March 6th, 2013

Against Autonomy revisited

I recently wrote about Sarah Conly’s newly-released book Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism here and here, so you’d think I’d be done with the dreadful thing. But a friend sent me a video interview with the author, and I couldn’t resist posting it here for all of you to see (if you happen to be gluttons for punishment).

Remember as you watch it that this woman is a professor at the fine old institution known as Bowdoin College:

Conly’s calm, measured, affectless, humorless demeanor is exactly what you’d expect, isn’t it? She seems to be utterly unaware (or perhaps just uncaring) that :

(a) liberty is an important value for many people, and one of the foundations of our nation and our Constitution
(b) social science research is deeply flawed and should never be a guide to infringing on liberty
(c) there is a large difference between making laws to prevent one person from harming another, and making laws to prevent that person from harming his/her own health
(d) government does not make good decisions for people any more often than people do. One could even argue it makes good decisions less often, because it knows much less about the individual and it has another agenda (or agendas) as well
(e) this approach would hardly be likely to be limited to health concerns

I’m wondering whether Conly has ever read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. She’s a philosophy professor, educated at the finest of universities, so one would think so. But I wonder. Or perhaps she just missed its ironic tone and thought it was a how-to book?

Here’s an excerpt from Conly’s page, to remind you of the flavor of what she’s saying in a tiny little nutshell that encapsulates the essence of liberal tyranny:

I argue that autonomy, or the freedom to act in accordance with your own decisions, is overrated—that the common high evaluation of the importance of autonomy is based on a belief that we are much more rational than we actually are. We now have lots of evidence from psychology and behavioral economics that we are often very bad at choosing effective means to our ends. In such cases, we need the help of others—and in particular, of government regulation—to keep us from going wrong.

That thing fisks itself—but unfortunately, it’s not self-evident to everyone just how Conly goes terribly, terribly wrong. I recently had two separate discussions on the general topic of nanny-state-ism with two very good friends of mine, each of whom are liberals. The specific issue had to do with Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to control the eating and drinking habits of New Yorkers. My first friend was all in favor, and although she hadn’t read Conly’s book she seemed to be right on board with the sort of argument Conly advances, with is that we don’t make good food decisions and we need government to help save us from ourselves. The second friend was aghast, despite her liberalism. Not sure what made the difference between them, but it was marked.

Conly’s hard at work on another book to guide us to the Age-of-Government-Aquarius:

I’ve now started on my next book, tentatively titled One: Do We have a Right to More Children? We tend to think of regulating the number of children people may have as morally reprehensible. For one thing, the right to have a family is one we often think of as sacrosanct, articulated, among other places, in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. And, we think that women have the right to control their bodies, and while this right is mentioned often in the context of the right to abortion, it may also be held to include the right to have as many children as one wants. Lastly, we think of such policies as having sanctions that are unacceptable, including forced abortions of those who become pregnant with a second child. In One, I argue that opposition to population regulation is based on a number of mistakes: that the right to have a family doesn’t entail the right to have as many children as you may want; that the right to control one’s body is conditional on how much harm you are doing to others; and that nothing in population regulation entails that those who break the law can be forced to have abortions, or subject to any sort of punishment that is horrific. If population growth is sufficiently dangerous, it is fair for us to impose restrictions on how many children we can give birth to.

Chilling. Chilling.

81 Responses to “Against Autonomy revisited”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Well it may be chilling but its nothing new. It’s the end product of totalitarianism. Complete control by the elite of the masses. If you’re not part of the elite, you’re less than human and essentially either a pet, drone or rabid dog. Whether an unaware liberal or fully on board leftist, they are both enemies of the individual’s liberty. Gullible or mendacious, they both support the same agenda.

  2. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Strike that “may be chilling” and substitute “is chilling”.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: absolutely not new; in fact, very old.

    In fact, I just this moment got finished sending an email to the friend who had sent me the video, in which I wrote:

    Of course, she [Conly] didn’t invent it–it’s been out there, and growing, for a long long time…It has to be fought over and over and over–the impulse will always remain. It just takes different forms at different times–which is why our Founders and Constitution were so brilliant. I wish more people realized that.

  4. Eric Says:

    Is she a radical environmentalist? Her premise seems to be that human beings are inherently harmful to the environment and the needs of the environment supersede the needs and wants of humans. Therefore, human beings ought to be regulated to control their harm to the environment. In that, society and environment are interchangeable.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Eric: it’s that, but it’s not limited to that. She’s at least (if not more) into restricting liberty in order to “help” people improve their own personal health.

  6. Ann Says:

    Well Bowdoin certainly seems proud of her — that video has pride of place on the homepage of its website right now.

    Unfortunately, there will always be Sarah Conlys among us, what bothers me most is the attention she’s getting from people like Cass Sunstein. Reminds me of Peter Singer being not only given the time of day by academia, but actually rewarded with a prestigious chair at Princeton.

    Interesting that in the title Bowdoin chose for that video, they use “greater paternalism” rather than “coercive paternalism,” as in the subtitle of her book. Guess they realized “coercive” would give the game away.

  7. George Pal Says:

    So it’s the free but insufficiently rational v the tyranny of the rationalizers. My turn to rationalize: burn down the universities, send the professors to the fields, barns, and stables and have them earn their keep. Sounds like the Cultural Revolution doesn’t it – how could they protest?

  8. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    ” . .. we are often very bad at choosing effective means to our ends. In such cases, we need the help of others—and in particular, of government regulation—to keep us from going wrong.” A breathtaking collapse of logic. If “we” are bad at making decisions, then what endows “others” with more wisdom? What is it about labeling some of us “the government” that protects those favored few from the irrationality that afflicts the rest of us? Staggering. And to think, one of my sons almost went to Bowdoin . . .

    As for the statement that “the right to control one’s body is conditional on how much harm you are doing to others,” I wonder if she has thought about applying the same condition to the harm abortion does to the fetus.

  9. Oldflyer Says:

    Neo, the irony in this statement is breath taking:

    “that the common high evaluation of the importance of autonomy is based on a belief that we are much more rational than we actually are. We now have lots of evidence from psychology and behavioral economics that we are often very bad at choosing effective means to our ends”

    You and I are not as rational as we think. But, somewhere there is a group that is rational enough to dictate our actions–to our benefit.

    I find her use of the word we, fascinating.
    I suppose that if you are a Professor at Bowdoin “we” can be interpreted many ways. She seems to speak of a small “we” which is clearly made up of the ignorant collection of individuals who cannot function autonomously. On the other hand she implies that there is a large “WE” that is comprised of the the wise and competent who act for our benefit, with or without our permission. I presume the large WE is synonymous with government.

    Her premise has the same philosophical basis as all Tyrannies. The Superior people must rule the masses. Monarchs rule because they have God’s Blessing. Dictators rule because they have raw power. Utopians believe they should rule (benevolently of course) simply because they are smarter than all of the rest.

  10. CV Says:

    On your last point, Mrs Whatsit, you beat me to it.

    Isn’t Conlys’ kind of intellectual dishonestly at the very heart of the abortion debate?

    I completely agree with the statement “the right to control one’s body IS conditional on how much harm you are doing to others.” In my view, an aborted baby is subjected to the very worst kind of harm (death), therefore the burden is on the more powerful person (the mother) to protect the life of the less powerful person (her baby).

