04 January 2007

Comments 4

Please use this post to comment or feedback on anything discussed on this site, or anything in the Mediocracy book.

Previous comment-post here.

(started 6 January 2008)


Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Points 1-6 are a beautiful summation and Lionheart's lawyer most certainly must not use that defence.

Simon Clark said...

Excellent latest post.

Homophobic Horse said...

Samina Malik was arrested with Sohail Qureshi, a man who has since admitted to being a terrorist. Malik was employed at an airport before her arrest, during which time she gave Sohail Qureshi information regarding airport security.

Samina Malik is not being persecuted, Samina Malik is not "potty" nor is Samina Malik a "loon", Samina Malik is a terrorist actively aiding those who plan to commit mass murder according to the transcendant tenets of Islam.

There is no equivalence between Lionheart and Samina Malik inspite of Tony Bennets comments, Samina Malik is an aggressor and her ilk, according to the transcendant tenets of Islam, have victimised Lionheart. Part of this victimisation includes a kind of "lawyer Jihad" for repressive legislation contrary to free speech (i.e. the "Religious Hatred Bill").

Fabian Tassano said...

Malik may or may not have intended to commit terrorist acts. It wasn't obvious from her trial, so I don't understand why you think you know better.

"The jury found her not guilty of possessing articles for terrorist purposes. But they did convict of the lesser terror charge of collecting articles 'likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism'." (BBC)

I don't think we should have laws as vague as this. If you have to have a law relating to possession of literature at all, it should be very specific which items it is illegal to possess - like the Vatican's Index. Otherwise we are all dependent on the judgment of state officials as whether something is "likely to be useful for preparing for terrorism".

I suppose the theory is: give the police and courts as much leeway as possible, so they can convict people who they 'really know' are guilty. Also known as 'arbitrary powers', as distinct from the rule of law. See also here.

Peter Horne said...

Glad to see you back. Some good stuff lately.
Review of the book here, should you have missed it.

Apparently, death really is preferable to independence of thought

Happy New Year.

Homophobic Horse said...

Agreed on the 'Arbitrary Powers'. It's not as though Malik had explosives under her bed. Regardless of bad laws, this is part of a wider phenomenon. Malik was in contact with a man who was already a Jihadist; many Jihadists have committed mass murder. (And don't say I'm contradicting myself here, you can be an incipient Terrorist Jihadist without a conviction spurious or otherwise i.e. one wouldn't join NAMBLA unless one had desires of a certain sort)

The more interesting question is thus - why the repressive legislation, why is this government doing this?

Detour -

The problem with society in both its degenerate modern "Universalist" sense and older territorial sense is that it relies on, shall we say, the anti-social to defend rights and territory. You cannot explain to people that they ought to believe in, for instance, freedom of contract as a fundamental human right, or perhaps the idea of rights at all, if in fact they don't believe. And if you place those ideas beyond debate (contrary to freedom of speech) and make it a tenet for admittance (which requires prisons and immigration control), your model society is certainly not liberal. But therein lies the problem with every society; from the individual Colt Handgun to the GULAG; every society has transcendent tenets that are defended with force applied to people who do not follow those tenets. Such as Jihadists. Or racists like James Watson. If those tenets are not defended, then those tenets will perish and be replaced.

The "Test your free-speech-commitment" entry is implicit in the above regard. Voltairian mantras aren't helpful. If someone continues to believe something murderous and demonstrably wrong free speech isn't going to stop them as they will continue to promulgate their ideas.

And in that lies, I think, the reason for our governments seemingly demented behaviour. This civilisations transcendent tenets are now:

1. A presumptive "Universalism"

2. Multiculturalism

Obviously Islam and "Lionheart" undermine these tenets utterly, and that cannot be permitted as Multiculturalism's intention is to show that all peoples can live under the "Universal" government in peace and therefore end all wars forever. For that reason both Islam and Islam critics must be squashed. If they were not squashed then a recidivist civilisation contrary to the Age of Change might be created.

Homophobic Horse said...

