Friday, August 29, 2014

And now Hungary?

Things are interesting now in Hungary:
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday lashed out against immigration, setting one of the main policy objectives of his next term in power after winning parliamentary elections in April. “The goal is to cease immigration whatsoever,” said Hungary’s prime minister. “I think the current liberal immigration policy, which is considered obvious and morally based, is hypocritical,” Mr. Orban said.

Orban urged, at a meeting of European PMs, that Europe set itself the aim of ceasing immigration. The response was mixed:
“There were two types of reactions: some envied me because they mustn’t say things like that although they’d very much like to. The others disagreed because they’ve failed to turn around demographic trends with family politics; have kept social tension at bay by subsidizing the jobless; and aren’t fazed if the ethnic basis of a nation state is broken,” Mr. Orban said.

Orban believes that European countries, instead of financing mass immigration, should boost development in the immigrants' home countries and focus on increasing the birth rate at home (he has five children himself).

Orban has introduced a number of measures to help boost the Hungarian birth rate, including an appeal to patriotism:
Another way the government means to boost newlyweds’ mood to make babies was the social ministry’s congratulation card, which couples received after state weddings. The card included quotes from Hungarian poets and the ministry promoting childbirth as a way to keep up the Hungarian nation.

“If your love for one another becomes the source of a new life, that’s the greatest gift to your family. A child is a blessing, and the pledge of survival of the family and our nation.”

I don't know a great deal about the politics of Orban or his party, but it's certainly worth watching the Hungarian situation for further developments.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Was Locke a Gnostic?

Has Gnosticism played a role in the decline of the West? I've just read an excellent article by Mark Shiffman (from 2009) which provides a good argument that the answer might be yes.

It's difficult to summarise the article adequately but I'll try. The traditional Christian view sees God's creation as a good thing:
The doctrine of creation presented in the Book of Genesis tells us that the world is good, that human beings receive this world as an undeserved gift, and that this makes them dependent upon their creator and bound in humility to acknowledge this gift with gratitude.

Gnostics, however, reject this outlook as suggesting limits and dependence and see the spirit or will as being "trapped" within such a created world.

Mark Shiffman argues persuasively that one of the fathers of liberal modernity, John Locke, was a gnostic in this sense. A gnostic outlook is assumed, first, in his economic theory:
In chapter five of his Second Treatise, Locke defends the individual right to property by arguing that the entire value of commodities derives from human labor. After reflecting a bit on the complexity of human economic activity, Locke ends up estimating that human labor contributes all but about 1/1000 of the value of things, whereas “Nature and the Earth furnished only the almost worthless materials.” The given world is essentially worthless, except as a source of the raw materials for human making...the attitude of Locke and Marx toward the given world can hardly be described as one exhibiting gratitude and reverence. It’s all what we make of it.

Second, Locke carried over this argument into his theory of the human person. Our own body and mind is worthless raw material until we labour on it through our will:
This is the sense in which Locke understands human beings as being their own individual property. All that they are that is of any value results from the labor they exercise upon themselves. Parents are, at best, the enablers of our self-creation, providing us with the material that is nearly worthless until improved by our own efforts.

In short, just as nature and the earth constitute the worthless world whose value lies in what humans can make of it, so too my body and mind are initially parts of that worthless world. It is when my will reshapes all this and turns it into some embodiment of itself that I lay claim to it. The world as given is essentially worthless, and the value things have results from our laboring to make the worthless material suitable to our wishes. It is the will that imparts value both by determining what will make something valuable and by causing that valuable something to be built up in it.

Pope Benedict (as Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote of Gnosticism that:
Human beings want to understand the discovered world only as material for their own creativity…. Gnosticism will not entrust itself to a world already created, but only to a world still to be created.

I've pointed out before that modern liberals reject most aspects of our created nature, but the one aspect they retain is that of the creative spirit. The argument put forward above helps to explain why liberals would have this focus.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Marital happiness and partner count

Researchers at the University of Virginia have found that a woman's marital happiness decreases the more sexual partners that she has before marriage:
According to  new research by the National Marriage Project, more than half of married women who had only ever slept with their future husband felt highly satisfied in their marriage.

But that percentage dropped to 42 per cent once the woman had had pre-marital sex with at least two partners. It dropped to 22 per cent for those with ten or more partners.

The researchers surmise that this might be due to women with a high partner count judging their husbands according to their experiences with other men; or because it means that women with a high partner count will have experienced multiple break ups and therefore be more jaded about relationships.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Some thoughts on patriotism and religion

There's an Australian Aborigine (Mohammed Junaid Thorne) who has converted to Islam and who is now supporting ISIS. In one of his messages he criticised patriotism because it is a term that was not given authority by Allah:
The 25-year-old also went on to mock 'The ones who spew the nonsense of "patriotism", "Australian Muslims", "deradicalization", and other terms for which Allah has sent down no authority.'

I'm not someone who supports blind patriotism or patriotism in any circumstance. But at its best patriotism is a profound love for a people and a tradition you are closely connected to. It can be one of those transcendent loves, through which we recognise a good that goes beyond our own self-interest, and which draws out our loyalty and our willingness to serve. It can be, in other words, an expression of caritas (of "charity" in the Christian sense).

Now, there are certainly references in the Bible to the existence of nations and peoples, and there is a clear message that this is part of God's plan for humankind. But there is not (as far as I know) a commandment that we are to be patriotic. But it seems to me that we would be turning religion into a dead letter if we took this absence to mean that patriotism is therefore never a spiritual good.

The following aphorisms by Don Colacho could be applied, I think, to the kind of love I am referring to:
The particular creature we love is never God’s rival. What ends in apostasy is the worship of man, the cult of humanity.

To love is to understand the reason God had for creating what we love.

Nothing surpasses the beauty of loyal love, of the love that is not loyalty with love, but the loyalty of love itself.

Friday, August 22, 2014

More women against feminism

The Tumblr site Women Against Feminism is still going strong. A lot of the arguments the women there are making are spot on, e.g. defending the existence of sex distinctions, not wanting to denigrate men and arguing against men and women being pitted against each other. Here's another selection of the WAFs:

















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.