Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Middle Class is a Prerequisite For True Democracy




November 7, 2017




The Middle Class is a Prerequisite For True Democracy 
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In the Republic, Plato propounded the Philosopher King thesis, where he argued in favor of the following doctrines. (1) The most intellectually capable of individuals should be in charge of governing society. (2) Private property should be abolished. (3) The individual’s role in society and the degree to which he is rewarded for his contributions ought to be determined by the Philosopher Kings. This argument stems from Plato’s theory of forms, which holds that the true essence of all things is abstract, objective and can be understood through the exercise of one’s intellect. In other words, Plato held that one can understand truths about politics and society similarly to how one does so with regard to mathematics.
To be sure, it makes little sense for a distinguished mathematician to debate the truths of Calculus with an undergraduate student. In Plato’s own analogy, statecraft is similar to seafaring and the Philosopher King should chart the course for social progress just as the captain of the ship navigates the crew’s voyage. Consequently, if the same assumption underlies political thought, the enlightened elites have no reason to concern themselves with objections from their subjects.  Moreover, if the Philosopher King is the knower of all things about politico-economic matters, only he should have the privilege to manage all private property. Therefore, private enterprise and its concomitant market mechanism for setting wages should play no role in a just society.
This rationale leaves out an analysis of the problem concerning the weakness of the will. It may seem that there is a difference between knowing what is right and doing the right thing. Plato addressed this objection by developing the TripartiteConception of the Soul, which consisted of reason, spirit, and appetite. While ordinary people are governed by their spirit and appetite, the Philosopher King responds only to reason. Therefore, he will be able to resist all temptations to act unvirtuously.
In the aftermath of World War II, Karl Popper published the Open Society and Its Enemies, which he declared to be his war effort.  Therein, he identified the Philosopher King thesis as the basis of totalitarianism and traced this political philosophy to Marxism-Leninism. Less than a decade later, Bertrand Russell noted in his History of Western Philosophy that “Plato’s communism annoyed Aristotle”. Aristotle mounted a two-pronged critique of the Philosopher King thesis which enabled him to reject the epistemic and ethical implications of Plato’s theory. In opposition to the theory of forms, Aristotle coined the distinction between episteme and techne, acknowledging the difference between “knowing that” and “knowing how”.
Building on this premise, Aristotle maintained that some types of knowledge are exclusively practical and can be acquired only through experience. Therefore, it is a fallacy of composition to insist that because one can grasp mathematical truths solely through the exercise of the intellect, the same method of acquisition of knowledge is effective in all other crafts. On the basis of this rationale, Aristotle developed the empirical foundation of modern science. In light of the fact that statecraft is an empirical and a practical metier, it bears a closer semblance to science than to mathematics. Accordingly, it is a mistake to conclude that anyone can achieve indisputable knowledge of political matters.
Moreover, to the extent that statecraft is a science, it is a very imprecise one, which is why it bears a closer resemblance to sociology than to physics. Consequently, the process of accumulating political knowledge cannot take place solely in an academic setting as it requires contributions from people with a broad range of worldly experience. Echoing Aristotle’s claim, Friedrich Hayek reinforced Aristotle’s argument against the Philosopher King thesis in his famous essay, the Use of Knowledge in Society.  Therein, Hayek has shown that it is easy to underestimate the volume of knowledge that the government must have at their disposal in order to allow a centrally planned economy to function. Moreover, in addition to economics, the Philosopher King must possess enormous knowledge about a broad range of other socially relevant topics, many of which are substantially more complex than economics.
In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle also rejected Plato’s tripartite conception of the soul and developed a school of thought in moral philosophy that is now known as Virtue Ethics.  In stark contrast to Plato, Aristotle held that virtue is achieved not through the discipline of rational thought, but through character-building activities. Accordingly, in order to resist self-serving temptations, one must practice self-discipline and self-sacrifice. The degree to which one succeeds in cultivating virtue depends largely on how diligently and frequently one engages in character-building activities. In light of this phenomenon, recent studies have shown that ethicists are not any more likely to act virtuously than people who know nothing about ethics.
In light of the repudiation of Plato’s Philosopher King thesis, one is left with the question of who should govern. The apparent answer is that no specific individual can be trusted to have unlimited power because of the limitations of human knowledge and the weakness of the will. Regardless of who seizes power, they will act in a self-serving manner in ways that will often benefit themselves and people they identify with. Aristotle anticipated this problem and his principle of the Golden Mean sheds light on this remedy. The premise that virtue is the middle-point of two vicious extremes reveals the nature of virtue in statecraft.
