Saturday, October 30, 2010


As often happens in matters of philosophy, you find stuff in places you wouldn’t expect.

The Indian economist Amartya Sen has been developing a philosophy of government that would somehow help the still-developing nation of India address the poverty of its huge population.

You may recall his name; Martha Nussbaum, noted feministical philosopher here in the US, had been trying to use him as a basis for her own recasting of the American Constitutional philosophy of government in such a way as to make things more to the liking of assorted pressure-groups over here.

And in the Nussbaum essays that I have so far managed to Post, I had been making the point that somehow Sen’s economic thoughts had mutated over here into some sort of justification of the SO Mania Regime(s) – plural if you toss in the Domestic Violence Regime.

Which is NOT to say that you will actually find any ‘philosophical’ articles by SO Mania Regime supporters explaining at length how they justify their agenda and demands. As I have often said, the Regime is strangely bereft of several common elements of major, ‘successful’ and ‘progressive’ changes in national policy: legislators crowing to the general public that they supported it, philosophers who are happy to put their creds and status into an article explaining how justifiable and marvelously excellent it is, and public commentators who mention the Regime at all in any context whatsoever.

Nada, zip, zilch, nothing.

Anyhoo, here’s a piece in a recent ‘New York Review of Books’ article discussing Sen (who, to my knowledge, formally does not have and has never had any connection to the SO Mania Regime). The article is actually a review of a recent book by Sen, written by the philosopher Samuel Freeman.

Freeman starts by recalling one of the major recent philosophical positions that Sen disagrees with: John Rawls.

An ominously overnight sensation, John Rawls published his magnum opus “A Theory of Justice” in 1971, the same year that Alinsky published “Rule for Radicals” and the year before the Dems declared themselves the Party of Everything and Everyone (Except – unstated – White Industrial Males, the Women Who Agree With Them, and All Things Adult, Bourgeois, Middle-Class and In Any Way Traditional). 1972 was quite a year; if it slipped by you un-noticed, give some thought now back to “those thrilling days of yesteryear” (as they used to introduce ‘The Lone Ranger’ TV show in the ‘50s).

Rawls starts by imagining Citizens of good-will in “an original position”. This hypothetical Position would be that the Citizens did not have any prior notions of how society should be organized (no such humans exist or could exist beyond the age of 5 or 6, but Rawls is sorta blue-skying here, as the Dems then proceeded to do, and then the entire Beltway).

In this Position, Rawls was sure (no proof, he just reeely reeely felt strongly about this) that everybody would agree that if they were going to have a society, they would want principles of justice. I agree as far as the words go.

But then Rawls starts to blend his own dream in with the imaginary situation and Citizens: he says that the first principle of justice everybody was sure to agree with would be the “guarantee of equal basic liberties for all: freedom of thought and expression, freedom of association, equal political rights, and freedom of conduct with a right to personal property”.

Freeman notes that Rawls “crucially omits economic liberties such as the right to own and control the means of production”. There’s a reason for that, as We shall see.

I’d add that Rawls, even at this early stage of his scheme, has put some phrases in there that didn’t then and certainly don’t now mean what they appear to mean. Thus, for example, “equal political rights” doesn’t simply mean the right to vote, and ‘personal property’ doesn’t just mean your CD or record collection.

Ditto then as Rawls moves to his second principle: “fair and equal opportunities to develop their capacities and talents”. This sounds very nice but you don’t have to move very far into policy formulation (and the Dems wasted no time after 1972, nor did the groups pressuring them) before you are into deep, dark, and tricky waters indeed: where does ‘opportunity’ end and ‘luck’ begin such that anyone who hasn’t succeeded must merely have been the victim of some ‘bad luck’ or at least that everyone who HAS succeeded to some extent must have done so merely because of ‘good luck’?

AND if government is now going to get into the re-balancing business big time (especially since God was a hypothesis in the process of begin progressively Deconstructed) then just how intrusive was government going to have to get in order to reach down into the national doll-house and re-arrange the furniture – and even the dolls themselves? Just how far could the government go in re-arranging not only the schedules and track layouts but even the towns on the national toy train-table?