"Institutional openness is not in itself adequate to protect a society from gnosticism, nor is it likely to prevail at the point when gnosticism is culturally and spiritually pervasive. Thus, gnosticism must be opposed by a spiritual force that immunizes the society from gnostic corruption" - Eric Voegelin

Liberalism simulataneously relies on civilized ideals it has not created and cannot sustain; it undermines them by permitting unfettered inquiry. This permissive society breeds the neurotic criminal type who undermines civilization. Furthermore one cannot oppose him or her on the basis of individual freedom, as they may invoke individual freedom to create, for example, films of graphic torture.

It is highly telling that Voltaire's mantra has been employed. Voltaires mantra is indiscriminate and does not require one to judge what is good or bad (as indeed you don't regarding Malik and Lionheart). This is in fact the secret of its meaning. It can be used to conceal pity or aggression, it allows one to disagree from a seemingly benevolent, unassailable, moral high ground without saying why. It is ineffective, though at least not counter-productive as points a, b, c, and d are.

Simon Clark said...

If Samina Malik was planning or aiding terrorist attacks then let evidence be brought forth, a charge made and a trial by jury held. This has not happened. She was, instead, charged (and convicted) with the crime of simply owning property

If she was planning or aiding terrorism, she should be punished for it. As things stand, she won't be. If she was not, then no punishment should be exacted at all.

steven said...

I'm not sure what point it is you suppose I have missed. You say there is a need for "clarification of intentions" of the bodies that interfere in the operations of markets, and I say that markets depend on confidence. In that, we appear to be in agreement.

However, I also say that that calls to "reassure" markets are often plainly made for ideological reasons, and I cite some that I think are so made. Do you disagree, thinking that, in fact, calls to reassure markets are never made for ideological reasons? That would be a pretty peculiar view, whether you are "blatantly politically motivated" or not.

Fabian Tassano said...

What do you mean by "ideological reasons"?

Is it possible you are conflating two issues?
(1) The US (say) may wish to encourage marketisation in other parts of the world. Part of that involves 'marketing' this idea by stressing the benefits. This may be especially necessary if there is a lot of ideological opposition to markets coming from other quarters.
(2) If you have capital markets in your own country, and you don't take a purely laissez-faire approach (which most governments don't) you may need to make noises from time to time to prevent uncertainty, and ensure the markets work as markets are supposed to. Would you call this "ideological"?

steven said...

What I mean by "ideological reasons" is, I think, fairly clear in the context of the chapter from which you cite. Are you, on the other hand, working under the assumption that "stressing the benefits" of markets is not in itself potentially an "ideological" position, and that only opposition to markets can be "ideological"? In that case we would indeed find ourselves in disagreement, since it is my view that both positions are often expressed in a plainly ideological manner, not limited to economic technicalities.

I don't believe I am necessarily conflating your 1) and 2), since I give examples of each type in the chapter from which you quote, and I do think the examples I discuss are evidently ideologically loaded.

By the way, I hope to be able to add the point in a future edition that the phrase "fair trade", conversely, is also often used as Unspeak. (Naturally, it depends on often unstated assumptions about what is "fair".)

Fabian Tassano said...

I can more easily see how (1) could be described as ‘ideological’. But I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on (2) – I can’t see anything ideological in that. Unless one were to claim that not letting the markets fall to pieces in the presence of uncertainty (like at the moment, say) should be interpreted as trying to stave off the collapse of capitalism, and that this was implicitly ideological. Which would seem a bit convoluted as an argument.

Re ‘fair trade’, I agree it’s an expression which seems to contain a lot of unanalysed assumptions.

steven said...

But I haven't anywhere claimed there's necessarily anything ideological about doing 2) either. That's why the sentence of mine you quoted contained the word "often" rather than, say, the word "always". As you word it, "clarifying intentions" indeed seems a perfectly neutral thing to do, but that's because you have framed your 2) in that language so as to define it from the beginning as a nonideological pursuit. My position is merely that rather a lot subsequently depends how it is done. The ideology, as it were, often creeps in with the choice of words, as I try to show throughout that chapter with specific examples. Perhaps you can say where you disagree with the analysis of examples in the book?

PS isn't the current "uncertainy" primarily an uncertainty within and between banks as to what their exposure is, not an uncertainty about what interfering governments might or might not do?

Fabian Tassano said...

"What I mean by ideological reasons is, I think, fairly clear in the context of the chapter from which you cite."

