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  • Archive for the 'Political Philosophy' Category

    “‘Teaching Children About World Religions and Ethics Could Help Counter Islamophobia’: A Response”

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th November 2015 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman:

    In fact, we all know that it is this very real possibility—the omnipresent depressing likelihood of future Paris-like attacks—which is the urgent crisis that demands our immediate attention and our best efforts. All our lives and our children’s lives depend on it. All know this, except Dr. O’Donnell. For her, the “urgent [matter is] to ensure that students and professionals do not resort to prejudicial judgments about others”. This is the sort of grand category error that the public has come to expect from a disconnected transnational, elitist, academic class: an academic class which sees tradition, loyalty, and patriotism as primitive, and whose promoters teach that nations, citizenship, borders, and law defined by elected parliaments are irksome problems to be overcome.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Terrorism, Tradeoffs | 13 Comments »

    “Racial Hysteria Triumphs on Campus”

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th November 2015 (All posts by )

    Read Heather Mac Donald’s column at City Journal.

    Imagine an Ivy administration that encouraged frat boys and athletes to abuse women and get into trouble with the law. That’s analogous to the current situation, the only differences being the identities and characteristic weaknesses of the members of the respective groups being egged on and suppressed. The young hysterics desperately need guidance from mature adults who have their best interests at heart. Instead the system their parents trust and pay an arm and leg for indulges, out of cowardice or ideological zeal, the kids’ worst impulses.

    Institutional racist or anti-female conspiracies, the figments of fevered leftist/feminist imagination, have never been less frequent, but anti-intellectual and anti-male conspiracies are everywhere.

    The college administrators will do fine. The victimized students, mostly men, will learn hard lessons. Many, though not all, will emerge stronger for it. But many of the young leftist women, and some of the men, who have been overprotected and fed lies their entire lives, will have significant difficulty functioning in the real world.

    If DCFS employees encourage or look the other way at the corruption of children it’s a scandal. How is it different when university administrators do the same thing with vulnerable young adults?

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Feminism, Human Behavior, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 18 Comments »

    Lewis vs Haldane (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 6th November 2015 (All posts by )

    (I cross-posted my 2014 review of C S Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength over at Richochet, where a good comment thread has developed. Some of the comments reminded me of the extremely negative review of the book written by JBS Haldane in 1946, and Lewis’s response thereto.)

    Haldane was an eminent British scientist (population genetics) and a Marxist. C S Lewis was…well, you probably already know who C S Lewis was.

    Haldane’s critique was directed at the series of novels by Lewis known as the Ransom Trilogy, and particularly the last book of the series,  That Hideous Strength . Lewis responded in a letter which remained unpublished for many of years. All this may sound ancient and esoteric, but I believe the Lewis/Haldane controversy is very relevant to our current political and philosophical landscape.

    To briefly summarize That Hideous Strength: Mark, a young sociologist, is hired by a government agency called NICE–the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation–having as its stated mission the application of science to social problems. (Unbelievably, today the real-life British agency which establishes rationing policies for healthcare is also called NICE.) In the novel, NICE turns out to be a conspiracy devoted to very diabolical purposes, as Mark gradually discovers. It also turns out that the main reason NICE wanted to hire Mark is to get control of his wife, Jane (maiden name: Tudor) who has clairvoyant powers. The NICE officials want to use Jane’s abilities to get in touch with the magician Merlin and to effect a junction between modern scientific power and the ancient powers of magic, thereby bringing about the enslavement of mankind and worse. Jane, though, becomes involved with a group which represents the polar opposite of NICE, led by a philology professor named Ransom, who is clearly intended as a Christ-figure. The conflict between NICE and the Ransom group will determine the future of humanity.

    A brilliantly written and thought-provoking book, which I highly recommend, even if, like me, you’re not generally a fan of fantasy novels.

    With context established, here are some of the highlights of the Lewis/Haldane controversy:

    1) Money and Power.

    In his article, Haldane attacks Lewis for the latter’s refusal to absolutely condemn usury, and celebrates the fact that “Mammon has been cleared off a sixth of our planet’s surface”…clearly referring to the Soviet Union. Here’s part of Lewis’s response:

    The difference between us is that the Professor sees the ‘World’ purely in terms of those threats and those allurements which depend on money. I do not. The most ‘worldly’ society I have ever lived in is that of schoolboys: most worldly in the cruelty and arrogance of the strong, the toadyism and mutual treachery of the weak, and the unqualified snobbery of both. Nothing was so base that most members of the school proletariat would not do it, or suffer it, to win the favour of the school aristocracy: hardly any injustice too bad for the aristocracy to practise. But the class system did not in the least depend on the amount of pocket money. Who needs to care about money if most of the things he wants will be offered by cringing servility and the remainder can be taken by force? This lesson has remained with me all my life. That is one of the reasons why I cannot share Professor Haldanes exaltation at the banishment of Mammon from ‘a sixth of our planet’s surface’. I have already lived in a world from which Mammon was banished: it was the most wicked and miserable I have yet known. If Mammon were the only devil, it would be another matter. But where Mammon vacates the throne, how if Moloch takes his
    place? As Aristotle said, ‘Men do not become tyrants in order to keep warm’. All men, of course, desire pleasure and safety. But all men also desire power and all men desire the mere sense of being ‘in the know’ or the ‘inner ring’, of not being ‘outsiders’: a passion insufficiently studied and the chief theme of my story. When the state of society is such that money is the passport to all these prizes, then of course money will be the prime temptation. But when the passport changes, the desires will remain.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Big Government, Britain, Christianity, Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, History, Human Behavior, Law, Leftism, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Religion, Society | 18 Comments »

