they tilted left and elected Salvador Allende president in 1970. They saw just two options and chose that one that seemed most likely, by kicking out foreign interests, to return the country to autonomy. (It didn’t work, but that is a long story.)

This is because common people of whatever stripe resent reaping only the most limited benefits of adopting Western mass consumption while corporate elites on another continent get rich. Note too that indigenous economies and cultures are frequently ruined by this process (cf. again Norberg-Hodge 2009). And let us remember, finally, most of these cultures never had the (somewhat) financially independent middle class that developed in America beginning in the 1950s and whose fortunes arguably were sabotaged in the 1970s. It had become harder and harder for the power elites — the ownership class, if you will — to keep themselves walled off from the expanding middle class and its rising influence, even more so their children, and prevent their challenging and conceivably hijacking their agenda for the world, as the young did with the Vietnam War (for example). The ongoing destruction of the U.S. middle class has not come exclusively from the political class, although it carries its share of the blame. Where is the locus of power? Nearly every Libertarian and Republican gets this wrong. It is with corporations, not governments, because corporations have the money: which is why we can speak of corporatism as the prevailing economic system of our time (the term neoliberalism is often used, but I believe this term is less informative). With enormous corporate donations to establishment politicians absurdly brought under the umbrella of “free speech” with the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision (2010), corporations had gained more influence over the U.S. political system than ever before until 2015-16 saw the fruits of the grassroots revolt that sent Donald Trump to the White House, whether for better or for worse (the jury, to my mind, is still out).

Final example much closer to home for all of us who think of ourselves as truthtellers, possibly through personal experience yet again: the war against so-called “fake news,” which is really a war against those of us not beholden to the corporate media leviathans. Who are truth-tellers? Those who see through and hence operate outside the premises of the secularist, materialist, corporatist, globalist 20th-21st century mainstream, which (naturally) controls the bulk of media and academic resources, and so can portray truth-tellers as purveyors of “fake news,” as “conspiracy theorists,” or as “neo-Nazis,” or by swinging any damn linguistic club they please! My point is that the war against “fake news” is again primarily corporation-driven, only this time we’re talking about media and tech leviathans. The Washington Post, which started this “fake news” meme last November with an unsourced article referencing a group whose members didn’t even identify themselves, is privately owned (by tech globalist Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame). Google, Facebook, etc., have redesigned their “algorithms” to effectively reduce access to certain content, using the former’s search engine so that alternative news sites simply do not come up in searches which, realistically, are usually limited to a couple of pages of links at the most. Result: by the end of the first quarter of this year we saw a dramatic drop in traffic to alternative websites — including the one I write for semi-regularly, NewsWithViews.com. The idea that something called “the free marketplace of ideas” has been at work here appears to be another myth, because although you and I are smart enough to go to these sites if we want truthful information, Joe Six-Pack typically just follows what his newsfeeds give him. His Internet usage is passive, not active, and so he is easily controlled using incentive systems psychologists (also bankrolled by global corporations and foundations like Ford and Rockefeller) worked out long ago. This has cleared the way, at least somewhat, for media corporations to try to regain some of the credibility they lost last year by (e.g.) predicting that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump in a landslide.

Is my vision as expressed in Part One dystopian? I plead guilty. But from some perspectives, a long term “decline of the West” wouldn’t be all bad, and so shouldn’t be mechanically labeled “pessimism.” As with any major development, it would have plusses and minuses, and even those depend on your point of view. The plusses might be healthier food produced locally and not filled with preservatives, cleaner air and water, and the possibility of less stressful lifestyles which themselves are unhealthy. The biggest minus might be the fact that millions of people will have to rediscover what work is, understood as physical labor as opposed to sitting behind desks tallying up numbers (or whatever) on computer screens all day. A post-collapse economy, after all, will most likely be agrarian, and this will mean: farming. If this be dystopia, make the best of it.

Truthfully, however, we are probably at least two and probably at least three decades away from any such state of affairs on any large scale. Mass consumptivism definitely has the upper hand, and has widespread support because of the ease it brings about, at least, until it makes you sick with a chronic condition, or until the avalanche of unsustainable debt destabilizes the economy.

Where do we go from here? My first suggestion is to embrace a Christian worldview. I am at work on a book about worldviews entitled What Should Philosophy Do? which argues that what it should do is recognize, formulate more precisely, and where necessary, challenge dominant worldviews. I want to kick open the door to a viable metaphysical pluralism, or pluralism about worldviews, and challenge the supremacy of a single worldview, that of materialism, over Western political economy and Western culture. One may, of course, bypass pluralism about worldviews and simply form Christian parallel institutions, if one can fund them.

Second, work piecemeal at minimizing one’s contact, much less dependence, both on governments and on global corporations. I am not a tech person and do not want to be (I may use Facebook but rarely use Twitter and do not have WhatsApp … owned by Google whom I definitely do not trust). There is abundant evidence of how social media is distorting our social fabric and possibly worse. Instead, work at forming and nurturing communities of the like-minded who are working toward greater local autonomy and self-sufficiency, keeping in mind that this is a process and not a single decision or even strategy. Keep in mind that some of these efforts are bound to fail, as did Galt’s Gulch Chile. From failure we learn. It has taken decades of delusions about the possibilities of secular civilization and mass consumption culture, of educational dumbing down (which, arguably, systems based on mass consumption and obedience to authority require), and just plain complacency and negligence to get us into this mess. Assuming the present globalist system holds together, it might take decades to get out of it by creating viable, stable independent communities.

There are topics I haven’t taken up, such as Mr. Allen’s comments on race. It does seem to me that those of us designated “white” built something important: Western civilization, with its sciences, its advanced technological and other systems, and its many creature comforts. No other race can claim such achievements.  Whether this is something specifically “white” or whether it is attributable to other factors is the question, and as we’re pushing at the limits of people’s attention spans here, I am sure, I would prefer to save this discussion for another occasion. So I will just submit the point made by historian Rodney Stark (2005), that without Christianity in place first we would not have had modern science, with presumes as its starting point the intelligibility of the universe to the human mind, the universe having had a rational Creator, the idea (integral to a capitalistic economic system) that its raw materials can be brought under our control, transformed into useful goods, or finally the Enlightenment conception of human rights which takes its point of origin at the idea that we are created in God’s image. These being ideas, nothing makes them race-specific. Western civilization, as it has developed and secularized itself, moreover, moved away from them, proving then to be a mixed bag, with its obsession with growth, which meant imposing mass-consumptivism on the rest of a sometimes-reluctant world. Is there, finally, nothing to be said about the state of affairs in which a group of people small enough to fit into a high school auditorium owns or controls more wealth than the entire bottom half of the world’s population? I don’t think one need be a collectivist, or an egalitarian, or some kind of socialist, to believe capitalism has gone off the rails when it yields such results which are bound to provoke resentment around the world, including at home (for one example see Mishra 2017).

Summing up in this case: I am not a globalist, because I do not see the likelihood of a world as diverse as ours being pulled under a single political-economic order without the necessity of increasingly authoritarian controls—already in place if one knows what to look for. I am only a pessimist when viewed through the secularist lens, because I do not believe in the long-term viability of secular solutions to human problems. I am ultimately an optimist, because I believe in a Kingdom to come. But I have no timetable for its coming (I am not the sort of Christian who expects to be “raptured” off the world any day now!). I am open to the possibility that we are in for a rough ride in the short haul, especially if the Deep State reasserts itself or if such measures as the tax bill just passed by Congress and on its way to President Trump’s desk indeed turns out to be a Christmas gift for the point-zero-zero-one percent, as its critics insist. Therefore, to the charge of having dystopian visions, I again must plead guilty.

 

REFERENCES FOR PARTS ONE, TWO, AND THREE

Dean Allen. 2012. Rattlesnake Revolution: The Tea Party Strikes! Hill-Pehle Publishing.

Patrick Fitzgerald. 2006. The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health. Dutton.

Francis Fukuyama. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. The Free Press.

Martin Gilens & Benjamin I. Page. 2014. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” Perspectives on Politics Vol. 12, #3, pp. 564-81.

Helena Norberg-Hodge. 2009. Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World. Sierra Club Books.

Pankaj Mishra. 2017. Age of Anger: A History of the Present. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

John Perkins. 2004. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Berret-Koehler Publishers.

Carroll Quigley. Orig. 1966. Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. Macmillan; GSG & Associates.

Chuck Schumer & Paul Craig Roberts. 2004. “Second Thoughts on Free Trade.” New York Times, January 6.

Rodney Stark. 2005. The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Random House.

Steven Yates. 2011. Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic. Brush Fire Press International.

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Globalism: Optimism, Pessimism, and Dystopian Visions. (Part Two.)

It gives me a certain gratitude to be able to introduce the first post on Lost Generation Philosopher the bulk of which was written by someone other than myself. Dean Allen — author (see Allen 2012*), longstanding Republican Party activist and proud Tea Party member from South Carolina, my former home state, someone whose intellect I respect and who respects mine — penned the following in response to a slightly earlier version of what appeared two days ago as Part One. Why is it here? Because I thought it was a well-intentioned and fair-minded critique, and that many of its points are worthy of further discussion. (In other words, one may note this as exemplifying respect for Free Speech!) I worked out a response over a period of two days which was rejected by whatever algorithms are in play on Facebook, whether the post was too controversial or simply too long and containing too many big words. I decided to bypass Facebook, and my response will appear in two more days as Part Three.

In case this discussion seems unusual for a philosophy blog: we would agree, I think (Dean and I) that philosophy is nothing if it does not or cannot address real world problems at some point, using the analytic tools at its disposal which I’ve discussed in previous posts. As a philosopher who is not a professor and will never see tenure, I am not bound by the limitations professors face these days, which is why I feel free to discuss globalism, “conspiracies,” etc., as I find them, rather than kowtow to institutions and a profession that was neutered years ago. Professional philosophy may be recoverable, but only if its worth can be rediscovered outside the controlled environment of academia.

