Monday, August 18, 2014

I do not know...

“I do not know of a sin which is not, for the noble soul, its own punishment.”

Nicolás Gómez Davila

(Hat tip: Happy Acres)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

More link love

Sorry about the light posting. There's much being published elsewhere though.

Mark Moncrieff has a good post up titled Why don't the poor marry?

Kristor has been writing up a storm lately. He has a piece at The Orthosphere titled There is No Patrimony and a comment of his has been posted at Collapse: The Blog as More on Far-Right Self-Identification (it's a more "advanced" piece, and maybe not for everyone, but I thought it interesting).

James Kalb has a good article up (which I might comment on later) called How to Accentuate the Positive.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Even more curious

There have been some more immigration sceptical articles published in the left-wing Fairfax press. One concerns immigration fraud:
Hundreds of pages of leaked confidential departmental documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal that Australia's national security is being compromised by wide-scale visa rorting and migration rackets operating with impunity, including some with links to terrorism or organised crime.

Secret departmental operations have estimated that as many as nine in 10 skilled migrant visas may be fraudulent, while an internal inquiry into Afghan visa applicants in 2012 assessed that more than 90 per cent of cases contained "fraud of some type" and raised "people smuggling, identity fraud, suspected child trafficking and national security implications".

Also, a 2010 report reveals that immigration investigators had uncovered a Somali people-smuggling cell in Melbourne linked to terrorist suspect Hussein Hashi Farah, who "is believed to have links to the al-Qaeda offshoot al-Shabab" and who fled Kenyan counterterrorism officials using an Australian passport in 2010.

The other is by businessman Dick Smith pointing out that endless population growth is likely to affect living standards negatively:
Mr Smith said, left unchecked, Australia's population would hit “80 to 100 million by the end of the century if we keep growing”.

He said that kind of perpetual growth would only serve wealthy Australians, while the majority of the population would suffer a decline in living conditions and be worse off.

“The cake is a certain size, mainly coming from our mineral reserves and our primary production from farming, and double the population, I believe everyone's worth half as much,” he said.

Again, interesting that this is happening at Fairfax.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Curious

This week Professor Bob Birrell warned (here and here) that high rates of immigration were making it difficult for young Australians to access the job market. Immigrants who have arrived in the past three years have filled 380,000 out of 400,000 newly created jobs. According to Professor Birrell:
The hardest hit are amongst young people seeking entry-level semi-skilled jobs and recent graduates in a widening range of professions, including nursing, information communication technology and accounting.

Professor Birrell goes on to show that the current immigration policy is not successfully targeting shortages in the labour supply. An example given is that there were about 7,000 accountants trained in Australia last year; despite a current oversupply of accountants, the government nonetheless went on to issue visas to an additional 7,000 overseas trained accountants. Australian graduates will be competing in a very tight job market with thousands of additional workers from overseas.

Why is it curious that this information has been published? Well, it appeared in the Fairfax press, which in Australia represents the politically correct left-wing point of view.

Additionally, a similar report has appeared in a business paper. The business writer is concerned that the government is trying to shift young Australians off welfare, whilst at the same time making employment access for young Australians more difficult through its immigration policies. He agrees that Australia's immigration policy is not meeting its stated aim of addressing labour shortages.

So here we have reports in both the left-wing media and the business media pointing out the failings in the current immigration system. I find this an interesting development.

Monday, August 04, 2014

To my surprise a left-wing economics professor...

Professor Robert Rowthorn is an Emeritus Professor of Economics at Cambridge University. He is said to be one of the most eminent of left-wing economists in the UK. So I was pleasantly surprised by the findings of his research paper on the economics of mass immigration.

In short, Professor Rowthorn's review of current research does not find any significant boosts to the economy from mass immigration. This means that the other negative effects of mass immigration, such as building on the green belt or crowding in the cities, means that the consequences of mass immigration ‘are mostly negative for the existing population of the UK and their descendants’.

From the Daily Mail report:
Professor Rowthorn, a former consultant to the International Monetary Fund and the UN Trade and Development Commission, said in his report that there may be no economic gains from immigration at all.

If there are, they will be outweighed by extra costs imposed by the strain on housing, land, schools, hospitals, water supplies and transport.

He said in a landmark report for the Civitas think tank: ‘Unrestrained population growth would eventually have a negative impact on the standard of living through its environmental effects such as overcrowding, congestion and loss of amenity.