    Two Views of Immigration

    Posted by David Foster on 7th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Mary Antin was a Russian Jewish immigrant who came to the US with her family in 1894, at the age of thirteen.  I briefly reviewed her 1912 book, The Promised Land, here.

    Browsing through a used bookstore the other day, I saw a slightly later book by Antin:  They who knock at our gates–a complete gospel of immigration (available here).  It was published in 1914, at a time when immigration had become a very hot social and political issue, and is a highly polemical but pretty well-reasoned document.  Antin’s key points and arguments are:

    **The fundamental American statement of belief is the Declaration of Independence.  “What the Mosaic Law is to the Jews, the Declaration is to the American people…Without it, we should not differ greatly from other nations who have achieved a constitutional form of government and various democratic institutions.”  And  “it was by sinking our particular quarrel with George of England in the universal quarrel of humanity with injustice that we emerged a distinct nation with a unique mission in the world.”  Our loyalty to these principles is tested by our attitude toward immigration, “For the alien, whatever ethnic or geographic label he carries, in a primary classification of the creatures of the earth, falls in the human family.”  This universalist view leads Antin to conclude that we are morally obligated to accept as many immigrants as we feasibly can–and we have room for many, many more.  “Let the children be brought up to know that we are a people with a mission.”

    **Contrary to the assertions being made in some quarters (in 1914), today’s immigrants are not of inferior quality to those of earlier eras.  Jewish immigrants from Russia, for example, are pursuing religious liberty in a way directly analogous to the Pilgrims…indeed,  “It takes a hundred times as much steadfastness and endurance for a Russian Jew of today to remain a Jew as it took for an English Protestant in the seventeenth century to defy the established Church”…and Russian Jews have shown great courage in the revolutionary movements against the Czar.  Also, “We experienced a shock of surprise, a little while ago, when troops of our Greek immigrants deserted the bootblacking parlors and the fruit-stands and tumbled aboard anything that happened to sail for the Mediterranean, in their strike a blow for their country in her need….From these unexpected exploits of the craven Jew and the degenerate Greek, it would seem as if the different elements of the despised “new” immigration only await a spectacular opportunity to prove themselves equal to the “old” in civic valor.”  Recent immigrants have also distinguished themselves in their avid pursuit of educational opportunities.  “Bread isn’t easy to get in America,” Antin quotes a widow on Division Street, “but the children can go to school, and that’s more than bread.”

    **Many of the problems associated with immigrant communities are actually the fault of bad municipal administration.  “You might dump the whole of the East Side into the German capital and there would be no slums there, because the municipal authorities of Berlin know how to enforce building regulations, how to plant trees, and how to clean the streets….If the slums were due to the influx of foreigners, why should London have slums, and more hideous slums than New York?”

    **Those who choose to become immigrants, from whatever, country, represent that best of that population.  “Some of the best blood of New England answered the call of “Westward ho!” when the empty lands beyond the Alleghenies gaped for population…Of the aristocracy of New England that portion stayed at home which was fortified by wealth, and so did not feel the economic pressure of increased population; of the proletariat remained, on the whole, the less robust, the less venturesome, the men and women of conservative imagination. It was bound to be so, because wherever the population is set in motion by internal pressure, the emigrant train is composed of the stoutest, the most resourceful of those who are not held back by the roots of wealth or sentiment. Voluntary emigration always calls for the highest combination of the physical and moral virtues.”

    Hence, the United States has practical as well as moral reasons to maximize immigration.  Antin does not demand an absolutely uncontrolled immigration policy–“I do not ask that we remove all restrictions and let the flood of immigration sweep in unchecked”–she seems to be OK with health checks, and she calls for deportation of immigrants who have committed crimes–but does assert that the gate should be opened as wide as possible.

    A quite different view of mass immigration can be found (oddly enough) in one of George MacDonald Fraser’s picaresque Flashman novels (link).  In this passage, the anti-hero Flashman speaks very much out of character, soberly and thoughtfully in what is probably the author’s own voice, about the American Indian experience of European movement to their lands.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, History, Political Philosophy, Uncategorized, Urban Issues, USA | 67 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Thomas Sowell:

    The Republican establishment needs to understand why someone with all Trump’s faults could attract so many people who are sick of the approach that Jeb Bush represents. No small part of the internal degeneration of American society has been a result of supposedly responsible officials caving in to whatever group is currently in vogue, and allowing them to trample on everyone else’s rights.