In any event, that being a longer story than I can get into here, we continue with Mr. Allen’s post. The only changes I made were to put in paragraphs (which he requested, as it is inconvenient to do on Facebook) and smooth out some wording here and there in ways that hopefully left the meaning unaltered.

 

DEAN ALLEN to STEVEN YATES:

 

Steven, you fail to address another possible dichotomy. While you and I share a common background and many philosophical values, there is still a wide gulf between us. You are correct it is not racial, we are both white and not entirely partisan, I concede a leftist element inside the GOP we have not yet expelled.

However, there is a huge gulf between us that results in your frequently dystopian diatribes. Yes, when it comes to being a pessimist, you are as strident an orthodox, hidebound, pessimist as ever put pen to paper. You have made an honest effort to avoid racial and partisan language where such language stifles honest communication and intellectual discussion. You have tried, with less success, to avoid any left-right dichotomy. I mention with less success because success in that endeavor is quite impossible if we are going to understand and respond to differences between individualism and collectivism. We are on the same side there, both being individualists, therefore that is not our fundamental difference.

The difference between us is you are a pessimist, a defeatist, and have already surrendered to a very dystopian world view. That could serve you well if you made your living writing fiction of the Mad Max variety, rather than teaching philosophy. I on the other hand have a much more optimistic view of the future of both the United States and the world. You have heard the old adage a pessimist laments an adverse wind, an optimist looks forward to the adverse wind changing, while a realist merely adjusts his sails to the prevailing wind. The latter course is, in reality, merely a more pragmatic optimism. You must first be an optimist to believe it is possible to adjust your sails to the wind and you must believe it is possible, before you are able to do it.

We who are the optimistic individualists made a fantastic leap forward last year when we nominated, and then elected, Donald J. Trump to the presidency! Since our president is, by intelligent design, not a monarch with absolute powers, President Trump cannot simply order things put right and have it happen. However, he has made great strides in the past eleven months and I look for a lot more in the next seven years. Nor does my optimism rest upon one man or one political party. Brexit has shown nationalism and individual rights to be ascendant in our mother country as well. Marine Le Pen and others have demonstrated the spirit of freedom is also alive and well on the continent of Europe. While our European cousins have not enjoyed as dramatic a change as the Trump presidency, they are making great progress in the right direction.

Your morbid fear of corporations, like your fear of organized political parties, is misplaced. The greatest existential threats to western civilization do not come from Democrats (in reality communists now), Republicans, or corporations. The greatest threats come from the twin terrors of Islam and the benign acceptance of racism against white men. The enemies of freedom have long understood they must destroy white men and the civilization we built if they are to erect something else in its place. For 60 years the defense of the white man was relegated to the sorriest examples of white men and to organizations devoid of both intellectuals and political strategists. These would-be defenders of white civilization were crippled by the poison of anti-Semitism, a fatalistic view of religion, and hatred of other races based on the same flawed Zero Sum Game philosophy of the far left. The reality is, defense of the white man does not require attacking or tearing down other racial groups. It does require acknowledging and accepting very real differences. Whether we white men are “superior” is a subjective determination. That we are different and have produced unique results in the world, are factual matters we have been too timid to defend. The late Ayn Rand once lamented our lack of attention to epistemology, pointing out, when we allow our adversaries to define our language and the terms we use, we have already lost.

Steven, the time has come for another revolution. Not merely a revolution designed to throw off the yoke of a tyrant by force; but also an intellectual revolution. One where we retake and assert the fundamental truths that the civilization built mostly by English and Irish white men is indeed superior to every other system that has been devised by any group of men in history, anywhere on earth. Ancestors of our British cousins gave the world the English language, common law, and the free enterprise system over a period of a millennium and a half. We here in America, including my own Irish ancestors, refined and perfected those foundations of civilization. We can defend, and are defending, the virtue of the American system. You may question a claim of racial supremacy. What cannot be questioned is the fact one race, white men, almost exclusively British and Irish, produced on the North American continent, a system of government that definitely has been superior to everything else ever produced anywhere else. People of all races within our geographical borders have benefited from our superior system, but only to the degree they assimilated into our unique American culture. As we reassert the supremacy of our culture, we are driving away the dystopian nightmare you fear, making it less probable with each passing day.

*I reply on Thursday, December 21, 2017. All bibliographic references will be listed in the usual place at the end.

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Globalism: Optimism, Pessimism, and Dystopian Visions. (Part One.)

[Author´s note: this is the first of a three-part set. Originally intended as a single post, what I originally had in mind got far too long for a single post. Thus it will appear in three parts starting with Part One today, with Part Two appearing Tuesday morning and Part Three appearing Thursday morning. This first part introduces the Main Statement, I will call it. The second part is one of the rare posts here whose bulk was written by someone else. In this case, my South Carolina friend and a longstanding GOP strategist, Dean Allen, who criticizes the Main Statement. In the third part, I reply to the criticism. All bibliographic references will be listed at the end on Thursday.]

What, precisely, is globalism (besides a word we aren’t supposed to use in polite company!)? Does it differ from globalization, and if so, how?

For my purposes I will turn these two around. Globalization is a complex tendency, economic at its core, perhaps, but often suggestive of more. It involves integrating economies or parts of them through cross-borders international trade. This has been going on for centuries, at least since the founding of Dutch East and British East at the start of the 1600s, and probably long before. Given that different nations and different regions have different goods and can satisfy different needs and wants, the tendency makes sense. David Ricardo believed that free trade making use of what he called comparative advantage of each nation benefitted both. Globalization can go beyond economics, as I suggested. There have always been a few folks who are curious about the different places and different cultures existing over the horizon. Some wish to explore what is going on over there, as it were. Others, to share artistic and other products of their own culture. Globalization in all these senses is healthy. It will bring a range of people goods that they want, and it need not affect those who do not want involvement with it; and it will enable cultural sharing and exchanges for mutual educational benefit and enjoyment.

Globalism I define as more political in nature (although in my opinion there is ultimately no fine line between the economic and the political). To a great extent globalism as an political-economic philosophy piggybacks on globalization in the above sense. It is the conscious and planned effort of a select few not just to integrate economies or share cultures but to bring them more and more under a single system of transnational governance, ostensibly to manage and regulate the global economy delivered under globalist efforts. The globalist ideal would include not just a governing structure, almost certainly backed financially by corporations who would expect to gain from it, but major media to promote its goals and values, directly or indirectly, and education aimed at producing a cooperative workforce. Ultimately it would gravitate towards establishing a global currency as far more efficient than the system of multiple fiat currencies we have now with their constantly fluctuating exchange rates. The digital realm would make transfers simple and more easily monitored, with security issues the biggest threat to the system and source of complications.

Globalization, meanwhile, has fallen under a skeptical microscope. In a classic article (Schumer & Roberts 2004) Paul Craig Roberts noted how advancing technology had increased the mobility of capital so that the proper relationship between nations was no longer comparative but the absolute advantage of nations with abundant cheap labor, no benefits, no environmental restrictions, etc., explaining further that “free trade” was now doing more harm than good by outsourcing middle class jobs and deindustrializing the First World. He did not consider, at least not directly, whether this was an accident of history or more directed by globalists atop global corporations who stood to profit immensely from all such developments.

So is either one a “good thing”? Does globalization still mean greater prosperity for all in the long run (it is hard to argue that it has not benefited the developing world)? Or is it now a cover for something fundamentally authoritarian, possibly even potentially totalitarian (de facto if not de jure), based on systems of controls over populations that are necessary given that many of the peoples brought under its umbrella either do not trust the ruling classes that would further such goals, or each other, or both? My view has gravitated towards the latter. Hence I am not a globalist. Nevertheless, the advances of globalism have been one of the primary political-economic realities of the past century. If we want a truthful perspective on what is happening in the world, we cannot avoid talking about them.

Movements such as Brexit, and at least a portion of those in the grassroots rebellion in the U.S. that supported Donald Trump, are fundamentally antiglobalist. I know, I know, many mainstream writers say it was racial resentment which Trump inflamed, that not all the white people who voted for him were struggling members of the working class, etc., etc. I do not deny that some had these motives, but neither do I see them as illustrating the fundamental conflict in the advanced world, which is not between whites and minorities, so called, but between a kleptocratic superelite and the general population of whatever race. There are enough who see themselves not only being hung out to dry as a result of forces they never took a vote on, but demonized as “deplorable.” The situation is actually worse. Writers such as Dmitry Orlov suggest that they could just as easily be labeled expendables!

Over a number of weeks I have crafted a concise statement for use on forums and comments sections that departs from philosophy per se to say something about where the world has been heading for at least the past 70 years, and will almost assuredly continue heading with only the most limited challenges if by some chance what Special Investigator Robert Mueller’s bloodhounds and all left-liberals want comes to pass, this being the end of the Trump administration by whatever means are necessary. The most likely outcome of such an event would be replacing Trump with the more controllable Mike Pence. I do not know the probability of this happening, as there are many factors not easily quantified. It may not even be that high, especially if Republicans retain control over Congress. This leaves aside the possibility (some would say likelihood) that Trump will not change anything. The present GOP tax reform bill making its way towards the president’s desk has been criticized as favoring the rich, which means: those who tend to favor a globalist perspective, whether Trump intends this or not.

My Main Statement tries to avoid as much as possible the usual unhelpful “left” versus “right” bromides as well as other dichotomies that are probably useless (e.g., Republican versus Democrat as there are several types of each with globalists at the “center” of both). Do note that by corporatism, a concept crying out for far more attention than it has received (although there is a good statement here), I mean systems of political economy in which corporations and governments work closely together to create and impose policy. Where this differs from fascism is that with fascism properly understood, government is in the driver’s seat. With corporatism, global corporations are in the driver’s seat. How can this be? Very simple. They have the money and so control the purse strings. The term corporatocracy, finally, is looser and refers to transnational systems of informal controls that have the same fundamental effects as global-spanning governance directed by corporations as well as transnational organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank.