    Maybe Conlys should spend some time in China…

  11. artfldgr Says:

    [the voice is to the ether – given its march this must be the time of the ether bunny.. ]

    Why is this chilling?
    it started nearly 100 years before you were born, and you once embraced it…

    so why now is it scary?

    and as far as your two friends, the dichotomy is easy to explain. without the actual doctrines being fixed or even revealed to the incurious follower, they each have PERSONAL VERSIONS of what it is they follow IS.

    this is why there are 100 feminism branches, but only one trunk that controls everything, even if the idiot fruits on the twigs dont know it.

    each of the two have personal versions and funny funny, their ignorance allows them to believe that the thing they support will fulfill their version… and that no other version is possible.

    this is why the leaders can do what they want and not get penalized. there is always a subgroup that favors what they want!!! its simple mechanics…

    if you dont represent anything, then each group gets to pretend you represent them. they do not notice that they are all mutually exclusive and impossible to implement… they just notice when its their turn to have something done for them… which then validates their version…
    [edited for length]

  12. Gringo Says:

    (b) social science research is deeply flawed and should never be a guide to infringing on liberty.

    This is for me the key point. From what I have read and observed over the years, social “science” can be used to “prove” just about anything- and its contradiction. “Scientific socialism,” anyone?

  13. artfldgr Says:

    Ann Says:
    Interesting that in the title Bowdoin chose for that video, they use “greater paternalism” rather than “coercive paternalism,” as in the subtitle of her book. Guess they realized “coercive” would give the game away.

    and interesting that all this is MATRIarchy not PATRIarchy

    ie. by doing that, the more they impose the more the men get the blame!!! and the harder the women work to give the leaders more power to stop the oppression!!!

    ie. twirl them around and cheer them running to the oppositions goal posts… their egos will think the crowd is celebrating their great run for the prize!!!

    they are THAT dense…
    just look how long it took them to destroy several societies…

    but thats because in order to promote to the egos that they are the SAVIORS of mankind, would never fight wars and all that, we had to forget Agrippina the Younger… and her mother… and so on.
    [edited for length]

  14. artfldgr Says:

    (b) social science research is deeply flawed and should never be a guide to infringing on liberty.

    its the major guide on policy for the past 50 years
    what do you think scientific socialism is about?

    how do we know that children taken from family and absued by strangers are ok? that kind of research

    what researcher is the most quoted in legal texts?
    kinsey… whose work has been discredited.

    why do we drug boys fvor being boys?
    (and helping women win the academic race?)

    why do we think gays and lesbians make better parents than heterosexual parents? (they dont, but you have politicos quoting non research claiming it)

    why do we have a over 50% std rate in adults?
    (over 40% in teenage girls)

    well, that has to do with mead, and boas work in samoa… and kinsey… children are sexual beings dont you know..
    [edited for length]

  15. artfldgr Says:

    the page is HUGE…
    so this is an excerpt…

    The Junk Sex Science
    Alfred Kinsey was a moral revolutionary in scientist’s clothing. The science was bad, even bogus; the man himself may now be forgotten; but the revolution came to stay, with a vengeance. Kinsey’s message—fornicate early, fornicate often, fornicate in every possible way—became the mantra of a sex-ridden age, our age, now desperate for a reformation of its own.[i]

    Most professionals, public officials, and Americans are unaware that the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s was ignited by publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male that appeared in January 1948 and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female that followed in August 1953. Each volume received extraordinary media coverage. The media coverage was coordinated with Dr. Kinsey and Kinsey-approved articles began appearing across the country prior to the January 5, 1948 public release of the first Male Report.

    The Kinsey Reports “were meant to cause change” according to Kinsey Institute author John Gagnon.[ii] In 1997, sympathetic Kinsey biographer James Jones revealed that Kinsey’s mission was to end the sexual repression of our “English-American common law traditions.”[iii] In fact, Kinsey’s “methodology” for changing society’s sexual life was modeled after his studies of gall wasps. Kinsey said: “The techniques of this research [were] born out of the senior author’s longtime experience with a problem in insect taxonomy. The transfer from insect [gall wasps] to human material is not illogical,” and could be applied to any population (Male volume, p. 9).
    [edited for length]

  16. DNW Says:


    “I argue that autonomy, or the freedom to act in accordance with your own decisions, is overrated—that the common high evaluation of the importance of autonomy is based on a belief that we are much more rational than we actually are.”

    Even granting that the evidence shows that some people make poor decisions, it leaves open the question as to whether all men are in fact equally incompetent in their decision making powers or equally deficient with regards to their powers of reasoning and will.

    Since I have not read Conly’s argument much less the analysis she purports informs it, I don’t know if she would be willing to grant that there is anyone at all who is, in principle, capable of self-direction.

    But if she were to grant that anyone at all is, then the need for coercive paternalism as a universal necessary premise is shown to be unsound, and some justification for submitting the competent, or perhaps even the more fortunately genetically endowed ( cast iron stomachs or whatever) to a regime of coercive command and control, must be deployed.

    Now, she might try and make a utilitarian argument that the greater social good justifies a loss of autonomy among the competent or physically superior.

    But one might just as well argue that the greater social good demands that the life-incompetent either become fitted for a life of self-direction and governance, or alternatively relinquish their claim to moral peer status within that polity, or find one more congenial to their special needs.

    Perhaps Conly would be willing to address the question as to whether she personally is rationally fitted by inheritance or education for a life of self-direction. If not, it is difficult to see what qualifies her to claim peer status with those who either are, or who are willing to live with the fall-out of trying to live up to, the standard.

    I don’t expect an answer of course, nor for anyone who has access to her to confront her with such a “rude” question.

    But because of the increasingly explicit and uninhibited embrace of values nihilism by philosophically minded political progressives, I think we are certain to see so much more of this kind of talk emanating from academia that it will before long become the default or consensus position.

  17. vanderleun Says:

    You have a very, very bad problem. Seek professional help.

  18. DNW Says:

    By the way, the magic phrase is “human solidarity”.

    Upon uttering it, any well meaning progressive trapped within a logical conundrum will receive a ‘Get out of Antinomy’ card, good for one rhetorical escape from the unpleasant and incoherent implications of his or her own “reasoning”.

    Once expended, alternate phrases , such as “we are made for altruism”, “you are guilty of depraved indifference”, or “reality has a liberal bias” are recommended.

  19. vanderleun Says:

    [In the meantime] This from the Belmont Club today asks the same sort of question about these bizarre impostors of the intellect.

    “Suppose the ‘superior men’ aren’t. What if they were really mediocrities whose prolific use of jargon masked a deep and fundamental imbecility. How often has the media presented the “smartest men on earth” to the public only for everyone to discover these savants cannot even manage simple arithmetic?”

  20. OlderandWheezier Says:

    vanderleun beat me to it on the post at Belmont. The question he poses is especially chilling in light of the revelations about how those who were supposedly our intellectual superiors have been running the NHS. Or how those in power on this side of the Atlantic are now attempting to justify the use of drones against our own citizens, on our own soil.

  21. Molly NH Says:

    as a nurse I pick up on the very first sentence out of her mouth is pure bunk ! Since when has the *government* protected the citizens from “harmful drugs”. She is a college professor supposedly educated has she never heard of Thalidomide ???
    Granted the afflicted were in Europe & not the US & a case could be made that *our* gov was sufficiently watchful, but as I recall one woman regulator held up approval, against great pressure to market the drug. But in the generic sense European Governments failed their citizens, it could have happened here.
    This woman is pathetic educated to the point of utter ignorance! Reminds me of a Filmore cartoon, he ‘s on a psychiatrist couch & says incredulously to the doctor:
    “You want me to take responsibility for my own life ??? Is that legal ????

