Friday, February 27, 2009

Diversity is the last thing we need

To be in favor of diversity as the modern liberal defines it is to be intolerant of opposing views. The case of Ben Stein and the University of Vermont.

UVM President Dan Fogel announced that [Ben] Stein, whom Fogel had invited to address UVM's commencement in May, would not be coming after all. Fogel said that his selection of Stein generated an intense protest, that he received hundreds of angry e-mails over the weekend, and that after he shared these "profound concerns" with Stein, Stein "immediately and most graciously declined our commencement invitation."

- Burlington Free Press, 2-3-2009
If President Fogel were to receive thousands of e-mails protesting Stein's withdrawal, what do you suppose he would do? Modern liberals wield the mighty shield of diversity to deflect all manner of criticisms regarding their intentions and their results as they seek to redefine accepted behavior and speech. Liberalism's interpretation and subsequent de facto enforcement of what they call diversity has condemned some opinions and has advocated and defended others. But how can speech be limited in the name of diversity?

Obvious contradictions compel me to analyze how liberals define diversity and by what ways and means they are prone to use to enforce it.

Quite often liberals condemn the expression of dissenting opinions in the name of diversity. That's like an opponent of the death penalty sentencing those who disagree with their view to death. If one values diversity, then those who oppose should be welcome. If all parties share the same opinions, there is no intellectual diversity.

Consider colleges that resist ROTC programs and military recruitment on campus. They believe that the use of military force to settle disputes is barbaric. They prefer diplomacy and compromise. They fear that a strong military will tend to encourage imperialism and insensitivity to the needs and opinions of less powerful nations. They claim to value diversity. They believe that diversity exposes people to disparate customs and opinions that broaden one's perspective and allow for a deeper understanding of the human experience.

Liberals believe that those who lack exposure to diversity are at an intellectual disadvantage when presented with complex problems involving people with disparate backgrounds and values. They are mentally rigid and shallow because they have been sheltered by an environment with no variety of opinion and that does not value new ideas. They are less able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment because they have no experience coping with new ideas and situations because they have only associated with people who are just like them. They have lost the capability to adapt because they have never had to. They are considered the intellectual equivalent of a herd of stampeding buffalo; they travel together as a herd and dare not stray. They are regarded as souls who are more likely to be dismissive (and seemingly intolerant) of those not like them because they simply cannot see things from any perspective except their own.

Having made the case for diversity, why do they seek to silence those on campus who want to participate in ROTC or would like to encourage young people to join the military? These are people with different perspectives born of different experiences and customs; the very definition of diverse, they should be welcome, but they are not.

If something doesn't add up, check your premise. In this case we assume that liberals are being genuine when they advocate diversity. In fact, liberals have redefined diversity to mean the enforcement of a strict code that has well-defined acceptable views and behaviors, and the vigorous opposition to all those who do not comply. To advocate diversity as the liberals define it is to accept certain beliefs as untouchable. If you want to know if you meet the criteria to be defined as an advocate of diversity, you need only check your opinions against the accepted views that modern liberalism has mandated that an enlightened person must hold.

Consider what often happens when controversial conservatives such as Stein are scheduled to appear on a liberal campus; often students and faculty insist that the invitation be retracted, and at the very least they protest and disrupt the event. It's almost funny; those who believe in diversity should protest only when someone with controversial views is silenced, not when they are allowed to speak. In this case Stein is guilty of holding controversial views regarding intelligent design. Look at how this slice of academia has responded to a diverse opinion.

Take another example. Liberals believe that America is the source of most of the ills in this world. They believe that America is an imperialist nation that has unfairly dominated the world by means of violence and political oppression. They believe that had it not been for America's caustic effect on the earth, all nations would be living in harmony with each other and with nature.

Now, with this in mind, imagine that someone disparages America, admonishes it, insults it - how would a person that values diversity react? That's easy. He would agree; he would then make some statement to separate himself from America proper by using words like "they" and "it". He would not feel insulted because he does not consider himself part of the "bad" America. As a liberal, he considers himself part of the solution to the "America" problem. He would then feel a sense of superiority to those "bad" Americans who are causing the rest of the world such a problem.

How would he react to someone who instead defended America? Well, if America is bad, and a person is defending it, then he must be bad too. The diversity-acceptable response would be to disparage the America defender and express indignation at such cave-man like thick-skulled backwoods ignorance, after which the proper feeling would be one of superiority; since you get it and he doesn't.