Here, in any event, is the Main Statement:

“ (1) We have seen, for a very long time now and going into high gear after the Soviet Union collapsed, an increasing consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of a few corporatists / global elites who answer only to each other, at the helm of a global corporatocracy answering to no one. Democracy in the U.S., meanwhile, has been quantitatively shown to be fundamentally fraudulent: the policies furthered by political elites seldom if ever reflect the will and concerns of the informed public (Gilens & Page 2014). What major policies reflect is the collective will of moneyed interests. This is hardly a new insight, it is true, but the situation clearly worsened beginning at the time of the so-called “end of history” (Fukuyama 1992), and worsened magnitudes more with the financial crisis of 2008-09.

“ (2) Since those with economic power are hardly Misesian or Austrian “free marketers” who truly believe the global economy either can or should be run without top-down regulations built into “free trade” agreements (too many of the players from different cultures not trusting one another), the global elite will gradually instill world government at the center of a global regulatory scheme, just as such agreements between European nations eventually gave us the corrupt and authoritarian EU. For decades the United Nations clearly saw itself as an emerging world government. What we see now, in what some call the “Davos culture,” is far more advanced than what the bureaucratic and dysfunctional UN has been capable of.

“ (3) We will see, in the near future, moves against the U.S. dollar and towards a global currency; that currency will almost certainly be digital and will almost certainly employ blockchain technology and look an awful lot like Bitcoin minus the supposed anonymity of present-day cryptocurrencies. This is in accordance with the ongoing cold war against cash transactions which cannot be monitored. (This latter, incidentally, includes civil forfeiture laws in the U.S. which allow police to literally steal cash from any citizens foolhardy enough to keep large amounts of cash on their persons or in their vehicles. Police have confiscated hundreds of thousands of dollars from citizens not accused of any crime using such laws. Only drug dealers, terrorists, and other criminals need to use or are likely to have large amounts of cash, goes the social sanction argument which has fallen into place, and which will eventually be used to demonize and then criminalize unmonitored cash transactions.)

“ (4) The U.S. middle class will continue to disappear, except for hierarchies of functionaries who have decided that their best options are to serve the elites by administering their policies and using mainstream corporate media to sell them to the masses with whatever sugarcoating is necessary; this, too, has been going on for decades. Growing middle classes elsewhere, e.g., in Latin America, will remain relatively small, and successfully walled off from the elite ownership class in the corporatocracy (e.g., Chile’s run-off election just a couple of days away as of this writing is between a center-left globalist and a center-right globalist; those of us living on investments are supporting the center-right globalist because center-right globalism is investor-friendly and it isn’t like we have much of a choice). What emerges as a reasonable inference from any examination of recent history: globalists do not want a financially independent middle class able to extricate itself from their systems and, conceivably, challenge them.

“ (5) The world as a whole will move towards a technologically-advanced form of feudalism, with most developed-nation workers (over 70% for sure) consigned to the precarity of the “gig economy”; it will be financially and logistically impossible for these workers to establish power bases of their own. This will continue for as long as the elites can maintain this system’s stability (or until God Himself intervenes!). A few theatrical “wars and rumors of wars” will make for good distractions while killing a lot of people and destroying a lot of lives for no good reason, alongside dramatic mass murders such as those of Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas. As long as Joe Six-Pack can keep watching sports and the Kardashians on television, however, he is satisfied.

“ (6) Education will continue its collapse into the vocationalism of STEM subjects, both because the cost of higher education has gotten so astronomical that students are understandably thinking “jobs, jobs, jobs,” to pay off their student loan debts, and because the disciplines necessary for “big picture” critical thinking, enabling a person to see and put together for himself or herself precisely what is going on have already been neutered or destroyed. These are the much-maligned traditional liberal arts, and when one looks at academic liberal arts today, aside from very highly specialized areas of academic analytic philosophy, what one sees is mostly identity politics, the politics of division according to collective grievance, the only unity of which is found in its seething hatred of the Straight White Christian Male, whose historical achievements are being slowly but steadily demoted, deemed “racist, sexist or misogynist, homophobic, transphobic,” or whatever the newest “phobia-of-the-week” might be.

“ (7) Massive propaganda efforts by mainstream “economists” proclaiming TINA (There Is No Alternative … to “globalization”) will continue. This last is what the elites care about, of course. I doubt very much that the .0001% at the very top cares about whether black lives matter, how many women are in their midst, whether gays can marry or which restrooms “transgenders” can use.

A dystopian vision? I do not deny that it is! But this is where we were as the Obama years drew to a close. Barack Obama may have been the First Black President but he was also a globalist who did as much as anyone had to further the above causes, which included furthering the war machine and destroying nations like Libya under the watch of his then Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Trumpism” to the extent it exists as a kind of gut-level way of thinking at the grassroots of those who voted for Donald Trump was an attempt at a rebellion against this, as well as its manifestations such as illegal immigration and open borders policies, informed by Internet alternative media. Some of the latter had exposed the agenda and tried to offer alternatives to globalist economics and identity politics. These alternatives, some going back several years, have had both “left” incarnations (e.g., the now-neutered Syriza Party in Greece) and “right” ones: Brexit, Marine Le Pen’s failed candidacy in France, the present administrations in Poland and Hungary, etc.

There are also “localization” movements that are difficult to pigeonhole and at present have to be found by searching the Internet as they do not get huge government grants and cannot afford massive self-promotion / publicity campaigns (for one important statement see Norberg-Hodge 2009). As long as so-called progressives continued to be hobbled by identity-politics (which includes last year’s fixation among Democrats extending to the corrupt DNC with electing Hillary as the First Woman President) they will fail to do anything except cause conflict and misery. They will not identify the real enemy. The real enemy is not the Straight White Christian Male. The real enemy is the globalist corporatocracy whose loyalties are to money and power, not to any nation, any political party or specific program other than the one outlined here, nor to a race or ethnicity (white people as such), nor any cultural identity. Their wealth buys governments and transnational entities (e.g., the UN & the WTO).

And as long as the majority of pundits and pseudo-intellectuals dismiss this sort of claim as a “conspiracy theory,” the brilliant meme concocted by the CIA back in 1967 to circumvent criticism of the Warren Commission Report’s whitewash of the JFK assassination, and which continues to this day to be applied to any question of official narratives, and are believed, nothing substantive will change … even as those who profess great learning scratch their heads at Trump’s continued successes maintaining the loyalty of his base….”

[Part Two in two days….]

Posted in Donald Trump, Political Economy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Does a Technology-Driven Civilization Need Liberal Arts Learning?

To say higher education in the U.S. is in poor shape may be the understatement of the century. Whether it is due to outrageous and still-rising tuition payments now made by undergraduates and students in professional programs who will graduate with five and sometimes six figures of student loan debt; whether it is the fact, which we know from data-based evidence, that they are not learning anything of significance (Arum & Roksa 2011); whether it is the bloated administrations whose priorities often leave much to be desired; whether we look at the politically correct faculty and now student groups chasing windmills of “white privilege” and the widely-publicized disruptions of appearances by conservative speakers now led by students themselves (as if during intermissions on their way to indentured servitude); can the fact that major institutions are in trouble be any more evident?

Their troubles are made worse by the fact that spokespeople for the entire system of higher education seem to want to conceal from themselves how much trouble the entire enterprise is in. American colleges and universities are supposed to be the best in the world, and students still come from overseas to study in them based on reputations established decades past. Many of us are predicting this will soon change. Why has all this happened? I was recently asked this by a friend, to whom I responded that if I attempted a full explanation with all the right references, I’d be working on it for the rest of the decade. What matters is that the problems are likely to get worse before they have any chance of getting better. Administrators are comfortable as their salaries push seven figures; many if not most tenured faculty are just as comfortable as if unaware of their dwindling numbers amidst the “adjunctification” of academia. The comfortable usually don’t budge unless fires, figuratively speaking, are built under them.

The liberal arts and humanities in particular are in trouble. Many highly visible programs in major universities have gained reputations as repositories of ideology-driven “studies” of various sorts, launching pads giving expression to identity politics. What has to be noted about identity politics is that it is very much out of accord with principles recognized not just in the U.S. Constitution but (as I’ve noted before, and elsewhere) in the bulk of the Western Enlightenment tradition itself (at least, as it existed prior to Hegel and his stepchildren). Justifiable efforts to equalize opportunities for all long ago, beginning in earnest in the 1960s, had morphed into preferential programs of various sorts by the 1980s, with the mindset of political correctness evolving to protect those programs from sustained intellectual evaluation and criticism (Yates 1994).

Today the situation is vastly worse! To even attempt to criticize an identity politics that applies to everyone except straight white Christian men is to be not just a “racist” (a word losing its sting from overuse) but a “white supremacist,” a “misogynist,” a “fascist,” or a “neo-Nazi.” Much of this, I submit, is desperate but determined pushback against an essentially traditionally-minded population of mostly white people who found a way to resist these tendencies by voting for Donald Trump last year (whether he best represents any viable resistance is another matter entirely). This resistance is just one aspect of a larger rebellion against the globalist mindset of elite cosmopolitans of the big cities, the “blue culture” I discussed in a couple of previous posts, and its professions of “expertise”: often just the dominance of the opinions of those with the most resources to promote them and the will to confuse their opinions with proven fact.

But this misses the point about higher education and liberal arts programs that have been hijacked by identity-politics.

Do we even need the liberal arts anymore? Have they been superseded by science and technology?

This is, after all, a technology-driven society. Technology companies and other businesses want employees who can code, design, etc., or sell products or otherwise just get things done. What does liberal arts learning contribute to this? Among those who have piled on, with well-publicized statements that “humanities” subjects are worse than useless and ought to simply be defunded, are self-described conservative Republicans. The Scott Walkers of the political world wouldn’t mind, I don’t think, if entire colleges that stress liberal arts simply closed down, once legislative axes have been taken to their funding and if they were unable to find private support on their own (or survive massive tuition hikes).