Rawls began by saying that “extensive educational and health benefits for all” were absolutely called-for, provided by the government. And who can argue with that thought? But the Devil was – and remains – in the details (where he has taken up a strongly fortified position).

So Rawls’s “difference principle” would demand that wherever there was a difference (in ability or in outcome?) the government would have to re-arrange things to ensure that persons were truly “equal” (in capability or in level of achievement or in worldly goods?), and that the least-‘lucky’ were never to be left unattended at the bottom of the heap. Decent thoughts indeed, although not where the Devil chose to make his stand.

Sen came up with a different approach: “Individual well-being can be objective measured by the access people have not only to goods, income, and liberties, but also by the variety of ‘capabilities’ that enable them to pursue satisfying lives”. Although I can’t see how a researcher – let alone a government – can objectively decide A) who has enough ‘capabilities’, B) what exactly objectively a ‘satisfying’ life is, and C) what has gone wrong if a person is discovered to be (or claims to be) suffering an un-satisfying life?

These are the type of problems you run into – that classical Liberalism has always run into – when you rely solely on purely human (and governmental) reason to figure out the complex mysteries of human existence previously left to ‘God’ or ‘Nature’, and furthermore try to calculate your figurings out to several decimal places.

Government would be into guaranteeing ‘capabilities’ and compensating people for ‘bad luck’ that was verrrrry broadly defined.

So government would have to get verrrry involved in the case. Freeman uses the disabled as an example: it’s not enough for government to provide them with the equal resources because “in order to achieve the same state of well-being” they “require more to perform the same activities”. The ‘more’ – since this is a government-dependent Liberal (I am NOT using this word in the current, immature political name-calling sense) – must come from government’s authority to re-distribute or re-arrange society.

“Living a good and satisfying life, Sen argues, consists of engaging successfully in freely chosen activities against a background of worthwhile options and real opportunities.” (And perhaps you can start to see right here how this seemingly decent idea – although, without God or Nature, a government-heavy one – starts to become attractive to Victimologists and other pressure groups.)

Freeman continues describing Sen’s thought: “… our well-being should be assessed according to the ‘capabilities for functioning’ that enable people to exercise ‘effective freedoms’ to choose and do what they value or have a reason to value”.

Note here that ‘people’ is defined not as a society-of-people but as individuals who are simply all bunched together. Everybody may have a different idea – each guaranteed by government – as to just what it will take to ‘satisfy’ them.

Indeed, almost immediately, Sen lists some of the difficulties that will stand in the way of realizing his vision: “poverty, illness, disability, and the subjection of women, among other restrictions, undermine capabilities and deprive people of their effective freedoms to engage in [what they consider to be] worthwhile activities”. You can see where Victimology, operating in synergy with other pressure groups, quickly saw how to include ‘the consequences of being sexually assaulted or living in fear of sexual assault’ – which are two verrry different matters conceptually – as being the types of ‘restrictions’ that government, in Sen’s theory, must address with the sovereign authority.

Speaking of India as he knows it, Sen asserts that once restrictions (he makes no mention of the Victimology element, which is an American mutation) are ‘addressed’, then economic progress will become more possible for individuals (he doesn’t mention ‘families’ or any traditional groupings of individuals).

Sen’s ‘capabilities approach’, notes Freeman accurately, is currently one of the most influential approaches for “addressing issues of social, political, and global justice and human rights”.

As I had mentioned in several of the Nussbaum essays already Posted, the ‘sexual’ material has gotten into the American variants of this approach. Naturally, once government is required (in terms of this influential theory) to aggressively eradicate the ‘sexual restriction’ (sexual assault or fear of assault, however defined), then there is going to be some serious disconnect between Sen’s theory and American Constitutional principles (which, since he is dealing with India, is not a problem that immediately arises in Sen’s original vision).

Worse, in a very real way, is Sen’s refusal to appeal to “universal principles” that will ‘work’ and are ‘valid’ in any country and any period of history. While it is very understandable that he doesn’t want to limit Indian (and Third World or Developing World) efforts by some appeal to what the Developed World has done, he has effectively eradicated the influence of any Higher Law that could stand in judgment on any particular law or policy.

