Friday, 3 January 2003

The Dixiecrats and the Constitution

Eugene Volokh debunks the far-right myth of the Dixiecrats as being either libertarian or constitutionalist:

But then [Paul Craig Roberts] proceeds to defend the Dixiecrats on the merits:

It was left to the libertarian, Llewellyn Rockwell, to point out that, fundamentally, states' rights is about the Tenth Amendment, not segregation. Thurmond's political movement sought a return to the enumerated powers guaranteed by the Constitution to the states. . . .

Lott's tribute to Thurmond is easily defended on principled constitutional grounds. However, to speak against the neoconservative Republican and liberal Democrat ideal of a powerful central government is as impermissible as to utter words deemed to offend the legally privileged.

Interesting, that: Did Thurmond's political movement also seek a return to, say, the Fourteenth Amendment, also part of the same Constitution, which required states to give blacks the "equal protection" of the laws, something that the 1948 South notably neglected to do? What about the Fifteenth Amendment — were the Dixiecrats also enthusiastic about protecting blacks' constitutionally secured rights to vote? In fact, what seems more like a system of entrenched class privilege in which some aristocrats (granted, often a majority, unlike in real feudalism) lord it over the downtrodden commoners — 1948 Dixie (or 1948 America more broadly), or 2002 America, with all its warts?

As I have argued in the past (as anyone who has suffered through my POL 101 will testify), Jim Crow was the very embodiment of the problem of “majority faction” that James Madison warned about in Federalist 10, and one of the few situations that justifies federal interference in state affairs.

Incidentally, those who would defend the GOP as the “Party of Lincoln” should bear in mind that just 21 years after Lincoln's assassination, Republicans abandoned their principles in the “corrupt bargain” of Hayes-Tilden, where the GOP abandonded its responsibility to enforce the 14th and 15th amendments in exchange for the presidency.

Friday, 17 December 2004

The lew rockwell fetishists strike again

I hate these f*cking guys. They’re as bad as Illinois Nazis. Not only do they use opposition to the Iraqi war—which can be done in a principled fashion, as it is by many—as a means for bringing, Trojan-horse-like, xenophobia to mainstream outlets that would otherwise be revulsed by it; now, it’s come to include homophobia.

To begin with, I’ve had run-ins with these idiots before. They worship Rockwell—whom I despise, it’s no secret—and lose all sense of proportion when his views are challenged. They’ve been big supporters of, and have used it as a means of pushing rather radical notions: every attempt to support democracy abroad is seen as interference; every foreign supporter is a neocon stooge, or quisling. Even Pat Tillman, who died with the idea of protecting his country in mind, is fodder for their ends. It’s disgusting.

I would write more, but this is getting me a bit angry. Plus, it’s getting late; I was hoping for a peaceful cruise across the blogosphere before bed. Tom has more here and here. Read the comments; follow the links.

(þ: Volokh)

Currently listening to: Dio

Tuesday, 21 December 2004

Apparently I'm Jacksonian (or Scotch-Irish)

Great book review by Virginia Postrel. The author of the book, David Hackett Fischer, is apparently hostile to any individualist notions of liberty:

New England Puritans pursued ’‘ordered liberty,’’ or community self-government, which could impose substantial restrictions on individual freedom of action or conscience. Southern cavaliers believed in ’‘hegemonic liberty,’’ a status system in which liberty was a jealously guarded aristocratic privilege that entitled some men to rule the lives of others. By contrast, Delaware Valley Quakers subscribed to ’‘reciprocal liberty,’’ in which every person was recognized as a fellow child of God, entitled to self-determination and freedom of conscience. Finally, the largest group of immigrants, the borderlanders often called Scotch-Irish, adhered to ’‘natural liberty,’’ a visceral, sometimes violent defense of self and clan. In foreign policy, Fischer’s ’‘natural liberty’’ maps directly to the ’‘Jacksonian America’’ outlined by the political scientist Walter Russell Mead—isolationist by preference but relentlessly violent when attacked.

’‘Liberty and Freedom’’ expands greatly on that earlier book’s discussion, adding other ethnic influences, particularly that of German refugees who sought ’‘a freedom that would allow them to establish their own way of life in security and peace.’’ For German-Americans, the icons of freedom were the fig tree and vine, alluding to the biblical prophecy that ’‘they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid.’’ This dream, Fischer observes, ’‘was an image of a world without violence, very different from the bellicose ways of British borderers but similar in a desire to be left alone by government.’’

