Irony, Sweet Irony – Affirmative Action For Conservatives

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/haidt11/haidt11_index.html

In the above lecture, Jonathan Haidt calls for an affirmative action policy in the social sciences that would increase the distribution of politically conservative-minded scientists. Finally someone calls out the academic establishment on its systematic exclusion of non-liberal/democratic perspectives in the social sciences; a natural bi-product of their tribal sacralization of (purely modern) liberal values, which are thus rendered untouchable articles of faith that form the foundation of their scientific investigations. Haidt found that the ratio of liberals to conservatives in the social sciences was roughly 266 to 1, giving unequivocal proof of Daniel Dennet’s assertion that there simply is no such thing as science unfettered by philosophical baggage. Instead of seeing blatant discrimination in Haidt’s findings, nearly every liberal democrat will count this as definitive proof that conservatives are anti-scientific, anti-intellectual, and actively hostile to truth. Of course, if you disagree with their view, you lose your tenure (or your position as president of Harvard in the case of Pat Moynihan). It is unbelievable that Haidt is the first person (that I know of) that has called this move what it is: a flagrant use of an argumentum ad populum to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you start from the premise that conservatives are anti-scientific, shout down any scientific arguments they may propose for so long that you end up with a .03% representation of self-proclaimed conservatives in the social sciences, then you can argue at your pleasure that conservative attitudes are anathema to the discovery of scientific truth.

How is it that the self-proclaimed champions of diversity when it comes to race have patently ignored the more important matter of the diversity of ideas and perspectives? Read Mill’s “On Liberty” and you will see beautiful and compelling arguments–arguments similar to those advocating biodiversity as guaranteeing resilience–for free speech and the tolerance of diverse perspectives, while finding none advocating racial diversity as a similar imperative. The very core of classical liberal political philosophy is the protection of individual rights against coercion from groups, and yet we find liberals today inventing ever more group rights that are then forced on the individual! Liberalism historically enforced the individual’s sovereignty over his own life as the sole basis for a consensual order, but now strips him of his freely won resources and gives them to groups by virtue of their skin color instead of their merit. More unbelievable still, these group rights are bestowed on racial groups when the conventional concept of “race” in human beings is being exposed by science as misleading. You would think that the liberals would celebrate this finding: “we are all one, kumbaya!” But then they would have no basis for demanding that every racial group but Caucasians get special protections and privileges, because there are no clear, genetically distinct “races” to begin with (at least none that coincide perfectly with aesthetic patterns like skin color). Of course, liberals can claim that the illusion of distinct racial groups has historically been used to discriminate against the minorities, and thus this illusion must be perpetuated (at least in action) as a useful fiction in order to rectify past injustices. I always found it rather strange, in addition, that these liberal democrats didn’t break out their human-dignity-dollar-amount calculators in the case of all of the racial discrimination against Italians, Jews, Irish, and other Caucasian groups after they immigrated to the US, but hey, I guess justice ain’t fair, right? Or is it life that’s not fair? Ah, who can keep track.

Modern American liberals think that they have somehow added something novel to the idea of “justice” by tacking the word “social” onto it, when in fact they have simply made justice redundant. There is simply no other kind of justice but the social variety. By its very definition justice involves nothing but actions between free people. It is simply not a matter of justice or injustice that Mars is smaller than Earth. Neither is it a matter of justice that Manute Bol is taller than Muggsey Bogues. These things are only a matter of justice if a personal and highly social god out there is handing out the genetic candy unequally. How ironic that the more free thinking and “godless” political persuasion should rely on a concept of justice that implicitly presupposes god, or some other personal figure who is responsible for natural inequalities. For if there is no such personal figure, then it is simply unintelligible to use the term justice at all when discussing natural inequalities. A better word might be tragedy. “These things happen, but they are unjust only if they are brought about through injustice,” Roger Scruton really shouldn’t need to remind us. We make this mistake because we forget that equality and justice are two different things. Liberals seem to think that by virtue of an opposable thumb, any citizen has a just claim to exactly the same amount of material resources as any other organism capable of hitchhiking in this country–even those whose parents hitchhiked into this country and gave birth, which suffices these days as a commitment to citizenship. Here Scruton deserves to be quoted in full:

“In order to employ this concept of ‘justice’ in political debate, therefore, the advocate of ‘social justice’ creates a peculiar unconscious fiction: the fiction that really all wealth, and perhaps all advantage, belongs to a single owner (society), which (in some inexplicable way)  has the duty to ensure its ‘distribution.”