The Professor notes that it is possible for mass immigration to have an overall negative effect:
‘If many of the immigrants fail to get jobs, or if they end up in low skill jobs or displace native workers, large-scale immigration will have a negative impact on GDP per capita and on government finances,’ he added.

The impact could be positive or negative but either way it is unlikely to be very large. The only thing that is certain is that immigration on the present scale, if it continues, will lead to much faster population growth and a much larger total GDP than would otherwise be the case, with consequent pressure on infrastructure and the environment.’

(Related to this last paragraph see the data on the disability pension in the UK here.)

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Women against feminism hits tumblr

Here's some good news. A tumblr site called Women against Feminism has taken off and is clearly rankling the feminist establishment. The site shows pictures of women holding up signs explaining why they are against feminism. The reasons vary. Some of the women don't want men to be treated as the enemy; others feel that as stay at home mothers they aren't supported by feminists; some don't like the vilification of all men as potential rapists; some believe that feminism is pushing toward female supremacy rather than equality; and some don't like feminist attacks on femininity.

Here's a small sample to give you an idea of what's at the site (you can click on the photos to read the text more clearly):

































Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Choosing our own path?

In my last post I wrote: "I've never understood the appeal of the right-liberal idea about freedom in the market."

I got a few responses, which seemed to boil down to the idea that we are better off today, thanks to the free market, because we get to choose what we do more than previous generations did:
You and I have far, far more liberty than any previous generation in human history. That means we have vastly more power to choose our path than they did.

I want to thank those who did write in; however, I mostly can't accept the argument, for the following reasons.

First, I don't think that freedom should be defined as the ability to choose our own path. If that becomes the accepted definition then much else follows.

First, it means that our sex, our race and our sexuality will be thought of as having no proper bearing on our life path. If I am free because I can choose my own life path, then why should my sex stop me from choosing to do something? Why shouldn't a woman be able to choose to be a combat soldier? And if I choose to follow my rational self-interest and migrate to a country with a higher standard of living, then why should I be prevented from doing so on the basis of my nationality, ethny or race? And what if I am homosexual? Why should I not be able to choose to marry, if freedom means choosing my own life path? In fact, if freedom is choosing my life path, then why should I not be free to choose whether to be a man or a woman (this once would have been considered an absurd argument, but we are now seeing the whole transsexual issue become prominent in society).

Second, if freedom means being able to choose our own life path, then the proper focus of life will be thought to be those things that we can choose as individuals. That, perhaps, partly explains the big focus on market freedoms. We do get to choose as individuals what career we have, what we buy and sell and what investments we make. It fits within what is permissible within the liberal concept of freedom. What doesn't fit so well are those aspects of life with a communal dimension or that involve stable relationships with others. For instance, my inherited national identity might be important to me, but there is no defence for it when freedom is defined as a self-chosen life path.

Third, the focus of modern society in expanding the freedom to choose our own path hasn't created a higher level of this freedom. What, for instance, if the path you want to choose is to marry in your early 20s and to enjoy a stable, lifelong marriage? The fact is that you had a better chance of being able to choose this 60 years ago compared to today. What if you would like to support a family on your own wage, to save money and to quickly pay off a house and to put your children through private schooling? Again, you had a much better chance of choosing this 40 years ago compared to today (when housing is so expensive and the male wage is stagnant). What if the life you want is one in which men are respected, in which moral standards are encouraged, in which a European civilisation is highly regarded and admired, and in which the fine arts are flourishing? Again, we were born too late for this. Yes, we can go to a food court and choose 20 varieties of food. You couldn't do this a generation ago. But is it really a good trade off? I don't think so.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The freedom debate

Back in 2006 there was a debate on freedom between some British left and right liberals. Much of it is predictable and unenlightening, but there were a few points of interest.

The left liberal was Neal Lawson. He began with this observation:
Politics is about competing conceptions of liberty or freedom. What is it to live freely?

In a sense he is right. The banner of liberal politics has for a long time been the word freedom. Our current PM, Tony Abbott has said:
The dream of greater personal freedom is probably the Liberal Party’s nearest equivalent to a “light on the hill”

And:
The Liberal Party’s animating principle is freedom

There are two responses to be made to this. First, it is limiting and distorting to see politics as being only about freedom. People do want to be free, but they also want other things as well: happy marriages, the opportunity to raise children, a work and life balance, membership of a community they are proud to belong to, achievements in culture and the arts, a productive economy, an attractive environment, some level of cultural continuity, the upholding of a national identity and so on.