We have, moreover, entered an era when, given the expense and employers’ frequent complaints that they cannot find qualified employees for what job openings exist, that the value of a college or university degree itself is starting to be called into question.

While perhaps understandable — after all, employers have no interest in pandering to university graduates demanding “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” — this is sadly short-sighted. Let’s see if we can put our fingers on why.

Consider first this piece bemoaning how some in the corporate world question the value of a college degree. A close reading reveals a false dichotomy that cries out for exposure and sound analysis. The dichotomy: students’ only viable choices are between the politicized “zombie studies” degrees to be found in liberal arts hijacked by identity politics (the phrase is used in the article), and vocationalism of various levels (at the top for the very smart, STEM subjects, and for those with less mathematical acuity, welding and other hands-on programs at technical colleges). The first renders a person unemployable outside of academia, which in today’s landscape means the poverty of precarious, part-time teaching (“adjunctification”). With the latter, one is employable if one has the skills that fit the fickle demands of the marketplace. While there is, of course, room for these, I believe we need more.

The third alternative not mentioned is the article linked to above is real education. What do I mean, real education? Admitted, my use of real in this context is rhetorical, but appropriate to our times, in which we have a media-saturated mainstream drowning in the misdirected, the fake, the artificial, the simplistic, and the evasive. Real education is not simply about earning a living. It is about how to live in society: how to gain and use solid critical thinking skills to evaluate the claims that come one’s way via media (including, obviously, social media) for their truth-content; how to judge the performance of our so-called leaders relative to our founding principles or principles that have been regarded as central in our civilization; and equally important, how to recognize abuse of language, words and phrases used as clubs to beat people into submission (such some of those listed above), and hidden premises, perhaps ideas broad and sweeping but left unstated and therefore assumed, not argued for, with the hope that no one will notice.

Real education thus includes philosophy and religion, critical thinking and logic, history (both American and world), literature and art, foreign languages, and so on. It will not exclude the study of non-Western cultures when these cultures have something important to teach us, as they sometimes do (cf., e.g., Norberg-Hodge 1991 & 2009). Such education will provide students with a basis for participating in the many ongoing conversations, especially about culture and values: including whether there are transcendent values on which to base a moral point of view that offers diagnoses of Western civilization’s most pressing problems and points to constructive solutions.

This alternative is now almost completely overlooked in the shouting matches over such things as free speech on campus (!). Such values as that one need to have been planted in the student’s mind before they leave high school. No, free speech is not an absolute. It was never intended to protect calls for deadly force and violence, for example. But it does protect informed dissent from dominant points of view, and intellectual space for alternatives to exist. This requires something many of today’s college and university students clearly lack: the ability to appreciate opinions other than their own, and to distinguish disagreement from “hate” or invocations of “violence.” 

Everything I have said so far is, I believe, consistent with a conservative intellectual point of view, which at one time would have been regarded as common-sensical. This article documents informally that this point of view has basically disappeared from the campus environment. Its few remaining defenders are in their 70s or older, and are dying off rapidly. I can count the number of academic philosophers who espouse some kind of conservatism on the fingers of one hand; there may, of course, be more, even in the under-70 generations, but if they exist they’ve kept their heads down as a survival strategy (especially, as is likely the case these days, they don’t have tenure).

If conservative speakers have to be brought in by college Republican groups (yes, believe it or not, these still exist) from off campus, the reason is that there are practically no conservatives on campus who can speak to students with authority. There are possibly no faculty members willing or able to represent conservatism however understood.

We see the results, which can only be described as repression and censorship. If there is justice in the world, colleges and universities will rue the day they decided en masse to write conservatives out of academic disciplines, marginalize them and their works, kick them off campus or refuse to hire them in the first place, and are now able to demonize them as “fascists” (a word that used to mean something), or libel them as “white supremacists,” “haters,” etc. ad nauseam: these terms listed again in the wake of my above remark about the use of language as equivalent to club-swinging.

For one thing, conservatives out in the real world vote. Hillary Clinton may have learned this the hard way, that it might be a bad idea to denounce a sizable fraction of the electorate, those pushing back against the globalism of the elites and the identity politics of academics, as a “basket of deplorables”! Some conservatives have money, moreover. They may have earned it doing something useful to society, as opposed to writing unreadable tomes of “gender studies” while living at the expense of taxpayers. Some conservatives run for public office, thinking or hoping they can make a difference. Some are in positions of influence now, where they can wield the axes I mentioned, reducing taxpayer funding for colleges and universities under the (possibly reasonable) assumption that this is the only language the latter understand in what are perceived (again reasonably) as ideological echo chambers and playgrounds for the identity politics of the week.

For these institutions are literally stealing from students via tuition that climbs to ever more outrageous levels nearly every year, while preparing them for little more than debt-driven indentured servitude. Students themselves have every reason to question this system, and one wishes more of them would do it. These days, though, that will mean escaping mass brainwashing by identity politics clearly going well back into public high school and possibly even grade school: that somehow, by some magical means, the straight white Christian male as some kind of abstract entity is responsible for all of Western capitalist civilization’s ills.

Our initial question was: does technology-driven society need the liberal arts? I think we’ve answered that question with a firm and resounding Yes! This article by John Naughton goes a long way to explain why, drawing on the concrete situation the technology world behind social media finds itself in. Naughton begins by noting the dismay of the techies that platforms such as Facebook have been misused, being used to create the echo chambers that have spilled out into the real world and contributed massively to our increasingly polarized society.

The architects of social media all studied STEM subjects (or, like Zuckerberg, were studying them before they dropped out of school). Their educations feature very little liberal arts. Doubtless these are smart people, good at what they do, but they do not understand either human nature or politics. Naturally they are blindsided by the idea that not just advertisers but those with political agendas could use their platforms to target people with ideologically-polarizing messages.

Two crucial paragraphs of Naughton’s article state this case better than I ever could on my own, and are worth reproducing in full:

“Now mathematics, engineering and computer science are wonderful disciplines – intellectually demanding and fulfilling. And they are economically vital for any advanced society. But mastering them teaches students very little about society or history – or indeed about human nature. As a consequence, the new masters of our universe are people who are essentially only half-educated. They have had no exposure to the humanities or the social sciences, the academic disciplines that aim to provide some understanding of how society works, of history and of the roles that beliefs, philosophies, laws, norms, religion and customs play in the evolution of human culture.

“We are now beginning to see the consequences of the dominance of this half-educated elite. As one perceptive observer Bob O’Donnell puts it, ‘a liberal arts major familiar with works like Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, or even the work of ancient Greek historians, might have been able to recognise much sooner the potential for the ‘tyranny of the majority’ or other disconcerting sociological phenomena that are embedded into the very nature of today’s social media platforms.’ While seemingly democratic at a superficial level, a system in which the lack of structure means that all voices carry equal weight, and yet popularity, not experience or intelligence, actually drives influence, is clearly in need of more refinement and thought than it was first given.”

In other words, social media architects lack real education as I outlined it above, as probably do most of their employees who also have great technology skills but no understanding of the issues raised by all the “fake news” allegations, or those about “conspiracy theories,” and so on.

Getting rid of liberal arts learning altogether, as some Republicans promote, would not merely make matters worse. We would go from the frying pan into the fire, as it were. It may be the case that liberal arts and humanities disciplines have been hijacked and mostly destroyed by identity politics. The response, though, is to recreate these disciplines, having extracted the destructive elements from them.

Now comes the hard part. How do we accomplish such a thing?

The idea of creating alternative educational institutions and networks is tempting. Such efforts exist already (I once attended one myself to see what insights I could glean from the experience). They market to people who look at higher education as it presently exists and do not like what they see.

They can offer programs that are vastly less expensive because they operate without layers upon layers of bureaucracy. They are, therefore, mobile, flexible and adaptive, and more attuned to problem solving even in the vocational arena: as vocationalists would say, in the real world. They have the potential to pick up the ball mainstream brick-and-mortar institutions have dropped. Given the ready availability of the technology, many operate entirely or almost entirely online instead of in physical settings. Instead of pushing ideology, they promote skills and continuous learning as well as networking and community.

Some writers predict the demise of the mainstream brick-and-mortar institutions except, perhaps, for the most famous with the largest endowments (Carey 2015).

There are problems, however. The first obvious problem is that most employers still look for standard university credentials on that resume, as opposed to whatever certificates of mastery are achieved from accomplishing projects at an alternative institution the employer has never heard of. Those founding the new institutions could reply that in an era in which employment opportunities are likely to diminish because of advancing robotics, automation, etc., their goal is to produce entrepreneurs, not employees: people with “anti-fragility” in Nassim Taleb’s sense (Taleb 2012). Yet not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, and for those who are so suited, markets for almost any product eventually get saturated. As the “niches” get smaller and more specialized, the demands on even highly mobile and adaptive entrepreneurs climb ever higher. An entrepreneurial system, not unlike standard corporate capitalism, requires economic space for potentially infinite growth in a finite world. So I am unsure that trying to turn everyone into an entrepreneur is the answer.

There are other problems. My experience (which is, of course, just one person’s) is that the user-interfaces are often unnecessarily complicated, resulting in websites that are difficult to navigate. In another case, just the opposite is the problem: there is little on the homepage except for an APPLY NOW button and a start date for the next session. With no information about what one is applying for except some very generalized and inspirational slogans, how many people are going to apply even if the cost is a fraction of what they would pay at a four-year university? Matters are made worse when specific website features such as links do not work properly or conveniently, or annoying pop-ups appear that cannot be closed without closing the page. One other recent experience of mine exploring an education-for-entrepreneurship site that looked otherwise interesting had all these technical issues, plus one more: a chat operator to whom I could not reply because while there was a reply window there was no SEND option! As I wanted to reply, I copied and pasted my reply into a Word file, and when I attempted to upload the file, received: FILE TYPE NOT SUPPORTED. What? They do not support Word files???

