Commonplace Book

Monday, January 2, 2012

Totalitarianism extends a promise of plenitude, of a harmonious life and of happiness. While it is true that the promise is not kept, it remains nevertheless, and we can always tell ourselves that next time it will be fulfilled and we will be saved. Liberal democracy does not extend the same sort of promise; it is only committed to allowing everyone to seek their own measure of happiness, harmony, and plenitude. In the best of circumstances, it insures the contentment of its citizens, their participation in the direction of public life, and justice in their relations with one another and with the State; it in no way promises salvation. Autonomy corresponds to the right to search for oneself, not to the certainty of finding. (Todorov, Tzevetan, “Totalitarianism: Between Religion and Science” in The Great Lie: Classic and Recent Appraisals of Ideology and Totalitarianism ed. F. Flagg Taylor IV, (Wilmington, Del.; ISI Books, 2011) pg. 602.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why I love Aristophanes

I was reading Timothy Sandefur's blog Freepace and his post Sam Harris, anti-reason where his discusses some of Harris's fundamental misunderstandings of economics, and I came across this paragraph:

Is a person’s beauty morally unjustified because she didn’t earn it? Is it just only insofar as men get to lust after her? Or have intercourse with her? Certainly they would gain value from this. What right does she have to hoard her body to herself? If the answer to this is that she owns her body and that principles of dignity entitle her to herself and guarantee a presumption of liberty around her—in other words, that she has a moral right to herself which nobody may infringe so long as she respects the same right in others—then why is wealth not analogous to this? The mere fact that I would enjoy consuming a value belonging to you is not sufficient to justify taking that value from you. In short, a person is “allowed” whatever belongs to him or her so long as he or she has harmed no person with it or to acquire it.

I immediately thought of Aristophanes and how all red-blooded males think of this problem working in the way that Sandefur describes, but that it would really be much, much worse.

Monday, April 4, 2011

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 17 October 1788

...the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the Constituents.

James Madison, Letter, 17 October 1788

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Novus Ordo Seclorum

...before the American founding, democracy was mostly a term of opprobrium; since America, even the most undemocratic systems must attempt to present themselves as democracies--the compliment vice pays to virtue, certainly, but more significantly, an indication of how political virtue has come to be redefined (Zuckert, Michael P. The Natural Rights Republic (Notre Dame, Indiana; University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), pp. 3-4).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On the Duty of Man and Citizen

One's obligation to the young is such that no work undertaken for their benefit should be thought to be below anyone's dignity even if it gives no opportunity for brilliant or profound thought (Pufendorf, Samuel, On the Duty of Man and Citizen (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pg. 6).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Edgley Park, Stockport

Ideological Blinders

Against whom is the following comment directed?
It’s not intelligence, exactly, that’s the issue. I think it’s the lack of a moral compass or sense of guilt which allows them to use any and all means, including outright falsehoods, against their percieved [sic] enemies, and allows them to hypocritically do the same things their percieved enemies did (or vice versa, to accuse their opponents of wrongdoing for things which they themselves did). It’s a sheer instrumentality in which there is nothing but tactics.
They don’t even have an internalized sense of shame anymore, though they can still, at times, be shamed into some restraint if the right leverage is applied.
I've seen any number of examples just like it, on blogs representing all manner of ideological persuasions.  Sadly it's deeply paranoid and there's little chance that you could get ever get its author to give up the point, just as you would have little chance of moving his opposite number.

66/365 The one man who made us Equal

Operation Mincemeat

You are a British Intelligence officer; you have an opposite number in the enemy Intelligence...  What you, a Briton with a  British background, think can be deduced from a document does not matter.  It is what your opposite number, with his German knowledge and background, will think that matters--what construction he will put on the document... In other words, you must remember that a German does not think and react as an Englishman does, and you must put yourself in his mind (Montagu, Ewen. The Man Who Never Was (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1996) pp. 39-40).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

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