Aristotle correctly observed that oligarchy allows the rich to pilfer public resources and depredate the wealth of the polis. Conversely,  if the poor are to have their way, they will oppress the rich. On the other hand, if the middle class were to seize power, they would have no reason to oppress either class. While the members of the middle-class are not any less self-serving than the poor or the rich, they can act as the buffer between the competing class interests. In the interest of creating political stability, it is always desirable to expand the middle class and this should be the key objective of any economic agenda.
In the “Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy“, Barrington Moore observed “no bourgeoisie, no democracy”. In so doing, he has supported Aristotle’s argument against Plato’s Philosopher King thesis. In a similar vein, modern political scientists Acemoglu and Robinson published the “Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy“, showing that the emergence of the middle-class must precede the onset of democracy. Vice-versa puts the cart before the horse and deprives society of the opportunity to achieve either objective. It is worth noting that the U.S constitution does not mention the word democracy and in the strictest sense of the word, such a regime did not exist anywhere in the Westernized world until several countries achieved industrialization.
Conversely, countries that have prioritized democracy over economic growth have regressed to autocratic forms of left-wing populism. Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina under Peron are striking cases in point. Nonetheless, every rule has an exception and Allende’s Chile constitutes the only example in the history of civilization where a socialist has been democratically elected. Nonetheless, Chile’s democratic institutions were fragile, political polarization ran rife, economic discontent was rampant and the stage was set for a military coup. Even in the absence of the U.S intervention, it seems unlikely that Chile would have blossomed into a genuine democracy.
Nonetheless, the left categorically rejects the primacy of bourgeoisie over democracy and pertinaciously cites Sweden as the counter-example to this argument. Yet, Barrington Moore cited the medieval Sweden as a key example in support of his theory, showing that Sweden never had a serf-class to the extent that many other European societies did. Likewise, in the “Scandinavian Unexceptionalism” Nima Sanandaji chronicled the economic progress of Sweden, showing that the nation maintained a free-market economy long before the wave of economic liberalization engulfed other European societies. Despite this, Paul Krugman maintained that the European politico-economic model is preferable to the American because “it is easier to be poor” in Europe.  In other words, the modern American left seems to be more concerned with alleviating the hardships of the indigent than with expanding the middle-class.
In response to this contention, the left often claims that the middle-class has been shrinking since the neo-liberal reforms began taking place in the 1980s. However, this argument hinges on the specific definitions of the middle class. In many cases, the distinctions between upper-middle-class, the lower-middle-class, the poor and the rich tend to be vague. The left-wing narrative about the diminishing middle class holds true only in the sense that a larger portion of middle-class homes can now be considered upper-middle class. In light of the fact that two-thirds of Americans who left the middle-class have become more prosperous, there is little evidence to support the left-wing narrative that the underclass is rapidly increasing because of the wealth disparities.
Moreover, the vagueness of the narrative concerning the diminution of the American middle-class becomes evident in light of the apparently arbitrary metrics that are used to define it. The notion of the middle-class corresponds to the median income in the nation, but it does not always reflect the financial well-being of the citizenry. For example, the middle class of most European societies is larger than it is in the U.S, however, the average citizen of a Western European country is less affluent than the average American. Moreover, considerable evidence exists to suggest that the quality of life many of the underprivileged Americans enjoy today is comparable to that the middle-class took for granted in the 1970s.
Freedom from class antagonism is a prerequisite for a truly democratic society and this objective can be reached through the expansion of the middle-class. However, this is more than merely a matter of distributing the nation’s wealth in a way that allows more citizens to claim an income that is close to the national median. Class tensions arise when the underclass expands and its members suffer from severe destitution. Despite the shrinking middle class in the United States, the socio-economic trends have pointed in the opposite direction. The poor enjoy a higher standard of living than they did several decades ago and conversely, more members of the middle-class are now likely to be regarded as members of the upper-middle class.
In stark contrast, a reversal of these trends is evident in many Western European societies that are considerably more egalitarian. For example, Spain’s unemployment rate was as high as 25% until very recently and these developments have substantially contributed to the nation’s political instability. The government responded in a hardline manner by suppressing the rebellion, which is a testament to the nation’s weakening democratic institutions. Likewise, the economic woes of France created the political climate in which a far-right candidate who is much more radical than Donald Trump had a considerable chance of becoming president. Even more disconcertingly, if Sweden is to maintain its egalitarian economic policies, the Nordic nation is likely to become a “third world” country by 2030, with palpably disastrous consequences for one of the oldest democracies on the continent.