  22. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    The ideas put forth by Conly date back to Plato’s Republic and probably much earlier.

    Everywhere in society there are those who believe they need to tell others how to run their lives. Go to a city council meeting, listen to a speech by a democrat governor (like governor Jay Inslee – aarrgghh!), attend a planned cummunity’s homeowner’s association meeting, etc. In each of these venues and many more you will find wanna be Nanny Bloomberg’s or professor Conly’s pursuing their goals of utopia.

    This creeping nannyism is like moss. It gradually creeps along until it is everywhere. We need to oppose this everywhere we encounter it. One good place to start would be to write a scathing review of Conly’s book on Amazon. (A good job for artfldgr, by the way.)

  23. DNW Says:

    Followed the link,

    Regarding the managerial prerogative attitude of the political progressive, Fernandez comments with a mixture of incredulity and disgust, that they act,

    ” … as if people were the object of some social science experiment; like microbes in a petri dish whose role is to give their lives for Science.”

    But of course, as the author himself knows, (so maybe his tone is actually facetious) that is exactly what progressives do believe, and how they act; despite the epistemological and values “humility” pose they adopt when it comes to their war against right-wing “absolutes”.

    They would never have the arrogance you see, to presume to declare that abortion for example, might be restricted in certain cases. Who are we to judge or command?

    Nonetheless, please understand that some of you eggs may have to be broken in order to create a more equitable, or pleasing social omelet. Just reckon it the price of being part of this exciting experiment in the directed evolution of mankind, and his values!

  24. DNW Says:

    MollyH writes regarding the attitude of the progressive’s wannbe client class members,

    “You want me to take responsibility for my own life ??? Is that legal ????”

    Maybe what we need is different levels of citizenship (irony). We could start off imputing full rights to everyone upon their reaching the age of majority. They would then be free to work their way down through acts of positive choice: Citizen, associate, client, ward, state-helot, lounge chair with alcohol IV, and so on.

    Being a citizen of such a country would be a relatively dismal prospect but surely preferable to being forced to be a ward of the state in this one.

  25. parker Says:

    I have a creepy feeling that her favorite film is Triumph of the Will. BTW, filibuster in the senate. Rand, Marco, Ted, Saxby, and Wynn (D-Oregon). Email your senator and demand they join the filibuster.

  26. Exeter mom Says:

    First they came for the super-sized sodas, then they came for the children.

    This is not harmless nanny-state regulating, this is fascism, pure and simple. Remember, fascism started on the left, and it continues to thrive in large pockets of it.

  27. Oldflyer Says:

    Parker, my Senators are named Boxer and Feinstein.

    Do you think I should? I think my brain only has a limited number of coherent thoughts remaining; I best ration them for useful tasks.

  28. parker Says:

    “This is not harmless nanny-state regulating, this is fascism, pure and simple. Remember, fascism started on the left, and it continues to thrive in large pockets of it.”

    The belief that the state is supreme over the sovereignty of the individual comes from the left. Always has, always will. I refuse to surrender my sovereignty. I have no interest in bread and circuses. I recently turned 65 and refused medicare. A great mystery to the bureaucrats that keep leaving voice mail messages. Nuke DC from orbit. Its the only way to be sure. 😉

    That is life under a republic, the individual is free to choose. Yes, I know the republic is dead, but I still draw breath and p*ss water, and I have natural rights by the mere fact that I breathe the atmosphere and p*ss water. Urge your senator to join the filibuster. Meanwhile, reload.

  29. parker Says:

    Oldflyer asks, “Do you think I should? ”

    Most definitely! When you lack the desire or energy to let them know what you think you have surrendered the battlefield. Let them know you shall not surrender. All true Americans can not surrender to the destruction of the 4th. We have inalienable, natural rights. Even the ‘bad’ guys who may be citizens. Never surrender your rights.

    I have natural rights. I refuse to surrender those rights because the ‘duly’ elected officials refuse to recognize my/your rights.

  30. blert Says:


    Southern slavery, itself, did not start any other way!

    When the very first, o r i g i n a l Africans arrived in the Colonies there was absolutely no tradition or legalese permitting human chattel.

    The closest standing was that of indentured servant. But no indenture was permitted to last longer than seven (7) years. (Sort of a Biblical reset provision — the labor debt deemed waived per the Old Testament/ Torah.)

    [ Due to pervasive illiteracy, indenture contracts were typically signed with an X. “Make your mark.”

    If the indenturer re-signed you to an additional seven-years — then you were double-signed — nee double-crossed.

    Ever since, going back on a deal is a ‘double-cross’, making Chaplin’s tyrannical logo for the Great Dictator entirely apt. ]


    What happened was that Sarah Conly’s rationale was advanced… and that it was determined that for the hapless cross-cultural Africans it was all for the best that they become perpetual indentures — even down through the generations.

    To be a perpetual indenture is to be a slave. For, under the terms of any indenture, A L L of the indentured’s labor was deemed the property of the party advancing the hard money loan.

    That she does sit at Bowdoin College — of Uncle Tom’s Cabin fame — is telling.

  31. parker Says:

    I forgot to add TUCK FHEM! Please excuse my failure.

  32. M J R Says:

    neo’s point (c) regarding the good (?) professor,

    “(c) there is a large difference between making laws to prevent one person from harming another, and making laws to prevent that person from harming his/her own health”

    immediately called to mind a lunchtime conversation I vividly recall from the late 1970s (Jimmy Carter era):

    It had to do with government regulation, and I remember commenting,

    “Government exists to protect me from your malice, not from my own stupidity.”

    It was met with a grin, and we moved on.

    Yeah, I could have been at least a bit more nuanced, but I do think it worked well.

  33. Jim Nicholas Says:

    Do we want the government, whether federal, state, or local, to help us make good decisions in taking care of ourselves? For example, do we want a government to examine and license physicians or do we want the government to get out of the way and let us evaluate whoever claims to be a physician.

    If we think that the government should limit our freedom of choice in even a limited way about how we care for ourselves–such as limiting who can take care of us in a hospital–then, it seems to me, it is not always easy to decide what should be within or beyond a reasonable limit.

    I am not allying myself with Conly, only saying that a polar opposite stand is also not a wise course.

  34. expat Says:

    Isn’t it interesting that lefties who did so much to tear down community standards and laws because they were oppresive to them, now want to substitute laws that are oppresive to us? It was her friends who tore down all the sexual norms and enforcement measures such as shotgun marriages. Now we have 8 year olds having sex and 13 year olds having babies, and we need the state to step in and tell them how many calories their 2-year-old kids can eat.

    I wouldn’t let this idiot cook me breakfast, much less count calories for me at every meal. Just imagine greeting Saint Peter and having him ask what you did with your life. Obviously, the proper answer is, I read the nutitional info on my cereal boxes.

    The bit on limiting family size is just unbelievable. Hasn’t she read anything about current demographics and how we are not replacing our population now? Doesn’t she appreciate that having a population that comes from various-sized families might just add to our life experience and understanding of how humans work? I think she should move to North Korea and live on tree bark and report her mother to the prison guards so she can watch the execution.

  35. M J R Says:

    Jim Nicholas, 7:09 pm —

    Very much agreed: “a polar opposite stand is also not a wise course.”

    There’s a heckuvalotta wide open space between totalitarianism/authoritarianism and anarchy/libertarianism.