Yep, natural liberty is certainly the way for me and it describes a lot of my feelings, particularly after 9/11. Virgnia concludes her review:
Its goal, one government official said, was ’‘to re-establish the common ground of all Americans’’ and ’‘to blend our various groups into one American family.’’ Fischer visited the train as a child in Baltimore, and it made a lasting impression: ’‘The train itself and its streamlined cars were emblems of modernity, and its big locomotive (number 1776) was a symbol of American power. By contrast, the documents seemed old and fragile. They were symbols not of power but of right, and their condition made clear their need to be protected in a dangerous world. Altogether the Freedom Train expressed the material strength and moral resolve of a united people.’’

Ah, the good old days. The closer the book gets to the present, the less it discusses popular culture or visual symbolism. It loses its early, charming tone and becomes instead a dutiful, sometimes cranky march through the political movements of the late 20th century. Cliffs Notes versions of ideas and individuals appear, but iconography and material culture almost entirely disappear. Fischer doesn’t mention the Adam Smith neckties conservative activists adopted in the late 1970’s or explain how triangles and rainbows came to symbolize gay liberation. He has room for a mention of Shulamith Firestone’s radical, intellectual feminism but none for Marlo Thomas’s popular record and television special, ’‘Free to Be You and Me.’’ He provides a dumbed-down version of Friedrich Hayek’s classical liberalism but doesn’t mention Ayn Rand’s blockbuster novels. He devotes pages to Stokely Carmichael but says nothing about Afros, dreadlocks or cornrows. He misses the chance to consider California as a symbol of freedom across the political spectrum. In short, once the apparent uniformity of World War II dissolves, ’‘Liberty and Freedom’’ loses interest in popular culture. This absence may reflect the author’s fatigue as the book moves beyond its 500th page. Or perhaps it is simply harder for Fischer to take a sympathetic interest in the mental and material lives of those contemporaries with whom he disagrees. He seems to resent all these contentious people (except for consensus civil rights heroes) who insist on disturbing established institutions and ideas with their demands for liberty and freedom.

Indeed, he implies that they’re downright dangerous. ’‘If a free society is ever destroyed in America, it will be done in the name of one particular vision of liberty and freedom,’’ he concludes. But not, of course, his own.

Count me among those that will be in other peoples’ faces demanding my own version of liberty.

(þ: Knowledge Problem)

Wednesday, 22 December 2004

On Natural Liberty Again

Earlier I mentioned, however briefly, my preference for natural liberty—and being left alone in the process. The Professor has a piece over at his MSNBC site that captures my thought pretty well:

My criticism of the United Nations continues to generate hostile email along the lines of “you just don’t like the U.N. because it stands in the way of world hegemony by the Evil Bushitler and his Likudnik neo-con cabal.”

Uh, no. In fact, I’m not a fan of U.S. “world hegemony” at all. Being the world’s preeminent military and economic power has its pluses, but not many. Countries with little else to boast of may draw great solace from military power—the old Soviet Union did that, and many older Russians are still nostalgic—but American don’t care about such things nearly as much. We have better things to do, and most of us, or our ancestors, came here to escape the problems of the rest of the world. We’d much rather someone else dealt with them, and left us alone—though when we express such sentiments we are then accused of “isolationism,” often by the same people who are otherwise complaining about American “imperialism.”

This pretty well describes my attitude. On Iraq, I favor seeing the job through and helping them get as close to liberal democracy as possible. Beyond that, I’m not all that concerned with what the rest of the world thinks or wants. Provided they don’t pose a threat to us, let them live their own history and we’ll live ours.

Brad DeLong, whom I like much better as an economist, has a couple of posts that drive my point home. One, which is unintentionally galling, I think, has a discussion of some Republican congressmen going to India to find—horror of horrors—that they don’t care about us. Boo hoo. India has done nothing to help us—they don’t agree with our approach to Iraq and the war on terror—and I’m having a hard time understanding why we should care.

As India sees it, the coming century is a race between them and China for global dominance. Nevermind that it’s only been a couple of decades since India solved their starvation problem and they have yet to dismantle the leftovers of feudalism. Even if they become an economic powerhouse, I don’t see how we lose anything. The only thing they really have to offer us is trade and I think we should take it. Trade with them. End of story.

India becoming a major power shouldn’t be viewed as a threat to us. China could possibly pose a threat to us, in a military sense, but I’m not sure what, if anything, can be done about it. We will continue spending a good deal more on defense than the rest of the world and it will take decades for China to pose a threat to us, outside of nuclear weapons. On that, they would be insane to attack us because our nuclear arsenal is going nowhere unless we launch it against someone. I don’t think they want that, so, again, I’m not sure how we lose anything.

