Monday, September 30, 2013

The Annandale Spire

If you walk around an Australian city you'll notice the very fine public buildings - town halls, universities, churches - that were built in the later 1800s.

Here's an example: the Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian Church in the Sydney suburb of Annandale. It was commissioned by Mrs Helen Hay Mackie Baillie in memory of her husband and completed in 1889. It has the tallest church spire in New South Wales.

Here's the spire rising in the distance:

A closer view:

A detailed view:

Female bosses raise profits by how much? Really?

How's this for a provocative headline at the Daily Mail:
More female bosses mean more profits: Companies whose boards are made up of at least a third women make 42 per cent more

That seems very unlikely, so I checked it out. The source of the statistics is a group called Catalyst. One mission of this group is to promote women to company boardrooms. That doesn't necessarily mean the data is false, but it does raise the problem of potential bias.

I looked for some other research on the issue. What I found does not support the Catalyst claims. For instance, there was research conducted when the Norwegian government forced companies to make their boards at least 40 per cent female:
Amy Dittmar, associate professor of finance at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has recently analysed the impact of the Norwegian decision...Dittmar and Ahern’s study found that when a board had a 10% increase in the number of women, the value of the company dropped. The bigger the change to the structure of the board, the bigger the fall in returns.

An even better alternative source of information on this issue is a paper by two Harvard University sociologists summarising the research to date. According to the paper most research has found that adding female board members does not improve company performance:
Analysts have explored the effects of board diversity on both profitability and stock valuation.

The overall pattern of findings across the several dozen studies that have been published to date tends to support the view that gender diversity inhibits performance (p.10)

The Harvard sociologists do recognise that the Catalyst research connected female board members to profitability:
Perhaps the best publicized study linking board diversity to profitability is Catalyst’s comparison of over 500 leading U.S. firms between 2001 and 2004.

However, they criticise this research for not considering the possibility of reverse causation. In other words, does appointing women lead to higher profits or do higher profits lead to the appointment of women?

According to the Harvard sociologists those research projects which do examine the issue of reverse causation either find that there is no difference in profitability when female board members are appointed or that there is a decline in profits. Here are some of the research projects they list:

  • Zahra and Stanton find no effect generally, and some evidence of a negative effect, among large American firms in the 1980s.
  • The Scandinavian countries were leaders in promoting board gender diversity. A recent study shows no effect of gender diversity on stock performance in a sample of 443 Danish firms.
  • Smith, Smith, and Verner use panel data on 2500 Danish firms to explore several performance measures. Female outside directors show negative effects, though female inside directors show positive effects.
  • In their 2009 study, Adams and Ferreira use panel data between 1996 and 2003 on 1939 large American firms. Theirs is possibly the most sophisticated, and transparent, analysis published to date. While they find that boards with more women do better at monitoring firms, they also find negative effects of women board members on both Tobin’s q and ROA (return on assets). In particular, they find positive gender diversity effects in OLS models, but two different techniques for handling endogeneity (fixed effects, and fixed effects with instrumental variables) produce negative and significant effects (for profits and stock value) and a third produces negative but non-significant effects for both outcomes. (pp.11-12)

The conclusion? This:
Taken together, these studies are consistent with the idea that firms that are having good runs are more likely to appoint women, but that once appointed, women have neutral or negative effects on performance.

Several studies address this directly. Farrell and Hersch examine a sample of 300, Fortune-500 firms between 1990 and 1999, showing that firms with strong profits (ROA) are more likely to appoint female directors but that female directors do not affect subsequent performance. Adams and Ferreira find that Tobin’s q, but not ROA, predicts the appointment of female directors but, as noted, female directors have subsequent negative effects. They conclude: "Although a positive relation between gender diversity in the boardroom and firm performance is often cited in the popular press, it is not robust to any of our methods of addressing the endogeneity of gender diversity." (p.12)

The last bit is an academic way of saying "don't believe what you read in the papers on this issue". The problem is that the Catalyst statistic is a useful one for those pushing for boardroom quotas, so you'll be reading it over and over.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A French bishop and the failure of leftist solidarity

I've been thinking through the way that the leftist understanding of solidarity fails.

I noted that the leftist exchange of solidarity fails because it is not mutual. The leftist extends solidarity to the group that he thinks is othered or oppressed. So he is the active partner in the exchange. But if solidarity means identifying with the oppressed or othered, then there is no reason why the group getting the gesture should reciprocate. Why should they make a gesture of solidarity with the group that is considered mainstream or privileged? That would go directly against the reigning liberal understanding of solidarity.

In fact, it is logical for the group getting the gesture of solidarity to be encouraged in the idea that they are underprivileged or oppressed. So they are more likely to respond to such gestures with a growing sense of anger, resentment or grievance.

So what exactly are the parties getting out of the exchange? A commenter in the previous post explained it this way:
The victim is morally exalted just for being a victim.

You become morally exalted by expressing solidarity with them.

This is the Leftist version of a "win-win" scenario...

But there's a problem here too. As we saw in the case of the University of Sydney women's collective, leftists might experience a feeling of moral exaltation at first, but it's soon followed by a loss of moral status, which then leads to being held in contempt by those occupying the "victim" role.

Which means that the leftist approach to solidarity works best when the leftists and the victim group don't actually have to have dealings with each other, but can maintain a suitable distance.

This "solidarity from a distance" is illustrated by a recent incident in France. A group of Roma gypsies had set up an illegal camp which the authorities dismantled. A French bishop, Jean Luc-Bronin
made a vigorous appeal on regional television for solidarity with the Roma..."Be careful, let us not turn our backs on fraternity."

What happened then is that some of the Roma gypsy families decided to take up the Bishop on his offer of solidarity. They went to live in his front yard. The Bishop then denounced the Roma's use of "force" and demanded that their camp be dismantled:
"I cannot accept this use of force...The Church alone cannot be made to settle the question of these families."

Solidarity is one of those concepts (like justice and freedom) which it's important to get right. The current understanding is unworkable. Solidarity can't be based on otherness and oppression - that doesn't give rise to mutual loyalties or to love of and service to a real human community, whether it be family, ethny or nation.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

More on the failure of leftist solidarity

In my last post I contrasted the leftist and the traditional concepts of solidarity. Leftist solidarity is based on the idea of identifying with the most "other" or marginalised or oppressed group in society. I gave an example of how this doesn't lead to solidarity but to disunity. The University of Sydney women's collective has been in the throes of an argument between "feminists of colour" and white feminists. The feminists of colour, upset about the wearing of bindis by white women, have claimed that they are being oppressed by the privileged, racist white feminists within the collective. They want something like a capitulation from the white feminists, in which the white feminists agree to a loss of moral standing within the group.