That was when I lost interest.

Technical issues aside, nearly all these endeavors appear to be glorified technology and start-up business incubators. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with establishing such endeavors. But if we are going to replace the absurdly expensive and culturally self-destructive brick-and-mortar institutions with something that will do good in civilization, we need to build into the new ones a renewed commitment to liberal arts learning as it began at the start of the Enlightenment, and for the reasons noted above. There must be a place in any sound educational endeavor for critical thinking and its logical foundations, for historical case studies of the various attempts we have made to organize socially and economically in various ways, and to what extent these have worked or failed to work and why — and above all, have a conversation on what worldviews are and what role they play in civilization.

Conservatives might find a home in such endeavors, where they can raise fundamental questions about whether sound morality must have a transcendent source (such as the Christian God) or whether describing it as a cultural artifact will suffice, and whether social change and experimentation are desirable as ends in themselves or simply distracting or damaging to those involved and those affected. They might well note that from a logical point of view, if morality is nothing but a cultural artifact, so that right and wrong are determined by cultural authority and enforced via political authority and economic structures, then those societies that practice slavery are not subject to the criticism we might think, as slavery is nothing more than a practice their society has chosen to use even it it is one ours has rejected. If any leftists read this, they will doubtless have a blast quoting that out of context. But they cannot have their cake and eat it, too. They cannot both reject slavery and declare racism to be abhorrent while also maintaining that all moral judgment is bound by time, place, culture, and context. It is a sign of today’s limited learning that such logic escapes them.

I do not know if such education will be “marketable” in today’s environment. Mainstream education, down to the primary level, has gotten so appallingly bad that the questions we’re trying to raise in the minds of those on the verge of adulthood are barely understood, much less tolerated. It concerns me that in the present environment an independent online institute emphasizing liberal arts learning might draw the interest of no one except those for whom money is not a concern, i.e., children of wealthy elites or at least the comfortable, the result being no “skin in the game” but rather a sense of this being an intellectual game.

But then again: do we simply want to assume, with Libertarians more than conservatives, that a market-based economy is sufficient to solve the problem we are addressing here: sustaining liberal arts learning in civilization, under the idea that sustained liberal arts learning is a civilizational need, independently of whether it is a (marketable) want. Neither Libertarians nor conservatives seem to want to face this question.

To put it still more basically: what if the Non-Aggression Principle is not marketable?! (By that I mean: what if it is marketable to such a small segment of the population as to have no demonstrable effect on the body politic as a whole?)

Bottom line: a technology-driven society, to be sustainable, needs liberal arts learning as traditionally understood. It needs to allow space for posing the Big Questions about life, morality and its foundations, the role of faith communities, and the best ways of organizing ourselves in a finite world of competing interests. When liberal arts programs are hijacked by those whose motives are questionable because intellectual curiosity and the desire for a better world for all is not what drives them (identity-politics), or deemed expendable (any number of outspoken Republicans), we get the kind of situation we have now and find ourselves looking at a downward spiral.

I am confident that we will not find solutions if we do not look for them, and I also think we Westerners are rapidly running out of time.

REFERENCES

Arum, Richard, & Roksa, Josipa. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Carey, Kevin. The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere. New York: Riverhead Books, 2015.

Norberg-Hodge. Ancient Futures: Lessons From Ladakh for a Globalizing World. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991, 2009.

Yates, Steven. Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action. San Francisco: ICS Press, 1994.

Posted in Academia, Culture, Higher Education Generally, Philosophy, Political Economy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Euthyphro’s Frustration (An Occasional Philosophical Note #1)

Note: with this post I am beginning a series of shorter posts to lay out specific foundational issues illustrated in basic philosophical texts which, for my purposes, I will take at face value (i.e., I am not “deconstructing” them or some such, but using them to ponder basic problems about the prevailing premises, preoccupations, and direction of Western philosophy). 

In Plato’s The Euthyphro, the character Euthyphro struggles trying to supply what Socrates wants: an essential definition of piety. For Plato, this is a definition consistent with the Platonist metaphysics of universals (or forms) as the primary reality — abstractions grasped by intellect alone as being “real” while our immediate experience of concrete objects and events delivers, at best, an unreliable concatenation of particulars.

Euthyphro’s efforts fail in increasingly interesting ways, of course, and finally, out of frustration, he abandons the conversation. The dialogue drips with Socratic irony: Euthyphro (as every introductory philosophy student learns) is prosecuting his father for the neglectful murder of a slave, and this action bespeaks of a man well advanced in wisdom. Socrates alone knows that he is not wise, and has implored Euthyphro to teach him. We are to see Socrates as the wise one, of course, and Euthyphro as a pretender.

But why should we attribute Euthyphro’s frustration and ultimate abandonment of the project at the end of the dialogue to his lack of wisdom, or insight, or ability? If we make the contrary supposition that Plato, and Aristotle in a somewhat different way, were wrong, because there are no “universals” (only universal ideas, or universal statements), then Euthyphro’s frustration is explained and perhaps justified.

Suppose, furthermore, that all knowledge obtained by human means really is local (as an anthropologist like Cliffort Geertz or the philosopher Paul Feyerabend would insist): tied to specific concrete practices, problem-solutions, events, personalities. In that case, the situation in Western philosophy is far more serious. For it follows that the Platonist premise of free abstractions as primary metaphysical realities, in some kind of hierarchy with the Good at the very top, and abstract certainty achieved through pure intellection as the primary criterion for knowing, threw the entire philosophical enterprise off track around 2,400 years ago! In that case, all the “system-builders” turn out to be wrong; the “system-smashers” turn out to be right. That the “quest for certainty” seems always to have ended in skepticism if pushed with sufficient ruthlessness, or to have devolved into some kind of anthropological cultural relativism or compromising pragmatism which (possibly sensibly) has relaxed requirements for knowing, is a telling further consideration.

 

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“Reality 101”

[Note: cross-posted on the news and commentary site NewsWithViews.com as https://newswithviews.com/reality-101/ with a few minor changes.]

Time for something different. I’ve written a novel. As I write this, it’s 98% finished (all but massaging and embellishing). It will be marketed as the “first novel of the Trump era.” Well, one can hope. I’d been planning to try my hand at fiction if Hillary Clinton had won last year. Even though she didn’t, the idea had taken root, and since I needed no precognitive abilities to know how the Establishment would react to the Trump victory, I decided to run with it anyway.

I’ve been directing my own effort to raise money for an international promotion effort. So far, the effort hasn’t met with as much success as I would prefer. Without promotion there is little point, though. So whether this will actually be published if it does not find its way into the hands of a major publisher is iffy. I am not a wealthy person.

Why write fiction?

The late philosopher of science and historian of ideas Paul Feyerabend (discussed briefly in my last article) once penned a short essay entitled “Let’s Make More Movies!” (1975). Despite the playful title it isn’t light reading. The basic idea: there are ways of getting a point across other than didactic argument. Authors, playwrights, and writers for cinema have all used them. So — and these are the cases that interested Feyerabend — have scientific geniuses such as Galileo who presented his ideas in dialogues (as did the philosopher Plato well over 1,500 years before). Feyerabend actually studied theater briefly during his youth under the tutelage of German playwright and theater director Berthold Brecht.

Storytelling involves showing and not merely telling: presenting how things might look, or events play out given a situation, instead of arguing for this or that abstract point. Instead of an author arguing a thesis, characters speak, act, and interact. Properly drawn characters have histories of their own including crucial events which shaped them, just as our backgrounds and events in our lives shaped us. An author wants to create a kind of movie in the reader’s mind. He or she sets the conditions, then gets out of the way as the characters assume center stage. Often, they turn out to have experienced things the author did not anticipate, have complicated and sometimes conflicted motives, and do things he/she did not plan for—all required by the story’s own dynamic. This is how creativity sometimes works.

So without wanting to give away the whole thing….

Imagine a convinced globalist — convinced, that is, of the necessity of a global state given the globalization of the economy, because his education and line of work brought him into continuous contact with globalist actors and instruments, year after year — has decided that it is time to tell the truth, or at least as much of it as he knows. He believes a world state is inevitable, and is the next stage in the evolution of modernity. All we peons can do is prepare for it, “retooling” ourselves to be innovative and competitive in the coming global mass-consumption marketplace. Retired and with plenty of money, our globalist has written a tell-all book of his own and gone on tour to promote it. His tour brings him into our story’s purview.

There are such people in the actual world, of course. Georgetown University School of Foreign Relations macrohistorian Carroll Quigley wrote such a work, but his Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (orig. 1966) is an intimidating tome of over 1,300 pages, and while he discusses globalism and its emergence in international finance and central banking, his revelations are more part of the backdrop of his sweeping modern history of civilization. Only here and there do they assume a central place in his discussion.

Quigley’s is just the first major work I became aware of that writes history with this idea as background that the most important directions modern civilization has taken were not accidents. My fictional globalist shares with Quigley the idea, contrary to those he will call “conspiracy writers,” that the emerging world state will be a good thing. He regards those he calls the global oligarchy as “benign philosopher-kings” who invented capitalism by originally investing in, i.e., putting up the money for, capitalist endeavors (e.g., factories in England, Germany, and eventually in the U.S.). Capitalism’s early apologists, in their private correspondence (my fictional globalist observes) encouraged, in their private correspondence, forcing independent farmers from their land and into the new factories in the cities because, in those days, capitalists needed laborers. And then, Adam Smith in particular wrote about laissez-faire, hiding the truth (whether intentionally or not).

In other words, my fictional globalist has written a poor man’s Tragedy & Hope. He is  appearing by invitation at the local university in a county ravaged by the effects of globalization, and proclaiming something major business publications are no longer even bothering to hide, but placing it in a larger context.