All three of the aforementioned nations were committed to wealth redistribution and these developments diminished the health of their respective democracies. Although the economy of the United States is substantially healthier, virtually no nation has escaped the financial crisis unscathed. It is not a coincidence that after the living standards plummetted, Barack Obama was able to only pay lip-service to those who condemned the authoritarian manner in which the Bush administration governed. He proceeded to curb the civil liberties of Americans in the form of expanding NSA surveillance and acted undemocratically by waging unpopular drone warfare in six different nations. These trends exacerbated in light of the fact that the two politicians who intended to succeed him no longer had the need to spout spurious rhetoric in defense of democracy.
While the left has legitimate grounds on which to criticize Trump as an enemy of democracy, Hillary Clinton routinely implied herself to be above the law and defended her privilege to have “private opinions” which made her impervious to public scrutiny. It is a well-documented fact that when the standards of living decline and the middle class shrinks, the general public becomes more open to dictatorial solutions to society’s problems. This is partly why at the apex of the Great Depression, FDR issued more executive orders than all of his predecessors did. There is no antithesis between democracy and economic growth, the two go hand in hand. However, the former is a vital prerequisite for the latter.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Grand Inquisitor of the Ivory Tower

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew, 18:13
“In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, Make us your slaves, but feed us.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor
http://hrp.bard.edu/files/2014/10/here-lies-academic-freedom.jpg
In the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, America was in for a drastic change. In stark contrast to the 1940s and 50s that were characterized by order and respect for authority, the cultural revolution raged on through the 1960s. Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded Kennedy and energetically responded to the public demand for social change by legislating the Civil Rights of 1964, effectively de-legalizing segregation. Galvanized by Martin Luther King’s fiery oratory, the Black community aggressively challenged institutions they viewed as racist and oppressive. College students rallied against the Vietnam war and the authoritarian formalism of campus administrators.
Echoing the tumultuous spirit of the times, student activist Mario Savio urged his peers to put their bodies upon “the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus” and “to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”. Contemporaneously, the seditious spirit reigned in Eastern Europe as Soviet forces quelled the Prague Spring and less than a decade ago, the Warsaw Pact subdued the Hungarian uprising. Even the USSR underwent a period of “De-Stalinization” under Kruschev’s leadership.
The American free speech movement swept across campuses questioning the status-quo of the academic establishment. For good reasons, they believed that the culture of philistinism pervaded academic life and scholarly institutions stood systematically opposed to creative expressions of intellectual individuality. In stark contrast to the modern collegial environment, students of the 50s were expected to dress professionally and to converse with their superiors in a formal manner. Educators stressed the importance of building a comprehensive background of knowledge and left very little room for autonomous thought, especially if it led students to question the establishment.
Today, the academic establishment promotes conformity and obedience to authority just as much as it did in the 1940s. Savio and his followers fought for freedom of expression in the name of egalitarian causes. Yet, they have succeeded only in very limited respects. The collegiate milieu embraced the progressive ideals of the Free Speech movement, yet the moral ideal of their campaign has been discarded. As recently as 1994, Savio denounced senator Jesse Holmes as a “crypto-fascist”, yet it did not occur to him that this epithet should be applied to the modern university administrators and their allies in the Democratic Party.
To their credit, Savio’s cohort were willing to fight for their beliefs and that is what they had in common with their contemporaries who fought against despotic regimes abroad. However, the same cannot be said about the Social Justice warriors, their modern-day successors. Far from continuing the original fight for free speech, these students are looking to silence professors, visiting lectures and peers alike. With every passing generation, the standard for what counts as offensive changes and this sharply reflects on the overall mental health ofstudents. The evidence clearly shows that newer students are more likely to be politically engaged.  Moreover, the most active of demonstrators are the most likely to display various traits of mental instability .
When the PC movement was first beginning to gain traction on campuses, comments prominently featuring derogatory views about minorities were deemed unacceptable. Yet slowly but surely, the trend shifted away from excoriating people who make comments that clearly seem racist and toward those who simply appear to think poorly of minorities. In this sense, the inculpation targets not only those who do things that are deemed inappropriate, but also those who seem to be thinking problematic thoughts. There is a manifest similarity between this position of the Social Justice Warriors and that of Christian preachers who teach that hating another person is just as sinful as murdering them. With these considerations in perspective, a new code of thought-control emerged known as “micro-aggressions”.
By definition, people who are guilty of such thought crimes, do not intend to do any harm to the person they have offended. In other words, they are racist, homophobic, ableist or transphobic; but they simply are not aware of that. In the eyes of the Social Justice Warriors, this does not make their transgressions any less severe. To the contrary, those who unintentionally ruffle people’s feathers must have morally corrupt minds in the same sense that Christians who fantasize about committing adultery are deemed to have unwholesome souls. Similarly; Christians may admit that devout believers may act out of character, the Social Justice warriors will also concede that good people sometimes fail to live up to their values. Consistently with the doctrine of the original sin, most Christians believe that man is depraved by nature and because of that, he will always be tempted to do evil. Consistently with this position, professor Noel Ignatiev holds that “whiteness” is to be defined as a social construct that serves the sole purpose of persecuting people ofcolor.