That's led me to what is, I suppose, an obvious thought. The leftist understanding of solidarity cannot work for a particular reason, namely that there is no reciprocity or mutuality involved. If I am a leftist, then I can express solidarity by identifying with the most othered or oppressed group. So there is a one-way act of solidarity coming from me. But what of the people I am making this gesture to? Why should they feel solidarity with me, particularly when the very reason I am expressing solidarity is because I believe that they are being mistreated by the group I belong to. It is understandable, given the logic behind my act of solidarity, that the "othered" group should build up a sense of anger, resentment and grievance (and a heightened sense of otherness) - just as the feminists of colour have done within the Sydney collective.

So my gesture of solidarity as a leftist begins and ends with me. It doesn't create loyalty, trust and fellow-feeling between the two parties involved.

The traditional understanding of solidarity was based, in part, on particular forms of relatedness. This gave rise to group loyalties and identities which did have the reciprocity and fellow feeling lacking in the leftist understanding of solidarity.

Friday, September 27, 2013

When leftist solidarity fails

Solidarity is one of those concepts that separates the left from traditionalists.

The traditionalist concept of solidarity is based on relatedness. I am loyal to members of my family because I am related to them through ties of kinship. There is a solidarity between myself and my coethnics because we are related to each other through ties of ancestry, history, culture and language.

Is there a solidarity between myself and someone I have never met who lives in Nepal? Yes, there is as we share a common humanity, but the degree of relatedness is not as close as it is to, say, my brother, and so my loyalty to my brother is naturally stronger and more immediate.

The leftist concept of solidarity is the opposite to this. The leftist idea is that we identify not with those we are most closely related to, but with those who are most "other" to us, particularly with the most marginalised or oppressed "other".

But can this really create a genuine form of solidarity? I want to give a concrete example of how the leftist understanding of solidarity fails.

There has been an argument happening on the Facebook page of the University of Sydney women's collective. It seems that some of the "women of colour" are upset at seeing some white girls wear a bindi (the decorative dot worn on the forehead). They are calling it cultural appropriation.

My understanding is that the bindi is not really considered a sacred religious symbol in Asia but is worn for decorative purposes by a range of people, so I don't think there's a lot of merit to the claim of cultural appropriation.

But what's interesting is the way that the argument has unfolded. The women of colour are pulling rank over the white feminists on the basis that they are the more marginalised and "othered" group. Here's a typical comment from one of the women of colour:
As long as the majority of wom*n who actively participate in the wom*ns collective are white, it is not a safe space for wom*n of colour. most of the wom*n i meet who are exclusively involved with women's collective have little to no knowledge of the way racial oppression operates especially in australia and i don't count on them to be sympathetic or productive allies. white wom*n: it is YOUR JOB TO EDUCATE YOURSELF. and the best way to educate yourself is by listening. i if you want your feminism to be intersectional you can't just say "im intersectional". you have to work to unlearn these ways of thinking that place your precious whiteness... above other people's experiences. my anger is legitimate. and i am angry at the laziness of white feminism. i am angry at the refusal to step outside of the issues that directly affect you. i am angry at the lack of empathy. don't count on being educated by wom*n of colour if you're going to have a whinge about how angry they are. it only goes to show that you TRULY do not understand."

Leftist solidarity ends up meaning that the white feminists are expected to lose moral status in the argument and to listen passively whilst they are educated by the women of colour.

There is an insistence by many in the debate that feminism be "intersectional." That seems to mean that there are intersecting relationships of privilege and oppression having to do with gender, race, sexuality, disability and so on. So there is a complex pattern of who gets to claim moral status and who loses standing, depending on an attribute such as race, gender identity or sexuality.

There is, in other words, a complex pattern of division and disunity. Instead of a sense of solidarity, there is a focus on how some within a group oppress others and the guilt and anger that is thought to be the right response to this.

To try to keep a sense of solidarity with the feminists of colour, this is the attitude one of the white feminists took:
whenever I'm trying to cycle through my immediate gut reaction to white skin privilege, which is guilt and then getting defensive about how I'm a bit better than some real bad racists, I remember a really good people of colour-facilitated talk I sat in on....

Solidarity isn't meant to be as miserable as this. It isn't meant to be a lifelong sentence of guilt, defensiveness and subservience.

And what of the feminists of colour? This is what they think of the white women of the sisterhood:
DB: Racist girls expecting those that they oppress to ask nicely for their rights, to hold their hand and walk them through their racism while they still comfortably sit on the throne of privilege. Nice try... really cute.

TC: Hell no, how bout they kiss the brownest part of our asses and watch the big girls do feminism. The most radical thing they've done since the 70's is take off their tops for Femen.

The feminists of colour are claiming that white feminists are privileged racists who oppress them and who need to be replaced and re-educated by women like themselves.

It's not a very impressive kind of solidarity and the problem goes back to the way that solidarity itself is conceived.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Liberal professor stood down

William Penn, a professor of English at Michigan State University, made hostile comments against whites and Republicans in his lectures. The comments were recorded by a student:

He has now been stood down by the university.

There is nothing that new in what William Penn had to say. He is yet another campus liberal who looks forward to the demise of white people (he identifies as a American Indian). It's interesting though that he's been held to account for it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

John Paul II on heritage

In my post on "The Elite Consensus" I argued that a core problem with liberalism is not so much materialism or even selfishness but a faulty concept of individuality:
From the liberal perspective, what we do in the family or as members of a tribe is simply conventional and doesn't therefore express individuality. They prefer the idea of an existence in which there is no entity larger than ourselves, in which there is a purely personal identity (i.e. I identify with myself) and in which relationships are incidental to our true purposes. In other words, they identify individuality (the creative unfolding of ourselves as persons) with a kind of detached self-making.

So the problem isn't at its heart one of materialism or selfishness. Instead, it's a concept of individuality which detaches the individual from particular forms of identity, belonging and connectedness, and also from those goods embedded within our own nature and reality which guide our development in a particular direction.

If the key problem is not selfishness then the churches are not going to change the course of liberal modernity by emphasising selflessness. If, instead, the key problem is a faulty concept of individuality, one which emphasises a detached self-making, then the churches need to put forward an alternative concept of individuality, one which emphasises the way that we fulfil our individuality as created beings.

The churches are mostly failing to do this, but there are exceptions. The example I'm going to post today is a long one, but well worth reading. It's from an apostolic letter, Dilecti Amici, written by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The letter was addressed to the youth of the world; the following section is on inheritance:

11. In the vast sphere in which the plan of life, drawn up in youth, comes into contact with "other people", we have touched upon the most sensitive point. Let us go on to consider that this central point, at which our personal "I" opens up to life "with others" and "for others" in the marriage covenant, finds in Sacred Scripture a very important passage: "Man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife".