Now imagine him stating that the most dangerous result of the modernist capitalist consensus was its building up a financially independent middle class in the 1950s and 1960s, so that too much leisure and time on their hands allowed the children of that class to begin to challenge elements of the system in the 1960s. And how it was decided, within the oligarchy, that the American middle class was dangerous to their goals for the world and so had to be destroyed. Imagine him laying out, step by step, exactly how this was accomplished.

The young man who narrates this story, of millennial age and native to the county, has suffered directly from the results, and again without giving away too many details, he does not take kindly to being told all this. I did not set out, initially, to create a central character whose father committed suicide following the loss of his career with the county’s largest employer when it shuttered and went south of the border, followed by a string of professional and business failures; it just happened (that’s that creativity thing I mentioned, with characters taking on lives of their own). I can do this both because studies have shown that suicide in such communities has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years or so, and I have known people who have tragically lost a parent to suicide, in one case seeing the emotional devastation up close. It isn’t pretty! The point in this context: few ordinary people can simply “reinvent themselves for the New Economy.” That’s more a fantasy than anything in a novel.

By the way, lest I forget: my globalist character has no use for Donald Trump. Well, surprise, surprise.

He comes under verbal attack. A complex character and not a sociopath, he stands his ground — not out of a desire to be cruel and indifferent but out of a sense that the truth must be faced. He does not believe that the “global marketplace” can regulate itself, and does not think “free trade” deals are enough. Not to mention the dangers of war in a world of peoples who are very different from one another, some with nuclear weapons; and, of course, there is human-caused climate change which he endorses as real based on the authority of science: a problem calling for a top-down coordinated global solution.

Is such a character credible? For some time now, some writers have been declaring the nation state outdated and arguing for some kind of global federation if not an out-and-out global state. Some such statements are quite eloquent (one current example here).

The location of this story is an imaginary Oklahoma county not too far from where I lived for a time, so I know the history and lay of the land at least somewhat. This place has its own political economy, stemming originally from the actions of its own aristocratic family who build the county, but could not keep one scion from helping to destroy it. Invented long ago to tell a different story which did not pan out, this imaginary county (town, university, their histories) just sat in my mind for a long, long time. It seemed logical to use it now for this different purpose.

Incidentally, this being Oklahoma, an indigenous population lives there. Through them, we become conscious of the possibility of a localist alternative based on separation, with a touch of something non-Western to give us a perspective on the possibility of economic arrangements absent an obsession with growth and change.

In other words, anyone thinking this novel will somehow defend “white supremacy,” assuming this means anything these days other than disagreement with the cultural hard left, is mistaken. I am not “alt-right” (I explain why not here). And although I’ve barely written on the subject as I’ve never been able to make it a priority, I’ve long believed the minority group with the greatest claim to have been harmed by the “white man” and his modernity is the one that has been the most silent: Native Americans, whose land was taken from them, every treaty made with them by the U.S. federal government broken, many dying from diseases brought from Europe to which they had no natural resistance, with those who survived the wars and attempts at extermination typically sinking into poverty even when not herded onto “reservations.” Although many Europeans dismissed them as savages, some Native Americans built civilizations on a par with those of the ancient Mediterranean world (the Toltecs, the Maya, the Inca, are examples). A few invented writing, and one group (the Iroquois, with their League or Confederacy) actually had a form of representative government.

Not being an anthropologist I don’t know, but I have often wondered what we could still learn from the remnants of cultures which modernity has largely erased. These cultures surely merit attention and study. In addition to physical architecture including pyramids, they developed rich mythological narratives designed to do what worldviews always do: give them a sense of place in the universe, something modernity has taken from us all.

Returning to my story line, which draws on such a narrative when the time is right, the Christian Gospel puts in a strategic appearance. So does the Austrian school of economics, which portrays free market capitalism as the “unknown ideal” — a self-regulating system able to operate completely free of government interference, whether through regulation or subsidy. Also appearing, as I was unable to resist, is a Marxist-style critique of globalized capitalism in its current globalized form, whose defender contends that the “pure” capitalism of the Austrians is an impossible fiction, that the “crony capitalism” they criticize just is capitalism; there is no other. Incidentally, while not opposing it, this character has little to say about cultural Marxism (otherwise known as the identity politics that has swept through academia over the past three decades).

My speaker is not a Christian, not an Austrian, not a Marxist. He considers himself a realist, a rare animal in today’s world. Hence the title. He’s also a transhumanist, who believes we will eventually use technology to transform not just the world but ourselves. So he’s an optimist who believes we can save ourselves by trusting in the benign nature of our betters, the philosopher-kings of modernity, the movers and shakers who make things happen behind the scene, who will deal with problems like war and climate change in their own way. This despite how the county his visiting to promote his own book has become a wasteland since NAFTA, and even more so since the Meltdown of 2008. Like many such places.

My narrator is a damaged soul, a seeker still trying to find his way. He knows he wants nothing to do with any of the above! What he comes to realize is that modernity in its current form offers him (us) no future. Not really.

There’s no sex or violence; readers interested only in cheap entertainment had best look elsewhere. There is, however, a unique love interest, between my narrator and his girlfriend, as one cannot have compelling characters without that. She is a member of the indigenous population. This opens some interesting doors. Through the narratives of her people there are intimations of the world beyond our familiar one, perhaps in light of Hamlet’s ever-intriguing remark that “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Marcellus, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Some of these suggest that in the long run, evil indeed meets with an appropriate fate.

What matters most is the warning, about a view of the world and our place in it: an economics-über-alles view of human beings as infinitely malleable, like lumps of clay; of common people as little more than cattle to be used to enrich their self-anointed betters, and then discarded when they are no longer of use; and especially of our arrogant belief that we can save ourselves from our own many follies. Where can this view lead, except to technocratic de facto totalitarianism where not just freedom but privacy are things of the past, not even missed if generations grow up without them. Present-day globalism is not the end, just the most important stepping stone. (Incidentally, you don’t have to be a Christian to believe all this — but it helps!)

Is such a warning credible?

I submit that slightly over 25 years ago, I began warning anyone who would listen what political correctness would do to the body politic if allowed to spread from the universities through the rest of society’s institutions almost unimpeded, defended with brain-paralyzing phrases like social justice. Guys like me weren’t listened to, and just look at campuses today, with their “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings,” and now the open assault by students themselves on Constitutionally protected free speech (they’ve grown up with the cults of diversity and social justice).

Twenty-two years ago I merely lost a teaching job from having spoken against race and gender preferences (“affirmative action”). Today I would fear for my safety.

This book is another warning. Will it, too, be ignored? Will it even be published? Assuming it is, the questions readers are invited to confront: how much of what my speaker says of the near future is absolutely true? Biblical and other prophesies speak of a coming totalitarian world state, or an equivalent, in which you will be forced to adopt “the mark of the beast” to be able to buy or sell (Rev. 13:16-17). Not just global geopolitics but technology itself are opening such doors. If you’re ordered to go through them — or, what is more likely, find your life becoming increasingly inconvenient if you avoid going through them — what will be your Plan B?

Author’s Note: if you believe this article and others like it were worth your time, please consider making a $5/mo. pledge on my Patreon site. If the first 100 people who read this all donate, my goal of just $500/mo. would be reached in no time! And if we’re honest about it, we all waste that much money every day.

Telling the truth can have negative consequences. Last year my computer was hacked — it wasn’t the Russians, either! Repeated attempted repairs of the OS failed, the device became unusable, and I had to replace it off-budget.

This is also an attempt to raise money to publish and promote a novel, Reality 101, 99% finished as of this writing. In it, a globalist technocrat speaks in a voice filled with irony and dripping with cynicism — contrasted with the possibility of freedom outside the world as he sees it.

Promoting a book means, in my case, the necessity of international travel which is not cheap.

I do not write for an audience of one. I write for you, readers of this site. If you believe this work makes a worthwhile contribution to the world of political-economic ideas, please consider supporting it financially. I am not a wealthy person, and unlike the leftist groups I criticize, I do not have a George Soros funneling a bottomless well of cash my way.

If I reach the above goal of $500/mo., I may be able to speak at an event in your area (contact info below). On the other hand, if this effort fails, I am considering taking an indefinite “leave of absence” beginning later this year to pursue other goals. EDIT: thus far this effort has garnered just $62/mo. If it does not reach $250/mo. by the end of this month, it will be time to write my farewell-and-good-luck piece.

To sum up, these are your articles (and books). I don’t write to please myself. No one is forcing me to do it, as sometimes it brings me grief instead of satisfaction. So if others do not value the results enough to support them, I might as well go into retirement while I am still able to enjoy it.

 

Posted in Books, Donald Trump, Election 2016 and Aftermath, Political Economy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Climate Change, Science, and Experts: A Meditation

[Author´s note: co-posted on NewsWithViews.com but has yet to appear there. I have added and deleted a number of lines here and there and in general tried to increase clarity wherever possible.]

A few months ago, a friend of mine, his son who had swung left, and a few others, debated man-made climate change (MCC) over email. Was it the existential threat to civilization some made it out to be, a complete hoax, or something somewhere in the middle somehow. Being in this group, I was copied on each installment, but did not participate. I was asked why, and have been asked on other occasions whether I had anything to say about MCC.

I tend to reply that I’ve not researched the topic extensively, and can’t speak to it with any confidence. There’s abundant information online, of course; what’s missing are hours in the day sufficient to research everything out there. The topic has come up again, as MCC proponents have a field day in the wake of two destructive hurricanes, Harvey and Irma. A third, Maria, has devastated Puerto Rico as this is completed. All of us (I hope) are praying for those who lost loved ones in these storms, for rebuilding efforts which may take years in some cases, and that tragedy and hardship not be turned into an opportunity to score political points (for a change).

What research I’ve done on climate matters was mostly to inform students in contemporary moral issues and critical thinking classes, taught years past during my adjunct days, where I isolated three perspectives:

(1) Global warming is not real. For whatever reason, scientists are misreading their data, seeing something that isn’t there, perhaps generalizing falsely from local events such as glaciers in retreat after a few years of unusual warmth.