You seem to have avoided the key question, i.e. how you define 'ideology', which makes it difficult to take this discussion further. To say that "because you have framed your 2) in that language so as to define it from the beginning as a nonideological pursuit" is tendentious. It seems to me your analysis only works if, like many leftists, you treat markets themselves as somehow intrinsically loaded with ideology. So that just talking about them becomes 'ideological'.

Perhaps you're suggesting that making reassuring noises serves the interests of a particular class. So if, for example, Bernanke announces there will be rescue packages to stave off a recession, this is really done in the interests of the capitalist class. This is an interesting, though hardly novel idea, but I don't see why it counts as 'ideological'.

steven said...

Well, no, as I have already said, I don't think that "just talking about markets" is necessarily ideological. That's why I wrote, in my previous comment: "My position is merely that rather a lot subsequently depends how it is done. The ideology, as it were, often creeps in with the choice of words." If you choose to ignore what I write in response to you and instead assume that I am just like "many leftists", then I am afraid it might indeed be pointless to continue our discussion.

As an example, I do think that arguing that it is necessary to make sure that "the justice system doesn't affect the flow of capital" in the US economy (Unspeak, p.210) is evidently ideological, in that it plainly makes a relative value judgment about social institutions that is extrinsic to any mere technical discussion of markets.

This is just a gross and obvious example of the more general point that public statements by politicians are not so often made "about markets" in some general theoretical sense, but more usually about particular markets that are particularly constituted and regulated, and will often (but not always) carry implicit value judgments about the exact extent to which they should continue to be so regulated etc, and hence judgments about their rightful place and function in a good society - which judgments are inevitably ideological, whether they lie at the left or right end of some notional political spectrum. That's all I meant, and it doesn't seem very tendentious to me.

To respond to the example you offer: "if, for example, Bernanke announces there will be rescue packages to stave off a recession". I'm happy to confirm that I don't think that's ideological. (Of course it assumes as a background value that we don't like recessions, but pretty much everyone doesn't, so it wouldn't make it into any future edition of Unspeak.) On the other hand, the way some news agencies subsequently reported that Bernanke had "failed to soothe Wall Street" is a much more value-laden way of speaking. That is the kind of difference in modes of expression I am trying to get at.

Fabian Tassano said...

You still haven't defined 'ideological'. I suspect that you sometimes call things 'ideological' when what you mean is that there's a hidden agenda.

I can't find your example on p.210, but the following (from p.210 of my copy) seems a good illustration of this:
"Britain's businesses need to be able to trade ... without facing high tariffs ..." You object to using the word "need" rather than "want". But if one is realistic about the way modern economies work, rather than treating business as an optional element of society which depends on ideology, one would surely tolerate this as shorthand for "Britain (i.e. the British people) needs to be able to trade without ...". I suppose one could complain about Britain asserting its need to make money from other countries, without taking the interests of the other countries into account, but I wouldn't call that 'ideology'.

Similarly, I don't find your example about "failing to soothe Wall Stret" convincing as an example of ideology. It seems to me quite an apt description: Wall Street is worried (say) that the Fed have lost the plot, the Fed tries to convey that they haven't really, Wall Street is unimpressed.

Peter Horne said...

In case you missed it


Simon Clark said...

Is the media really left wing? It is... but I don't think it's entirely inaccurate to say that it is also right wing in some respects. Or to be more specific, most of the bad respects. Media alarmism over sex, drugs, entertainment, family etc seem to be puritanical and conservative in nature, rather than leftist. I call it fascolism, because everything needs a catchy name ;)

Fabian Tassano said...

Some people have suggested that the old left-right distinction is ceasing to be relevant, and I guess there is something in that. A more useful dimension might be pro-big-state versus anti. In which case, I would argue that the media is dominated by the pro-big-state perspective. Re alarmism over sex, drugs etc. - this could be seen as implying a need for more intervention, hence being pro-state.

Re "fascolism", what do you think of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism? Haven't read it myself, but I think I get the gist from the reactions it has provoked.

Peter, thanks for the link.

Surreptitious Evil said...

Prior to blogging, where did such views receive expression?

In pubs and clubs, at private dinner parties, in some of the better think-tanks and economics departments.

But, generally, not in "public".