Therefore, it is completely understandable that white people are racist by nature and they seem to have a biological imperative to victimize colored people. Thus, it is to be expected that even the most devoted of white “anti-racism” activists will sometimes slip up and display tears in an “inappropriate manner”, thereby implying that white people are somehow more deserving of sympathy than their exotically colored neighbors .  Such activists are more than willing to forgive their collaborators who simply slip up on occasion.  However, if an individual is guilty of a micro-aggression, it is not the case that he simply acted out of character on one occasion. Instead, it is to be assumed that he is so deeply sexist, racist, ableist, homophobic and transphobic that he does not even realize it. Entertaining thoughts that offend protected groups must come as easily to him as breathing does.
Therefore, he deserves the severest censure and excoriation. In the event where such a person is invited to campus, the student activists will strive to sabotage the speaking event in any way possible. If that does not work, they will create safe spaces to ensure that no “gentle souls” are harmed by what may be said there.  In light of the recent escalations concerning what counts as a micro-aggression, students have been developing increasingly more refined sensitivities to what can be construed as offensive. Now, even the appearance of an effeminate homosexual speaker such as Milo Yiannopoulos causes an uproar on campus, sending hundreds of students scurrying away to “safe spaces”.
These developments leave one with a question as to why the academic administrators continue to aid and abet these developments in juvenile delinquency. One obvious answer is that universities desire to collect greater revenue by accepting hordes of students who have neither the intellectual ability nor emotional maturity to withstand the rigors of genuine education. The other and more politically significant reason rests in the Grand Inquisitor problem. In Dostoevsky’s Opus Magnum, Ivan Karamazov composed a play describing the resurrection of Christ in the 17th century Sevilla. At the heyday of the Inquisitions, He appeared at the funeral of a little girl and resurrected her, cured the sick and performed various miracles described in the New Testament. Christ was immediately apprehended by the head of the Catholic Church and incarcerated in the tower where “the vilest of heretics” are burned. Therein, the Grand Inquisitor demanded to know how “He dared to disturb us”. Christ remained silent throughout the interrogation as the patriarch of the clergy lectured him on how “man does live on bread alone” and that is why people prefer security to freedom.
Despite his brusque manner of treating those who “disturbed” the religious institutions, he clearly was guided by benevolent motives. Likewise; the university administrators who promote policies concerning micro-aggressions, the Grand Inquisitor wanted to protect the people he saw as inherently fragile and incapable of standing on their own two feet in a truly free society. In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ preached that people are to become like children and to that end, the university system continues to infantilize their minds. It is difficult to judge the character of the Grand Inquisitor without suspecting that his actions have also been inspired by ulterior motives. It is clear that he demanded absolute servitude from his subjects and in return, he seized tremendous wealth and power. Yet, the same can be said about the elites of the Ivory Tower whose social position is deeply embedded within the highest echelons of the American politico-economic hierarchy. Just as the Grand Inquisitor provided his subjects with a predictable and a secure life, the university colludes with the public sector to ensure that ideologically obedient graduates continue to serve government expansion upon graduation.  As these students graduate from college, completely bereft of practical or intellectual skills useful to society, they will have little choice but to seek employment with non-profit organizations championing the causes they have been “educated” to fight for.
Indoctrination is never an end in itself, but a means to the end of radically reshaping the collective consciousness of society. Once students are taught that any inkling of a notion that is not compatible with the PC left’s position is a micro-aggression, they will never even entertain the idea of questioning what they were taught. At any rate, they were never taught to think for themselves and the schooling they received ensured that every last vestige of intellectual individuality has been banished from their minds. They reflexively assume that anyone who criticizes plans for the expansion of government must be guided by sinister motives; or as Stalin would have described them, they must be “the enemy of the people”.
In a recent speech, Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban declared that “freedom starts with speaking the truth” and that the “enemies of freedom no longer send dissidents to concentration camps”, but institute rigid thought control policies punishing those who stand for anything national, historical, traditional or individualistic . Orban’s speech received a predictable reaction, yet his criticisms apply widely to cultural milieus across the “free world”. John Stuart Mill defined liberty in a strictly negative sense to mean “freedom from coercion” and this has been the cornerstone of individual rights across the Western civilization. The British philosophers were first to describe a doctrine where people were free to do as they wished, provided only that they did not inflict harm upon others. Mill strictly adhered to the distinction between offense and harm, maintaining that in order to remain truly free; a society must never punish those who merely offend others. Clearly, this lesson has been upon the modern academic establishment and their coterie of cronies who are rapidly eroding the roots of the Western society.