“Now conservatives are not opposed to charity, and, as I shall later argue, they will be constrained to accept some version of the welfare state. Nevertheless they may be reluctant to subscribe to the universal transfer of charity to the offices of the state…. In fostering the illusion of a ‘natural’ right to home, health, wealth and comfort, the state erodes both the individual’s will and its own authority. The state becomes a kind of machine, a centre of distribution, an alien object which sometimes grants, and sometimes withholds, what is thought of as an independent right.”

I can remember clearly when my thinking shifted away from the liberal misunderstanding of justice. When I was two years old it was a flagrant injustice for my parents to bestow more candy on my brother than on myself. However, when I turned three I had a conversion experience. I decided to go to the park while my brother indignantly elected to stay home. At this park a nice old man who thought that I was cute decided to convince me that quarters were growing out of the ground. Having hidden four or five of them in the grass he sent me into an ecstatic frenzy of discovery. When I got home and told my brother about my amazing luck, he went crying to my parents, who promptly forced me to relinquish half of my windfall. “Injustice!” I cried. My parents foolishly thought they had purchased peace by appeasing my brothers feelings of entitlement, but instead simply shifted the indignant rage from the falsely entitled to the justly entitled son! From then on I was part of the adult world, where justice depends less on your pulse and more on your actions. The sorts of liberals I am speaking of (the majority but not the only) are like two-year-old children who look at the government as benevolent parents who must do their best to distribute the candy equally, never considering that this may affect each persons’ motivation to excel beyond the crowd, thus reducing the total amount of candy available for distribution. This is why it is a false dilemma to ask the following: “should we not value equality more than justice, or a basic living standard more than justice?” It doesn’t work this way. Having any resources at all to distribute presupposes the justice that the questioner would have us trade for equality or a better standard of living among the most poor. This questioner has lost his sense of history and his connection to the dead and the yet unborn, thinking to himself “well I know that this great wealth and prosperity was dependent on this ruthless capitalism back then, but now we can reapportion that wealth and screw justice without hurting our future wealth.” This connection to the past and future is the single most important thing to keep around in a democracy, whose Achilles heel has always been the tendency for the present mob to demand things that benefit them, now, regardless of the effect on future mobs or the fact that the wishes of generations past are being flouted.

It is obvious why we should protect the rights of the unborn, but why protect the wishes of dead people? How inhuman to let people in our cities remain homeless because some dead billionaire whose money we could reapportion demanded that this money be given to his ungrateful playboy son? Is this not injustice? No! It is NOT injustice! It is simply tragic! We protect the inheritance of wealth because it gives the presently living an assurance that their free choices will be respected after they die. This is one reason why we go through the seemingly irrational practice of funerals and the such: it gives comfort not only to the bereaved, but to all who know that they too will die and be grieved and honored in turn. If we respect the kind of justice that would have let me keep the quarters that I found in the park, then we have to respect an individual’s right to decide what to do with that wealth after he dies. If we lose this, then we have shut off a major pathway through which human beings can live for something more than the pleasures enjoyed during their lifetime. Moreover, retroactive punishment simply fails to further these pathways in any way. If we punish the son for the sins of the father, just as we reward him an inheritance based on the merits of his father, our sons will have no motivation to earn anything, as it would simply be stripped from them despite their blamelessness.

“The true enemy of natural law, I argue, is not the judge, but the politician, and the greatest threat to just dealings between people is the attempt to remake society from above, in conformity with a conception of ‘social justice’.”
-Roger Scruton

Lets just state the facts here.

1) Political Correctness has become, and perhaps always was, a dire threat to free speech, scientific discovery, and justice.

2) Any argument or scientific experiment that would seem to threaten the sacred values of social justice and equality (which are the same things, of course) is either smartly aborted preemptively, or shouted down after it emerges stillborn.