Then Brad has a rather cute post on the reaction of the right to the possibility of torture in Iraq and elsewhere. He ends it with the following statement:

I would say it’s at least nine months past time for the intellectuals of the right to start “speaking more loudly about these worrisome trends.”
Of course, if you read the post he provides no evidence to support this assertion. He’s reffering to Abu Ghraib, but he offers no justification for the flood-the-zone coverage that Abu Ghraib received. Nor does he offer any proof that Abu Ghraib was known to be part of a systemic attempt to mistreat prisoners. He simply offers assertion. It’s not proof.

If you wonder why I prefer a “natural liberty” approach to the rest of the world, this helps explain why. Thanks to the internet, I’ve been reading foreign newspapers for a few years now and it hasn’t “furthered my understanding” in the sense that most multiculturists yearn for. On the contrary, it’s convinced me that we should stay out of their affairs and involve ourselves with them as little as possible outside of commerce. Brad’s writings on politics are a good example of this, but it gets worse when you read foreign newspapers. They’re very quick to blame America when things go wrong and slow to accept responsibility for their own problems.

I might have more to say about this later, but I’ve got a couple of other things to do. I'll close with a Jefferson quote that seems more apt with each passing year:

"Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations--entangling alliances with none, I deem [one of] the essential principles of our government, and consequently [one of] those which ought to shape its administration." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural Address, 1801. ME 3:321

Saturday, 25 December 2004

Clarifications and amplifications

Alan Henderson has generously added us to his blogroll, but thinks I’m an “evil law prof”; actually, I’m an evil political science prof who teaches con law because the other evil political science prof has better things to do, and he’s the chair—so what can I do?

Heidi Bond clarifies that Mac OS X isn’t Linux, which probably explains why I could never figure out how to configure anything important that wasn’t in Preferences. She also links Gus, who started a few Internet eons ago and whose creation helps keep Signifying Nothing on the air… our real hostname is

Steven Taylor calls Signifying Nothing a “righty blog,” although I’m not sure any of us make particularly good right-wingers… though if you, like me, visit west Jackson or Orange Mound (substitute your favorite inner-city slum) and the first thought in your head is “40 years of failed social policy” instead of “residual racism,” I suppose that might be evidence of “rightiness.”

Right-wing sociopaths

If you begin your discourse with the notion that your political opponents are sociopaths, you’re not off to a good start. Apparently Barbara O’Brien does precisely that. Steven Taylor provides a good response to her claim that people on the right are “sociopaths” (I followed the link from Chris’s post that wonders whether we here at Signifying Nothing are indeed “right wing”).

Since Steven has already addressed her in some detail, I want to address a more narrow topic: her forgiveness of Lew Rockwell and his fetishists simply because they oppose the Iraqi war. This I find simply amazing. My disdain for Rockwell is known (look here) and I should add that I have a similar disdain for his contemporaries, Paul Craig Roberts and Jude Wanniski. They all fit under the labels “paleo-con” or “paleo-libertarian” and I find them all equally reprehensible. Each time one of them publishes, the sum of human knowledge is diminished.

I’ve gone into my own views with regard to natural liberty just recently and I don’t want to rehash it again. I do want to mention that, at a quick glance, my views might seem similar to those of Rockwell, et. al. They’re not.

The Rockwell fetishists are using their opposition to the Iraqi war as a means of giving greater exposure to some views—such as homophobia and xenophobia—that I find intolerable. They’ve been apologists for Jim Crow as well, which you won’t find me doing.

Why, when they throw the far left a bone, such as opposition to the Iraqi war, do purportedly rational and “reality-based” leftists overlook numerous flaws? Is it because they find America and its supposed “world hegemony” more appalling than the very real views of these idiots? I don’t know why, but it’s there for everyone to see:

Now, a rightie reading this might be saying, you are stereotyping righties. Well, no, I don’t think so. There are conservatives who write with reason and factual support, but they don’t tend to be part of the rightie pack. A good example is the libertarian Lew Rockwell site, which features a lot of articles with which I do not necessarily agree, but to which the authors have applied some independent reasoning and factual support.

But then, as Mr. Rockwell does think for himself and considers facts, he is not a big George Bush supporter.

The bald truth is that to be a Bush supporter means that you are (a) ignorant of what’s going on; (b) suffering massive cognitive dissonance; or© are a soulless sociopathic bastard.

Apparently, these days, all you have to do is hate George Bush passionately to avoid being a “sociopath”. Ms. O’Brien’s ravings are beyond parody, which makes me glad that I haven’t read her site in the past—and will not see it in the future.