This may well help him sidestep the complexities of, say, Indian religious life and culture – Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim – but if applied to America such an approach works in synergy with the entire Postmodern thrust to Deconstruct anything that would stand in the way of whatever pressure groups demand in the way of what they see as ‘progress’. And the SO community has seen first-hand where that sort of thing can quickly lead.

Sen – following Rawls – would like to see “objective and impartial reason” replace any appeal to Higher Law or Tradition or Religion. This is classically Liberal. BUT curiously, it runs counter to the American radical-feminist philosophy that such “objective and impartial reason” is a ‘male’ thing and ‘insensitive’ to the ‘stories’ and ‘pain’ experienced by assorted groups.

WORSE, combined over here with Alinsky-ite assertions that the only thing that makes politics move is ‘organizing’ even if you have to take ‘the low road’ to do it, then what happens when Sen is blended into the American bubbling brew pot comes out to something more lethal and toxic than Sen’s decent insights and interesting theoretical formulations would lead you to expect.

And, really, Sen runs into the problem that all Liberalism has run into: among humans there is no purely objective and rational approach. The simplistic solution to THAT had been to make an appeal to Tradition or God, but if you apply that appeal simplistically you wind up with two unpleasant social results: first, every individual claiming to understand clearly what ‘God’s Will’ is and second, groups attacking other groups over what they insist is a misreading of ‘God’s Will’.

And a simplistic solution to THAT problem is simply to say (like the Six Blind Men and the Elephant in the Eastern myth) that there is no God or Higher Anything and that it’s all about who can muster the most political pressure (Marx, Lenin, and Alinsky adopted this ‘solution’).

A more balanced approach is to presume from the outset that human beings are indeed capable of reason and – if they train themselves and work hard at it – can muster at least enough objective detachment to work out consensually and democratically the social policies and laws that an entire society can live with.

But – most most regrettably, I would say – this option isn’t ‘sexy’ enough, requires too much heavy lifting, and since it relies on ‘mature voters’ usually doesn’t impress legislators and policy-makers as having enough of a constituency.


So We wind up with efforts to terraform society (and Citizens) from the top-down, according to the illuminations of whatever elites and pressure-groups can erect into law and policy. America as a large model train layout on a huge table and the elites and pols as the expert hobbyists wearing their little engineer’s hats and making train-whistle noises while moving all the stuff around to their liking.

AND Sen does follow Adam Smith in supporting a sort of political ethics that can be defended “in an open and free framework of public reasoning”. BUT of course, the Alinsky-ite vision utterly rejects such an approach, as have all the pressure-groups that have blossomed like kudzu in this country in the past 40 years. And the Alinsky-ite vision, as you can see in the series of essays I am Posting on Alinsky, contains a profound functional rejection of Constitutional and democratic politics and of The People as the functional Ground of political authority and wisdom.


Sen rejects Rawls because Rawls presupposes that there could ever be a society where most people just naturally want to do the right and just thing for everybody (and not just get some for themselves).

But then Sen – relying on Adam Smith – expects the same thing.

And in American society, where Deconstruction has been governmentally-supported and loudly trumpeted by various pressure-groups and their ‘cutting-edge’ and ‘transgressive-progressive’ thinkers for decades, there is now some real question as to whether a majority of Citizens can even grasp the challenges that lethally confront The People in this age of American democracy.

Again, as Sen refuses to accept ‘ideals’ or any ‘ideal theory’ in order to leave himself maximum room for ‘development’ in the Third World, he leaves himself with no judgment-point above the fray by which this or that policy can be evaluated. To use an admittedly extreme example or two: if most Germans agreed with Hitlerian policies in 1937, who then could stand in judgment on them? Or if most Russians by 1940 were so indoctrinated or cowed by Stalinist Terror that they could not speak and did not dare think for themselves, and there was nothing Higher than Stalin’s Will … then how could anybody stand in judgment?

As Freeman notes, it was John Locke’s vision that served as the Ground for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: “the people are sovereign; government originates in their consent; government’s power is fiduciary and exercisable only for the common good; citizens have inalienable rights justifying a right of resistance when violated”.

Alinsky and his pressure-groups cannot accept any of this. And while they claim only to ‘empower’, they introduce a politics of Suspicion and War upon those Citizens whom they have declared their Oppressors and therefore their Enemies (whoever is declared a ‘Have’ by whomever declare themselves somehow to be ‘Have-Nots’) … and you can’t keep a democracy with a politics built on this stuff.