  36. expat Says:

    I think the difference is that people can get together and assign tasks to the government, and they often do this when those tasks require specialized knowledge and an enormous amount of time. Deciding on a coke or family size does not fall in that category. Doctors may be licenced, but this doesn’t prevent idiots from seeing homeopaths.

  37. southpaw Says:

    Maybe it was an audition for secretary of HHS in the upcoming Hillary Clinton administration.
    Sociopaths need work too.

  38. MollyNH Says:

    Although I support licensing of medical professionals, do not be lulled in to a false sense of security friends. Was it not a licensed surgeon just a short while back who *would leave while his anesthetized patient was on the table*, to do banking or some such errand running. As far as alternative medicine goes seems like Dr Oz cardio vascular surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic has become a proponent & student of a good number of *natural cures* with almost daily tauting of non conventional medical treatments.
    You don t need your docs permission to be pro active with your health, fish oil people !

  39. Wm Lawrence Says:

    In support of George Pal’s comment I think that if the socialist malcontents in academia succeed in destroying our republic and forcing us into a revolution that we should make it a French style revolution.

    “Mlle. Conley, it is time for your toilette…”

    The crowd could be provided with a glass or two of a nice chablis or whatever wine is determined to best accompany an execution… Think they would appreciate all the European sophistication of the moment?

  40. n.n Says:

    A lot of people, perhaps a slight majority, would choose an illusion of liberty. They will elect to exchange their dignity for submission with benefits.

  41. rickl Says:

    Jim Nicholas Says:
    March 6th, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Do we want the government, whether federal, state, or local, to help us make good decisions in taking care of ourselves?

    No. Hell no. Do you really think that the government is qualified to make those decisions?

    I don’t care what you think, but I sure as hell don’t want the government making those kinds of decisions for me.

    For example, do we want a government to examine and license physicians or do we want the government to get out of the way and let us evaluate whoever claims to be a physician.

    Government licensing is restraint of trade, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in the Constitution.

    Should the government license hairstylists?

  42. n.n Says:

    Jim Nicholas:

    The issue under consideration is accountability. The first order of accountability is individuals capable of self-moderating behavior (e.g. “Golden Rule”). The second order of accountability is competing interests, which limit each individual’s ability to run amuck. The third order of accountability is not government or authority, since the first is constituted of men and women, who are equally fallible, and the latter is a force wielded by men and women, who are equally fallible; but, are nonetheless granted limited power as overseers in an imperfect world.

    The consideration for centralization versus distributed is not accountability. It is efficiency for practical purposes. The caveat is that consolidation (i.e. monopolization) of power, or capital, increases the risk of men and women suffering corruption, especially when others are made incapable of holding them accountable short of a revolution. The limiting argument when considering centralized versus distributed systems is robustness, which in this context is dissociation of risk and the corruption which it engenders.

    In your example, the process of licensing, or establishing a central reference, does not have to be handled by the government. It is sufficient for that body to enforce best practices, not as first order actors, but as overseers.

    It is competing interests which keep honest people honest and others from running amuck. This is the observation which directs us to classify monopolies or monopolistic practices as undesirable. The least desirable monopoly is one with authority and capable of exerting force to impose its will, which is why government must necessarily have limited authority and itself be optimally distributed.

  43. rickl Says:

    I watched Conly’s video presentation.

    First of all, she’s ugly. Is she married? If so, she must not be a feminist, since she’s in favor of paternalism. Therefore I must assume that she submits to her husband’s decisions in all important matters.

    Second of all, she says “we” even more than Obama says “I” or “um”. That’s pretty impressive all by itself. She thinks that “we” exhibit all these flaws and faults, and that somehow justifies her restricting my choices.

    I’m too lazy to fisk the whole thing, but I’ll take a crack at it:

    One thing people generally want is to be healthy and to live long lives.

    Really? Then explain WWI airplane pilots.

    Most people want to quit smoking, that we just don’t allow you to start smoking.

    I like smoking. FUCK YOU.

    I might be better off if someone stole my television.

    I cancelled my cable TV subscription. Voluntarily.

    I still have my TV so I can watch DVDs if I want to.

    Sometimes the government makes a bad law, and then what we do in that case is get the law changed.

    Heh. Good luck with that.

  44. Occam's Beard Says:

    Why did her husband permit her to say this? He should have forbidden it.

  45. n.n Says:


    Brilliant! A voluntary, generational genocide.

    The unstated truth about evolutionary fitness is that it does not necessarily apply to a species as a whole, but to select minorities within its ranks.

    Don’t harsh their mellow! Women, and men, just want to have fun. The constraints of reality are inconvenient and should be selectively considered.

    This nonsense did not start with elective abortion, but its normalization, and the devaluation of human life which it engenders, was a principal driver of dysfunctional convergence.

    The tragic irony is that this was not necessary for women to enjoy a full life, including a career of their choice. They did not have to normalize dysfunctional behavior, but it seems they cannot order their lives otherwise. They did not have to degrade themselves to become exclusively available for sex, taxation, and exploited for democratic leverage. They did not have to advocate for this egocentric outlook to become a centerpiece of every woman’s life.

    So, is dysfunction an emergent or driven process? Is evolutionary fitness a negotiable principle or is it coveted by minority interests?

  46. Occam's Beard Says:

    Sometimes the government makes a bad law, and then what we do in that case is get the law changed.

    She’s obviously referring to the 17th, 19th, 24th, and 26th Amendments, and I wish her well in repealing each.

  47. rickl Says:

    Occam’s Beard Says:
    March 6th, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Re: the 26th Amendment
    In the early 70s, 18 year olds were subject to the draft and could be conscripted to fight and die for their country. So it made sense that they should be allowed to vote.

    But today, there is no draft, therefore there is no earthly reason why 18 year olds should be allowed to vote.


    Well, except for the fact that we have already spent our children’s and grandchildren’s lifetime earnings. They didn’t get a say in that.

  48. Occam's Beard Says:

    In the early 70s, 18 year olds were subject to the draft and could be conscripted to fight and die for their country. So it made sense that they should be allowed to vote.

    A modest proposal: to condition voting for 18 year olds on military service.

  49. beverly Says:

    Well, Ms. Conly, if you can’t govern YOURSELF, what on EARTH makes you fit and capable for governing all of US?

    Yeah, I know: Lojik is harrrd!

    Her answer, were she only self-aware enough to find it, is that she thinks of herself and her ilk as Ubermenschen.

    Here’s a quote, by one Lev Bronstein (later Leon Trotsky) describing with revulsion the New Yorkers he saw chewing gum on the subway in the 1910s:

    “The color of their face is grayish, their hands are hanging down weakly, their eyes are dim . . . Only their jaws are moving, submissively, evenly, without joy or animation. . . . What are they trying to find in this miserable, degrading chewing?”

    He really despised the proletariat, didn’t he? So do all, deep down, who would enslave them. All for their own good, of course.

  50. beverly Says:

    I see Mrs. Whatsit beat me to it. 🙂

  51. beverly Says:

    One last thought — in a college class, we were assigned B. F. Skinner’s “Beyond Freedom and Dignity.”

    Think about that title. What’s “beyond freedom and dignity?” Why, slavery and humiliation, of course.

    IIRC, in the last chapter, the Author was sitting godlike on a hill, smugly watching his child subjects (in Both senses of the word) milling around like ants in an antheap, with forbidden lollipops tied around their necks.