This word "leaves" deserves special attention. From its very beginning the history of humanity passes-and will do so until the end- through the family. A man enters the family through the birth which he owes to his parents, his father and mother, and at the right moment he leaves this first environment of life and love in order to pass to a new one. By "leaving father and mother", each one of you at the same time, in a certain sense, bears them within you; you assume the manifold inheritance that has its direct beginning and source in them and in their family. In this way too, when you leave, each one of you remains: the inheritance that you receive links you permanently with those who passed it on to you and to whom you owe so much. And the individual-he and she-will continue to pass on the same inheritance. Thus also the fourth commandment of the Decalogue is of such great importance: "Honour your father and your mother".

It is a question here first of all of the heritage of being a human person, and then of being one in a more precisely defined personal and social situation. Here even the physical similarity to one's parents plays its part. Still more important is the whole heritage of culture, at the almost daily centre of which is language. Your parents have taught each one of you to speak the language which constitutes the essential expression of the social bond with other people. This bond is established by limits which are wider than the family itself or a given environment. These are the limits of at least a tribe and most often those of a people or a nation into which you were born.

In this way the family inheritance grows wider. Through your upbringing in your family you share in a specific culture; you also share in the history of your people or nation. The family bond means at the same time membership of a community wider than the family and a still further basis of personal identity. If the family is the first teacher of each one of you, at the same time-through the family-you are also taught by the tribe, people or nation with which you are linked through the unity of culture, language and history.

This inheritance likewise constitutes a call in the ethical sense. By receiving and inheriting faith and the values and elements that make up the culture of your society and the history of your nation, each one of you is spiritually endowed in your individual humanity. Here we come back to the parable of the talents, the talents which we receive from the Creator through our parents and families, and also through the national community to which we belong. In regard to this inheritance we cannot maintain a passive attitude, still less a defeatist one, as did the last of the servants described in the parable of the talents. We must do everything we can to accept this spiritual inheritance, to confirm it, maintain it and increase it. This is an important task for all societies, especially perhaps for those that find themselves at the beginning of their independent existence, or for those that must defend from the danger of destruction from outside or of decay from within the very existence and essential identity of the particular nation.

Writing to you young people, I try to have before my mind's eye the complex and separate situations of the tribes, peoples and nations of our world. Your youth, and the plan of life which during your young years each one of you works out, are from the very beginning part of the history of these different societies, and this happens not "from without" but pre-eminently "from within". It becomes for you a question of family awareness and consequently of national awareness: a question of the heart, a question of conscience. The concept of "homeland" develops immediately after the concept of "family", and in a certain sense one within the other. And as you gradually experience this social bond which is wider than that of the family, you also begin to share in responsibility for the common good of that larger family which is the earthly "homeland" of each one of you. The prominent figures of a nation's history, ancient or modern, also guide your youth and foster the development of that social love which is more often called "love of country".

We are not abstracted, detached beings. Our individuality unfolds within the social bonds of family and our larger family - our tribe or nation. We are spiritually endowed in our individual humanity through the social love that is more often called "love of country".

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The effect on relationships?

Beverley Craven had a hit song in the 90s which set her up financially for life. Unfortunately, her financially independent status doesn't seem to have helped her marriage.
For years I’d tried to pursue the dream: to be the perfect wife and mum. But I was also the main breadwinner and I grew to resent it.

I wanted him to shoulder more of the responsibility for earning, but we could live more than adequately on my earnings, so he didn’t have any impetus to do so.

It's not as if her husband lacked career success of his own. He had been a member of a successful band and he continued to write hit songs for other artists. But none of it matched the royalties earned by the one big hit his wife had in the 90s.

It ended up with Beverley Craven walking out on her marriage.

Is there not a more general problem in all this? If women need men to be the main breadwinner from a romantic point of view, but society pushes women into being the main breadwinner, then aren't we going to have more stresses and strains on marriage?

There's a similar theme in a USA Today article which claims that college women are dumping men who don't match them in levels of ambition. I can't see this ending well either. Women are increasingly dominating higher education and they are being pumped up in their 20s to believe that career is all - so how then are all these women going to find men who can match or outshine them in education credentials and ambition.

Aren't a lot of women being set up for relationship failure?

Collapsing distinctions

In 1975 the Catholic Church produced a document called Persona Humana dealing with sexual morality. Zippy Catholic has quoted a small passage from it, which I think is profoundly relevant today:
Hence, those many people are in error who today assert that one can find neither in human nature nor in the revealed law any absolute and immutable norm to serve for particular actions other than the one which expresses itself in the general law of charity and respect for human dignity.

What does this mean? It is saying that the command to love one another (the general law of charity) is taken by some people to be the only principle that we have to follow.

It's interesting that this problem was recognised by the Church as long ago as 1975. It seems to me today to be the chief error besetting the Christian churches, including the Catholic Church.

Why is it such a problem? The easy answer is that if you believe that the command to love one another is the only principle that we have to follow, then all other moral principles are dissolved or collapsed. I can go and commit any kind of sin I like, but none of it matters as long as I am oriented to a universal love.

But there's more to it than this. If the only thing we have to consider is a universal love, then we also collapse or dissolve particular forms of reality, such as the distinct ways that we have been created in our nature, the particular forms of relationships that we commit to in life, and the particular goods that we seek to uphold.

A good example of this is the theology of the leader of the American Episcopalians, Katharine Jefferts Schori. She believes that we should love every single person in the same way that we would love our "lover" (her term). So instead of there being a distinct expression of marital love, with its particular qualities, goods and duties, I'm supposed to extend the same love to everyone.

Katharine Jefferts Schori has even taken the "love your neighbour" command (caritas) to collapse distinctions between humans and microbes:
“Microbes are part of us, in a very real sense our intimate neighbors or members, and the task is to learn how to manage the system for better health as a whole and in all its parts,” Jefferts Schori proposed.

“This work is about consciousness of our connection to the whole, and tender care of the other parts of that whole,” Jefferts Schori intoned. “It is simply another form of loving our neighbor as ourselves, for the neighbor is actually part of each one of us.”

I don't believe that a church can survive if it doesn't take man as he really is, in his created nature, in the range and depth of his relationships, in his particular loves and attachments, in his full comprehension of the moral good, in the full range of his experience of the transcendent in life, and in the particular ways that he fulfils his created being.

To collapse or dissolve is the wrong path to follow. Caritas is certainly a core principle of Christianity, but not as practised by a detached or abstracted individual, but by individuals inhabiting a more complex order of being.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Clegg & the elite consensus

I argued in my last post that there is an elite consensus that:

i) what matters in life is that we make ourselves in the market

ii) it is therefore moral and just to focus on removing impediments to participation in the market, especially by making unchosen attributes like class, sex and race not matter when it comes to employment and earnings outcomes

I had a look at the UK Liberal Democrats site last night and it was mostly in line with my claim. Here, for instance, is what is highlighted in the "What we stand for" section of the Lib Dem website:
"The Liberal Democrats are working for a stronger economy in a fairer society enabling every person to get on in life"

Having a strong economy is a good thing. But if this is the limit of your concept of a good life, or a just society, then you aren't going to uphold the traditional family or nation.