The acceptable response is not to recognize that his opinions have just as much right to be heard as yours, it is not to use logic and reason to examine the validity of his statements, it is not to accept his views into the community of ideas, nor is it to feel pride that you live in a country where a man can speak his mind. In short, the politically correct response is to be rigid, subjective, and dismissive.

So to be in favor of diversity as the modern liberal defines it is to be intolerant of opposing views. Diversity now requires the acceptance of myriad positions regarding topics ranging from A to Z. Modern diversity demands that the only acceptable viewpoints are those that have been approved by the powers that be.

Think of the last time you heard a liberal institution announce a policy advocating diversity. Doesn't that really mean that there are certain viewpoints that are taboo? Doesn't that mean that opposition to certain accepted beliefs will not be tolerated? If a diversity policy were legitimate, the only way to be in violation of it would be to prevent someone from expressing a diverse opinion. How can someone violate a diversity policy by disagreeing with the powers that be? One can violate a diversity policy in such a manner only if said policy statement is simply a euphemism for the oppression of dissent.

What we need is the open and free exchange of ideas. When the liberal powers that be step in to be the arbiter for proper speech, they also become the oppressor of those who dissent. As the modern liberal defines it, the last thing we need more of is diversity.


Some wisdom from a man who escaped the Bolsheviks in 1919

At the Tiflis railway terminal, where Ouspensky stopped (or rather was halted) on his way from St. Petersburg, Bolshevism manifested itself as "terrifying cries and shouts. heard on the platform, quickly followed by several shots." A soldier told passengers that he and his comrades had executed a "thief." By morning they had executed three more thieves. The abuse of language is characteristic. In any case, shooting summed up Bolshevism, which, having "no constructive program," could only destroy and did so prodigiously and gleefully. Ouspensky anticipates Solzhenitsyn in identifying Bolshevism (Marxism) as a pernicious German invention seized on by Lenin and his followers to justify their orgy of violence against a world they hated because it had the temerity to exist apart from their desires and wishes. "As a general rule," writes Ouspensky in the fourth letter, "Bolshevism based itself on the worst forces underlying Russian life."

Ouspensky repeats a refrain in all five letters that Bolshevism, being barbarism with a fancy vocabulary, constitutes a threat not only in Russia, but anywhere, hence also everywhere, because it is a destabilizing condition of ordered life, so arduously achieved, always to carry with it "barbarian forces existing inside [the] society, hostile to culture and civilization." I could not help connecting a recent remark made by Sean Gabb in a Brussels Journal entry with the foregoing words by Ouspensky.

In a discussion of "hate speech" laws and their selective enforcement, Gabb notes that, "the soviet socialists and the national socialists kept control by the arbitrary arrest and torture or murder of suspected opponents," but that these methods are currently "not. acceptable in England or in the English world." Nevertheless, writes Gabb, censorious speech-legislation involving intimidating criminalization of certain words or verbal attitudes "has nothing really to do with politeness," but is, rather, "about power." So it is as well in the United States and Canada. Wherever governments and elites seek to control expression, whether or not as Gabb observes it has to do ostensibly with "diversity and inclusiveness," the real agenda is to achieve "the unlimited power to plunder and enslave us, while scaring us into the appearance of gratitude for our dispossession."

I would say that "hate crime" and "hate speech" laws represent a trial balloon of totalitarian methods. Such methods are barbarous. They betray the basic decency of the Western achievement. They take root in "the worst forces," as Ouspensky says, "underlying our life." Now "ought" is a counterfactual word. But it strikes me that if history taught only one lesson to the civilized it would be that as soon as any visibly power-hungry group succeeds in an agenda of intimidation, no matter how minor, sensible people dedicated to their own freedom ought to respond with all necessary resistance until the aggressors have themselves been intimidated into a retreat. Better indeed to quash such attempts before their first success, but that is a more difficult proposition. Ouspensky's book explains what happens when timidity rather than vigor is the keynote of response to internal barbarism. So does a great library of other books, all of which came later, however, than Ouspensky's.

Ouspensky's invocation of "The Law of Opposite Ends" also has relevance to our condition and invites meditation. The economic crisis in the United States and elsewhere has an ideological taproot - the same one that gives rise to laws that punish conscience. Whatever President Obama and Speaker of the House Pelosi think their so-called stimulus plan is going to do, it is a certainty that its measures will deepen the misery and destroy even more wealth. Ominously, the promulgation of the plan requires, to borrow Ouspensky's phrase, "loud and fierce denunciations" of those who oppose it, after due analysis, on reasoned arguments and positive principles.