    Ayn Rand was right: it is evil to enslave other humans to do your bidding, and Leftism is slavery on a colossal scale. David Mamet pegged it as slavery, too, and used that word.

  52. SteveH Says:

    Follow the money. Progressivism and social engineering is an industry created out of thin air to give employment to the incompetent.

    It’s the equivalent of moving rock piles from one place to another. Except they do it with human lives and there’s no such thing as a mistake or wrong move.

  53. kolnai Says:

    A longish one; apologies beforehand…

    1) Conly’s certainly right that the ideal of autonomy in the full Kantian sense is untenable. There’s been a discussion going on over at Ed Feser’s blog about a recent provocative piece in First Things by David Bentley Hart, wherein Hart argues that the worldview required to support natural law arguments doesn’t exist in the public square any longer. Consequently, such arguments cannot get off the ground.

    Feser replies that Hart has confounded classical with new natural law theory, but it seems to me that Hart’s point, as noted by some commenters, is roughly the same as in his essay, “Christ and Nothing” – it is precisely the modern ideal of groundless autonomy that underlies the nihilism and, ultimately, the tyrannical itch of people like Conly.

    It’s an argument Kierkegaard made as well. Kantian autonomy was an attempt to preserve what he took to be the kernel of truth in natural law thinking – that both the will and reason have a certain end, namely, conformity with practical [moral] imperatives – but without the religious and metaphysical backdrop of classical natural law theory. This is the project of “Religion Within the Bounds of Reason Alone.” What Kierkegaard said about this was simple: the will and reason alone have only an immanent or temporal reference, and as such their standards at any given time are, in their innermost essence, and in the absence of any transcendent appeal or grounding, ultimately transient.

    What we get instead are “abstractions,” such as, for instance, “acting ‘on principle'” or, in politics, “The Public.” Putting it bluntly, if transience is the only reference point for the autonomous, rational will, we will try to dignify our decisions by creating simulacra of eternity – ersatz transcendentals. This is ultimately what abstractions are for Kierkegaard, and it’s why Kant’s attempt to set up “reason alone” as a limiting, formative principle of the free will could not succeed. As Hart phrases it, all you have to do is ask, “Why should I follow the supposedly natural end of the will and reason?” Because it’s inconsistent? Why should I be consistent? (Etc.)

    Even more bluntly: Abstractions are, in effect, the ideology of nihilism, rather like capitalism is the ideology of ruling class exploitation for Marx. Kierkegaard and Hart very astutely note that the abstractions do not serve as limiting ends that constrain and channel thought and behavior, but rather as free-floating sanctions to do whatever we please. If I say “You can’t drink big sodas, because ipse dixit,” then I am a tyrant; but if I say, “It’s the principle of the thing,” then I am a benevolent statesman. And we all know how invocations of the modern Muse – the People – magically sanctifies public action.

    The ideal of rational autonomy, in short, was born in the environment of the fact/value distinction, and so long as we accept it, there is no way for natural law thinking to get off the ground (the key idea being that, in classical natural law thinking, Is does imply Ought).

    2) Now, what is the point of going into all of this? It is that Conly is a shoddy thinker and, like shoddy thinkers tend to do, she has not gone deep enough. Her argument is that rational autonomy is untenable, and therefore we ought to resort to benevolent despotism. The truth is that both rational autonomy and benevolent despotism are epiphenomena of nihilism. (Keep in mind, in case it is not clear, that when I say “rational autonomy” I am not speaking loosely of ordered liberty in general, but specifically of the modern notion of groundless freedom articulated in Kant and others – which is the sense Conly adopts).

    Whether we are Catholic or not (I am not; and neither was Kierkegaard, and nor is Hart), one thing the great Catholic thinkers from Aquinas to Belloc to Chesterton, Lewis, Jouvenel, and Kolnai (the real Kolnai) have seen clearer than others is that within modern assumptions – as just perfunctorily outlined by me – there is no alternative. The dialectic of nihilism will work itself out, and eventually the great socio-political achievement of natural law medievalism, “subsidiarity,” will be washed away in a flood of centralization and subjection. The real alternative, the Catholics argued, is natural law theory.

    For this reason, Conly’s project is a snoozer, however brazen it may be in other respects. Obviously we cannot live up to the ideal of rational autonomy; that ideal, as a dignifying of nihilism, was never tenable in the first place. Obviously when the failure becomes evident, disillusion will set in, and the demand for benevolent despotism will grow accordingly. We’ve lost any other way of thinking – either the individual or the state. Choose. Some choose the former, some choose the latter. The result is a struggle between subject and state which the state is bound to win. We don’t have the reference points, the background assumptions, on which to base an appeal that could undercut this pernicious back-and-forth.

    Or rather, we do have them – Christianity, Judaism, real reference to transcendence – but we do not, as it were, possess them. Trasncendence, like everything else, is reduced to utility, to its usefulness, and so to immanence.

    3) To sum up: Conly, rather than making a startling inference from a bad ideal to a better one, is instead exemplifying the degenerating circle of modern nihilism. As such, her work is a fine case study in “the Modern Ideology,” and it points the way, negatively, to the magnitude of the challenge which defenders of ordered liberty face.

  54. rickl Says:

    I forgot to mention that Conly’s photo illustrates the word “scrunt” in the dictionary.

    And the Dr. Evil-style “*air*” “*quotes*”.

  55. Steve D Says:

    ‘liberty is an important value for many people’

    No it’s not just an important value; it’s a necessary right.

  56. Wally Says:

    I don’t get it. What gripe does she have with agronomy? It feeds a lot of the world, you know.

  57. Steve D Says:

    ‘government does not make good decisions for people any more often than people do.

    So the government is run by people, right? One thing I have never understood from Plato on down, even if you ignore the ethical issue, is by what logic you would expect other imperfect people to make better decisions for you.

    The thing is Conly is much more open and honest about what she wants than many; slavery, so this book may actually work in our favor by opening peoples eyes to the truth of what progressives really want but won’t admit.

  58. M of Hollywood Says:

    Kolnai: wow, thanks. I plan to re-read your post. I will have some questions or attempts to pinpoint the crux, so I hope you check back.

    You obviously have read many primary sources of those you mention. For a more slothful approach, do you have any secondary summary book of the positions of these key thinkers? I know that sucks from a scholarly point of view, but . . . it could help me a little in my lifelong attempt to raise my head above this morass.

    The mess seems to to have begun with the blur of the is/ought. They called the ‘sociologist’ Comte “The Pope of Positivism.” His was a foolhearty wish: to understand the “is” in order to change “is.”

    Who first divided the thought-world into “the true, the beautiful, and the good?” The true = “is”, and The good = “ought.” Where does beauty hide and sit and wait?

  59. DNW Says:

    M of Hollywood Says:
    March 7th, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Kolnai: wow, thanks. I plan to re-read your post. I will have some questions or attempts to pinpoint the crux, so I hope you check back.

    You obviously have read many primary sources of those you mention. For a more slothful approach, do you have any secondary summary book of the positions of these key thinkers? I know that sucks from a scholarly point of view, but . . . it could help me a little in my lifelong attempt to raise my head above this morass. …”

    You mention the fact-value dichotomy doctrine as appearing to be among the most obvious flashpoints from which subsequent evolutions or aspects of the controversy over the role and scope of reason in man’s existence can be viewed.

    Kolnai will have his own ideas, but a non-academic read which goes beyond merely categorizing the various interpretive problems or describing their emergence as historical phenomena alone ( minus any critical analysis of the idea per se) might be Mortimer Adler’s popular work “Ten Philosophical Mistakes”.