Freeman nicely recalls Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech of August, 1963: his aspirations, presented to all Americans as a common goal, “were grounded in political ideals and ideal principles”. Further, says Freeman (as if, I think, he were specifically thinking of Alinsky!), none of this “could have been conveyed by focusing on practicable alternatives offered up by the status quo”.

But there, too, I think Alinsky fails Us hugely. Because part of the human ‘status quo’ is precisely a capacity to be persuaded or inspired to willingly ‘do the right thing’, as individuals and as a society and a polity and a commonwealth. You cannot – in the Leninist or messianic-Marxist mode – simply presume that ‘the masses’ are lumps who ‘just don’t get it’ and are violent lumpish brutes and on the basis of those huge and monstrous presumptions consider yourself justified in ‘waging war’ by whatever means available in order to bring about your idea of ‘progress’ or Perfection.

And to the extent that even Sen – as respectably alive to human suffering as Marx and Alinsky and King – somehow has to seek to do an end-run around democracy because people cannot be trusted to function as The People then – at least as his theories apply to the US – he must be most judiciously and carefully evaluated for the type of plague that is carried in the nihilism and angry urgencies of old European messianism.

And it is precisely those dangerous and lethal bacilli that underlie the SO Mania Regime – which, as I have said in earlier Posts, is not so much a free-standing if bizarre entity but rather was a first or trial run of a much larger and dangerous Theory of Government and of Democracy that can only serve to undermine the Constitutional polity and the entire American Experiment as it was conceived in 1787.

“Ideal theories” are precisely that, says Sen: un-worldly and un-real. Better to come up with something that will ‘work’. But I would say that nothing grounded purely in this-world can ‘work’ because the human realm, through the complex material-spiritual make-up of the humans who generate it, is itself somewhat ‘ideal’. Humans are capable of responding to ‘ideals’.

So when Sen, in Freeman’s view, considers the Constitution to be “ideal theory” and therefore unworldly and unworkable, then I think We are in a heepa trubble. Especially since I think a very large number of ‘prestigious’ progressive thinkers bombarded the Beltway with this ‘cutting-edge’ thought that the Constitution is nothing but an ‘ideal’ and ‘unworkable’, and that it would be better if the pols simply yielded to Alinsky-ite pressure and came to some sort of ‘deal’ rather than hew to any stupid old ‘ideal’.

The ‘ideal’ has been replaced by the ‘deal’ – and whenever that happens, you have to be verrry careful about the terms of such a ‘deal’.

The SO Mania Regime, I would say, is the result of such a ‘deal’, made by dismissing any ‘ideal’, and it was embraced by the Beltway and by legislators and jurists all around the country.

Freeman insists – against Sen – that “the abstract rights and principles of justice in the Constitution have a fundamental regulative role in American society, and also provide a primary basis for public justification and criticism of government”.

And Freeman gives you a little more philosophical exercise: “The fact that principles of justice are formulated for hypothetical circumstances does not mean that they do not apply to our actual circumstances”.

I’d go even further: the ‘hypothetical’ – meaning the ‘ideal’ – is not merely an exercise in imagination or fantasy. Rather, the ‘ideal’ is a very real dimension of the complex human, though not materially evident to the basic senses of sight or touch. To ignore the ‘ideal’ because you can’t see it or touch it is not being ‘realistic’ but rather being simplistic in the extreme. ‘Reality’, and the humans who inhabit this plane of existence and of spacetime, is only partly evident to material examination. Like an iceberg, an awful lot of it is ‘out of sight’ – but as they found out on the Titanic that night, you can ‘miss’ a berg and still wreck yourself.

Sen doesn’t hold with the High Definition of human institutions: if they don’t contribute to individuals’ satisfaction with the quality of their lives, then they are very dispensable and should be dispensed with.

You can imagine then, what they must have thought inside the Beltway, when Sen’s thought was presented, adapted to the American situation by the claim that a Constitution that somehow protects that ‘sexual restriction’ that keeps folks from fully being satisfied with their life is AND HAS TO BE dispensed with.