"Letters from Russia" gives us a snapshot of what turned out after all to be but the beginning of Russia's long woes - and Eastern Europe's and to this day China's and North Korea's and Cuba's. Letters from Russia stands not only among the objective documents of the Russian Revolution and the Civil War; it also stands among the library of books that discuss the nature of ideology - and the practice of propaganda as the verbal aspect of terrorist coercion. One can detect certain phrases in Orwell - in his essays and in 1984 - that suggest he might have read Letters from Russia. Of direct references to the Letters, except in a biography of Ouspensky, I have seen, as best I recollect, precisely none. It is a pity.

More here

United States of Argentina: How inflation turned a rising power into a pauper

By Philip Jenkins

Anyone not alarmed by the state of the U.S. economy is not paying attention. As our Dear Leader begins his term, the theory of very big government has the support of an alarmingly broad political consensus. Despite the obvious dangers-devastating inflation and the ruin of the dollar-the United States seems pledged to a debt-funded spending spree of gargantuan proportions.

In opposing this trend, critics face the problem that the perils to which they point sound very theoretical and abstract. Perhaps Zimbabwe prints its currency in multi-trillion units, but that's a singularly backward African dictatorship: the situation has nothing to do with us. Yet an example closer to home might be more instructive. Unlike Zimbabwe, this story involves a flourishing Western country with a large middle class that nevertheless managed to spend its way into banana-republic status by means very similar to those now being proposed in Washington.

The country in question is Argentina, and even mentioning the name might initially make any comparison seem tenuous. The United States is a superpower with a huge economy. Argentina is a political and economic joke, a global weakling legendary for endemic economic crises. Between them and us, surely, a great gulf is fixed. Yet Argentina did not always have its present meager status, nor did its poverty result from some inherent Latin American affinity for crisis and corruption. A century ago, Argentina was one of the world's emerging powers, seemingly destined to outpace all but the greatest imperial states. Today it is . Argentina. A national decline on that scale did not just happen: it was the result of decades of struggle and systematic endeavor, led by the nation's elite. As the nation's greatest writer, Jorge Luis Borges, once remarked, only generations of statesmanship could have prevented Argentina from becoming a world power.

For Americans, the Argentine experience offers multiple warnings, not just about how dreadfully things can go wrong but how a nation can reach a point of no return. Not only did Argentina squander its many blessings, it created a situation from which the society could never recover. Argentines still suffer from the blunders and hubris of their grandparents without any serious likelihood that even their most strenuous efforts will make a difference. A nation can get into such a situation easily enough, but getting out is a different matter. A corrupted economy can't be cured without being wiped out and started over.

It is hard, looking at the basket case Argentina has become, to imagine what an economic powerhouse the country was before World War II. From the 1880s, Argentina was, alongside the U.S. itself, a prime destination for European migrants. Buenos Aires was one of the world's largest metropolitan areas, in a select club that included London, Paris, Berlin, and New York City. Argentina benefited mightily from foreign investment, which it used wisely to create a strong infrastructure and an excellent system of free mass education. It had the largest and most prosperous middle class in Latin America. When World War I began, Argentina was the world's tenth wealthiest nation.

Right up to the 1940s, American and European economists struggled to explain the glaring contrast between booming Argentina and slothful Australia. As many studies pointed out, both countries had begun at a roughly similar point, as agricultural producers dependent on fickle world markets. Yet Australia remained stuck in colonial status while Argentina made the great leap forward to the status of an advanced nation with an expanding industrial base and sophisticated commerce.

So what happened? Certainly the country was hit hard by the depression of the 1930s, but so were other advanced nations that ultimately recovered, and Argentina profited from intense wartime demand for primary products.

The country was killed by political decisions, and the primary culprit was Juan Peron. He dominated political life through the 1940s and ruled officially as president from 1946 to 1955, returning briefly in the 1970s. Although he did not begin the process, he completed the transformation of Argentine government so that the state became both an object of plunder and an instrument for plunder.

Peron came from a fascist and corporatist mindset, which became more aggressively populist under the influence of his second wife Eva. They aimed their rhetoric against the nation's rich, a designation that was swiftly expanded to cover most of the propertied middle classes, who became an enemy to be defeated and humiliated. To equalize the supposed struggle between the rich and the dispossessed, the Perons exalted the liberating role of the state. The bureaucracy swelled alarmingly as nationalization brought key sectors of the economy under official control. Government bought loyalty through a massive program of social spending while fostering the growth of labor unions, which became intimate allies of the governing party. Argentina came to be the most unionized nation in Latin America. Peron also ended any pretense of the independence of the judiciary, purging and intimidating judges about whom he had any doubts and replacing them with minions.