    He pays some particular attention to Hume in this regard, and tries to identify where Hume’s epistemological assumptions – an incorrect understanding of the relation between sense and understanding or intellect- led to the problem.

    Now although I am not persuaded that Adler has comprehensively addressed the problem, he does make, on a generous reading, and in my opinion, some important conceptual points.

    Some people probably derisively think of Adler as the equivalent of the Will and Ariel Durant of the philosophical world. But I would reckon he’s a good deal better than that.

    Those who may have had some introductory courses in philosophy or have done a substantial enough amount of independent reading to be aware of the broad lay of the philosophical land, and how it impinges on the working out of our everyday social and political questions will probably greatly enjoy Bryan Magee’s Men of Ideas series which featured interviews with numerous famous philosophers still then living … such as Quine, and Ayer, as well as intelligent historians of philosophy and commentators like Frederick Copleston, SJ.

    It’s available for viewing on Youtube.

    One of my all time favorite moments as Ayer comments on the doctrines of Logical Positivism …

  60. southpaw Says:

    You guys are all costing me a lot of money. The more I read, the more ammo I order. Now I’m going to need to stock up on whiskey too.
    Not that any of this will do any good, but at least the drone strike will make a good YouTube video. You’ll know it was southpaw because the pool won’t have any pee in it, (you know who you are) and all the doors in the bomb crater will have knobs on the left side.

  61. kolnai Says:

    M of Hollywood –

    DNW knows whereof he speaks; he’s one of my favorite commenters both here and at Feser’s blog (where I ‘know’ him from).

    I would only add that Feser’s books are a great place to start. They are scholarly, but mostly introductory secondary sources, and he is a fantastic writer, with a real gift for conveying complicated ideas clearly. His book “Aquinas” hits most of these themes in the context of Thomas’s thought (which is the crux here).

    As for Kant, there are no good “lay” introductions, for whatever reasons. Many of my points about his notion of autonomy come from Susan Shell’s recent book, “Kant and the Limits of Autonomy.”

    On nihilism and its relation to these themes, my go-to guy is Michael Allen Gillespie, whose books “Nihilism Before Nietzsche” and “The Theological Origins of Modernity” are simply superb. (Not easy reads, though).

    Kierkegaard’s “The Present Age” is a ripping (and short) read on its own, so you could comfortably tackle that one without secondary sources. The Catholic thinkers I referenced are no great fans of the melancholy Dane; but I am. So there 🙂

    Richard Weaver’s “Ideas Have Consequences” touches on some of these themes as well, and maybe you’ve already read it.

  62. M of Hollywood Says:

    Thx, DNW: great start.
    On Adler, yesterday I pulled off my bottom shelf Adler’s “How To Read a Book”, a book I have been avoiding reading for 30 years. I thought it might have a clue for me.

    great video: an example of the search for clarity that has given way to today’s “woolyness”, to use an Ayres adjective.

  63. artfldgr Says:

    progressives have always hated autonomy
    go back to stuart chase and the brain trusts

    Political democracy can remain if it confines itself to all but economic matters; democracy in consumption will make enormous strides as standards of living are leveled upward; industrial individualism – anarchy is a better term – in the sense of each businessman for himself, each corporation for itself, must be disallowed.

    and now since its a mish mosh of stalinism, communism, marxism, progressivism, po mo, maoism, and more…

    here is the americorps thing…
    note their reasoning…

    Q: Did the Department of Homeland Security create a “standing army of government youth” known as FEMA Corps.

    A: No. FEMA Corps is a civilian operation within AmeriCorps, a federal community service program. FEMA Corps prepares and responds to disasters. Its members, ages 18 to 24, carry no weapons.

    may i ask how that explains that they are not?

    prior to the SA being part of the state, they were not part of the state… duh

    and prior to being part of the state, the sa often did not have weapons, ergo the brawls not massacres.

    but note the diversion… the conflation between the youth corps, and the SA…

    Youth organizations have been a part of most cultures for generations. Seldom have they been organized for total war. After Adolf Hitler took power in Germany in 1933, it was decided by members of his totalitarian regime to organize the youth of the nation

    The one man most instrumental in organizing German youth was a fervent Nazi. Baldur von Schirach

    Karl Schnibbe joined the HJ at the age of twelve. He remembers that he “could hardly wait for the ceremony to begin.” When Nazi leaders came recruiting eligible children in his neighborhood, he could not wait to sign up. His father did not approve, but it did not stop young Karl. “It was very exciting. The overnight trips, campfires, and parades sounded like a great deal of fun.”

    The Hitler Youth was not just an organization for educating young boys however. Young German girls between ages ten and eighteen were able to join the Bund Deutscher Madel, or BDM (League of German Girls). The purpose of the BDM, in the patriarchal movement of Nazism, was to train girls in “three important interrelated functions.” The first was to “serve as helpmates to the men,” the second to “bear them children and rear them according to Nazi values,” and the third was “to be faithful homemakers.” [so now you know why the left sees heterosexual families as nazi]

    The Nazis’ devised a new standardized school curriculum, which was called Weltanschauung, or “worldview.” [and Obama is Core Curriculum]

    Twisting education in order to brainwash students was not the only effective way the Nazis were able to exploit the HJ. Every HJ member, male or female, were required to spend time in a labor force, working for the good of the party, as well as the land.

    Heck remembers that:

    “When he [Hitler] came to power in 1933, there were six million people unemployed in a population of 64 million. By 1938, that number had sunk to a miniscule 200,000 out of a work force of 25 million. It was an impressive achievement, even if it depended on conscription….

    Finally, there was the introduction of compulsory labor service for all young Germans, regardless of their social status.”

    The HJ-Landdienst, or agricultural service, often spent summers helping peasants work the land. These strong, exuberant, and healthy young Germans helped in “harvesting, cutting wood, or milking cows.” Such field activity “helped serve the purpose of keeping the youths physically fit, while at the same time honored the Nazi dogma of “Blood and Soil,” while also attempting to “put a stop to the current exodus from the land to the cities.”

    “The Hitler Youth went from door to door collecting valuable raw materials, such as rags, paper, and scraps of metal for recycling, an activity that was essential for the war economy. HJ members also had to participate in the search for mushrooms and for herbs, used for tea and medicinal purposes, as well as helping out in town and country in various auxiliary positions, such as tram conductor, ersatz-coffee dispenser at train stations, or letter carrier.”

    does this sound like they had lots of weapons?
    does having weapons or not indicate anything?

    they did not get weapons until 1943, when they created the jugend SS groups…
    Sacramento Welcomes First FEMA Corps Members as They Begin 10 Months Assisting Disaster Survivors

    and remember above when they said fema corps is a civilian thing? well go to the americorps link above, and to the everything you need to know about us page
    [edited for length]

  64. artfldgr Says:

    still dont have any good answers or negations for

    Rex 84 [labeled conspiracy theory]
    operation cable splicer
    garden plot
    Lantern Spike

    it was under this and the idea that mexicans would flood our border and need to be handled… so they made 800 camps, and they are up and running but empty…
    (i posted the army paper on civilian labor camps from the US governments website)

    Conspiracy theorists believe that exercises similar to Rex 84 have happened in the past.[10] For example, from 1967 to 1971 the FBI kept a list of over 100,000 persons to be rounded up as subversive, dubbed the “ADEX” list.