    Posted in Conservatism, Current Events, Leftism, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations, Society, Tea Party, USA | 4 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st August 2015 (All posts by )

    Richard Fernandez:

    President Obama was right when he said that the coming years would be about fundamentally transforming things. Ironically Trump both understands and fails to articulate it. He claims people prefer him because he is “more competent” than his rivals. But he’s wrong. They are supporting him because he’s leading, however indirectly and uncertainly, a kind of rebellion against the status quo. The source of his appeal lies in his revolutionary aspects rather than his public administration qualities.
    The spotlight is therefore in the right place. The tragedies unfolding in the world are for the moment a side-show. The real drama is the crisis of Western social democracy and the international security framework that has obtained since World War 2. People are still acting like it can be business as usual when in fact business is most unusual. The forces causing whole regions to implode or destabilize themselves are not the cause but the result of a revolutionary dynamic in the globalized world.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Leftism, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations | 29 Comments »

    Beating Trump on Immigration, the Easy Way

    Posted by TM Lutas on 24th August 2015 (All posts by )

    From a common sense perspective, Donald Trump is weak on immigration. He is weak because he’s more focused on rabble rousing and being a blowhard rather than actually creating a humane solution consistent with American principles. A competing GOP candidate could easily get to the right of Trump while getting more of the Latino vote. All it takes is being an ordinary human being that looks at these people as equal to everybody else.

    A candidate can say the ugly truth that unaccompanied minors from Latin America are victims of child abuse by US standards. Cooperating with originating-country governments to open and manage a child abuse case would be a primarily federal responsibility due to the international nature of the case, though there would be room for a strong state role. Just think about it. If a mother from Miami, FL put her 12 year old on a freight train, destination, San Francisco, CA there is no question that child endangerment and abuse would be on the prosecutor’s menu when the kid’s caught. It would be unthinkable to have different treatment if the point of origin were Boston, MA. This is America and we believe in equal treatment under the law. So why is the legal treatment different when the kid’s from Guatamala, Mexico, or Panama? Their children are not inferior to ours and their treatment should be held to the same standards when they are within our borders. Trump’s plan doesn’t do this. That is weakness. For the general election, this line has the additional advantage of setting up Hillary Clinton as soft on child abuse.

    On the larger issue of immigration, the US civil war provides lessons. The destruction of slavery and the plantation system left an enormous pool of labor at loose ends and in desperate need and we mobilized to meet that emergency during the war. Today, the mitigation and end of several types of economic slavery has put the whole world in the same boat. The Deng reforms mitigated the Maoist economic slave system and unleashed hundreds of millions of people in search of jobs. The end of the Permit Raj in India released hundreds of millions more. The end of the Soviet system unleashed yet more within both Eastern Europe and all over the third world. As Republicans we rejoice in the mitigation and the ending of human bondage whether it’s outright slavery, serfdom, or goes under some modern label like communism. But the problems of how such recently liberated people are integrated into the world economy are just as daunting today as they were during our own civil war.

    While much of the adjustment to that tidal wave has already taken place, the global political class is failing to create enough work to occupy all those idle hands which will put pressure on wages so long as the failure continues. In desperation many seek to enter the US illegally and our system for welcoming and integrating newcomers is swamped, something that is as dangerous as swamping a boat, or overfilling a house to the point of collapse.

    We should not forget that for the vast majority of these economic migrants, plan A is getting a good job in their own society. Migration, especially illegal immigration is pretty far down on the list of preferred life plans for the vast majority of illegal immigrants.

    So long as large pools of unemployed and underemployed exist anywhere that connects with the global economy, wages will continue to have downward pressure and Americans will feel the economic pain. A wall on the border is a single layer of defense. It is not enough.

    The best defense is a defense in depth. While we build the wall, we need to significantly increase the number of jobs we create so that we drive unemployment down to its frictional rate of 3% and keep pressing on with job creation even after that so that jobs on the other side of the border increase and migrants stop there instead of here. The ideal is for people to have jobs in their own countries, in their own hometowns.

    This can only be accomplished by getting government out of the way in terms of job creation and encouraging people to become part time or full time capitalists where they can.

    Trump’s plan is weak because it is reactive and offers nothing in terms of reducing immigration pressure beyond our border where the first level of defense should be.

    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Immigration, Political Philosophy, Politics | 57 Comments »

    How Systems Get Tired

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd August 2015 (All posts by )

    This great post by Richard Fernandez  reminded me of a quote from George Eliot:

    The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent.

    (from Silas Marner)

    Posted in Big Government, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy, Tech | 20 Comments »

    Healthy Lifestyle 24/7

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 18th August 2015 (All posts by )

    The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating, to me, article on A Simple Fix for Drunken Driving called Sobriety 24/7 now implemented in North and South Dakota, and Montana.