(And at this point, you can perhaps see why an awful lot of legislators would rather not have to discuss and admit that they indeed went along with the SO Mania Regime on the assumption that the Constitution needed to be dispensed with.)

Freeman will give you a chance to think about the classic Western philosophical Question about the relationship between the Right and the Good: can you pursue Right with such violent consequences that you destroy the very fabric of society upon which everybody’s Good life depends?

Let me take a bull by the horns here: this was precisely the problem that faced the Framers in regard to slavery and that faced Lincoln in regard to Abolitionism. Let me just take Lincoln: the Abolitionists said that Slavery was so fundamentally evil (and I don’t disagree) that the country could not exist a single moment longer with it and that to the extent that the Constitution somehow kept it going then the Constitution itself was a pact with Hell.

Even in the 1850s Lincoln (while a politician but not yet President) realized that you would destroy the fabric of the country and wreck the entire institution of American Constitutional Democracy if you simply tried to abolish slavery overnight with a declaration or even a law. (Indeed, it was the simple fact of his election, and no declaration on his part that he intended to abolish slavery, that moved so many of the slave states to secede and start the Civil War.)

Slavery was a Wrong and not a Right, but the commonwealth and the fabric of national society and the institutions holding it up, including the Constitution, were not at that moment Perfect and Right, but they were a Good (however imperfectly realized) and you would cause huge wrack and ruin by trying to quickly Perfect it by declaring Slavery abolished.

To the abolitionists this proved Lincoln was willing to live with Evil and therefore was a partner of Evil himself (he didn’t receive their full support until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863).

You see the problem. How quickly can you institute Perfection if you have to balance the Right and the Good?

I think that it is a species of the Abolitionist mentality that has assaulted the Beltway in the past 40 years, and that was blended – on top of that – with Alinsky’s Marxist-revolutionary stuff about ‘war politics’ and agitating on the basis of unending ‘suspicion’. And I think all of that underlies much of the ‘justification’ for the SO Mania Regime.

Worse, since he is trying to actually influence the shape of a government that is still in its formative stages and a population that is hardly experienced in functioning as The People, Sen is focusing – and not incorrectly – on setting up a society and culture as well as governmental institutions, to replace an ancient and in some ways outmoded Tradition over there in India and much of the Developing World.

So he is not running the risk of hugely undermining an already-functioning polity in the way that is happening – and to great extent has happened – over here.

To assert that the rights of ‘individuals’ don’t count in the face of the great challenges may well be true, at this stage, in India. But to assert such a thing over here is to directly undermine the Constitutional ethos: this country is at a different stage of development and what might not cause so much damage to the established (and vitally humanly necessary) Shape of a Citizenry’s and a population’s lifeways and the Shape of their society over there, would most surely do so – and has done so – over here.

This, as Lincoln saw, is not a project lightly to be undertaken, nor ‘spun’ as purely ‘progress’ – there are huge and dangerous consequences. As We are seeing now.

Freeman gets down to it: he uses the example of Cheney and terrorism and Guantanamo (hardly far removed from the SO Mania dynamics). Surely, Freeman says, Cheney must have realized that “some Guantanamo prisoners were innocent bystanders swept up by a hasty dragnet during the heat of combat”.

And wasn’t the SO Mania Regime – which PRECEDED the Terrorism issue by a decade and more – precisely envisioned as an ‘attack’ by ‘Sex Offenders’ on American society and culture?

“But”, Freeman continues about Cheney, “he argues, in effect, that the abuses of Guantanamo were acceptable because they increased overall security”. Freeman continues: “[Cheney] might concede that there were gross violations of some individuals’ freedom and see this as a cost of the government’s policies; yet he would consider this cost to be outweighed by the greater good”.

This is a type of Utilitarian philosophical calculation: what’s good is what produces some good for the greatest number of persons. On that basis, Hitler in Germany in the mid-1930s and Mussolini since the 1920s, were both doing ‘good’. No Higher Law (‘deontological’ thinking, as it is formally termed in philosophy) existed to stand in judgment over what was being done by the governments’ policies in those countries. It is even conceivable that a strong Utilitarian could have justified the social and political and legal encumbrances laid upon the Jewish citizens of Germany in the 1930s and perhaps even – though it is repugnant to me – the Holocaust itself.