The proper role of a government is to hold in balance a range of goods that sometimes compete with each other, to the point that there is a framework of society that fits together. Part of this framework will be an understanding of what the proper limits of a government are.

Second, if politics is about freedom alone, then what freedom is understood to be matters a great deal. According to Neal Lawson, it is the right-liberals who have managed to define freedom in market terms (he calls right-liberals "conservatives"):
Conservatives have taken ownership of the word and therefore its meaning. Freedom from the state, from trade unions, freedom of exchange, free markets and free enterprise – the lexicon of freedom is the language of the right.

Again, he's correct that right-liberals do see a freedom to be self-made in the market as a key aspect of freedom. He contrasts this with the left-wing view of freedom here:
Neo-liberalism equates individual liberty solely with free markets. In contrast, 'social liberalism' suggests individual liberty requires some kind of collective welfare provision. Both of these visions are part of the liberal tradition but come to very different conclusions about what it means to be free.

There are a few points to be made here. First, he overstates the difference between left and right. Both have the autonomous, abstracted individual as a starting point. But when it comes to the issue of how a society of such individuals is to be regulated, right-liberals look to the market whereas left-liberals tend to look to the state.

Second, the left-liberal view of solidarity is not persuasive. The left-liberal idea is that we express our social natures by accepting a "collective welfare provision," i.e. by agreeing to pay taxes to fund the welfare state. If that's supposed to be the alternative to right-liberalism, then excuse me for not getting excited. The sense of connectedness between people should run deeper than this: there are supposed to be loyalties to family and ethny; an impulse running between men and women; a bond existing between groups of men (comradeship, brotherhood); a connection felt by those belonging to cherished institutions (e.g. school, university alumni) and so on. In the left-liberal conception, my social nature is complete after I hand in my tax return.

However, I have to say that reading the Neal Lawson piece did get me thinking about what freedom in the market might mean to people. I've never understood the appeal of the right-liberal idea about freedom in the market.

But think of it this way. If you live in a society in which the "sideways" connections between people (family, ethny, sex etc.) have been considerably dissolved, so that the individual is treated only as an individual, then the sense of agency that we have in life is considerably reduced. What can you do as a private individual? What effect can you have on anything? For most people the answer will be: very little. It will be just you as an individual, with no role except to steer your own individual course (which most people find difficult to do, as the surrounding culture exerts such an influence over us.)

So what is left to the average person to salvage some sense of agency? Well, if you get money then you have buying power - you have a freedom to distribute your financial resources as you see fit. You have freedom in the market in the sense that decisions to purchase are in your domain.

You might have to work all week to get the money, but come the weekend you have agency to please yourself or your family with purchasing decisions.

To me it's not central to what freedom should mean, but in the absence of anything else, perhaps it has its appeal to people.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Twisted admissions

Dennis Saffran has stood as a Republican candidate in New York and has written columns for City Journal - so he is somewhere on the right of the political spectrum.

He has had a column published in the New York Post regarding the racial balance in the eight elite specialised high schools in New York.

It's an interesting case study in the way that race is spoken about now.

Entry to the high schools is by a competitive examination:
But now, troubled by declining black and Hispanic enrollment at the schools, opponents of the exam have resurfaced. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a civil-rights complaint challenging the admissions process.

Here is the first point to note. It is true that black and Hispanic enrolments have fallen. But the most notable decline in enrolments has been amongst whites:
white enrollment at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech has plummeted as well, dropping from 79 percent, 81 percent and 77 percent, respectively, in 1971 to just 22 percent, 23 percent and 20 percent today.

So why not be up in arms about the decline in white enrolments? Why the concern only for blacks and Hispanics?

As it happens, Saffran does not want the exam to be dropped. He argues that this would be unfair to the Asian community which now dominates these high schools. Asians are 13 per cent of the New York population but 73% of the specialised school enrolments.

Now, if whites were 13 per cent of the New York population but 73 per cent of the elite high school population, you would never hear the end of it. There would be talk of privilege and racism. And Saffran does seem to believe that he needs to justify the discrepancy. So he makes the claim that Asians are poor and therefore, unlike privileged whites, deserving of the high school places.

He makes this argument despite admitting that:
True, Asians nationally have the highest median income of any racial group, including whites — and in New York City, their median household income ranks second to that of whites and well ahead of blacks and Hispanics.