(2) Warming is indeed happening on a long-term, global scale, but we’re not the cause. Earth’s climate has warmed and cooled many times over planetary history, from various causes including fluctuations in solar energy; the climate, in any event, is far too vast for our paltry activities to affect it significantly. Volcanoes affect it more than we do.

The third perspective — (3) — holds that global warming or climate change is happening, that human activity, especially burning fossil fuels for energy and expelling the byproducts into the atmosphere for well over a century now, is causing the planet to heat up. (3), as I understand it, does not say every single year will be hotter than its predecessor, or will manifest violent hurricanes like this year has, just that over a long period of time, average temperatures will rise, sea levels will rise as polar ice fields melt, and on average, weather phenomena will increase in destructive force, be it hurricanes, severe winter storms, or droughts leading to forest fires.

So will it be door #(1), door #(2), or door #(3)?

Here is where I cannot speak with the confidence I have when speaking about, e.g., elite directedness of modern political economy, or philosophical critiques of secular ethics.

What I can say is that #(3) appears to be the one chosen by the majority of scientists and scientific organizations, something dissent alone can’t negate. Unfortunately, #(3) also has immense globalist appeal, given the adage that “global problems call for global solutions.”

If (3) is by some chance true, then claims like those of Naomi Klein in her This Changes Everything (2014) have to be looked at. Whether you agree or disagree with Klein’s view that “the free market” is at fault in creating the present situation (I don’t, as I don’t think we’ve had anything remotely resembling actual free markets in decades), the conclusion remains: we find other ways of powering our civilization or face the consequences: a hotter, more hostile world; what James Howard Kunstler calls The Long Emergency (2005), highlighted by dislocations that will make the present ones look tame by comparison as millions of people abandon flooded coastal cities, others migrating en masse from regions no longer inhabitable.

Alarmist? Perhaps, but many scientists will tell you that MCC is an established fact. Major scientific organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science have endorsed it. At least one online course I ran across earlier this year dispensed for free, presents information intended to debunk (1) and (2) above. The course’s main architect, John Cook of the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, had earlier created this site, organizing information he maintains refutes “climate change denialism.”

Cook and his associates have assembled some interesting information. But they packaged it within an image of science I found rather naïve and dated. (Cook’s views on the “scientific consensus” are criticized here.)

Again, a brief disclaimer: I am not a scientist, climate or otherwise. I am a trained philosopher who for a number of years specialized in history and philosophy of science — especially the physical sciences — turning to moral philosophy and political economy only later.

This I can certify: what is found in most science texts is an image of a neat, disciplined, pristine method of formulating hypotheses to explain neutral data, testing them step by step whether by further observations or by experiment, then pronouncing them confirmed or disconfirmed — almost as if done by robots instead of human beings subject to all the biases and frailties human beings are subject to, including being forced to work in organizations that do not fund themselves.

So MCC aside for the moment, how well-confirmed are most scientific results, really?

One can point to “studies” in various disciplines that clearly reflect the biases of those who put up the money, because the researchers wanted or needed further grant money, and one of its conditions was obtaining “acceptable” outcomes. Such “studies” (not uncommon in the world of, say, pharmaceuticals, legal drugs), overstate what evidence validly permits, and may bury contrary findings. How much of science work this way?

Please allow me to digress …

As a bored public high school student in search of real intellectual stimuli I chanced to run across a curious volume in a local library: The Book of the Damned (1919) by one Charles Fort (1874 – 1932). Fort had a curious hobby. Upon receiving an inheritance, it became his career. A voracious reader, he’d mastered several scientific disciplines just by reading leading texts. He combed scientific journals and periodicals, antiquarian newsletters, and newspapers. Whenever he found something that did not fit the prevailing theories, he made a note of it. Soon he had thousands of notes, organized by subject matter: astronomical curiosities, unexplained weather and aerial phenomena, out-of-place artifacts, medical mysteries, etc. “Anomalism” was born: assemblages of “facts that don’t fit,” with wry commentary on the “scientific” manner of dealing with them: shoving them into the cognitive equivalents of windowless museum basements and forgetting about them.

Fort used his notes as the basis for four books: the above-mentioned The Book of the Damned, New Lands (1925), Lo! (1931) and Wild Talents (1932). He commented drily on “dogmatic Science” (cap S) as surrogate for God. Fort was more a provocateur than a serious theorist. He formulated intentionally ridiculous notions which left whole ranges of obvious facts unexplained and claimed them to be as well supported as the dogmas he saw imprisoning the minds of scientists.

The history of ideas manifests system-builders and system-smashers, one might call them. Among the system-builders: Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas, Newton, Lavoisier, Adam Smith, Kant, Darwin, Einstein, who left their respective disciplines large, logically-structured edifices of thought (systems). Among the system-smashers: the old Sophists who taunted Socrates in Plato’s dialogues, modern “outsiders” such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, aggravated skeptics such as Fort, and a couple of folks we’ll encounter below.

Modernity was a system-building endeavor. Postmodernity has been a system-smashing one.

It is not clear why some thinkers are drawn to one and not the other. Fort’s biographers state that his father was an abusive tyrant, from whom he fled as a teenager. His hostility to the authority of Science was then a projection. How very Freudian.

System-builders are confident of human reason’s capacity to grasp reality (or some part of it) as it is. System-smashers are just as convinced that the effort is delusional. They point to the smorgasbord of conflicting and competing systems in every domain, this being a problem even if we’ve mastered a certain instrumental rationality by manipulating objects into technology.

System-building takes itself seriously, is carefully argued, etc. Much system-smashing is literary provocation. Its purveyors use irony and rhetoric. They play mind games with their audience. Postmodernists, whatever else one says about them, are good at this.

Fort’s books sold reasonably well. At the end of his life, his health and eyesight failing, he was said to have laughed aloud upon learning that his writings had a cult following, organized as the Fortean Society, dedicated to continue poking holes in the pretenses of “scientistic” positivism. The Society published Fort’s unused notes and continued collecting anomalies that seemed to surround every major theory in every field of science. Fort’s books have stayed in print, and though for obvious reasons he was roundly dismissed as a crank, his work continues to fascinate those who have followed in his footsteps compiling anthologies of “misfit” facts such as physicist William R. Corliss (1926 – 2011), founder of The Sourcebook Project and editor of anthologies such as Ancient Man: A Handbook of Puzzling Artifacts (1978) and Unknown Earth: A Handbook of Geological Enigmas (1980); or more recent writers with substantive alternative hypotheses on ancient and unknown civilizations such as Graham Hancock (1950 –        ), author of Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization (2002), Magicians of the Gods (2015), and other works.

As a university student (still bored), I encountered the far more orthodox The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962, 1970, 2012) by Thomas S. Kuhn (1922 – 1996). My first exposure to Kuhn’s ideas was in a world history class. The professor discussed them with all the calm and neutrality of a leftist professor going off on conservatism. My curiosity was piqued, and I tracked the book down.

Kuhn’s thesis was that a mature “normal” science is always governed by a conceptual system embodied in concrete problem solutions he called a paradigm. Paradigms — exemplified in works such as Newton’s Principia or Lavoisier’s Chemistry or Darwin’s Origin — guided research in the science, its first premises not tested or challenged. Paradigms dictated use of the language of the discipline, as well as guiding authors of textbooks used to train the next generation who “stood on the shoulders of giants” as it were. Invariably a paradigm could not solve every problem it faced, however. These became anomalies — defined more precisely as violations of expectation. Eventually enough would accumulate to jeopardize allegiance to the paradigm (particularly among the young!). The science would enter a “revolutionary” crisis that ended with its embrace of a new paradigm able to solve the problems, often with new terms or old ones used in new ways. A new period of “normal” science would begin.

Physicist and early quantum theorist Max Planck (1858 – 1947) famously observed: “A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” That’s the basic idea.

Kuhn denied that scientific practice could be shoehorned into the formal-logical methods positivists taught. He experienced the wrath of colleagues who had Science on a pedestal, was accused of “irrationalism” for saying the decision to embrace a new paradigm was a matter of “faith.” Despite a couple of careless uses of that word his overall message was nothing of the sort, and he spent the rest of his life trying to clarify the complex rationality of an enterprise conducted by fallible humans working in organizations.

More extreme was the unabashed system-smashing of Paul Feyerabend (1924 – 1994), who authored the controversial Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975, 1988, 1993, 2010). Although Kuhn’s and Feyerabend’s names are often linked, both classified as “historicists” (i.e., those who see science as a historical phenomenon operating within institutions, and not a formulaic, frozen-in-time abstraction), Feyerabend’s views differed greatly from Kuhn’s. For one thing, he rejected the idea that a “mature” science should embrace a single paradigm. He advocated pluralism: multiple paradigms. Conformity of thought, he argued, might fit the needs of a church but is totally inappropriate for science.

He argued extensively that the most important scientific advances had not proceeded according to an single, identifiably rational method. Scientists had opportunistically used a variety of sometimes incompatible ideas and methods at hand, so that early modern physics and astronomy incorporated ideas and methods from Christianity, Platonism, astrology (Newtonian “action at a distance”), mysticism, and so on. Some of their claims, moreover, seemed contrary to “plain fact,” as when Copernicus removed the Earth from the center of the universe in the absence of a physics able to make sense of such an idea (he was dead well over a century before Newton came along). Positivism’s naïve just-the-facts-ma’am view of science would have stopped physics and astronomy 1543 – 1686 in their tracks! With “plain fact” not on their side, early astronomers advanced their heliocentric view of the solar system not just through argument but with storytelling and propaganda (Galileo wrote dialogues; some of his “experiments” as with dropping objects from the leaning tower of Pisa probably never took place).