Freeman notes, accurately, that “Sen is sensitive to the criticism that individual rights cannot be sacrificed for gains to the greater good”. Sen tries to solve this profound difficulty (certainly for Western democratic and Constitutional thought) in his system in two ways.

First, Sen tries to say that he is not so much concerned for Utilitarian good but rather for people to have a wider range of ‘capabilities’. But of course, depending on how you define ‘capabilities’ you could wind up quickly with a verrrry intrusive government (exactly the problem Nussbaum runs into when she adds the ‘right’ not to be sexually anxious as part of the American variant of Sen’s Capabilities Approach).

Second, Sen tries to incorporate into his list of ‘goods’ that people should have a healthy experience of democracy. BUT those are just words, given that Sen is precisely trying to set up a government and indeed a culture that must almost by definition be erected over the heads of the Indian citizenry and population that pretty much has no experience of a fully functioning democratic polity and ethos.

So Sen really has no solution to his profound problem: you cannot have a democratic polity while simultaneously establishing by elite and government action – wide and deep – a cultural revolution that your population, by your own criteria and vision, has no experience of.

That’s Nussbaum’s problem over here too. Sen at least isn’t really working with American culture and society and Our Constitutional polity in mind; Nussbaum most certainly is.

Alinsky tried to solve it by reducing politics to ‘the low road’ and asserting cynically and nihilistically that Nothing Is Ever On The Level.

This is not a ‘simple’ problem. But to undermine the Constitution in order to make things more to your conceptual liking is certainly not a prudent let alone an easy solution.

But you see in the SO Mania Regime the product of the Beltway’s attempt to do just that.

As Freeman puts the problem clearly: “How, then, are we to address the inevitable conflicts that arise between maximizing good consequences (economic efficiency, overall happiness, or individuals’ capabilities) on the one hand and respecting individual rights and fair distribution and procedures on the other? Are we allowed to restrict the constitutional rights of a few (denying the rights of ‘enemy combatants to enemy combatants’ to habeas corpus and a fair trial for example, or the interning of Japanese-American citizens during World War II) that effectively guarantees the rights of far greater numbers to personal security and other freedoms?”

Notice how many possible areas of definition that “good consequences” might cover. And can ‘government’ address all of them and remain in its Constitutional bounds? And can ‘government’ effect a revolution of such magnitude without first putting these huge matters clearly and directly to The People?*

Notice also that in the SO Mania Regime (which, I note again, PRECEDED the ‘terrorism’ matter by more than a decade) it can’t so quickly be accepted the governmental ‘solution’ (the SO Mania Regime itself) can at all be accurate described as “effectively” guaranteeing any such security: there is more than enough serious assessment now that indicates that the SO Mania Regime is NOT contributing to ‘safety’.

So again: Sen’s ideas – put forward constructively to help Shape the economics of a still under-Shaped and still-developing polity in India and the Developing World – have profoundly destructive effects when translated into a civil/criminal legal forum in an already-established and fundamentally Constitutional culture and polity here in the US.

The trick was that the assorted pressure-groups here in the US went to the Beltway and cast their Identities as being pretty much ‘oppressed peoples’ as if they were Third World natives, and thus claimed that since Sen was doing such an impressive job with the oppressed peoples ‘over there’ then he could ‘simply’ be adopted whole-hog over here and the US would then also quickly and easily achieve ‘justice’ for the ‘oppressed’ over here.

And THAT gambit was hugely wrong-headed, both in its Content and in the Method (imposition and ‘spin’) by which the whole scheme would be foisted on The People without ‘wasting time’ for public deliberation and consensus-building. (After all, why bother trying to explain things to the masses who by definition ‘just don’t get it’?)

Freeman quickly notes that “in the event of extreme emergencies we must sacrifice some innocent persons’ rights to save the multitudes”. Yes, and those are difficult decisions and – you would think – thankfully rare.

BUT OF COURSE part of the ‘spin’ gambit was precisely to create an ‘emergency’ (think of all those Victimology ‘studies’ and claims and assertions and ‘statistics’) that actually didn’t exist, in order to create a public stampede and the conceptual ‘dust’ that a stampede raises, clouding everyone’s vision of what’s actually going on.