    (DUI) Offenders in 24/7 Sobriety can drive all they want to, but they are under a court order not to drink. Every morning and evening, for an average of five months, they visit a police facility to take a breathalyzer test. Unlike most consequences imposed by the criminal justice system, the penalties for noncompliance are swift, certain and modest. Drinking results in mandatory arrest, with a night or two in jail as the typical penalty.
    The benefits of the program aren’t just confined to road safety; counties using 24/7 Sobriety experienced not only a 12% drop in repeat drunken-driving arrests but also a 9% drop in domestic-violence arrests. Unlike interventions that only constrain drinking while driving, the removal of alcohol from an offender’s life also reduces the incidence of other alcohol-related crimes.
    Why do repeat offenders change their behavior in response to relatively modest incentives? Patients continue using cocaine in the face of great harm to their families, livelihoods and physical health, yet they could still be induced to refrain from it when promised a small reward, like $10 for a negative urine test. The reward was relatively trivial, but it was unlike other potential consequences because it was both certain and immediate.
    It turns out that people with drug and alcohol problems are just like the rest of us. Their behavior is affected much more by what is definitely going to happen today than by what might or might not happen far in the future, even if the potential future consequences are more serious.

    Today we were talking to a big data company that can extract enormous amounts of information from your cell phone and make even more incredible inferences about your life style. How long will it be before your wearable will have a bluetooth connection to your phone to transmit all kinds of information on your biologic state? Certainly within two decades, possibly less. It will be able to monitor your body function and relate it to the unhealthy lifestyle choices you made in the last 24 hours.

    At least half of our medical costs are the result of behavior that will not happen today and might or might not happen far in the future. Let’s assume that insurance costs $5,000 per person, probably not far off. Would you sign up for a policy that cost only $2,500 but required you to wear the monitor system and took $10 from your checking account and told you what you did the day before to warrant it any time you engaged in sufficiently unhealthy life style? It’s coming within years to auto insurance. I can’t imagine living in that world. That’s why it’s good we are mortal. One can only take a limited amount of change. And progress requires change.

    Somewhere Mary Baker Eddy and BF Skinner are smiling.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Political Philosophy | 27 Comments »

    Markets vs Bureaucracies

    Posted by David Foster on 17th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Glenn Reynolds has an article in USA Today:  free markets automatically create and transmit negative information, while socialism hides it.  Excerpt:

    It is simple really: When the “Great Leader” builds a new stadium, everyone sees the construction. Nobody sees the more worthwhile projects that didn’t get done instead because the capital was diverted, through taxation, from less visible but possibly more worthwhile ventures — a thousand tailor shops, bakeries or physician offices.

     At the same time, markets deliver the bad news whether you want to hear it or not, but delivering the bad news is not a sign of failure, it is a characteristic of systems that work. When you stub your toe, the neurons in between your foot and your head don’t try to figure out ways not to send the news to your brain. If they did, you’d trip a lot more often. Likewise, in a market, bad decisions show up pretty rapidly: Build a car that nobody wants, and you’re stuck with a bunch of expensive unsold cars; invest in new technologies that don’t work, and you lose a lot of money and have nothing to show for it. These painful consequences mean that people are pretty careful in their investments, at least so long as they’re investing their own money.  Bureaucrats in government do  the opposite, trying to keep their bosses from discovering their mistakes.

    Indeed, this is an important point, and one that is too rarely understood.  Rose Wilder Lane, the author and political thinker, offered the example of British versus French and Spanish approaches to colonial management:

    The Governments gave them (in the case of the French and Spanish colonies–ed) carefully detailed instructions for clearing and fencing the land, caring for the fence and the gate, and plowing and planting, cultivating, harvesting, and dividing the crops…The English Kings were never so efficient. They gave the land to traders. A few gentlemen, who had political pull enough to get a grant, organized a trading company; their agents collected a ship-load or two of settlers and made an agreement with them which was usually broken on both sides…To the scandalized French, the people in the English colonies seemed like undisciplined children, wild, rude, wretched subjects of bad rulers.

    Yet the English colonies, economically-speaking, were generally much more successful.

    RWL also explained the way in which central planning demands the categorization of people:

    Nobody can plan the actions of even a thousand living persons, separately. Anyone attempting to control millions must divide them into classes, and make a plan applying to these classes. But these classes do not exist. No two persons are alike. No two are in the same circumstances; no two have the same abilities; beyond getting the barest necessities of life, no two have the same desires.Therefore the men who try to enforce, in real life, a planned economy that is their theory, come up against the infinite diversity of human beings. The most slavish multitude of men that was ever called “demos” or “labor” or “capital” or”agriculture” or “the masses,” actually are men; they are not sheep. Naturally, by their human nature, they escape in all directions from regulations applying to non-existent classes. It is necessary to increase the number of men who supervise their actions. Then (for officials are human, too) it is necessary that more men supervise the supervisors.

    And the planner will always demand more power:

    If he wants to do good (as he sees good) to the citizens, he needs more power. If he wants to be re-elected, he needs more power to use for his party. If he wants money, he needs more power; he can always sell it to some eager buyer. If he wants publicity, flattery, more self-importance, he needs more power, to satisfy clamoring reformers who can give him flattering publicity.

    Read  Glenn’s whole article, and  my post about Rose Wilder Lane’s ideas and writing

    Posted in Big Government, Britain, Economics & Finance, France, Leftism, Political Philosophy, USA | 4 Comments »

    Ads sell everything from Apple to Zippo. Why aren’t they used to sell ideas?