The Peronist model-a New Deal on steroids-evolved into an effective clientelism, in which party overlords and labor bosses ruled through a mixture of corruption and violence. Clientelism, in effect, means the annexation of state resources for the benefit of political parties and private networks. Right now, both the word and the concept are not terribly familiar to Americans, but this is one Latin American export that they may soon need to get used to.

As high taxes and economic mismanagement took their toll, the Perons blamed the disasters on class enemies at home and imperialism abroad, but the regime could not survive the loss of the venerated Eva. After attempting briefly to swing back to the center, Juan Peron was overthrown and driven into Spanish exile. Later governments tried varying strategies to reclaim Argentina's lost splendors and some enjoyed success, but Peron's curse endured. Even when his party was driven underground, its traditions remained: demagogic populism, a perception of the state as a device for enriching supporters and punishing foes, and a contempt for economic realities. Utopian mass movements inspired by Peronist ideas and charisma segued easily into the far-left upsurge of the 1960s, when Argentina gave birth to some of the world's most dangerous terrorist and guerrilla movements. By 1976, the military intervened to stave off the imminent collapse of the state and launched the notorious Dirty War that killed thousands.

Since 1976, Argentine economic policies have lurched from catastrophe to catastrophe. The military junta borrowed enormously with no serious thought about consequences, and the structures of Argentine society made it impossible to tell how funds were being invested. Foreign debt exploded, the deficit boomed, and inflation approached 100 percent a year. Economic meltdown had disastrous political consequences. By 1982, like many other dictatorships through history, the Argentine junta tried to solve its domestic problems by turning to foreign military adventures. And like other regimes, they found that their control over military affairs was about as weak as their command of the economy. Military defeat in the Falkland Islands destroyed the junta. By 1983, a civilian president was in power once more. But nothing could stop the nosedive. Inflation reached 672 percent by 1985 and 3,080 percent by 1989. The disaster provoked capital flight and the collapse of investor confidence, not to mention the annihilation of middle-class savings. In the words on one observer, Jose Ignacio Garc-a Hamilton, the nation became "an international beggar with the highest per capita debt in the world."

Another civilian president, Carlos Menem, took office in 1989, and despite his Peronist loyalties he initially tried to restore sanity through a program of privatization and deregulation. But events soon proved that Menem was only following a familiar pattern whereby a new regime would speak the language of reform and moderation for a couple of years before facing a showdown with the underlying realities of Argentine society. Menem could not overcome the overwhelming inertia within the country, the juggernaut pressures toward the growth of the state, to bureaucratization and regulation, and the destruction of private initiative and free enterprise. Between 1991 and 1999, Argentine public debt burgeoned from 34 percent of GDP to 52 percent. During the same decade, government public debt more than doubled as a percentage of GDP. These burdens stifled private investment so that productive sectors of the economy languished.

Economic disaster led inevitably to a collapse of social confidence and the evaporation of loyalty to the state. The more heavily the country was taxed and regulated, the more Argentines took their transactions off the books, creating a black economy on par with that of the old Soviet Union. In terms of paying their taxes, Argentines are about as faithful as the Italians to whom most have blood ties. Tax evasion became a national sport, second only to soccer in the Argentine consciousness, and provided another stumbling block to fiscal integrity. The collapse of respect for authority also extended to the law: courts are presumed to operate according to bribes and political pressure.

Systematic corruption has had horrifying implications for national security. After all, once you establish the idea that the state is for sale, there is no reason not to offer its services to foreign buyers. One spectacular example of such outsourcing occurred in 1994, when Islamist terrorists blew up a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85. The investigation of the massacre was thoroughly bungled, reportedly because the Iranian government paid Menem $10 million. It is trivial to list the many other allegations of corruption and embezzlement surrounding Menem: what else is politics for, if not to enrich yourself and your clients?

In 2001-02, Argentine fortunes reached depths hitherto unplumbed. A debt-fueled crisis provoked a run on the currency, leading the government to freeze virtually all private bank accounts for 12 months. At the end of 2001, the country defaulted on its foreign debt of $142 billion, the largest such failure in history. With the economy in ruins, almost 60 percent of Argentines were living below the poverty line. Street violence became so intense that the president was forced to flee his palace by helicopter.

