Saturday, 1/30/15

  1. Free speech for me. Thee I’m not so sure about
  2. “Wilsonian” is not a compliment
  3. Great leap forward?: Dying (and killing) for “democracy”
  4. Tax bias, mansplaining and Otherkins


The roots of political correctness?

[John Stuart] Mill defends the unrestricted exchange of ideas. Yet he also accords to those he judges fully rational the authority to determine who gets to participate in that exchange — and to enforce the education of those who don’t make the cut. For Mill, in other words, intellectual freedom presupposes a period of enlightened despotism.

Marcuse expressed similar confidence in the rationality if not the linear character of history:

As against the virulent denunciations that such a policy would do away with the sacred liberalistic principle of equality for ‘the other side’, I maintain that there are issues where either there is no ‘other side’ in any more than a formalistic sense, or where ‘the other side’ is demonstrably regressive…

In Marcuse’s hands, Mill’s justification of enlightened despotism in undeveloped societies becomes a justification of enlightened despotism over the majority undeveloped individuals. The central difference between Mill and Marcuse is that the former believed that the necessity of despotism had passed, as least in the West. Marcuse contended intellectual freedom had to be be deferred until more people are likely to develop the correct opinions…

(Samuel Goldman)


[W]e … discussed the implications of the recent death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  John wondered how things might have been different if the Hashemites had not been given the shaft by Wilson et al at the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles.  I warmed to this subject, as one of my favorite themes of historical discourse is that most global problems of the twentieth century can be traced back, one way or the other, to Woodrow Wilson.  (And the fact that George W. Bush’s foreign policy was often characterized as “Wilsonian” offers a key insight into my animus towards his administration.)

(Notes from a Common-place Book) The author is a much more serious reader of history than I am, and the quote is a set-up for a family story, but I’ve come to have a similarly jaded view of Wilson.


Even given his premise, is this really an improvement?

Christianity came to the end of [the European Wars of Religion] with a kind of exhaustion, I think. And that exhaustion was a contributing factor in the birth of the Enlightenment. From that point on, people died for the Nation; they didn’t die for the Faith any more.

(Jack Miles, General Editor of the new Norton Anthology of World Religions, on NPR’s Fresh Air)


I don’t recall whether I let my inner snark out to play on President Obama’s tax proposal to help working families, on which (in my impression) the instant ridicule has quickly disappeared.  But whether or not I did, Jeff Spross at The Week has a worthy comment on how both parties’ proposals to help working families come up short.

Elsewhere at The Week, I was given helpful links to answer my questions about what “mansplainingis was and to give me a new question (frequently abbreviated “WTF?!”) about Otherkins.

You weren’t expecting me connect these things just because of the headline, were you?

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.