11 January 2010

Sausages Seasoned With Scare Quotes

Another binary day (the six-digit date is all 0s and 1s). That said, it's Monday.
  • Two fascinating, sideways-like comments on today's NYT editorial page: Paul Krugman comments on the "fact" that Europe's "socialist" economies are substantially worse off than the US's "archly capitalist" one, while the editorial board comments on "privatization" of war efforts as if it's somehow a new phenomenon (the East India Company is merely one example). As an exercise for the student, how are these two items related?
  • And a rejoinder to the nutcases commenting on The Perfesser's blawg: I may read the editorial page at the NYT, but I agree with what's printed there less than half the time. I don't blame the Perfessor for attracting a crowd that doesn't know the difference between "not conservative" and "liberal" (especially given that — in reality — there is virtually no mainstream liberalism in the US; there is at most frightened center-leftism). Professor Bainbridge knows the difference (I've actually had him in class); too bad y'all didn't stop to actually think about my comment:

    I actually find this whole meme [the academy is dominated by liberals] rather strange, because the academy is most emphatically not liberal. I should know: I am one. Instead, this is an argument about centrists v. rightists-who-consider-the-center-liberal.

    Ultimately, the problem is the one created by Roger Ailes et al.: Defining anyone who disagrees with any aspect of the "favored" conservative viewpoint as "liberal," when doing so inherently falls prey to the Aristotelian fallacy (the false dilemma). Too, there are more than just "conservative, centrist, and liberal" positions; Ailes and company got away with making "not conservative" into "liberal", but that's not a good reason for those of us who know better to reinforce that error.

    I'll grant that the academy is dominated by not-conservatives. I won't grant that it's dominated by liberals — at least in the US — because it isn't. Just because someone is to the left of Attila the Hun (or Rush, or whatever other rightist commentator or other ideological icon you're using as your touchpoint) does not make that person a "liberal". Liberalism is a specific set of ideologies that is much more nuanced than just "doesn't worship Russell Kirk"... even if it's some "compared to the population at large" polling system.

  • But all of that still beats the orthodoxy demanded in the world's most populous Muslim nation. Although, come to think of it, "orthodoxy" is definitely the wrong word to use in that context...
  • Professor Kleiman remarks on President Obama's somewhat ambivalent attitude toward gay marriage without reaching the underlying issue. I am, admittedly, much more radical on this issue than most: I believe in patrolling the wall between church and state with armed guards and rabid attack dogs, with air support available to deal with mass incursions. There is no excuse whatsoever for religious organizations exceeding their religious mandate and getting into politics (just as there is no excuse for government getting into matters of pure faith). To put it another way: The Vatican can be a church or a nation... but not both. And the same goes for the Southern Baptist Convention, whatever passes for an organization of Orthodox Judaism, etc., etc., etc. If you call yourself "Reverend," or "Minister," or "Bishop," stay the hell out of politics; and if you call yourself "Senator," or "Undersecretary," stay the hell out of religion.

    And so, on this question: Marriage as recognized by the state doesn't have a damned thing to do with individual faith — and certainly not with the individual faith of persons who don't share the doctrine/faith/ancestry of the loudest complainers — and therefore is outside the proper scope of organized religion's concern. Unless and until, that is, those religious hierarchies start applying their own purported rules to themselves with the same enthusiasm and vindictiveness as they would demand of others not of their faith, whether government or otherwise.

    Of course, this is not a realistic attitude, particularly in this nation; I don't expect too many to agree with it, let alone adopt it — and I can live with that. Those who advocate democratic governments and the rule of law have to accept that sometimes they're going to "lose" in the short run as the price of winning in the long run by having a democratic government and the rule of law. But I've been to Belfast, and Jerusalem, and Auschwitz, and Magdeburg, and Birmingham (UK and Alabama), among other places; very, very few of those who advocate the continued intertwining of church and state have.