So Asians in general are the wealthiest (and also the best educated); however, Saffran provides some welfare data suggesting that some of the Asians attending the specialised schools are from poorer families.

This may well be true, but let's face it - poor whites are never given such consideration. If you're white you're considered privileged no matter what; a struggling white family will be thought more privileged than someone like Oprah Winfrey.

I'm not writing any of this to have a go at Asians; it is an aspect of Asian culture that the young are pressured to compete academically for entry to elite schools.

But again, if white families value education more highly on average than black families and have better educational outcomes for that reason, nobody says they achieved that on merit, it is assumed to be an aspect of racism.

It's that idea, again, of whites being exceptional - in a negative way. It is assumed that whites created systems of oppression and injustice, and therefore the worst is to be thought of them, even to the point that Asians, who do better on average than whites on most social indicators, get to be praised for achieving on merit, whilst the poorest of whites are advised on ways to confess and to overcome their privilege.

I don't write this with the intent of further demoralising those white people reading this, but to try to make clear how lacking in credibility the whole approach to race is. There is every reason for us to treat it as lacking in credibility and to dismiss its moral claims.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Australian women less happy

Government data has revealed that life satisfaction is declining amongst Australian women.

Jenny Ulichny, a university researcher, expected the reverse to be true:
“These results are surprising,” she says. “In most westernised democratic countries, females have made significant strides in terms of social changes towards equality over the previous two generations. It would be reasonable to expect these changes to increase female wellbeing and happiness.”

You'd be a bit disappointed if you were a feminist, wouldn't you? After many decades of social change to implement your philosophy, women are not only not becoming happier, they are feeling worse off.

It's hardly surprising. Feminism is one strand of a modernity that is dissolving traditional relationships, including those of family, community and nation. In their place is supposed to be the self-authoring, free to choose individual, but what that means in practice is a focus on people being self-made in the market, i.e. through careers.

For a few women in high status, creative careers that might seem a good trade off, but for a lot of women it will just mean a daily grind at work.

Jenny Ulichny thinks that the problem has to do with social connectedness:
Australian men and women are saying that they see friends and loved ones less frequently and are participating less and less in community-based events and hobbies.

That could be because of the increasing demands of paid work, or it could have to do with the "hunkering down" effect that Professor Putnam has identified in more diverse societies.

Whatever the cause, this is more evidence that feminism in particular, and modernity in general, are not progressive but are connected to decline - in this case to a decline in women's sense of well-being.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cog status

Naomi Wolf, the American feminist, has noticed that quite a few of the leaders of the more patriotic parties in Europe are women (e.g. Marine Le Pen in France, Pia Kjaersgaard in Denmark and Siv Jensen in Norway).

She's not happy about it. She's written an article in which she crudely attacks these parties; however, she does a good job in explaining why ordinary women might find these patriotic parties appealing:
right-wing movements benefit from the limitations of a postfeminist, post-sexual-revolution society, and the spiritual and emotional void produced by secular materialism.

Many lower-income women in Western Europe today – often single parents working pink-collar ghetto jobs that leave them exhausted and without realistic hope of advancement – can reasonably enough feel a sense of nostalgia for past values and certainties. For them, the idealized vision of an earlier age, one in which social roles were intact and women’s traditional contribution supposedly valued, can be highly compelling.

And, of course, parties that promote such a vision promise women – including those habituated to second-class status at work and the bulk of the labor at home – that they are not just faceless atoms in the postmodern mass. Rather, you, the lowly clerical worker, are a “true” Danish, Norwegian, or French woman. You are an heiress to a noble heritage, and...also part of something larger and more compelling than is implied by the cog status that a multiracial, secular society offers you.

The attraction of right-wing parties to women should be examined, not merely condemned. If a society does not offer individuals a community life that takes them beyond themselves, values only production and the bottom line, and opens itself to immigrants without asserting and cherishing what is special and valuable about Danish, Norwegian, or French culture, it is asking for trouble.

There's a bit of snark in this, but she does recognise that things have gone seriously wrong within liberal modernity (see, it's not just us).

Monday, July 21, 2014

John Dickson Batten

Here's a painting by a British artist, John Dickson Batten, titled The Family (1886) (hat tip: Happy Acres)
 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A sign of the times: the god Thor becomes a....