I also had a look at a recent speech given by the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg. Some interesting excerpts:
Here we were, this anti-establishment liberal party

He wants to pretend that he is anti-establishment, despite the fact that his politics are much the same as the other mainstream establishment parties.
I am an internationalist – pure and simple; first by birth, then by marriage, but above all by conviction.

He goes on to add:
And that is the United Kingdom that I want my children – all children – to grow up in: a United Kingdom that defends and promotes its values – our liberal values – at home and abroad.

He is an internationalist who believes that the values of the UK are liberal values. There are two important points to be made here. First, he confidently assumes that liberalism is not just one political philosophy competing for political power, but is something akin to a state ideology in the UK (and yet he still adopts the pretence that he is an "anti-establishment" liberal).

Second, it's not much of a basis for defending a distinct peoplehood. If the basis of being English is adopting liberal values, then how is being English different from being French or German or American, since these countries too define themselves according to the same kind of liberal civic nationalism?

And what if you're one of the many Englishmen who is not a liberal? Is a liberal Peruvian more English than a genuinely conservative Englishman?

Interestingly when it comes to the issue of Scottish independence he attempts to win over the Scottish nationalists by talking much more traditionally about nations and peoples:
Our vision is of a proud and strong Scotland, within the United Kingdom, in charge of its own fate but part of a family of nations too.

I don't for a moment believe that Nick Clegg is really interested in upholding a proud and strong Scotland as part of a family of nations. But perhaps this shows that if nationalist groups were better organised they could influence liberal politicians: that the rhetoric would change as liberal politicians sought to deal with nationalist demands.

Here is Clegg on class:
My brothers and sister and I were always taught to treat everyone the same, not to judge people by their background. We were raised to believe that everyone deserves a chance because everyone’s fortunes can change, often through no fault of their own.

And now, as a father with three children at school, I have come to understand even more clearly than before that if we want to live in a society where everyone has a fair chance to live the life they want  – and to bounce back from misfortune too – then education is the key.

...That’s why I made social mobility the social policy objective of this Government

It's not that everything in this is wrong. I'm quoting it because it's such a common part of the current political consensus. You'd get the same thing, for instance, from the Australian Labor Party.

Note the assumptions in this little passage. The assumption is that the important thing and the thing that people want to do is to be a well-off person with a good job. Therefore, it's important that people can bounce back from misfortune and that education provides social mobility.

But not everyone in society is going to have a glamorous professional career. Nor does everyone really aspire to this. And a job is just one aspect of what makes for a life. If we are to talk about people living "the life that they want" then we need to focus on more than social mobility. What if I want to uphold the historic community I belong to and which forms a significant part of my identity? What if I want to express my masculine being and identity within a stable culture of family life as a father and husband? What if I want to live within a community which strikes the right balance between personal freedoms and a moral culture which promotes integrity and virtue? What if I want to live in a community which is still capable of producing high art? What If I want to live in a community which is not turned against itself and committed to its own dissolution?

Finally, there's this:
If you want to know what I really believe in you will find it in these policies. Using the muscle of the state to create a level playing field when it counts most – when boys and girls are still forming their views, their characters, their hopes and their fears.

That’s why I’m delighted to tell you that we are now also going to provide free school meals for all children of infant school age.

...The Conservatives, on the other hand, have made it clear that their priority is to help some families over others, with a tax break for married couples.

We, however, will help all families in these tough times, not just the kind we like best...

Look again at the focus. The focus is on the state as a guarantor that each child will start out with an equal opportunity - the assumption being that this means an equal opportunity to aspire to a professional job. Therefore, it is the role of the state to make sure that the formation of aspiration (views, character, hopes, fears) is equal amongst children.

Clegg is going to have to go well beyond a free school lunch if this is his intention. After all, previous generations achieved a high level of social well-being by raising children within a stable two-parent family. But Clegg has explicitly rejected this aim, claiming that such families shouldn't be preferred. He wants, in other words, a boy raised by a single mother on welfare to be just as ambitious as the boy raised within a family where there is the model of a hard-working father.

I can't see it working, not even with massive levels of state intervention. And, in the meantime, the role that is meant to be played by parents is usurped by the state. Even the task of providing food for your child.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The elite consensus

What matters in life? There seems to be a consensus amongst the social elite, whether on the right or left, when it comes to this question. It is assumed that the real aim of life is to make yourself in the market. What is considered important morally is that nobody be disadvantaged by factors outside their control, such as their class, race or sex, when it comes to workforce participation.

It's understandable that the elite would share this assumption about life. The kind of people who rise to positions of prominence are often ambitious people who are highly committed to their career and who move within circles in which career is associated with power, wealth, fame and achievement.

But the elite consensus is a problem. First, it is highly reductive and leaves out much of what traditionally anchored human life. Second, it is dissolving of important forms of human identity and connectedness.

Let's take family as an example. The elite consensus assumes that career is what matters most and that the key thing is that family roles and responsibilities don't impede job opportunities, or earnings or status. And so the emphasis is on career being the organising centre of life, including family life, rather than family being an independent institution with its own principles of organisation.

That's why there is hardly anybody in mainstream politics who can really be counted as pro-family, regardless of what political party they are in. The effort to keep the family distinct from the market has failed.

It's a similar story when it comes to a larger communal identity (whether of ethny or nation). If what matters is the individual making himself in the market, then the most heroic person is the one who is an economic migrant, i.e. the person who pitches himself from one country to another to improve their job opportunities or their material conditions of life. But the mass immigration this justifies undermines the historic communities linked by a common ethnicity, i.e. by ties of ancestry, history, culture, religion and language.

In theory, the counterweight to the elite consensus is supposed to come from the churches. But in general the churches have done a poor job in providing an alternative account of what a human life is for.

At times, the churches emphasise the idea that human life is about selfless service to others. This does seem to be set against the elite consensus as it is a non-market and non-materialistic ideal of life. But in some ways it misses the target. Yes, it's true that the elite consensus can lead some people toward material ambition (some feminists for example are very focused on the holding of power in society). But what seems to be really at stake here is not so much materialism, but ideas about human individuality (the unfolding of the human personality).

From the liberal perspective, what we do in the family or as members of a tribe is simply conventional and doesn't therefore express individuality. They prefer the idea of an existence in which there is no entity larger than ourselves, in which there is a purely personal identity (i.e. I identify with myself) and in which relationships are incidental to our true purposes. In other words, they identify individuality (the creative unfolding of ourselves as persons) with a kind of detached self-making.

So the problem isn't at its heart one of materialism or selfishness. Instead, it's a concept of individuality which detaches the individual from particular forms of identity, belonging and connectedness, and also from those goods embedded within our own nature and reality which guide our development in a particular direction.