3) Affirmative Action policies, and their more opaque progeny, are an attempt to rectify discrimination with more discrimination, which in all likelihood will require yet more discrimination in a spiraling process that results in a quagmire of unaccountability and convoluted claims on resources.

4) This attempt to wed justice with equality is nothing less than literally trying to play god, or rather to rectify the inequalities that god so unjustly cursed human beings with by discriminating against those whom god so unjustly favored.

5) All of the above damages a given generations’ connection to the past and future generations, something that cannot fail to destroy a democracy from the inside, given the human inability to delay gratification or systematically project into the future based on sound reflection on the past.

Of course, modern liberals will scoff at #4 and remind us that inequalities don’t just spring from nature (or god), but also from selfish and ignorant individuals as well. This is of course true (though also true of them, Haidt unequivocally shows us!). However, there is simply no practical or intelligible means of redressing these sorts of grievances, especially if we are to take a coherent notion of justice to be at all important to the life of a society or nation. This is because there is no way of putting a price tag on human suffering and because there exists no sound logic for proffering retribution on those who were not even alive during the injustice simply because they seem to look like the same group that was alive during it. Because none of the cruel bastards who owned slaves are alive today, we cannot punish them with slavery, so we must confer on the victims some other material advantages (free education, a seat at the front of the education bus regardless of academic inclination or potential, etc). But how do you build an equation for turning suffering, death, loss of dignity, and forced labor into dollar amounts or services with clear dollar amounts? You obviously can’t. Moreover, we would have to factor in things like the number of Caucasians who fought and died on the Union side in the Civil War. Does one dead Union soldier equal one slave who died in transit across the Atlantic? This whole attempt is futile and ridiculous, of course, but that doesn’t seem to stop us from trying to balance our countries moral debts in this manner. Well, unless we are talking about our country’s moral debts to Caucasians, in which case liberals and conservatives somehow mysteriously agree on the impossibility of retribution.

Do we really want equality that badly? Honestly? At the High School that I attended a few AP classes were canceled and their funding reapportioned to fund English classes for minority students with a reading level below the standards of the 4th grade. The idea is clear: give more money to those most in need. Sounds just, doesn’t it? Well, it is in the eyes of social justice. But lets extend the policy a little further:

“It is easy to ensure equality in the field of education: it suffices to remove all the opportunities for getting ahead, so that no child ever succeeds in learning anything. And to the cynical observer this is what happened.” -Scruton

Take this to the extreme, and you get blatant absurdity:

“unless we are to snatch our babies from their mothers and rear them in battery farms, this ‘inequality of opportunity’ could not be eradicated. And even then, its full eradication might depend upon depriving children of some part of their natural understanding, say by subjecting their skulls to repeated hammer blows, or by removing parts of their brains.”

“The ethic of ‘social justice’ might demand that whole classes of society be punished on account of their privileges, success, talent, intellectual or material superiority. Neither the constitution, nor the ethic of natural justice, can be made to recognize such a law.” -Scruton

Let’s examine an obvious case. Why is it that when we gave women the vote that we didn’t take it away from men in just retribution? Shouldn’t we have at least given the vote entirely to women for the same amount of time that men alone had enjoyed this privilege? Why wouldn’t we give any female candidate for office a vote multiplier of two or something? Well, obviously this would have profound and undesirable consequences for our political process. It would totally fracture our society. It would blatantly flout the core of both liberal and conservative thinking. More importantly, it wouldn’t actually produce any justice, for the women whose natural rights were historically denied are for the most part dead at this point! The idea of wealth transfer via hereditary ties has some logic behind it where the idea of the transfer of disproportional political power by virtue of the ownership of a vagina can offer no logic to recommend it. Yet, the basic logic involved differs not a bit from the logic involved in ideas like slavery reparations, affirmative action, or those ever subtler versions that pop up now and again under the guise of fighting for the poor as a class (regardless of race, sex, etc they tell us) but which still attempt to take advantage of the so called “white guilt.”