Jeremy Bentham developed the concept of panopticism referring to a prison where the inmate is under constant observation of the guard. In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault applied the concept of panopticism in a socio-cultural context. At the time of his writing, it seemed that citizens were under constant scrutiny from their superiors in factories, schools, court houses and all other public institutions. People were under pressure to “think properly” or risk having their reputations ruined, which could potentially bar them from the polite society and destroy their livelihood. Since then, this phenomenon has been taken to its vicious extremes to the point where not even the most distinguished academics are safe from their own brand of McCarthyism.
There is no shortage of stories regarding professors who incurred devastating professional consequences because of their heterodox ideological views. Recently, Duke University placed professor Jerry Hough on an administrative leave because he repeatedly criticized the pervasive climate of political correctness on college campuses. While Hough was a senior instructor with over 40 years of teaching experience, he was not a renowned scholar. Nonetheless, even the most distinguished of academics are not immune to such treatment. Despite that Dr. James Watson made enormous contributions to the discovery of DNA, his enormous academic stature was jeopardized by comments that the left judged to be racist. In reality, Watson merely contended that foreign aid to Africa is not sufficiently effective because the average IQ of Africans is substantially lower than that of Caucasians. Far from being a bizarre speculation of a racist, Watson’s claim is amply corroborated by a wealth of empirical studies in psychometrics. Academics cannot procure the freedom to be intellectually honest about topics that the left deems heretical, even if they reached the highest echelons of the collegiate institution. Professor Lawrence Summers was not only a distinguished scholar, but also president of Harvard when the establishment forced him to resign because some of his speeches allegedly promoted sexism. In reality, he merely cited a well-documented fact that the IQs of women tend to be average while men tend toward extremes in both ends of the spectrum. Nowhere did he say that men had superior intelligence to women; his only contention was that men are more likely to be exceptionally bright or quite dull.
The political correctness ideologues are not only the grave-diggers of academic freedom who create a pervasive culture of censorship across every sphere of society; they have no use for the concept of negative liberty or individual rights. Although they call themselves “liberal”, the Jacobins and the Leninists are their true intellectual predecessors. In the strictest sense of the term, they are the enemies of free speech and their objectives are fundamentally opposed to that of Savio’s movement. They have traded their freedom of thought for security and they expect the rest of the society to follow suit because the prevailing zeitgeist exhorts us to do so. Although academics are growing wary of the creeping authoritarianism of the PC movement, many are powerless to resist.  Casualties continue to mount as careers and livelihoods of academics are destroyed for thought crimes.
Not even the common-place white-collar professionals can afford to simply disagree with the establishment. It is up to the Grey Tribe to take a firm stand against this scourge. If we fail to do so, who else will? Recently, a Canadian photographer was facing hard prison time for disagreeing with a feminist on Twitter. Immediate action must be taken or we’ll soon be dealing with a country that we do not even recognize. Instead of the court of justice with the due process of law, we may well be dealing with a ferocious people’s tribunal and a committee for policing thought crimes. We call upon our readers to antagonize this climate of censorship in any way possible. First of all, the collegiate environment is to be boycotted: if you need to advance in your career, find an economically viable niche and enter a trade-school or a “boot-camp”. Avoid all social gatherings that serve the ostensible purpose of promoting this cancer of the intellect. If you do find yourself in such a company, undercut them in any way possible; be it through disruption, tirade or internet publications exposing them for who they are.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

McDonaldization of Education and the Civil Religion of the Left

As I neared completion of my academic program in 2009, I was surrounded by professors who ascribed the economic crisis to “unfettered capitalism”. One of my instructors lamented “if only we had the state sponsor all of our classes, we would treat students as intellects rather than as clients”, implying that if only the universities had more influence over public policy, the disaster would have been averted.  Yet strangely, policies that led to this outcome were developed and implemented by the socio-economic elites who were educated in the most prestigious of American institutions. Most professors see no reason to defend such views on campuses because they reflect the consensus of the academic class. Yet, if they were to make an honest effort to substantiate their point of view, they would probably attribute these failures to the Philosopher King thesis gone askew.
            Upon graduation, I scrambled to earn a living writing papers for college students, most of whom were much more interested in acquiring credentials than in learning. Seemingly, they and I had an unspoken agreement that our transaction was to be treated in strictly economic terms. In other words, there was nothing intrinsically valuable about education and acquisition of credentials was the sole purpose of matriculation. Once in a great while, I’d receive a hostile email from a disgruntled professor questioning the premises of our arrangement and swearing to “wage war” on myself and saboteurs of the “educational process” of my ilk.  In his effusive tirade, one of such instructors urged me to wonder why I “contribute to the dumbing-down of this nation” and whether I realized that “lack of education” was the reason for the financial crisis that left me writing papers.