If the churches are to challenge the elite consensus, then it doesn't help much to emphasise an abstract selflessness, or for that matter abstract moral concepts such as justice or equality. These, if anything, only further encourage the abstracted, detached concept of individuality that the liberal elite operates with.

To be an effective counterweight, the churches would have to emphasise the way that we fulfil our individuality as created beings, made for particular relationships within particular social entities. To be fair, it's possible to find instances of church leaders doing just this (I've got a fine example lined up for a future post), but the general trend runs the other way.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Atlantic on single motherhood

There's a column at The Atlantic which looks at the income of married mothers compared to single mothers. It turns out that the married women earn a lot more (a difference of $19,000 per annum).

What conclusion do the authors draw from this income disparity? They came up with the following:
Hence the rise of single parenting, particularly single mothers, represents both a promise and a problem. If this is the path forward for society, we need to do all that we can to ensure that for these families single parenting is in fact a dream, and not the enormous challenge that it currently is today.

I find it interesting that this was written by a data analyst and an economic policy researcher. It shows that even for people like this it is possible to suffer from the "let's reshape society detached from reality" mindset typical of liberals.

Do they really believe that single parenthood might be "the path forward for society"? Do they really want society to expend its resources to ensure that "single parenting is in fact a dream"?

I still manage to be surprised at times by the way that moderns think about things. Here we have several intelligent men who seriously entertain the idea that you could advance society on the basis of single motherhood. Have they thought about what might happen to the men who would previously have been the husbands of these women? Have they considered what might happen to the work ethic of men who have no wife and children to support? Have they considered what might happen to the social behaviour of men who have no reason to commit to society?

And what does it mean to believe that single motherhood might be a "dream"? Does this mean that marital love has no role to play in women's fulfilment? Does it mean that children are as happy and as well socialised without a father as with one?

I've written before that liberals seem to want to pursue a creative spirit in the making of themselves and the reshaping of society. Unfortunately they don't want to do this within the constraints of the givens of human existence - neither what is gifted to us as part of our condition, nor the fallen aspects of human nature.

Nor does the liberal attempt to be "detached creative spirits" really lead to imaginative concepts about how human life might be. The assumption of liberal thought is often that there is only one true end of life and that is to work at a job. Therefore, think our Atlantic writers, if only single mothers were as well-employed as everyone else, then single motherhood could be a path forward for society and a dream for women. It's not a very sophisticated view of what makes a human life worthwhile.

Finally, I'll point out that many of the comments to the piece don't follow a liberal mindset. Not everyone has gone that way.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Traditionalism & progress

We usually associate the term "progressive" with leftism. I don't think we should allow this association to stand unchallenged. There are certain ways in which traditionalism better serves the cause of progress than does leftism.

It's true that there are reasons why leftism is more associated with an ideal of progress than traditionalism. Leftists assume that the past represents an injustice that is to be remedied in the present and future. Traditionalists, on the other hand, recognise values that are enduring across the ages. There are masculine ideals, for instance, which were as valid hundreds of years ago as they are today.

But leftism, even though it is oriented to progress as a form of moral improvement in society, does not always bring about progress. Sometimes it is clearly responsible for forms of social regress.

Look at what has happened to the West culturally. The Western middle-classes once read the poems of Wordsworth and listened to the music of Elgar. Nowadays we are trying to figure out ways to limit the exposure of our children to Miley Cyrus.

Or consider that men's real wages have stalled and, for those without university degrees, have even gone backwards since in the early 1970s. At the same time, the cost of housing (here in Australia at least) has soared, retirement ages are being pushed higher, and the length of the working week is gradually increasing.

Poor white women in the U.S. live on average 5 years less than similarly placed women in previous generations.

For some generations now, there has been a dysgenic pattern of childbearing; university educated women have had poor rates of reproduction (43% of university educated women who recently completed their childbearing years ended up childless). There is research suggesting that Western populations have dropped 14 points in I.Q. since the Victorian era.

What is more, the Western populations have been left without borders, so there is no longer a guarantee that there will continue to exist particular Western communities determined to uphold a heritage of achievement in the arts and sciences.

And that is one way in which traditionalists are better able to serve real progress in society. Because we do identify with particular communities, we are determined to take these communities forward, and to preserve the best that these communities have achieved, whether in terms of moral standards, material conditions of life, scientific and technological innovations or cultural achievements.

Furthermore, we are not as reductive as leftists when it comes to the principles on which a community is founded. We are focused on coming to the best understanding of a complex order of being, one which incorporates the natural, social and spiritual dimensions of existence. For us, it is important to balance a range of goods in society, in a way that allows the framework of society to fit together and for that society to be carried forward into the future.

In contrast, leftists tend to look to more simple and abstracted principles of justice, which are gradually implemented in society regardless of the negative effects on the standards of that society or its long-term viability.

Traditionalists are also more oriented than leftists to the idea that we embody essences that connect us to a larger good and which provide a path of self-development through which we achieve excellence in character and conduct. We are oriented, in other words, to a positive vision of self-development and achievement in the world, rather than to the idea that our choices don't matter or have no higher significance.

Similarly, there is moral status attached in a leftist society to being the most oppressed or victimised. This can have the effect of encouraging people to search out ways in which they are weak or incapable, rather than focusing on building strength. Traditionalists, in contrast, admire those who have expressed their essential natures in the finest and fullest way.

Why pursue this argument about progress? It seems to me that in a liberal society many aspects of human nature have been shut off. But the one aspect of human nature that is left to people is what you might call our creative spirit. So that is what liberals fall back on - the instinct to shape the world and to make something of ourselves.

But for liberals "making something of ourselves" often amounts to little more than working at a job. That leaves leftists/liberals with the idea that they are bringing about human progress through their efforts to reshape the world.

Why should we allow leftists to believe that they are creating progress when in so many ways they are responsible for socially destructive trends? Nor should we allow them to have an unchallenged claim over such a significant aspect of human nature, namely the creative spirit. We should make a strong push to attract those for whom the creative spirit is a core experience in life.

Competing for a home

Locals wanting to buy a home in Sydney face a problem. They have to compete now with very large numbers of overseas investors, particularly from China:
Home prices in Sydney are being pushed up in part by unprecedented levels of Chinese demand, according to McGrath Estate Agents.

As much as 80 per cent of homes in parts of Sydney are being sold to Chinese buyers, said chief executive John McGrath.
...At a recent property auction in Eastwood, all 38 of the registered bidders were of Asian ethnic origin, Mr McGrath said. The three-bedroom house with a double lock-up garage and two sun rooms opening on to the back yard, sold for $2.39 million, more than $1 million over the reserve price, after 62 bids by eight hopeful buyers, according to the agent.