Of course, liberals would never press for the total eradication of natural inequalities; they just want to redress unnatural inequalities. Unfortunately, most modern liberals tacitly believe in the myth of the blank slate, such that any actual inequalities that we see in society, be they intellectual or material, must stem from some discrimination or injustice. Therefore, all inequalities are of the “unnatural” kind. Scruton calls this the Zero Sum Fallacy, which is essentially that one person’s loss is necessarily anther’s gain, and vice verca (a good example is Marx’s now defunct theory of ‘surplus labor’). Modern liberals in America have completely double-backed on the very core of liberal philosophy, though as much could also be said of American conservatives.

The core of the conservative attitude, according to Scruton, is a respect for the life of a society as a superorgansim over and above the respect for any individual or group therein. This attitude warns us that change is inevitable; but progress only optional. It warns us that the devil we do know is better than the devil we don’t. This attitude naturally balances out the liberal attitude, a balance that needs to take place in the scientific community more than any other, especially in these confused times when nearly all liberals believe that all change is progress. This commits a negative version of the ‘aggregation fallacy’ mentioned in my previous post, as the interconnections between things placed in either the “good” or “bad” category are completely ignored. It is an attitude that cannot see that slavery in biblical times, though horrible, was actually an improvement on the existing strategy of scorched earth, because slavery is a priori horrible. It is an attitude that does not admit of degrees, but only of inflexible deontological maxims. It is an attitude that has lost its nerve to enact necessary evils and lost its stomach for any tragedy.

“Again and again…humanity has made the same mistake, dressing up the pursuit of equality as the true form of liberty, and advocating enslavement by the state as the ‘liberation’ of the masses form the bonds of exploitation.” -Scruton

Finally, I feel compelled to mention that some very important concepts are enduring considerable violence and misinterpretation, and that this is no less than an attack on our ability to think straight.

“Assaults on the liberties hitherto enjoyed by Americans are carried out, as a rule, in the name of liberty. For example, when an employer’s liberty to employ whom he wishes is canceled by ‘non-discrimination’ policies, this is justified as ‘empowering’ and therefore ‘liberating’ previously oppressed minorities.” -Scruton

We are living in an age where liberty is being assaulted by liberals in the name of liberty; an age where conservatives blow money like a soccer mom who just won the lottery; an age when justice has been divorced from fairness and merit while forced into an arranged marriage with equality! Is it any wonder why my generation is so patently retarded when it comes to politics? We can’t even think using basic terms whose meaning we should have learned by age three! Of course, it doesn’t help that the academic establishment has lost its nerve as well, failing to look at itself soberly in the mirror before smugly dismissing reasonable hypotheses. I might not go so far as Haidt in calling for affirmative action for conservatives, which I think he meant a little facetiously, but it is undeniable that a more fair distribution would enhance the resilience of our stock of scientific knowledge. Is it any wonder why George Bush ran on a ticket of anti-intellectualism and “gut instinct?” His party has been systematically denied a voice for so long that they have accepted their fate as D students, but are at least smart enough to recognize that the American public is as confused about the meaning of their values, such as liberty and equality, as they are, but have at least some gut-level experience with them. So what kind of equality should we want?

“it is only in a society governed by the ‘invisible hand’ that true equality can be achieved: not an equality of property, influence or power, but an equality of recognition, in which each individual is protected by his rights so as to be sovereign in the sphere that contains him.” -Scruton

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One Response to Irony, Sweet Irony – Affirmative Action For Conservatives

  1. In case you thought that I was being too harsh on liberals by implying that they are in fact more racist than those they condemn as such, here is Sam Harris, who is in the process of flogging conservatives, but has enough intellectual honesty to write the following:

    “In a recent study of moral reasoning, subjects were asked to judge whether it was morally correct to sacrifice the life of one person to save one hundred, while being given subtle clues as to the races of the people involved. Conservatives proved less biased by race than liberals and, therefore, more even-handed. Liberals, as it turns out, were very eager to sacrifice a white person to save one hundred nonwhites, but not the other way around–all the while maintaining that considerations of race had not entered into their thinking.”

    He is referring to D.A. Pizarro and Uhlmann, 2008.

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