Since 2002, yet another new government has presided over an illusory economic boom before being manhandled by the ugly ghosts of Juan and Evita. Those specters were on hand to whisper their excellent advice to a new generation: if you face a crisis caused by excessive government spending, borrowing, and regulation, what else do you do except push even harder to spend, borrow, and regulate? Over the past two years, new taxes and price freezes have again crippled the economy, bringing power blackouts and forced cuts in production. Public debt stands at 56 percent of GDP, and inflation runs 20 percent. Last October, the government seized $29 billion in private pension funds, hammering the final nail in the coffin of the old middle classes. Judging by credit default swap spreads on government debt, the smart money is now betting heavily on another official default before mid-year. The Argentine economy may not actually be dead yet, but it has plenty of ill-wishers trying hard to finish it off.

We all know that deficits drive inflation, which can destroy a society. Less obvious is the political dimension of such a national suicide. Debts and deficits must be understood in the context of the populism that commonly entices governments to abandon economic restraint. No less political are the probable consequences of such a course: authoritarianism, public violence, and militarism.

The road to economic hell is paved with excellent intentions-a desire to save troubled industries, relieve poverty, and bolster communities that support the present government. But the higher the spending and the deeper the deficits, the worse the effects on productive enterprise and the heavier the penalty placed on thrift and enterprise. As matters deteriorate, governments have a natural tendency to divert blame onto some unpopular group, which comes to be labeled in terms of class, income, or race. With society so polarized, the party in power can dismiss any criticism as the selfish whining of the privileged and concentrate on the serious business of diverting state resources to its own followers.

Quite rapidly, "progressive" economic reforms subvert and then destroy savings and property, eliminating any effective opposition to the regime. Soon, too-if the Peron precedent is anything to go by-the regime organizes its long march through the organs of power, conquering the courts, the bureaucracy, the schools, and the media. Hyper-deficits bring hyperinflation, and only for the briefest moment can they coexist with any kind of democratic order.

Could it happen here? The U.S. certainly has very different political traditions from Argentina and more barriers to a populist-driven rape of the economy. On the other hand, events in some regions would make Juan Peron smile wistfully. California runs on particularly high taxes, uncontrollable deficits, and overregulation with a vastly swollen bureaucracy while the hegemonic power of organized labor prevents any reform. Thankfully, the state has no power to devalue its currency, still less to freeze bank accounts or seize pension funds, and businesses can still relocate elsewhere. But in its social values and progressive assumptions, California is close to the Democratic mainstream, which now intends to impose its ideas on the nation as a whole. And at over 60 percent of GDP, U.S. public debt is already higher than Argentina's.

When honest money perishes, the society goes with it. We can't say we weren't warned.


In batty Britain, a BALLOON is now a health & safety risk!

Alex Pearson was thrilled with the balloon she had been given while having a meal at a restaurant. She was happily carrying it as she walked into a nearby Tesco store with her mother. But the nine-year-old girl, who has learning difficulties, was left bewildered when a security guard told her she could not come inside with the helium-filled balloon because it was a health and safety risk.

Alex's mother, Marion, said: 'This whole health and safety thing is just getting silly. You keep hearing more and more reasons why you can't do this or that. 'This is just another ridiculous rule that we have to follow. Why is it that Tesco sells balloons if they are such a risk?'

Alex had been given the balloon by staff at the Chiquito Mexican restaurant on the Tower Park retail park in Poole, Dorset. She had been having a meal there with her mother and grandmother, Martha Talbot. Afterwards, Alex wanted to spend her pocket money in the Tesco superstore, which is also on the retail park. Mrs Pearson tied the balloon to her wrist so it would not blow away. As the family tried to enter the store at 5pm on Monday, they were told it was 'company policy' that the balloon could not come in.

Mrs Pearson, 44, a carer, from Upton, Poole, said: 'Alex loves balloons and she was desperate to keep it. The security guard stopped us and told us we couldn't come in because of it - some idiotic reason about security. 'Alex didn't understand why she wasn't allowed in and I told the security guard to explain it to her. He couldn't even look her in the eye - I think he was too embarrassed. 'She would have been so upset to let the balloon go, so we had to go home. I won't be using the shop again.'

A Tesco spokesman said: 'A restaurant near the store was handing out helium balloons. A number of children had come into the store and released them inadvertently or on purpose. 'Unfortunately they were getting trapped on the ceiling and blocking the sprinkler system, and they are pretty difficult to retrieve. The managers decided to use their discretion. 'There is not a set policy on helium balloons at the store - it's just common sense really.'



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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