Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Day the Earth Got Bored.

I went out with a friend tonight to see the movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still. My advice to potential viewers, stay at home. Don't even borrow the DVD. To quote a fellow movie goer, "That was a waste of two hours of my life." The movie had every cliche imaginable. Keanu Reeves actually acted quite well but even that could not save the movie. Utter rubbish.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Over the past few days I've been over at Dennis Mangan's arguing that one cannot be a Conservative and an atheist at the same time: The terms are mutually incompatible. This of course, incensed Mr Mangan no end, and apart from some ad hominem attacks on my person, he presented no argument to refute my claim. What he did try to do, is to misconstrue my argument, as if I had said to be a conservative, one had to be a christian; this was not my position. I argued that at the bare minimum, a conservative must leave the room open for the possibility of some form of faith, be it in a traditional or personal form. He could be a Pagan, Hindu, Muslim, Lutheran etc.

Ed Feser does a much better job than I can do arguing this position in his essay, The Metaphysics of Conservatism. It is well worth the read. Realist conservatives leave room for faith, the others do not. To quote Mr Feser:
So let me end by citing another, and more practical, reason someone with truly conservative instincts ought to favor the Realist brand of conservatism over its rivals -- namely, that it isn't clear that the other versions are really versions of conservatism at all, any more than nominalism or conceptualism are versions of realism.

You see, metaphysics matter. Metaphysics determine both our ontology and epistemology.(Our understanding or reality and the nature of knowledge). The Ancient Greek or Roman may have disagreed with the Catholic or Lutheran about the nature of the the true God/Gods, but he would have agreed that there was some form of higher Deity than himself. More importantly, however imperfectly they did it, men orientated their lives to the imperatives of the Deity. The rules came from God, not from a rational agent's opinion of the facts. The locus of morality was external to man. The great cultural divide between the Modern World and the World that preceded it, lay in this metaphysical shift. In the Modern World, Man was the source of morals.

Can an Atheist therefore be a Conservative, if he does not share their metaphysics? I would argue not, for the same reasons Ed Feser does. Can a man be a conservative and disdain Christianity? Yes, but he cannot be a Western Conservative. He can be a Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian etc, type of conservative or he can be a Liberal.

Denis Mangan did not publish my last reply to his post. I really don't care as it is his blog and he has the right to do on it as he pleases. However the generally accepted form is to publish comments unless they are offensive, which my comments were not. I would invite the reader to to visit the discussion and make his own mind up.

Mencken, Conservatism, and Adversary Culture

Christianity and the West, II

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas.

To my small band of readers , peace and goodwill to you all this Christmas time.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace!

(Handel's Messiah.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dead White Man. No 1

I don't have White guilt and have always preferred civilization to savagery, light to darkness. Other civilizations have had their achievements, however I will maintain, no assert, that European culture, particularly Western European culture, has had a profound and beneficial effect on the rest of the world.

With that in mind, I hope to put up a few biographies of Dead White men over the next few months. These were the type of men that traditional European society produced in abundance and who so are despised by modern Lefties, because they are ashamed of their cultural inheritance. I introduce to you a man who was tough, courageous, resourceful and loved both God and country. Introducing:

Charles James Napier.

All round tough bastard, and the type of man you want with you in the jungle.

The wikipaedia entry pretty much covers his life, but I thought I would like to jot down some of his thoughts as applied to contemporary issues.

On tolerating foreign customs within his jurisdiction:
"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
On Counterinsurgency:
"The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed"
On negotiating with the natives:
"Come here instantly. Come here at once and make your submission, or I will in a week tear you from the midst of your village and hang you""
On local self government: perverse is mankind that every nationality prefers to misgoverned by its own people than to be well ruled by another.
And how tough a bastard was he:
He Commanded the force employed in Scinde, and on 17th February, with only 2800 British troops, he attacked and defeated, after a desparate action of three hours duration, 22000 of the enemy strongly posted at Meeanee. On the 21st February, Hydrabad surrendered to him, and on the 24th March, with 5000 men he attacked and signally defeated 20,000 of the enemy posted in a very strong and difficult position at Dubba, near Hydrabad, thus completing the entire subjugation of Scinde.