The median house price in Sydney is now about $700,000. I'm not sure how first home buyers are supposed to afford such a median price. Even if both a husband and wife work full-time they would have trouble paying the mortgage.

If we are to establish traditionalist communities somewhere, I doubt that it's going to be in Sydney. We need to find an area of cheaper land, build good quality housing, but then aim to keep the price of this housing as low as possible - as close as possible to cost price.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hercules Monument

In the German town of Kassel there is a monument to Hercules which was built in the early 1700s. It has just recently been declared a world heritage site. Until today I'd never heard of it; I don't think it's well-known here in Australia.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Melanie's big mistake

Melanie Phillips greeted the election of Tony Abbott as Australia's new Prime Minister with elation:
So what is this miracle? That a true conservative has won a general election on true conservative principles.

I rolled my eyes when I read that. The single biggest mistake that we make is the one that Melanie Phillips just made. It is passively awaiting for a saviour, a "true conservative," from one of the mainstream centre-right parties, such as the Australian Liberal Party.

We could play that game forever if we wanted to, decade after decade, never learning the lesson that such parties are committed to liberal modernity.

Tony Abbott quite possibly sees himself as a conservative. Certainly, he has read Edmund Burke and likes to quote from Burke in his speeches. But time and again he has proven himself to be closer to liberalism in his policies and principles.

For instance, Abbott has repeatedly stressed his strong belief in mass immigration. He wrote once:
the immigrant who feels like a stranger in our midst is really at the heart of the Australian story.

To the extent that it is a celebration of our nation, Australia Day is necessarily a salute to an immigrant culture.

Abbott has more recently gone much further than this and claimed that immigrants, particularly from Asia, make much better Australians than the Australian born:
People who have come to this country from many parts of Asia...that is the face and the name of modern Australia.

...I want to say how brave every single migrant to this country is, because every single one of you has done something that those who are native born have never done. You have been gutsy enough to take your future in your hands and to go to a country which is not yours and make it your own...migration...has added a heroic dimension to our national life

...those who come to this country as skilled migrants...they might come as temporary migrants originally, but they make the very best Australian citizens eventually. They are the most worthy, the most welcome parts of the Australian family...

Can we reliably expect someone who has voiced such opinions to uphold traditional Australia?

And it's a similar story when it comes to the family. Abbott's concern is the same one as the feminists: to make sure that the family does not hinder a woman's career and earnings. He once warned conservatives in his party that:
Supporting families shouldn’t mean favouring one family type over others. We have to resist yearning for “ideal” families and “traditional” mothers.

What followed was a paid maternity leave scheme which would pay women a full wage for six months (to a total of $75,000) per child.

What about the idea of a husband supporting his wife? Abbott doesn't think this is viable anymore:
"The fact is very few families these days can survive on a single income"

So Abbott's commitments here are not distinctively conservative ones, but more in line with modernist trends in society.

Melanie Phillips is selling a misleading image of Abbott to her UK readers. In doing so she is encouraging a belief that things might be put right simply by the right leader coming along. What she ought to be doing is encouraging her readers to get active themselves.

Fortunately, not everyone is being overly optimistic about Abbott. Credit to the Sydney Trads for an excellent column on Abbott which I highly recommend that you read here. I look forward to the day when this more clear-eyed view is a commonplace one.

(Comments note: I have temporarily switched on comment moderation. If you wish to submit a comment feel free to do so, but I'm only likely to check them a few times a day, so you'll need to be patient.)

Monday, September 09, 2013

A terrific review

I'd like to recommend that you read the intelligent and sympathetic review of Jim Kalb's new book that you'll find here.

It's best to read it in its entirety, but there are a few bits that particularly appealed to me. Here, for instance, is Kalb explaining why the liberal understanding of inclusiveness harms real community:
In fact inclusiveness destroys community by reducing the importance of personal ties, making us interchangeable with others and making our goals as much a matter of individual choice as possible.  There is nothing special to distinguish shoppers at a shopping mall from each other, so there are no divisions among them.  They do not constitute a community, however, because there is nothing that brings them together other than a common interest in acquiring consumer goods.  Each has come for his own purposes.  They have very few positive duties toward each other and they could just as easily be somewhere else, if they found some minor advantage in doing so.

But perhaps the most important part has to do with these papal quotes:
Pius XII, for instance, tells us that “[t]here exists an order, established by God, which requires a more intense love and a preferential good done to those people that are joined to us by special ties,” while Bl. John Paul II speaks of spiritual gifts we receive via our history, our culture, and “the national community to which we belong.”

Kalb concludes that:
If particular cultures and national communities have such importance for the way we become human and connect to God, then an understanding of diversity and inclusion that abolishes legitimate boundaries between them and so makes them nonfunctional cannot be acceptable, and multiculturalism, which deprives every culture of any setting of its own in which it can function as authoritative, must be wrong.

The part that I've italicised is critical, I think, for the argument that religious traditionalists ought to develop.

A train experiment

Anthony Burrow, an assistant professor at Cornell University, has conducted an interesting experiment on Chicago trains.

He had a group of 110 volunteers ride on the trains and record their moods during the journey. The result was that psychological distress increased when people became a minority within the carriage regardless of what race the volunteer was.

In other words, people of all races felt discomfort being a minority:
Participants' negative mood heightened as the ratio of people from different ethnic backgrounds aboard the train increased, regardless of their own race and after controlling for various factors, such as an individual's personality, familiarity with metro trains and perceived safety of the surrounding neighborhoods.

This suggests that it is kinder and wiser to allow people to continue to live within their own ethnic groups. It is evidence as well that the "white privilege" theory of ethnic solidarity is false, as members of all ethnic groups, and not just whites, feel more comfortable when they are part of an ethnic majority.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

What starts in Sweden...

In 2009 Toys R Us got into trouble in Sweden for "sexism." They were charged with producing brochures showing girls playing with girls' toys and boys with boys' toys.

Here we are a few years later and Toys R Us have declared that they will not market toys by gender in the UK either:
Toys R Us today bowed to anti-sexist marketing demands and pledged to drop gender labelling for its products.

The retailer declared that it would be more “inclusive” when marketing toys for girls and boys, and said it would draw up plans in the long term to remove “explicit references” to gender in its store.

The move follows pressure from a group called Let Toys be Toys. A spokeswoman for the group gave a classic liberal justification for their demands:
Megan Perryman, Let Toys Be Toys campaigner, said: “Even in 2013, boys and girls are still growing up being told that certain toys are for them, while others are not. This is not only confusing but extremely limiting as it strongly shapes their ideas about who they are and who they can go on to become.”

This is liberal autonomy theory, the idea that we should be self-determining individuals and that therefore predetermined qualities like our sex are "limiting" and should be made not to matter.