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 11th August 2015 (All posts by )

    After two losses to the farthest left president ever, conservatives have been agonizing over how win back the presidency. More importantly, the truly thoughtful among us have been agonizing over how to win back a once freedom-loving culture drifting ever farther leftward.

    On the political front, the debate is over moderates (who might win the middle) and conservatives (who might excite the base). That seems to be the debate that sucks up all the oxygen. I would make the case that if you are focusing on the political front, you are fighting a battle, but have already lost the war.

    I take the position that politics, while important, is merely the manifestation of what is happening to the culture. If you lose the culture, you are going to lose the elections. It’s that simple.

    I think it was post 2012, where Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit, opined that conservatives should start buying up media, so that they could compete, at least partly, with the progressives’ dominance in the MSM. I think that is a good idea, and would argue that it is far better investment than giving money to another think tank. It isn’t easy, though. First you have to buy the medium, then you have to market it so it is followed. Last, and most important, that medium has to do much more than Fox News and talk radio, both of which do little more than pound the rubble for the already converted – making conservatives angrier and less palatable in the process.

    It’s a great idea, but difficult. What if there is an easier way?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric, USA | 29 Comments »

    What Are the Fundamental Axioms of “Progressivism”?

    Posted by David Foster on 5th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Arthur Koestler, himself a former Communist, wrote about  closed intellectual systems:

    A closed sysem has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of causistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself. The orthodox Freudian school in its early stages approximated a closed system; if you argued that for such and such reasons you doubted the existence of the so-called castration complex, the Freudian’s prompt answer was that your argument betrayed an unconscious resistance indicating that you ourself have a castration complex; you were caught in a vicious circle. Similarly, if you argued with a Stalinist that to make a pact with Hitler was not a nice thing to do he would explain that your bourgeois class-consciousness made you unable to understand the dialectics of history…In short, the closed system excludes the possibility of objective argument by two related proceedings: (a) facts are deprived of their value as evidence by scholastic processing; (b) objections are invalidated by shifting the argument to the personal motive behind the objection. This procedure is legitimate according to the closed system’s rules of the game which, however absurd they seem to the outsider, have a great coherence and inner consistency.

    The atmosphere inside the closed system is highly charged; it is an emoional hothouse…The trained, “closed-minded” theologian, psychoanalyst, or Marxist can at any time make mincemeat of his “open-minded” adversary and thus prove the superiority of his system to the world and to himself.

    In debating with “progressives,” one often encounters this kind of closed-system thinking:  there is absolutely no way you are going to change their minds, whatever the evidence or logic.  (I don’t think this is true of  all  “progressives”–otherwise the situation in America today would be even more grim than it actually is–but it’s true of a lot of them.)

    But what are the “axioms of great emotive power” in which “progressives” believe?  It is pretty easy to write down on one sheet of paper the basic beliefs of Christianity, or of Marxism, or of American Democratic Republicanism.  The fundamental tenets of Naziism…Nationalism, Socialism, anti-Semitism, etc….were well summarized by Joseph Goebbels in this pamphlet.

    I find it difficult to summarize today’s “progressive” belief system.  It does not seem to be a coherent intellectual system, not even a faux-coherent intellectual system such as Marxism.  But it clearly appeals deeply to millions of people, and has largely pervaded many if not most institutions, ranging from academia to popular media, throughout America and Western Europe.

    So let’s try to identify these axioms.  What are the things in which one must believe if one is to be a good “progressive”?  Please try to be maximally objective and to maintain emotional distance, as if you were describing the religious beliefs of a lost tribe in South America or a band of Christian heretics in the Middle Ages, and try to separate the intellectual content of the belief system from the emotional drivers of those beliefs.

    Posted in Europe, History, Human Behavior, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, USA | 38 Comments »

    “Charles Krauthammer on his distinguished career in writing and ideas”

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th July 2015 (All posts by )

    This is a delightful interview of Krauthammer by William Kristol from earlier this year. It’s quite long but the whole thing is worth watching.

    In this conversation, Charles Krauthammer reflects on his upbringing in a politically-tumultuous Quebec, his work in medicine, and his views on Zionism, Judaism, and religion. Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol also discuss some of the key ideas, questions, and themes of his writing—including the “Reagan Doctrine,” an idea he coined, the role of America in a new post-Cold War world, and whether the America of 2015 is in decline.

    (A timeline of the interview appears on the interview’s YouTube page.)


    Posted in Arts & Letters, Biography, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, History, Israel, Judaism, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics, Reagan Centenary, Religion, Video | 4 Comments »

    “Dear Young Social Justice Warrior,”

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th July 2015 (All posts by )

    From an open letter by Seth Barrett Tillman:

    To sum up, if you decide to publish an article, and your article gives rise to a response or responses taking issue with your ideas, that is cause for genuine pride and congratulations, as most ideas are never even noticed. But, if instead, your reaction to such responses is to claim that you have been injured (i.e., your feelings are hurt because you have become aware that others see the world differently from you), then it seems to me that your purported injury is not meaningful or cognizable. If mere hurt feelings were a recognized injury, then no one could possibly disagree with anyone else, and all intellectual inquiry, in law and in other fields, would be at an end. You do see that, right? At a time when free speech is in decline all over the world, when free speech is threatened by government monitoring, by ever expanding legal liability, and by criminals who respond with violence to speech with which they disagree, are you sure you are on the right side of this issue? Exactly whose side are you on?