Early in 1815, with a force consisting of about 5000 men of all arms, he took the field against the mountain and desert tribes, situated at the right bank of the Indus to the North of Skihapore, and after an arduous campaign, he effected the total destruction of the hill robbers.
Check out the odds, he was no metrosexual. There would be no place for him in today's modern Britain. The country to whom he bequeathed so much glory has dishonoured his legacy. But he lives in the Pantheon of Honour; three cheers for the Dead White Man.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Darkness.

Some of the luminaries of the "Secular Conservative" fold have started a new blog site. Predictably religion was dissed almost immediately and rather vehemently, I might add. Which is a bit of a surprise as the Right was always seen as the natural home of religion.

For what it's worth, I think the term Secular Conservative is an oxymoron. Clearly the majority of the important Dead White men, or Hindu's for that matter, believed in some sort of supernatural existence, even though they disagreed--sometimes violently--about the composition of "the other world". God and religion get bandied about quite a bit in conservative thought, and the link with the dead through tradition is a mainstay of the conservative mindset.

Edward Feser, wrote what I think is quite a definitive piece on what in the end, separates Left from Right; a view with which I agree with. You see, in the end its all about epistemology; what we consider is valid knowledge. The secularists seem to believe that Empiricism is all that matters, and what cannot be empirically verified does not really matter. From their point of view, non empirically derived propositions are certainly not something to build one's society on. Furthermore-- and it's quite disappointing that supposed intelligent people hold these views--religious conservatives are painted as sort of nut jobs, who believe any fairy story uncritically and as people who would subordinate any scientific fact to a religious belief.

Now it is true, that there are quite a few conservative religious nuts, but every movement has its idiot adherents. But serious conservatism has never dismissed rationality or empirical evidence, it has however been open to the acceptance of truths which cannot be empirically verified such as religious teachings. I think it was St Thomas who back in the thirteenth century, stated that where faith and science are in conflict, our understanding of faith is probably wrong and needs to be modified, as the truth is indivisible and the two cannot contradict each other. Please note, thirteenth Century people.

The question to ask then is it rational to believe in things which are empirically unprovable?

Consider the following: A blind man is told of the existence of the colour red. There is no way he can empirically "prove" the existence of the colour since he cannot see, but clearly the colour exists. What should he do? If he is a Secular Conservative, he will deny that the colour red exists since he cannot empirically verify it's existence. Empiricism would have lead him to a false conclusion. The only way our blind friend can believe in the colour red is through an act of faith. He can't experience the colour red, through he can believe in it from the testimony of others. Clearly in this instance his faith leads to a belief which is congruent with reality. Empiricism on the other hand leads to an absurd result. Faith has its problems as well. It's also possible through faith to believe in things which are non congruent with reality, to believe in fairy tales.

The key issue of any knowledge is it's congruence with reality. That is, how do beliefs square up with reality. Empiricism is pretty powerful but it does have its faults. It doesn't deal well with non repeatable events and it's limits are defined by the perceptual abilities of the observer.

We can't for instance, scientifically repeat a murder in order to determine who caused it. If our courts demanded empirical proof of guilt, we would never be able to convict anyone. But we can, through a combination of science and rationalism, come to some form of conclusion about the nature of the killer. Sometimes they confess, and more often than not we're right. The point here being that valid knowledge that is congruent with reality may be obtained through non empirical methods. Sticking to empiricism is a bit like deliberately trying to live life with your eyes closed while overcompensating with your hearing.

The next question to ask then: Is there "stuff" in the Universe which we cannot perceive? I mean, are we capable of perceiving all that is out there? Just like our blind man who cannot see the light, is there other matter in the universe which we cannot sense and therefore not subject to empirical verification? I don't just mean religious things, I mean things like forces, dark matter etc. Because if there are, empiricism is not going to help us understand the phenomena. More importantly if there are such "things", the strict claims of empiricism may lead us to the wrong conclusions. Certainly at the subatomic and intergalactic levels, weird stuff happens. No one's seen dark matter.