            Such a brazen allegation laced with seemingly absurd presumptions made me wonder if he believed in anything he wrote. For that matter, I was puzzled how any reasonable person could even entertain such notions. The connection between the financial crisis and the education system seemed tenuous at best. Yet, his irate missive prompted to think carefully about what he may have meant. Or at any rate, what argument a reasonable person his persuasion could mount.
            Contrary to the popular allegation from the right, these professors would insist that they do not want the educated elite to run the country. They would further maintain that the true purpose of education is to teach students to think for themselves. Moreover, the economic crisis was nothing but a result of the educated elites abusing public trust. From this perspective, such unseemly outcomes were possible only because the citizenry is not well educated enough to take matters of policy into their own hands. That is part of the reason why America is a representative rather than a direct democracy.
            In their most disingenuous vein, one of such professors would ask what this country would be like if it was a direct democracy. That is, how much more just and prosperous would America be if every citizen was a critical thinker willing to fulfill his civic duty to participate in the political process? As I have explained in our foregoing discussions, nothing could be further from the true objective of American education (http://attackthesystem.com/2015/11/21/the-post-education-era-academic-institutions-in-the-age-of-philistinism/). The ideals of egalitarianism and an educated citizenry are mutually exclusive. If they weren’t, the academe would have had no reason to continuously lower its standards as it does now.
            Consistently with Keith Preston’s of identity in the rubric of American imperialism, the university acts as a secularized version of the Catholic Church (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ag0fIa4Vgk).  The practices of distributing degrees in exchange for woefully mediocre work is no more commendable than that of selling indulgences. In both cases, the buyer receives an intrinsically worthless service in exchange for a simple payment and a number of fool’s errands. Similarly to the modus operandi of transnational corporations, universities aim to sell a product that is predictable and efficient. The modern universities operate consistently with the McDonaldization paradigm in the following respects.
Efficiency – Just as McDonalds aspires to minimize the time expended on operations, universities tend to be more concerned with their professors submitting grades on time than in ensuring that their classes are genuinely educative.
Calculability – Similarly to how McDonalds rewards their workers for the volume they output rather than the quality they produce; universities expand the sizes of their classrooms to the maximum, often by lowering standards. The proliferation of degree mills and inclusion of online classes into the curricula of four year universities amply corroborate this point. The principle of calculability further manifests in light of the diminution of the rapid replacement of tenue track jobs with that of part-time TA positions. This further conveys an emphasis on quantity over quality.
Predictability – Resembling McDonalds’ commitment to providing customers with the same service at all locations, college students can expect routinized work from all academic institutions. Regardless of whether one attends Harvard or an online degree mill, they will receive a hefty dose of indoctrination on white privilege, social justice, environmentalism, radical feminism and LGBT activism. Admittedly, some institutions have lower admission rates and higher standards than others, very few universities maintain rigorous standards and even encourage students to think autonomously. The majority of four year institutions have an admission rate in excess of 50% and their graduates average a GPA surpassing 3.3. While the most prestigious of academic institutions may expect their students to provide an accurate account of the assigned readings and implement elementary techniques of analysis, they scarcely expect their pupils to produce an inkling of original thought. As for degree mills, unrevised assignment instructions are recycled from institution to institution and instructors tend to grade papers without reading them.
Control – Oral examinations or projects customized to evaluate each student’s potential to think creatively or critically tend to be limited. Instead, the majority of academic institutions rely heavily on standardized tests that can be manipulated by dull students armed with dog-tricks. Further systemization of education manifests in light of how even math homework is now graded by machines that evaluate students based on how precisely they follow arbitrary procedures. The increased proliferation of degree mills that operate according to highly structured, predictable and recyclable curricula is yet another instance of McDonaldized control.
            In essence, the university is a transnational corporation that operates consistently with the cultural narrative of American imperialism. As such, it effaces all forms of identity based on anything other than crass materialism or social standing within a group. That is partly very few academic administrators mourn the declining intellectual value of a college education and even fewer have qualms about the pervasive culture of political correctness undermining academic freedom. Reminiscently of how Amazon and Wal-Mart want customers from all demographic groups to purchase their products, the universities are looking to enroll as many students as possible, regardless of their background or academic capabilities.