    Worth reading in full.

    (SSRN link.)

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Law, Leftism, Lit Crit, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Rhetoric, Society | 6 Comments »

    “Tillman on Values and Dignity”

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th July 2015 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman (posting also at The New Reform Club):

    I think many do not quite follow Justice Thomas.
    This might help.

    The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.

    Justice Thomas in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ____, at *17 (2015) (dissenting) [pdf]


    Mrs Thatcher came only twice [to the Conservative Philosophy Group], once as prime minister. That was the occasion for a notable non-meeting of minds. Edward Norman (then Dean of Peterhouse) had attempted to mount a Christian argument for nuclear weapons. The discussion moved on to ‘Western values’. Mrs Thatcher said (in effect) that Norman had shown that the Bomb was necessary for the defence of our values. [Enoch] Powell: ‘No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.’ Thatcher (it was just before the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands): ‘Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.’ ‘No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.’ Mrs Thatcher looked utterly baffled. She had just been presented with the difference between Toryism and American Republicanism. (Mr Blair would have been equally baffled.)

    The Right Honourable Enoch Powell quoted in John Casey, The revival of Tory philosophy, The Spectator, March 17, 2007 (emphasis added)

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Liberties, Conservatism, Current Events, Law, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, USA | 10 Comments »

    “Fascism… in Just 43 Seconds”

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th July 2015 (All posts by )

    At The Political Insider:

    Here is a rare, 43-second clip from a “60 Minutes” interview with Ronald Reagan in the 1970s. In it, he defines conservatism, libertarianism, and fascism better than any living politician ever could.
    He certainly was the Great Communicator!


    (Via Lex)

    Posted in Conservatism, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Reagan Centenary, Video | 8 Comments »

    Random Thought

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th June 2015 (All posts by )

    The Supreme Court and Federal Reserve are corrupt in the same way. Both institutions defer excessively to legislative and regulatory agendas instead of sticking to their respective mandates.

    (Re: Judicial Restraint.)

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Law, Organizational Analysis, Political Philosophy, Politics, Public Finance, Tea Party | 6 Comments »

    Could the Confederate Battle Flag become a symbol of freedom ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 27th June 2015 (All posts by )


    The hysteria is in high gear over the Confederate battle flag. The controversy began with the the shooting of nine people in the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC by a schizophrenic young man. South Carolina is, of course, the first state to secede from the union after Lincoln’s election in 1860. Since the Civil War, South Carolina has been ruled by the Democratic Party until the past few years when Republicans have elected the governor and legislature. In 1962, in an act of defiance, Governor Fritz Hollings (D) presided over the placing to the Confederate flag on the capital building. The flag was subsequently moved to a Confederate memorial on the capital grounds by a Republican governor.

    Meanwhile, Fox News’s Special Report noted this fact during one of the show’s “All-Star Panel” segments with host Bret Baier alluding to it as well as how a Republican was in office when the flag was taken down from the dome and moved to the Capitol’s grounds as a compromise in 1998.

    The shooter appears to me to be a paranoid schizophrenic who lived in appalling conditions with a weird father who seemed to care little about his welfare.

    The hysteria about the Confederate flag seems to be a planned assault on southern states and on conservative politics. The fact that the South was ruled by Democrats until very recently is also an issue for these people who resent the recent appeal of the Republican Party. The cry of “Racism” seems a bit exaggerated when there is a trend recognized even by the leftist New York Times of black families moving back to the southern states.

    The percentage of the nation’s black population living in the South has hit its highest point in half a century, according to census data released Thursday, as younger and more educated black residents move out of declining cities in the Northeast and Midwest in search of better opportunities.

    The share of black population growth that has occurred in the South over the past decade — the highest since 1910, before the Great Migration of blacks to the North — has upended some long-held assumptions.

    Both Michigan and Illinois, whose cities have rich black cultural traditions, showed an overall loss of blacks for the first time, said William Frey, the chief demographer at the Brookings Institution.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, History, Leftism, Libertarianism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 33 Comments »

    Is the Republican Party Worthwhile ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th June 2015 (All posts by )


    Today, an interesting column was published suggesting that, if the Republicans don’t beat Hillary, they should just disband the party.

    I think this makes some sense. We have an attractive group of candidates and some valid issues, including the economy and foreign policy. She is a terrible candidate.

    Add this to the mounting scandals, polls showing a lack of trust for her, the historical difficulty of political parties winning three presidential elections in a row, and the deep bench of fresh-faced Republican options, and the GOP should be in prime position to win the next election.

    But the next election will test whether demographic headwinds are too much for Republicans to overcome.