Won't dwell on this, but will take it as a sign of the times that Marvel comics has decided that from now on the Norse god Thor is to be a woman.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mass man

I've just read an interesting post by Bonald. It's a summary of a book written in 1930 by Jose Ortega y Gasset called The Revolt of the Masses:
A century of security and prosperity (the nineteenth, that is) has produced a populace of spoiled brats.  That’s the main contention of Ortega y Gasset’s famous book.  The new type, which he calls “mass man”, is distinguished above all by ingratitude and complacency.  He has grown so used to stable government and a rising standard of living that he has come to imagine that these exist automatically without any human effort.  Being oblivious to the effort needed to maintain and run a civilization, he certainly feels no responsibility to contribute to the endeavor, but rather settles for demanding a greater and greater share of the spoils.  Mass man has no interest in the science that gives him his technology or in the history and culture that form his civilization.  The mass calls on the state to gratify its desires by bullying those who stand in its way, oblivious to the ruin this will eventually bring.

The noble man always serves some good or outside himself and judges himself by a harsh external standard.  (Noblesse oblige.)  Mass man is satisfied with himself as he is.  (He has self-esteem, we might say.)  He has opinions, picked up from the prejudices and buzzwords of his surroundings, on every topic.  He has no interest, however, in investigating whether his opinions are actually true.  He doesn’t feel the need to have what he regards as good reasons, much less to investigate the reasons for and against each view before coming to a decision on a particular issue.  He thinks his opinions have value just because they are his.  This is only a particularly obnoxious example of mass man’s total self-complacency.  Experts in narrow technical fields are some of the worst mass men, as their expertise in one field makes them even more smug and incurious in their ignorant appraisals of everything else.

It seems to me that a certain percentage of traditionalist intellectuals are in reaction against something like Ortega's mass man. They have an instinct toward nobility of character and bearing, of moral integrity, of the pursuit of a higher, complex truth, of an elevated culture and companionship, of beauty and refinement, of self-discipline and courage.

However, from at least the late 1800s onward, it has been clear that Western culture was slipping increasingly toward dominance by that of the mass man (and by the mid-1900s that dominance was close to complete).

What does all that mean? It means that we have a potential problem with traditionalist intellectuals. In the early 1900s, a group of liberal intellectuals felt alienated from their own culture and so turned against it, preferring to form a subculture of their own - with disastrous consequences for Western history.

And what does a traditionalist intellectual do who similarly feels alienated from a culture based on mass man? I wonder if it pushes some to become curmudgeonly or bitter, and to feel a superior disdain for the mainstream of their own society. In other words, there is no longer a positive regard for the ordinary man and woman of their own tradition, which then sours the whole outlook.

There has to be some sympathetic understanding that it is not given to everyone to set a higher ideal for themselves; but that there is still much within the life of the ordinary person to admire; and that the role of those who are drawn to higher ideals is to act creatively in the world to positively influence their own society and culture.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dr Stoet: do we really care that...

Gijsbert Stoet is a reader in psychology at the University of Glasgow. He has stood against the temper of the times by arguing that it is normal for young men and women to have differing preferences when it comes to careers. He also wants attention to be paid to the performance of boys at school.
Dr Stoet said it was ‘really hard’ to attract girls to subjects such as computing, telling the British Education Studies Association in Glasgow: ‘Girls will say, “Well, that’s boring, I’m just not interested in it”. ‘We need to have a national debate on why we find it so important to have equal numbers.

‘Do we really care that only 5 per cent of the programmers are women? … I don’t care who programs my computers. A wealthy, democratic society can afford to let people do what they want.

‘What is better? To have 50 per cent of female engineers who do not really like their work but say, “Yeah, well, I did it for the feminist cause”. Or do you want 3 per cent of female engineers who say “I really like my job”?’

Dr Stoet went on to question the national focus given to girls’ struggles in subjects such as maths, when boys generally performed worse at school.

‘Nobody seems to be that interested that boys have problems. We have, as human beings, a natural tendency to see women as vulnerable and needing help. But if it’s a boy who needs help, he’s responsible for himself,’ he said.

Dr Stoet believes that people are influenced by a combination of biology and culture; his opponents emphasise the influence of culture alone:
To me, it seems often that some activists find it more important that we have equal numbers of men and women in every job that needs to be done than that people are choosing something they really want to do. That is based on the wrong assumption that those activists think that men and women make those career choices because of the wrong type of socialisation (such as specific colours of toys). They never seem to consider that our vocational interests can at least be partially influenced by our biology.