            In order for the universities to achieve this objective, the hyper-PC environment must define the rules of engagement on campus. What is truly important for the university administrators is not that the students learn, but only that they do not offend each other. Yet in order to procure the chattel needed for this achievement, they will need the munificent support of the government. Without the abundance of easily accessible student loans, it is impossible for universities to persuade tens of thousands of millennials to continue taking essentially worthless classes for sky-rocketing costs. Furthermore, this feat would also be impossible if such graduates had no hope of finding jobs upon graduation. This realistic fear that many college students share can be assuaged by the expansion of private and public bureaucracies ostensibly created to serve social justice, but actually produce “make-work” for hopelessly incompetent graduates who can scarcely eke out a coherent paragraph.
            Given that the nation continues to move to the left despite the Obama administration’s apparent failures to revitalize the economy and promote group cohesion among the citizenry, it is clear that the strategy of the academic left has been an enormous success (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/01/why-america-is-moving-left/419112/?utm_source=SFFB). The Democratic party continues to applaud the recent changes in the academic milieu not despite its McDonaldization, but because of it. In effect, the university has become an extension of the government’s executive branch that indoctrinates the youth even more effectively than the liberal media.  Ideas that were once seen as the musings of the Democratic Party’s most radicalized factions are now indelibly embedded into the nation’s collective consciousness. The ideology of the academic class is no longer a view of the self-secluded Ivory Tower bureaucrats, it is now emerging as the basis of the left’s civil religion.

In light of how compatible this narrative is with the agenda of American imperialism, the civil religion of the left will soon become the core premise in the nation’s worldview. The American identity is in crisis and further developments in this direction will continue to destabilize it. Just as post-modernism has been canonized in many departments of the humanities, cultural relativism will soon be the basis of the general American ideology. In such a worldview, there is no place for rugged individualism, individual rights, inner-directedness or any other ideal that the founding generation aspired to preserve. In the new American Civil Religion, weakness rather than strength will be deemed the cardinal virtue where victimhood rather than self-sufficiency will be the ultimate expression of the new American Dream.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Post-Educational era

The Post-Education era: Academic Institutions in the Age of Philistinism
            Attitudes toward hierarchies shed light on fundamental differences between the left and the right. The latter tends to be skeptical of them and for this reason, leftists often rally around the ideal of equality. On the other hand, the right views hierarchies as desirable because they promote social order.  Meritocracy is generally the underlying premise behind the argument regarding the necessity of hierarchy. It is often assumed that the elites deserve to be in power because they are more qualified to govern than the ordinary people. Clearly, this principle can be abused and in many cases, one becomes a member of the elite simply by being born into the ruling class.
            The elites aspired to remedy the intellectual weaknesses of their youngsters by subjecting them to a rigorous education. That is why it was quite common for nobles to be tutored by the leading scholars of their day and age. When Diogenes the Cynic was sold into slavery, he was purchased by an affluent estate owner in the capacity of a philosophy tutor for his son. Alexander the Great was educated by Aristotle himself and Descartes taught Queen Isabella of Sweden. In many cases, the children of the aristocrats simply lack the intellectual ability to be well-educated and the upper-class routinely import talent into their ranks. Edmund Burke is the case in point as he was not born into the aristocracy, but proved worthy of joining them.
            Throughout the history of the Western civilization, the relationship between membership in the elite social class and education has always seemed clear. The aristocrats always made a special effort to educate their young to ensure that they would become worthy successors. As such, they were expected to not only manage their parents’ estates competently, but to also pursue political engagement in a manner that served the class interests of the ruling families. This form of education has been unabashedly elitist and it is because of rather than despite that, the students who received such schooling achieved considerable intellectual growth. Those who were quite gifted were expected to work hard at their studies and the less talented were expected to work even harder.
            Those who wished to make education available for the general public were often forced to concede that educators can only offer opportunities for intellectual self-enhancement. However, the onus was on the students to take advantage of these opportunities by displaying hard-work and natural talent. Yet the proponents of this position believed that when given such chances to get ahead in life, they would undoubtedly take advantage of them and positive social changes will occur as a result. It was even hoped that as more people born into plebeian surroundings gained access to higher education, society would become more egalitarian. At the core, those who agitated for democracy insisted that a well-educated citizenry was basis of social progress. 
Yet, the advent of the Industrial Revolution soon cast doubt upon the viability of this strategy. As the advent of capitalism greatly contributed to the prosperity of United Kingdom and the United States, these two countries began entering the third stage of demographic transition. Therein, their population increased because more children born to non-privileged families received the basic necessities for survival well into adulthood.  Perturbed by the hypothesis of a Malthusian catastrophe, Francis Galton embarked upon a systematic study of heritability of intelligence.