    Maybe the country is just not serious about issues anymore.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Elections, History, Leftism, Libertarianism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Tea Party | 22 Comments »

    Bennett, Hannan, Howard to Speak at Magna Carta Event, LA

    Posted by leifsmith on 13th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Looks like a good, and important, conference. Starts tomorrow.

    “Among the 15 speakers are included Hon. John Howard, AC former prime minister of Australia, Hon. Rodney Hide, former New Zealand Minister of Local Government, Associate Minister of Commerce and Minister of Regulatory Reform; Hon. Daniel Hannan, UK Member of the European Parliament, representing South East England for the Conservative Party and internationally renown author James C. Bennett, entrepreneur and author of The Anglosphere Challenge (2007) and America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century (2013). “

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Society, Political Philosophy | 2 Comments »

    Theme: The Fully Politicized Society

    Posted by David Foster on 10th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Sgt Mom recently posted about the “Sad Puppies” affair:  basically, it seems that the science-fiction publishing industry and its leading association and award structure have become highly politicized in the name of “progressivism”…in reaction, a contrarian movement arose called the “Sad Puppies”  (there are also “Rabid Puppies”)…and these groups have been vitriolically attacked by some prominent members of the SF publishing establishment.

    It strikes me that this would be a good time to update and repost my earlier Theme roundup of posts on the general topic of politicization.

    A very funny post about a very serious topic.  Sarah Hoyt, herself a science fiction writers, tells of (and illustrates) some of her own experiences with the Science Fiction Writers Association.

    What kind of things do you think they talk about at a convention of the National Art Education Association?  Best ways to teach perspective and watercoloring techniques?  How to explain Expressionism and Impressionism? Not these days.

    “Political correctness” has become a serious threat to American society

    What makes people want to live in a politicized society, and what is day-t0-day life like once the complete politicization has been accomplished?  In this post, I cite some thoughts from Sebastian Haffner, who came of age in Germany when the Nazi movement was casting its spell, and a vivid fictional passage from Ayn Rand, who grew up in the early Soviet Union.

    Gleichschaltung.  A word much favored by the Nazis, it means “coordination,” “making the same,” “bringing into line”…especially, in Nazi usage, “forcible coordination.”  The orientation toward Gleichschaltung is very apparent in today’s “progressive” movement and today’s Democratic Party.

    Prestigious Physics Professor Protests Politicization. Harold Brown, professor emeritus at the University of California Santa Barbara, explains the reasons for his resignation from the American Physical Society.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Germany, History, Political Philosophy, Russia, USA | 19 Comments »

    Pep Talk

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th June 2015 (All posts by )

    US Flag

    One of my Conservative activist friends was getting depressed, so I rattled off the following. (I hope I am right.)


    Reagan used to tell jokes about how Communism didn’t work. Reagan understood that stupidity ultimately destroys itself. All the people around him assumed the evil would last forever. Hardcore Conservatives, like me, thought he was naive. Turns out we were naive. The modern welfare state really got started in the 1960s. It lasted about two generations and it is totally dysfunctional. The first Conservative movement gave us Reagan, who did some good but did not reverse the trends. The new reform movement has barely gotten started. But this movement looks to be broader and deeper than the first Conservative movement. The Tea Party started around the turn of the year 2008/09. That is 5.5 years. Major reform movements usually take a generation to start winning lots of elections. The GOP has just taken over more elected offices than any time since the 1920s, and the reformers are driving it, and the RINOs have to at least talk the talk or they can’t get elected. We are moving along very well. We are in the process of taking over the GOP, and in the process of taking over the government. I thought Obamacare would be embedded and unmovable by now, and it would take us decades to dismantle it. It may go much better and quicker than that. People on the Right have lots of competing ideas of what to do. The internal conflicts are a sign of vitality. The Democrats have NO IDEAS. Zero. All they do is attack and lie and say their opponents are racists. That’s it. That is all the cards they are holding. They nakedly abuse power to insulate themselves. They cannot tell the truth about who they are or what they want to do or they will lose. They are like the Soviet Communists under Brezhnev. Hillary even looks like an old, corrupt, smug Communist bloc apparatchik. Their day is over and they are clinging to power. The worst menace is crony capitalism, but even there people are increasingly aware of the problem and starting to push back.

    This is going to be a long struggle, and we will lose battles, and there will be betrayals, and people will get exhausted and give up.

    But the deep trends are in our favor.

    We are right, factually and morally.

    They are wrong, factually and morally.

    They will lose.

    We will win.

    Be happy.

    Posted in America 3.0, Deep Thoughts, History, Political Philosophy, Politics | 45 Comments »

    “Dear Heads of Government of the Major Allied Powers”

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd June 2015 (All posts by )

    Eamon de Valera’s April 1945 missive to Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin:

    After the cease fire, you must begin a peace process (even if, at first, you lack cooperation from your opponents). The first steps in that peace process are: to recognize the Axis Powers’ governments (even if not democratic) to allow all parties to return to their borders as they existed prior to the outbreak of these past regrettable hostilities and finally, to allow international trade to flow freely so that hungry innocents may be fed, clothed, and receive medicine. It is true that this might allow (some of) your enemies to rearm. But my own experts assure me that this possibility is minor. Inconsequential, abstract, and theoretical future risks such as potential rearmament cannot overcome the pressing, real, and current demands of suffering humanity and international law.