    Operation Garden Plot, also known as The Department of Defense Civil Disturbance Plan (18 USC 1385 Posse Comitatus Act) is a general US Army and National Guard plan to respond to major domestic civil disturbances within the United States.

    The plan was developed in response to the civil disorders of the 1960s and is now under the control of the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). It provides Federal military and law enforcement assistance to local governments during times of major civil disturbances.

    “The Garden Plot plan—drafted after the Watts, Newark, and Detroit riots—captures the acrimonious times when the document was drawn up. The section outlining the Army’s perception of the “situation” in America certainly insinuates an establishment that was afraid of the disenfranchised. The Plot warns against “racial unrest,” as well as “anti-draft” and “anti-Vietnam” elements.”

    Garden Plot was last activated (as Noble Eagle)
    to provide military assistance to civil authorities following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The Pentagon also activated it to restore order during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.[2] Under Homeland Security restructuring, it has been suggested that similar models be followed.

    Operation Noble Eagle (ONE) is the name given to military operations related to homeland security and support to federal, state, and local agencies. The ongoing operation began September 14, 2001,

    Falcon Virgo is the name given to a series of ongoing exercises designed to test airspace security, especially around major American cities like New York and Washington, D.C.. They involve both regular military fighter aircraft and air operations centers (to include Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard) and Civil Air Patrol forces.

    Operation Eagle Assist began on October 9, 2001[1] after the North Atlantic Council’s October 4 decision to operationalize Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty,

    The key section of the treaty was Article V. This committed each member state to consider an armed attack against one state to be an armed attack against all states.

    In the United States, the treaty was ratified by the US Senate in a vote of 82 to 13 on 21 July 1949.

    for those that dont get it. its NATO…

    The treaty was created with an armed attack by the Soviet Union against Western Europe in mind, but the mutual self-defense clause was never invoked during the Cold War.

  65. neo-neocon Says:

    kolnai: A grand entrance—welcome back!

  66. kolnai Says:

    neo –


    I have to try and contain my blistering fury at this laughable situation. The Conlys of the world get the jobs and the respect I couldn’t access even if I got on one knee and started polishing rings with my lips. I guess they know the enemy when they see him. They know that no matter how much I grovel, those lips of mine will always find time to whisper, “Eppur si muove!”

    Oh well. Better to serve in heaven than reign in hell.

  67. BoulderRick Says:

    Time for the Heinlein quote:

    “Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”

  68. DonS Says:

    Last night I watched some Youtube clips of Milton Friedman. He really knocked down this sorta thing.

    If people are so bad at making decisions, then why would the government do a better job? The government is made up of people, too. People who don’t know you or your situtation. People who have their own goals and motivations which are not in line with YOUR self interest.

    Are we not all best off looking for our self interest, rather then expecting someone in government to look out for it?

  69. Eric Says:

    parker: “I recently turned 65 and refused medicare.”

    I suspect you and Conly are not in total disagreement. Implicit in Conly’s thesis (as I understand it from Neo’s summary) is that in a welfare state, the state pays the cost of individual choices, and that cost is passed on to taxpayers. Therefore, individuals who receive/accept the benefits of the redistributionist welfare state ought to surrender their autonomy at least to the degree of the benefits received. To wit, the classic fatherly ‘As long as you live under my roof (and I must pay for you and what you do), you will follow my rules, young man/lady.’

    That’s actually reasonable. Conservatives criticize ‘tax-and-spend’ liberals for redistributing resources in a welfare state in a way that effectively forces ‘makers’ to pay for the bad choices of ‘takers’. Conly implies that if adults are financially dependent like children, then they ought to be treated paternalistically like children.

    Which leaves us 3 basic choices. parker’s principled stance of refusing tax-transferred state benefits in order not to trade his autonomy for them. Conly’s welfare state that acts like a responsible head of household who controls costs by limiting the harmful-expensive behavior of his family, especially his dependent children. Or, as we seem to have now, a growing welfare state that demands greater wealth redistribution yet does not sufficiently control costs by limiting the harmful-expensive behavior of welfare recipients.

    If we assume the welfare state – which is a reasonable assumption because we have a welfare state – as Conly does, then her stance as a taxpayer is not unreasonable. A stockholder of a corporation would demand the same from the fiduciary duty of the CEO.

  70. neo-neocon Says:

    Eric: I think your arguments don’t entirely apply to Medicare—at least as it is supposed to be structured. They would apply to Medicaid, which is more of a welfare program. But Medicare is at least supposed to only be available to those who have paid into the system for a certain number of years, plus Medicare insurance must be paid for even after 65.

    Whether an individual gets out of it as much, less, or more than he or she has put into it differs among persons, of course. But it is not supposed to be welfare (although if enough people get out of it more than they put into it, it functions at least partly that way).

    Refusing it makes no sense for those who have paid plenty into it already, and especially when their savings could not even begin to pay their present or projected medical expenses. Buying medical insurance after the age of 65 is almost astronomical in price, and becomes even more so the older one gets, even if well, and especially if ill. Medical costs have risen in part because of the ubiquity of third-party compensation, which is seen as having deep pockets, and so a person paying out-of-pocket (even with discounts for self- and cash-payments) is at a great, great disadvantage, unless independently wealthy. If he/she has paid payroll taxes and or self-employment taxes for a lifetime in order to receive Social Security and Medicare, is this strictly welfare?

  71. Eric Says:


    I was quoting parker re medicare, but if the dollar-for-dollar pay-out market value of the benefits exceeds the recipient’s pay-in, then we circle back to the same idea of controlling costs.

    I ended my last comment by comparing Conly the taxpayer to a stockholder of a corporation who would demand the same cost discipline from the fiduciary duty of the CEO. Well, since we’re adding the pay-in/pay-out imbalance factor, let’s make that taxpayer/shareholder’s corporation an insurance company. Conly seems to be painting a picture of the government imposing conditions on their pay-outs like insurance companies do, albeit with coercion of a different sort.

  72. M of Hollywood Says:

    Kolnai: oh thank you, too. you and I must have been hitting “Submit Comment” about the same time.

    I didn’t know you wre “gone”, as indicated in neo’s welcome back. I have been “gone” too.

  73. thomass Says:

    This is the general debate we’ve had with these people forever…. that (and the fact their ideas fail when tried) is why they change the subject (Bush is dumb) or beat strawmen (racist)… literally. you want to give people more freedom and less coercion; well people might hire people unfairly ergo we cant and if you don’t like it your a states right wacko racist… homophope.. blaw blaw blaw…

    Its all they got.. esp since whenever they’re in power the everything starts going to he*l.

  74. kolnai Says:

    M of Hollywood –

    Yes, gone but still lurking. Basically I needed to get away from politics; the election was (as I’m sure you understand) extremely depressing to me, and after venting my thoughts here for a few days afterwards, I decided to get some distance, pull back, get my own “house” in order. As you can see, it took neo posting some serious Kolnai-bait for me to get hooked into commenting 🙂

    I’m still struggling to get my head back in the game, to convince myself that America remains a game worth the candle. Or rather, America is worth the candle – I still believe that – but I struggle to see a way forward, everywhere I peek, every possible future looking about equally bleak. I confess I have been, since November, on the verge of throwing up my hands and coldly stating, “I’m done. Let it burn.”

    So, when I look at the daily Kabuki of confirmation hearings, tax-and-spend tussles, incessant rhetorizing, the sickening totalitarian mindset increasingly unfiltered on the left, and the almost equally sickening inertia of the Republicans, my mind floats away into the ether, looks down and sighs:

    “Ah, mere waves in the melancholy, long, withdrawing roar.”