It's a key difference in the outlook of liberals and traditionalists. A traditionalist would not describe sex distinctions as "limiting." For us being a man or a woman is a core aspect of identity, one that connects us to a larger good or life principle of masculinity or femininity that we then seek to fulfil in our own lives.

Nor is the liberal position as open-ended as Megan Perryman suggests. Her group, Let Toys be Toys, is a member of an international movement, The Brave Girls Movement. This movement encourages girls to cultivate the following qualities:
independence, ambition, adventurousness, courage, healthy risk-taking, strength, intellect, conflict resolution, self-knowledge, creativity, athleticism, leadership, critical thinking skills, generosity, activism, camaraderie and kindness.

It's a list that, with just a couple of exceptions, focuses on getting girls to adopt more traditionally masculine qualities. It's as if the group is suggesting that there is something wrong or inferior with girls being feminine.

Why would they have this focus? One way to see the answer is that feminists have assumed that men set up a patriarchy in order gain an unearned privilege over oppressed women. Therefore, the theory goes, the gold standard in life has been enjoyed by men - so women therefore have to chase after what men have and do.

The other way to see the answer is that liberals are not as neutral about the aims of life as they claim. Liberalism has evolved to treat careers as the ultimate end in life and therefore it is believed that women should be oriented to competing with men in the workplace. Hence the emphasis on ambition, risk-taking, leadership and so on.

Anyway, we trads will continue to celebrate the differences between men and women; perhaps one day it will be a selling point in promoting traditionalist communities.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

A new party in Germany

The breaking up of political orthodoxy is a good thing for us. So I was interested to read that a new German party, the Alternative for Germany, has been formed. The party is challenging the status quo by calling for the abolition of the euro and for changes to the immigration system.

At the moment the party is only polling at around three per cent which is unfortunate as you need at least five per cent to get seats under the German system. However, what's interesting is that the founders of the party are very highly educated people. Six of the original ten founders hold doctorates, giving it the nickname of the "professors' party". It's a good thing to see shifts in thinking amongst this class of the population even if it doesn't go as far as we would like.

Friday, September 06, 2013

What are the liberal advantages?

The liberal team has done better than our team over a long period of time. Therefore, we have to carefully consider where they have managed to get an advantage over us, so that we can learn to improve our game.

So how have liberals managed to do better? There are a range of answers that have been given to this question.

1. Class interests

It helps if your political philosophy serves the class interests of an influential and wealthy class of people in society.

Historically, liberalism had support from the Whig aristocracy (who wanted to contain royal power) and then from the rising commercial classes.

Traditionalists did have some support from the landed gentry, but the power of the landowning classes in general (in the UK) was broken by the early 1900s.

The situation now is that right-liberals tend to get support from business associations, whilst left-liberals get it from trade unions.

What could traditionalists have done to have preserved a base of support? One possible opportunity might have been to appeal to local manufacturers and manufacturing workers whose position was undermined by globalisation.

2. An institutional base

It was once the case that universities and the established churches were considered conservative institutions. But, as we know, they were captured by the left.

Without an institutional base it becomes much more difficult to assert influence in society. The lesson here is that institutions matter and have to be defended.

Traditionalists have to now consider either retaking existing institutions or building new ones.

3. The intellectual underlay

The way that Western intellectual history has developed has aided liberalism. Some of the commonly observed problems include:

i) Nominalism. A view that the world is made up of a collection of individual substances; there are no essences that give a common nature to classes of things.

ii) Scepticism. A view which doubts our capacity to obtain reliable knowledge of external reality.

iii) Scientism. The view that the methods employed in the natural sciences are the only authoritative way to gain knowledge of the world.

We have to take philosophy seriously and develop our own views in areas such as epistemology (theories of knowledge).

4. Moral persuasion

Liberals have learned to present their philosophy in highly moral terms, based on a certain understanding of freedom, equality and justice.

It has proved to be influential not just with those who are intellectual enough to wish to follow moral principles consistently, but also with those who wish emotionally to attach themselves to a moral cause.

What can we do? There are two ways of recovering ground here. The first is to criticise liberal morality, by bringing it back to its political starting points, by showing its internal inconsistencies and by demonstrating its destructive consequences. The second it to assert a morality of our own. We can do this by insisting on our own understanding of freedom, equality and justice and also by invoking other moral qualities, such as loyalty and patriotism.

We're not as good at this as we might be; we tend not to speak with moral conviction.

5. Creative spirit

Liberals often assume, as a starting point, a blank slate individual. So it's easy for us to think that we have a better understanding than liberals of human nature.

But what liberals have recognised about human nature is the existence of a core instinct to express a creative spirit in the world, for instance, by shaping the world around us and by making something of ourselves.

By attracting people in whom this creative spirit is strong, liberals have an advantage, as these are the kinds of people who are most likely to act in the world to bring about changes in society and within the human personality.

How can we make ground here? I think we have to emphasise our own understanding of a telos (a purpose or end) that individuals and communities seek to fulfil in life. We can't offer as open-ended a realm of creative spirit as liberals, but we can offer one that has greater depth and meaning, and that requires all our attributes of intellect, character, physique and spirit to carry through. We can return to an ideal of a public spirited man, one who seeks not only to defend what is best in his society and tradition, but to add to it creatively. We can make the term "progress" our own so that it has the sense of a creative effort to push forward and improve our own cultures and traditions.

Above all, we need to learn to speak and write in a way which expresses our own instinct to act creatively in the world. We must do this better than our liberal opponents.

We're breaking the mould

I had a go at completing a political compass that supposedly tells you where you fit on the political spectrum. As I suspected the compass could not cope with someone who does not belong within the current left-liberal vs right-liberal political framework.

I ended up close to the very centre of the compass:

Thursday, September 05, 2013

How is history made?

When I write a post describing a positive political strategy or some political work that is happening on the ground I often get comments that assert grandly that some factor beyond our control renders all activity useless.

It's a bleak attitude, one that denies the effect on the world of our own creative spirit. It is this creative spirit that is mostly responsible for making history (though factors such as the economic organisation of a society or technological changes can influence things as well.)

For all their materialism, liberals are very much attuned to exercising their creative spirit on the world. This might even be one reason for their success over past centuries.

Liberalism might even be seen as an impatience with any "limiting" factors on an individual's creative spirit. Liberals want to be able to express this spirit in a wholly "unencumbered" way, as an abstracted "uncreated" individual inhabiting an "uncreated" environment.

Traditionalists don't go to this extreme. We gladly accept our position as created beings, as it is through our identity and our particular relationships that we find our deeper loves and fulfilments. So it is within a definite context that we express our creative spirit.

The contest ought not to be between "creative spirit liberals" and bleak spirited traditionalists. If it is, then of course we deserve to lose.

We will make a real contest of things when we prove ourselves to be stronger as creative spirits, stronger because we begin as meaningfully embedded human personalities rather than as abstracted individuals.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Enjoyable meeting

We had another get together of the Eltham Traditionalists last week. Once again we had a new face and the conversation was very engaging (so much so that we stayed a bit after closing time until the staff finally reminded us of the hour).