    (A parody by Seth Barrett Tillman. Read the whole thing here, or in the Claremont Review of Books, where it appears towards the bottom of the Correspondence page here.)

    Posted in History, Humor, International Affairs, Law, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    The Chinese Strategic Tradition: A Research Program (I)

    Posted by T. Greer on 2nd June 2015 (All posts by )

    Mao Zedong writing On Protracted Warfare (Yan’an, 1938)
    Source: Wikimedia.

    This essay was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 26 May, 2015. Because of its length it has been divided into two posts, both lengthy in their own right. This–the first of these two posts–is republished here at Chicago Boyz with little alteration. The second half of the essay shall be posted here later this week.


    Last fall I wrote a popular series of posts outlining the history of the eight decade war waged between the Chinese Han Dynasty and the Xiongnu (old style: Hsiung-nu) nomadic empire. My posts were a response to a prominent American strategic theorist who misunderstood the history of the Han-Xiongnu relations in his search for enduring patterns in China’s military and diplomatic history relevant to China’s foreign relations today. Unfortunately, this experience was not a singular event. It seems that every month some new book or article is published pushing a misleading version of Chinese history or a strained interpretation of classical Chinese political thought to shore up a new theory of what makes China tick. I could devote this blog solely to refuting these poorly sourced theories and never run out of things to write about.

    Despite these errors, I have a great deal of sympathy for those who pen them. They face a nearly insurmountable problem: many of the thinkers, strategists, and conflicts most important to the Chinese strategic tradition have next to nothing in English written about them. Critical works have yet to be translated, translated works have yet to be analyzed, histories of important wars and figures have yet to be written, and what has been written is often scattered in obscure books and journals accessible only to experienced Sinologists. English speakers simply do not have access to the information they need to study the Chinese strategic tradition.

    This needs to change. It needs to change both for the sake of strategic theory as a discipline, which has essentially ignored the insights and observations gleaned from 3,000 years of study and experience, and for understanding the intentions of our rivals and allies in East Asia, who draw upon this tradition to decide their own political and strategic priorities. But in order to make these necessary changes we need a clear picture of where we are now. This essay attempts to provide this picture. It is not a bibliographic essay per say, for I will freely admit that I have not read all of the books and research articles I will mention below. Some titles I have only read in part; others I have not read at all. However, the goal of this post is not to review the results and conclusions of all these works, but to outline where research has been done and where more research is needed. For this purpose awareness suffices when more intimate knowledge is lacking.

    Mastering 3,000 years of intellectual and military history is a gargantuan task. But in order to find the answers to some of the questions inherent in the study the Chinese strategic tradition, it must be done. I make no such claim of mastery. My expertise is uneven; I am most familiar with both the strategic thought and the actual events of the China’s classical period (Warring States through the Three Kingdoms era, c. 475 BC-280 AD), and am probably weakest when discussing the first two decades of the 20th century, a time critical to the development of the tradition but difficult to master because of the number of political actors involved, the complexity of their relations, and the great intellectual variety of the era. Despite these weaknesses I know enough to chart out the broad outlines of current scholarship, a charge most specialists in strategic theory cannot attempt and most Sinologists would not desire. These biases and proclivities have kept the two disciplines far apart; there is an urgent need for these two scholarly bodies to draw together. If this essay–which is addressed primarily to the first group but should be accessible to second–helps in some small way to bring this to pass I shall consider it a grand success.

    This essay shall have three parts divided over two posts. The final section is a list of recommendations on how to establish and develop the study of the Chinese strategic tradition as an academic sub-field, as well as some thoughts on where individual Anglophone scholars might focus their research. The two earlier sections will review what has been published in English about the Chinese strategic tradition already. The term “the Chinese strategic tradition” is usually used in reference to the thinkers and the theorists of Chinese history, not the commanders and ministers who actually implemented policy. In the West this is almost always how the topic is discussed. Texts like Sun-tzu’s Art of War (hereafter, the Sunzi) are dissected with little reference to the way its thought was consciously implemented by those who studied it most carefully. This is a mistake. Most of the pressing questions in this field can only be answered by looking at how Chinese soldiers and statesmen actually behaved, and most of the errors common to Western punditry can be sourced to this tendency to ignore actual events in favor of theory. [1] In the case of ancient histories–whose account of events were highly stylized and moralizing–this distinction blurs. However, for the sake of organization I shall maintain the distinction between strategic thought (a subset of intellectual history) and strategic practice (a subset of diplomatic, political, and military history), covering each in turn.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, History, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Mollie Hemingway:

    The fact is that America is now run by people who profit from keeping everyone else from taking risks.

    This is an exaggeration but there is enough truth in it to make a serious point. We live in the safest society in history, yet many people in this society are obsessed with risk. What is going on?

    (Via Instapundit.)

    Posted in Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Political Philosophy, Society, Tradeoffs, USA | 23 Comments »