The secular rejection of the mode of traditional conservative thought, by necessity undercuts the foundations of conservatism itself. Morals can't be derived from scientific facts, and hence conservatism becomes a "lifestyle"preference based on the hedonistic predispositions of the secular conservative; should his pleasures change so should his conservatism. The Dead White Men that made up conservatism in the past, lived that way because they thought it was the Tao of life; it was the truth.

But back to our secular blind man. His empirical enquiries have not been able to demonstrate the phenomena of colour. So when offered corrective surgery to cure his blindness, he angrily chases us away, because his method has taught him that there is no light.

(Cross Posted at The Forvm)

Monday, December 01, 2008

The paradox of extravagance.

John Maynard Keynes was profoundly influential in the field of economics, which is a bit of a shame because some of what he said needed to be thought out more. But while his unthinking acolytes continue to practice his solutions to the current economic crisis, it is worthwhile exploring one of his ideas further.

The paradox of thrift was one of those ideas of Keynes which explain the current government policy of "stimulus". It is assumed that in a normal household there is a balance between savings and spending. And tets take a hypothetical fellow who has a thousand dollars a week to spend, and let's suppose in normal times this fellow saves two hundred dollars and spends eight hundred dollars on stuff and services. That eight hundred dollars of expenditure, keeps business of all kinds profitable and in operation. On the other hand, the money that he has saved is put in a bank which then lends it out to other businesses which need it. There is both consumer demand and capital availability.

Now if our friend decides to save three hundred dollars a week, the amount left over to spend is seven hundred, a reduction of one hundred dollars. There is less consumer demand to go around and business is poor. Likewise if our friend saves only one hundred dollars, then there is more consumer demand and hence business prospers. Therefore the way to stimulate businesses is to increase consumption. However for a given income, more spending will mean less saving.

Should savings become scarce, in a natural market, the demand for savings would push up the rates of interest which would encourage more saving and decrease consumption. In a normal situation this would happen continuously so that the market would quietly hum along. Now Keynes's paradox always assumed that there would be savings to trade for consumption.

Keynes assumed wrongly. From the above chart, the U.S is spent. There are no more savings to trade for consumption. It also means that the U.S has no savings for investment. This is the paradox of extravagance. If an economy spends at its limit, then there are no savings for investment, and eventually the economy starts to contract due to capital starvation. Stimulating an economy to its maximum, eventually leads to a an economic contraction. And this contraction is going to start occurring during a period of economic boom, just as what is happening now.

Of course, one can argue that there is capital from overseas, which one can use to stimulate the economy. The logic being, that we should borrow more to get ourselves out of debt. If you can't see the flaws in the argument, then you should be the Treasury Secretary. The problem with Anglo influenced economies is that they continue to consume more than they produce, stimulating them will perpetuate the same and drive them further into debt. Over consumption is probably worse state of affairs than under consumption, since there are at least savings to invest in the latter situation.

Furthermore, this state of affairs puts a country's economy at the mercy of the providers of capital. If the Chinese and Arabs were to switch off the spigots; it's all over. If I were a Taiwanese I would be extremely nervous; the U.S. is not exactly going to bite the hand that feeds it. On the other hand, should the U.S default on its debt either explicitly or through inflation, the spigots will be closed for non-political reasons as well and U.S interest rates will go through the roof at a time of high indebtedness.

Oh just as I was about to post this, I noticed that Martin Wolf, of the Financial Times, was thinking along similar lines. His article is worth a read.

The economy needs to be restored to a point where there is approximately a 5-10% personal savings rate. This is what constitutes a healthy economy and economic policy should be geared to that goal. However given the fact that most Anglo economies have the same personal savings chart as above, trying to increase the amount of consumer savings is going to result in a contraction of consumer demand. Business is going to shrink, in the Anglo countries by a lot.
There is a lot of pain coming.