AND OF COURSE, it wasn’t just one such manufactured ‘emergency’ but an endless wave of them, as more and more pressure-groups saw that the Beltway had cut itself loose from the Reality Principle (or the Truth Principle) and would say Yes to just about any demand made upon it.

And the SO Mania Regime was one of those ‘manufactured emergencies’.

Because, as Freeman soberly reminds readers, “it’s important to maintain a distinction between extreme emergencies and the ordinary circumstances of social life”.

But that ‘distinction’ was and is exactly the speed-bump and firewall that the pressure-groups wanted to break down, and had to break down if they were to succeed in their Alinsky-ite project of bringing about the ‘change’ that they were so sure was a Good Thing.

And the Beltway went along with it.

BUT, Freeman continues soberly, “Sen raises the possibility of abandoning this distinction”. After all, Sen says, who’s to draw the line between “catastrophic moral horrors” and “bad social consequences that are not absolutely catastrophic but still quite nasty”?

Well, of course, in a functioning and long-established representative democracy the answer to Sen’s own question is that the elected representatives of The People – working on the authority of The People but thereby required in prudence to confer with The People – would be the ones to “say”, the ones to draw those distinctions between “catastrophic” emergencies and merely “bad” arrangements.

BUT that’s not how it has worked out over here, where the Beltway quietly decided on its own that it would be in its own interests to merely accept the distinction insisted upon by the pressure groups and then ‘spin’ the consequent policies as merely ‘changes’ and ‘reform’ and ‘progress’ and – anyway – that is was ‘merely’ a ‘response’ to an ‘emergency’.

And the SO Mania Regime is a result of that treacherous and hugely deceitful decision by the Beltway.

Because let’s face it: the ideas underlying the SO Mania Regime are wrong-headed and the policies those ideas would call for were wrong-headed and hugely imprudent … but they would have remained just that – odd and dangerously unripe ‘ideas’ – except that the Beltway embraced them and erected them into national policy and law.

Freeman concludes his thoughts and his review with a philosopher’s observation: that it seems to many folks as if ‘philosophy’ was nothing more than a “luxury” since the effects of this ‘idea’ as opposed to that ‘idea’ take “generations” to become clear. Since the consequences of ideas take so long to clearly manifest, many people – Americans especially, given the impatient and youthy make-up of Our culture – figure that things can be ‘speeded up’ efficiently and without ill consequence.

And surely the Alinsky-ite approach, following the revolutionary approach in which it is rooted, not only has no patience with long stretches of ripening time, but actually considers that such ‘delay’ is merely a failure of nerve and determination to create the revolution’s vision of a Good Thing.

And so We got the Stampede that created the SO Mania Regime.

I took this much time (mine and yours) to note all this in order to give you a wider and deeper awareness of how – as best I can make out – some perfectly respectable (if not totally accurate) ideas of Amartya Sen could wind up being ‘adapted’ in this country with such immediate and lethal consequences as the SO Mania Regime.

Ideas are funny things: if embraced by Authority, they can have huge consequences.

Which is why, as the world and societies become more complex, it is necessary for a People – especially The People of the American Constitutional polity – to become MORE informed and aware, rather than less. It’s not enough to figure that you’ve done your job by electing somebody to the legislature and letting them confer with ‘elites’ and do the things that have to be done.

As the SO community knows full well, and the Framers before them, human beings aren’t suddenly rendered wise and prudent by the mere fact of ‘election’ to office. They can make huge mistakes if not well-grounded and guided by The People upon whose authority they act.

So much remains to be done.


*I repeat here what I have mentioned before: in 1972, the year that the Democratic Party declared itself to be the Party of Everthing 'new', it lost the Presidential election 49 states to 1. So if I sometimes sound hard about the responsiblity of The People in this country, I recall here that in the one opportunity The People had to voice their opinion of where things were going, The People rejected it by the largest margin in American electoral history.

I think that one of the great hidden dynamics driving American politics in the past 40 years has precisely been to distract The People so that nobody would remember exactly what The People said so clearly in the election of 1972.

No comments:

Post a Comment