Feyerabend’s point was that if science was more “anarchic” than “rational,” “anarchism” might help us in the present! It might free us from the “tyranny” of a “dogmatic Science” that was stifling our creativity within the cubicles of industrial civilization and robbing us of the potential richness life might have. According to him, the only abstract “rule” that could be guaranteed to work independent of situation was “anything goes”: not a rule or method but a jocular, system-smashing rejection of such abstractions. The idea: “proper scientific method” is always situation-specific. Feyerabend (unlike Kuhn) did not suffer fools gladly. He ridiculed critics who misread “anything goes” as some kind of new and avant garde abstract rule. He mocked them by openly defending “relativism”: a position resulting from comparing the richness supplied by history and anthropology to the desiccated requirements of positivist abstraction. One of his favorite targets was George Soros’s hero Karl Popper and his “conjectures and refutations” critical rationalism which he believed was hopelessly naïve. Feyerabend has been called “the worst enemy of science” by those who haven’t read him, but believe “scientific” minds should get the last word on all things human, including designing (or redesigning) societies.

Arguably, Feyerabend put an end to a certain way of viewing science — at least, if we look at the enterprise as it is, a human-all-too-human endeavor, instead of accepting the mythology that has surrounded it (touted by positivists, atheistic materialists, and technocrats).

End of long digression.

Why this dissertation?

Because there are abundant reasons for rejecting the presumptions of those who believe MCC on the mere authority of a naïve empiricism: who see science as mere data aggregation and integration, using a “method” frozen in time; and have occasionally been caught seeming to “cheat”: fudging data so that MCC seems better supported than it really is (e.g., “Climategate”: for contrasting views see here and here). As critics of MCC have pointed it, the scientists behind it receive government grants as well as lavish funding from elite foundations. (In fairness, MCC “deniers” also receive substantial support from private sources, e.g., the Koch Brothers and Exxon.)

Scientists are supposed to be the experts on such matters. But can we trust the objectivity and neutrality of the experts? Among the most noticeable phenomena of the Trump era is a profound skepticism towards “expertism” as a repository of biases: in general of being unable to see the forest because of the trees. The experts predicted Trump would lose in a landslide. Their major pronouncements about the economy going back well over two decades were wrong. They had not foreseen the end of the tech bubble in 2000. In 2008, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke failed to anticipate the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, embarrassing himself in January of that year saying that the Fed “is not currently forecasting a recession.” The experts fail to see the role of top-down financialization in consolidating wealth and power at the (globalist) “commanding heights” via a system that removes labor’s share of national income. With authors who did see these things consigned to “alternative media,” frustration was inevitable.

Skepticism about experts isn’t limited to political economy, obviously. These days it crosses over a wide range of topics: so-called scientific medicine based on invasive procedures and the use of (expensive!) pharmaceuticals, which rejects alternative practices such as nutrition-based “holistic” or “integrative” healing, the use of dietary supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc.; whether GMO foods pioneered by powerful global corporations such as Monsanto are proven safe for human consumption and for the ecosystem; whether other artificial substances such as aspartame have been proven safe; whether there is a causal relationship between vaccines (e.g., the MMR vaccine) and autism; whether the theory of evolution is as well-established as the scientific community maintains, well enough established to exclude intelligent design, and whether it is truly empirical or the product of a (materialist) worldview; whether there is a correlation between race/ethnicity and measurable average intelligence; and whether it is true that men and women have the same innate cognitive predispositions, so that workplace “imbalances” can be attributed to sexism/misogyny. There are doubtless others I haven’t thought of.

Again, a few of these I’ve looked at. Most I have not, at least not at length. But there is a discernable pattern running through nearly all of them, which is the same as the pattern often employed to circumvent careful consideration of the idea of history being directed by a globalist superelite or super-oligarchy. The pattern includes dogmatism and just-the-facts-ma’am appeals: “It’s true (or false) because we say so or because our studies say so” (the right rejoinder to any of any such study is, “Who funded it?”), followed by ridicule (“that’s a conspiracy theory!”), or the use of similar linguistic gambits to circumvent having to deal with the specifics offered, finally ending with an authoritarian gesture and a return to the official narrative.

In the case of MCC, this progression now sometimes ends with a threat: that “climate change denial” be criminalized, “denialists” prosecuted and jailed, just as those who deny that Hitler and his minions killed 6 million Jews in the Holocaust (as opposed to some smaller number) are jailed for the thought crime in some countries. This, in fact, is the origin of the term denialism in the context of MCC: a propagandistic term intended to invoke the subconscious thought of Holocaust denial in the reader’s mind.

When ideas, questioning authority, and independent thought generally are criminalized, watch out! Just recall the line attributed to Voltaire (1694 – 1778) (he probably didn’t say it, but it’s true nevertheless):

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

Applying: if you want to know if specific ideas or theories or policies have been afforded a special, unmerited status in institutions (academic, governmental, or corporate), find out if you can question them without the roof caving in — without, that is, being fired from your job, having your reputation trashed by social media trolls, etc.

Skepticism toward expertise has caused sufficient alarm that there is now pushback. Authors speak, often at great length, of “how we lost our minds” and of “American stupidity,” not just in articles (here, here, and here) but books (e.g., this one and this one). What these authors are dead set against is the possibility of epistemic equivalence suggested by the idea that what we have is a diffuse, poorly understood clash of worldviews — not just a resentful rebellion of “the stupid” against “the informed,” or “uneducated bigots” versus “educated cosmopolitans,” etc. Very similar is the authoritarianism of those who reject moral equivalence between conservatives and historical preservationists currently demonized as white supremacists and neo-Nazis versus leftists who self-identify with “progress” (and which Trumpism has so rudely interrupted!).

You’re probably wondering: where does all these leave MCC? What should we conclude about it??? Especially given that if we conclude wrongly, either way, we could end up paying a steep price!

I will say — reminding readers of my disclaimers! — I don’t see MCC as crazy, or crackbrained, or false just because globalists like it and can make use of it! Another topic I studied was systems thinking, and one of the things I noticed is how sensitive complex systems are to what can perturb them. It also became clear: complex systems adjust themselves to perturbations. The largest complex system in our civilization’s proximate environment, the ecosphere, could adjust our civilization out of the picture! I therefore dissent from many of my fellow alternative writers. No need to take my word for anything. I recommend readers go to the sites linked to above and see if they have refutations for what they find there. Was “Climategate” real, a dead giveaway, or was it blown out of proportion?

I cannot decide for you! I don’t have that kind of authority!

What I believe we do have is a new knowledge problem of some magnitude. What was the “old” problem? Just the philosophical question of how we acquire knowledge (through the senses, pure reason, or some other means including revelation). Its presumptions are problematic. I will not dwell on them here, as this discourse is already too long. The “new” problem: our own institutions and their hierarchical structures, enabling epistemic authoritarianism to pass for truth, are in the truth-seeker’s way, made worse by the fact that the circumstances necessary to decide complicated problems like MCC cannot pay for themselves in a fast-paced society devoted to instant gratification and mass entertainment. Nuanced debate and discussion, based on a careful but slow weighing of many opinions and considerations, is not “marketable” in a culture of WhatsAppers and Twitter addicts.

This is a problem because few have the time, skills, or inclination to do their own research. We need institutions we can trust. I have extensive notes on this problem, in the context of the general breakdown of academia in our time, which I hope to incorporate into a future slim book — a story in itself! Suffice it for now, I am not a postmodernist, like Fort or Feyerabend, however much I sympathize with their crusades against epistemic authoritarianism. Truth exists; and we must not do what the postmodernists do in face of the difficulty of finding it, which is to conflate institution-bound authority with what is true and proven, cry foul when it turns out we were bamboozled, and then throw up our hands in gestures of despair.

What we could use is support for smaller, parallel institutions that have been growing for years in the face of the insufferable political correctness that has ruined academia and is now trying to erase everything in Western civilization that might offense some minority. In every dominant institution, feelings have trumped truth. If we had institutions of knowledge-seekers free from the need for money, and therefore from potential outside control (if we had, that is, real philanthropy on a large enough scale), there might be hope for (among other things) a trustworthy answer to the MCC question before it’s too late, before our so-called leaders, whoever they might be, make decisions we will live to regret. Since we do not have such institutions on a scale large enough to matter, and any real philanthropists who might once have existed have been replaced by corporate donor types who typically fund politicians and political agendas, I am not all that optimistic.

Author’s Note: if you believe this article and others like it were worth your time, please consider making a $5/mo. pledge on my Patreon site. If the first 100 people who read this all donate, my goal of just $500/mo. would be reached in no time! And if we’re honest about it, we all waste that much money every day.

Telling the truth can have negative consequences. Last year my computer was hacked — it wasn’t the Russians, either! Repeated attempted repairs of the OS failed, the device became unusable, and I had to replace it off-budget.

This is also an attempt to raise money to publish and promote a novel, Reality 101, 98% finished as of this writing. In it, a globalist technocrat speaks in a voice filled with irony and dripping with cynicism — contrasted with the possibility of freedom outside the world as he sees it.

Promoting a book means, in my case, the necessity of international travel which is not cheap.

I do not write for an audience of one. I write for you, readers of this site. If you believe this work makes a worthwhile contribution to the world of political-economic ideas, please consider supporting it financially. I am not a wealthy person, and unlike the leftist groups I criticize, I do not have a George Soros funneling a bottomless well of cash my way.

If I reach the above goal of $500/mo., I may be able to speak at an event in your area (contact info below). On the other hand, if this effort fails, I am considering taking an indefinite “leave of absence” beginning later this year to pursue other goals. EDIT: thus far this effort has garnered just $62/mo. If it does not reach $250/mo. by the end of September, it will be time to write my farewell-and-good-luck piece.

To sum up, these are your articles (and books). I don’t write to please myself. No one is forcing me to do it, as sometimes it brings me grief instead of satisfaction. So if others do not value the results enough to support them, I might as well go into retirement while I am still able to enjoy it.

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