    On top of which, much of the commentary in the conservative blogosphere is starting to severely aggravate my nerves. As far as I’m concerned, neo, Ace, William Jacobson, VDH, and perhaps Andrew McCarthy and Mark Steyn, are (along with a few others I’ve momentarily forgotten) the only ones who really “get it.” The rest is sound and fury – “Infighting!,” “Reform!,” “Gays at CPAC!,” “Gays NOT at CPAC!,” “Is Christie’s RINO-ism the new conservative strategy?” “Rubio, Jindal, immigration reform, oh my!” – signifying absolutely nothing.

    We are now at the point where messaging and messaging about messaging is basically the equivalent of Serious Political Discourse: “How does what I say appear concerning how what someone else is saying appears in relation to the perception of appearances by The Public who wouldn’t know a Real Thing if it poked them in the eye?”

    Yes, yes, in an unfortunately democratized republic such considerations are necessary. But, for the love of God, they are not therefore interesting or illuminating. But maybe that’s just me.

    Anyway, good to be back home at neoneocon. Good to see you back here too, M of Hollywood.

  75. M of Hollywood Says:

    Yes, Kolnai, ditto to all those feelings and reactions to the trecherous mediocrity of the political and punditry class.
    – here’s the compilation of Kolnai & DNW reading material:
    Ed Feser blog
    Feser’s books, e.g., “Aquinas”
    “First Things” by David Bentley Hart
    “Christ and Nothing” David Bentley Hart
    Kierkegaard “Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone”
    The will and reason alone have only an immanent or temporal reference, and as such their stds at any given time are, in their essence, and in the absence of any transcendent appeal or grounding, ultimately transient.
    Aquinas to Belloc to Chesterton, Lewis, Jouvenel, and Kolnai
    Mortimer Adler’s “Ten Philosophical Mistakes”
    Bryan Magee’s “Men of Ideas” – series of interviews on YouTube
    Susan Shell “Kant and the Limits of Autonomy”
    Michael Allen Gillespie “Nihilism Before Nietzsche” and “The Theological Origins of Modernity” (great, but not easy ~ Kolnai)
    Kierkegaard’s “The Present Age”
    Richard Weaver’s “Ideas Have Consequences”

    … and, for solace that great men in the past have shared a view, and still onward we go through what’s left to play:

  76. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Better to serve in heaven than reign in hell.” kolnai

    Wonderful because ‘serving in heaven’ entails truly becoming all that we can be. No greater beneficence exists than God’s.


    “The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number.”

    I yield to no man in respect for Heinlein but even the master can sometimes get it a bit wrong.

    Many of those “who want people to be controlled” are “idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number” but a large number of those “who want people to be controlled” are in it strictly for the power and are willing to do whatever is necessary to impose their will upon others.

    In that quote, Heinlein failed to indicate that for every Trotsky, there is a Stalin.

  77. kolnai Says:

    M –

    Just a few slight amendments, to prevent confusion:

    “Religion within the bounds…” is by Kant.

    “First Things” is actually the magazine in which Hart’s essay was published (though there is a good book by Hadley Arkes of the same name). “Christ and Nothing” can be found in toto on the web, I believe (just fyi).

    The key work by Belloc is “The Servile State,” which comes nice and cheap in a Liberty Fund edition.

    Chesterton – take your pick (my favorite is Orthodoxy);

    Lewis – take your pick (my fave is The Abolition of Man and his essay against pacifism);

    Jouvenel – “On Power” is essential, as is its sequel “Sovereignty.” These may very well be the finest works of political philosophy in the second half of the 20th Century – and no one’s ever heard of them.

    Kolnai – “The Utopian Mind” is his defining work, but “Privilege and Liberty” will do just as well (it’s probably a hell of a lot cheaper on Amazon).

    I will add one further great thinker I did not mention, but whose contributions to developing these themes has yet to be fully appreciated: Michael Polanyi (his easiest work is The Logic of Liberty, again thankfully available in a cheap Liberty Fund edition). I’ve long harbored the dream of writing a microcosmic history of the Cold War, or of the struggle between liberty and totalitarianism in general, through the biographies of Michael (liberty) and his brother Karl (communism). A better writer than me could make a glorious book out of that.

  78. Tom Murin Says:

    It took me a few days to get up the courage to watch this. It wasn’t as bad as I expected based on the comments, but the thought of sitting in a lecture hall with her is not a good one.

    Sounds like she has a direct line to Bloomberg.

    We just have to stop people from making bad decisions. Sounds like a good idea – who could be against this? Well, the devil is in the details, of course….Think about it – you shouldn’t start a business Mr. Gates, Mr. Ford, Mr. Edison, Mr Kroc – because we all know that businesses are more likely to fail. If you go bankrupt it will cost society. The village might suffer…..You don’t need a house that big; you don’t need to have anymore children: you don’t need an SUV or pick-up. This is where we are heading as a society.

  79. M of Hollywood Says:

    Kolnai: thank you. Duly noted on my list.
    I tried to read “Christ and Nothing” yesterday and found my brain breathing in and out and in and out. It was like revisiting my whole intellectual life in a flash: when young you try to take it all in and put little bits on this or that “shelf”, since you experience so much emptiness and have such a desire to fill it. Then at a certain point in life you try to flush it all out when you encounter the wisdom of “empty mind”. The desire for understanding is overtaken with the desire for right doing, (or is it right not-doing): Being. I began to get seasick and stopped the ship. But I kept the link open in hopes there will soon come a moment when I find the patience to gulp it in whole and find a place for it. I think I fear the encounter with a bunch of Jesuits who clamor to be right.
    Your comment that significant verbs (or were they nouns) would be preceded by parentheticals as a mark of the excellence of thinking struck me. Each of the many comments after Feser’s last entry on Hart is a significant set of parentheses—and how they on out, parentheses upon parentheses. It is marvelous to see people still so valiant—trying to understand in such a way as to honor the possibility of understanding. I shall breath and get to “Christ and Nothing” soon. I am excited to learn that Feser lives in town. I shall contact him to have coffee, and I know to do so I need to digest “Christ and Nothing” and then his last post and its parentheses. Since I hold a position similar to his, he will probably deign to meet me once I assure him the date will not be romantic or competitive. For me, he would be a raft in Los Angeles . . . We’ll see how he reacts to a coffee meet.
    I am 100+ pages in to Adler’s “How to Read a Book”, and that comes first. I just finished Crichton’s “Travels” – and that was so easy, like ice cream. Who doesn’t like ghosts and auras? Alas, I still have the last 300 pages waiting for me of the 1000 page “The Last Lion” — all about the war waiting for us if we keep avoiding the parentheses before the verbs in our thinking.
    I encourage you to write the piece that has been incubating in your brain. How I would love to be one of your readers. History, logic, doing, not-doing, reading, writing: So much remains to be done.

  80. liberty | liberals | progressives | control Says:

    […] You may recall Sarah Conly, author of Against Autonomy, an excellent demonstration of the statist impulse and the supposedly do-good one combining to create a vile synergy. And who better to explain it all than Ms. Conly herself: […]

  81. The great dividing line: love of liberty Says:

    […] You may recall Sarah Conly, author of Against Autonomy, an excellent demonstration of the statist impulse and the supposedly do-good one combining to create a vile synergy. And who better to explain it all than Ms. Conly herself: […]

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

Monthly Archives


Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

Regent Badge