Why meet up? It's an important step along the way in building a political alternative. It helps to establish a personal connection between people who would otherwise be isolated. It also gives a focal point for people to gather around.

It's not the end point. If things go well, numbers and branches will grow and that will then create wider political opportunities. The important thing now is to do the groundwork to allow this to happen.

Attractive architecture by Lutyens

Here's a place I wouldn't mind owning. It was built in 1902 at Thakeham, West Sussex, and designed by the famous English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (click on the photos for a better view).

Stay at home dads still barely register

There are not many fathers in the U.S. who are choosing to be stay at home dads. If you look at the graph below you'll see that the number of married couples with children under the age of 15 has declined over the past 18 years; the number of stay at home mums has increased slightly; and that the number of stay at home dads (the green line) has risen but is still negligible.

It seems unlikely at this point that a role reversal family with a breadwinning mother and a stay at  home father will challenge the traditional family.

Two Catholic quotes

Catholic social teaching is sometimes too universalistic to fit in well with traditionalism. But sometimes there is a considerable overlap. Here, for instance, is Pope Paul VI analysing liberalism back in 1971:
35. On another side, we are witnessing a renewal of the liberal ideology. This current asserts itself both in the name of economic efficiency, and for the defense of the individual against the increasingly overwhelming hold of organizations, and as a reaction against the totalitarian tendencies of political powers. Certainly, personal initiative must be maintained and developed. But do not Christians who take this path tend to idealize liberalism in their turn, making it a proclamation in favor of freedom? They would like a new model, more adapted to present-day conditions, while easily forgetting that at the very root of philosophical liberalism is an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual in his activity, his motivation and the exercise of his liberty. Hence, the liberal ideology likewise calls for careful discernment on their part.

The part that I bolded is the starting point for my own criticisms of liberalism. So I can at least claim the support of Catholic social teaching in this respect.

Here's another good quote, this time from Pope Benedict (at the time Cardinal Ratzinger) in 1986:
[O]ne cannot abstract from the historical situation of the nation or attack the cultural identity of the people. Consequently, one cannot passively accept, still less actively support, groups which by force or by the manipulation of public opinion take over the State apparatus and unjustly impose on the collectivity an imported ideology contrary to the culture of the people.

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Senate race in Australia

An article in The Age has reignited my interest in the forthcoming Australian elections. It seems that the smaller parties have done preference deals with each other, so that it's possible for one of them to win a Senate seat with only two per cent of the vote.

In NSW this might lead to Arthur Sinodinos of the Liberal Party losing his seat. I profiled Arthur Sinodinos a couple of years ago. He called gender and race "human constructs" and backed mass immigration. I wouldn't exactly be heartbroken if he were to lose out to someone from a smaller party.

The lesson is, once again, that political opportunities arise for those who put themselves in a position to take them. We should keep building up a traditionalist movement with the aim of one day competing for these Senate seats.

I checked out some of the Senate candidates for Victoria. There are lots, so I wasn't able to go through each website. Sad to say, the Democratic Labour Party has gone the wrong way since the last election. They now have a policy of wanting non-working spouses to get superannuation, which further undermines the male provider role (and increases taxes). They also want to expand the level of immigration rather than contain it. I think we can now safely write them off as an option for us.

There is also the Stable Population Party. This party does at least want to limit the size of the immigration programme. But there are two main problems with this party. First, they are anti-natalist, meaning that they want to discourage incentives for Australian parents to have children. That's counterproductive in my view. The current birth rate in Australia is well under replacement level and this then leads to calls for mass immigration. The second problem with this party is that they emphasise liberal values such as non-discrimination and globalisation - but these values then feed into the idea that people are interchangeable and that population transfers don't matter.

The Nationals are closely tied to the Liberal Party. They do want border protection, but have little to say about immigration or population policy in their manifesto. They seem to be most focused on delivering resources to rural areas. Interestingly, they have put a revision of divorce and alimony laws into their manifesto.

There are some other options for Queensland voters. There are two candidates standing for the Australian Protectionist Party, which is an economically protectionist and socially conservative party. There is also One Nation, a party I have little knowledge of, but their manifesto is still committed to zero net migration.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Maybe men weren't to blame

We've had a spate of young women murdered in Melbourne over the past few years. Many of the culprits, it turned out, had a very long history of crime and were on parole when they committed the murders. It has led to a review of the parole system here.

That hasn't stopped ordinary men getting blamed for the violence. There is a "white ribbon" campaign here which is based on the idea that violence against women is a product of traditional masculinity, i.e. that men commit violence against women to uphold male dominance and privilege in society. The conclusion is that violence against women is very widespread and that the solution is for ordinary men to change their attitudes toward women by renouncing both violence and privilege.

A typical story from the media was written by a white ribbon campaigner, Andrew O'Keefe, after the murder of a young women, Sarah Cafferkey. He wrote,
now the death of Sarah Cafferkey has shaken us all over again...On the best estimates, one in three or four Australian women experiences violence in her lifetime at the hands of a man...For me, that's a fundamental injustice. Why isn't my daughter as safe as my sons in this world, or my wife as safe as my mates?

...If we truly want that injustice to end, however, we must be the ones who end it...every time I behave in a way that lessens respect for women, I'm supporting the belief that men have rights and privileges greater than those of women.

O'Keefe is seriously misinformed if he believes that his daughters are more at risk of violence than his sons - it is very much the other way round.

But what I most dislike about such writing is the insinuation that the average man is open to the idea of bashing women. Maybe there are some men out there like that, but when I was young the very first law of the male moral code was that you were never to hit a woman. And that belief was very directly based on a traditional masculine ideal of being a provider and protector of women.

I suspect, if anything, that the real problem might come, not from a culture of patriarchy, but from a more chaotic post-patriarchal culture. Some of the lyrics of songs coming out of the more matriarchal ghetto culture show a disrespect for women that would have been completely alien to the Australian culture of, say, the 1980s.

Which brings me to my main point. Andrew O'Keefe wrote a column blaming the ordinary male for the death of Sarah Cafferkey. But it has now been revealed in the media that her murderer, Steven James Hunter, was a heavy user and dealer of the drug crystal meth or "ice" - a drug that is notorious for its link to violent crime. According to the Herald Sun:
A surge in vicious attacks, including killings, linked to the drug ice has alarmed Victoria's police and judiciary. In at least 12 murders committed or tried by courts over the past two years, crystal methamphetamine was used by the killer or was otherwise a suspected factor in the crime.

Isn't it more realistic to link Steven James Hunter's violence to his drug use and long record of anti-social criminality (he had murdered previously)? Why should the average hard-working family man be blamed for having caused his crimes?