Galton’s findings led him to believe that intellectual ability was heritable to a significant degree and that the elites were more likely to be genetically endowed with potential of this nature than their less privileged counterparts.  Building on this premise, Charles Spearman developed the theoretical framework known as the “g-factor” suggesting that one is born with a certain degree of intellectual potential and one’s natural talent tends to be spread out evenly throughout various cognitive tasks.  In light of the troubling possibility that the less talented greatly outnumbered the most talented and the offspring for both groups could survive, the Malthusian catastrophe appeared to be a realistic possibility. In effect, this posed a troubling question to progressive activists wishing to “democratize knowledge” by making education available to all Americans. Is the education system truly making the average person more intelligent or is it unduly rewarding the least intelligent and the least industrious members of society?
            By the early 20th century, American legislators have become preoccupied with the notion of dysgenics as those with the most mal-adjusted genes seemed to reproduce the most. Following the paradigm developed by Horace Mann, educators cherished very little hope in empowering all children to become intellectuals. Instead, public schools have mostly concerned themselves with creating a citizenry that was obedient, orderly and suitable for work in a highly regimented factory environment where conformity was deemed more important than intelligence or creativity. With these developments, an eminent 20th century sociologist, David Reisman chronicled a fundamental change in the American national character featuring a shift away from the inner-directed mentality to the other-directed. This shift emerged as the driving force behind the cultural revolution of the 1960s and its numerous implications for modern America.
Up until the middle of the 20th century, few disputed the notion that higher education was to be reserved for the few members of society who truly were intellectually gifted. The incontrovertibility of this precept came into question with the conclusion of World War II where the GI bill empowered hundreds of war veterans to receive college education. Accompanying the shift toward the other-directed perspective and the economic hardships of the Great Depression, the egalitarian left made inroads into college campuses. As students of limited academic potential changed the collegiate milieu, the meritocratic right struggled to defend their belief that education was to be reserved only for the gifted and the industrious. As the Red Diaper babies reached college age by the 1960s, the era of campus radicalism took root and laid down the foundation for doctrines that characterize the modern left including Marxism, Radical Feminism, and Post-Modernism.
            Despite the evident differences between these schools of thought, their underlying assumptions were fundamentally egalitarian rather than meritocratic. Marxism presupposed that there is no such thing as human nature and psychological traits that people attribute to human nature are merely a result of capitalist exploitation. Therefore, the purpose of education is to divest the young minds of bourgeoisie assumptions about genetic differences in ability between people and their connections with positive life outcomes.  Building on the Marxist assumption about human nature, feminists maintained that the subjugation of women was also a result of a “capitalist false consciousness” and students should be educated to abandon the belief that there are biological differences between men and women.
Many post-modern theorists did not explicitly borrow the Marxist premise regarding the negation of human-nature, yet they embraced the element of relativism inherent in Marxism. Similarly to how their intellectual forebears maintained that capitalism shaped the collective consciousness of society, post-modernists maintained that the prevailing ethos also define human character and social action. With this rationale, they argued that all human perceptions are shaped by societal phenomena and therefore, all truth is relative. The position of total relativism has been buttressed by the drastic change in the demographic character which made the American society more multi-cultural. As the American milieu became more diverse, it has become impolite for the majority group to insist that newcomers assimilate to the American way of life and renounce all values incompatible with the traditional American worldview.
The proponents of multiculturalism naturally forged an alliance with the academic left and together, they endeavored to achieve a profound transformation of the American collective consciousness. Altogether repudiating the traditional American values of individualism, inner-directedness and meritocracy, they unabashedly set about to instill the ethic of equality into the American collective consciousness. Almost uniformly, they were hostile to all theories suggesting that groups or individuals differed with respect to talent, ability, achievement or any other measure of merit. To them, the very idea of distinguishing between people based on merit resembled systematic oppression.
By their lights, Blacks scored lower on IQ tests than Whites because the Whites have colonized and oppressed Africa. If a student belonging to a minority group underperformed in school, the problem was never to be attributed to his lack of intelligence or industriousness. Instead, it was to be attributed to his circumstances such as domestic abuse or exposure to neighborhood violence. It goes without saying that these factors were not to be imputed to moral failures of his parents, neighbors or other individuals of minority status. Instead, it was to be ascribed to systematic oppression that condemns all minorities to a miserable existence. On the other hand, if a white student performs well academically, he ought to “check his privileges” instead of feeling proud of himself.
Conspicuously absent from this analysis of life outcomes concerning race is that Asians tend to outperform whites with respect to IQ, academic achievement, professional success and socio-economic status. Even more glaringly missing is the superior performance of high IQ minorities to whites with comparable IQs.  What is furthermore problematic with the academic left’s position is that despite the enormous government assistance impoverished minorities received, a significant portion of them remain penurious and dependent on the state (http://www.amazon.com/Losing-Ground-American-Social-1950-1980/dp/0465065880/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448020445&sr=8-1&keywords=losing+ground). Moreover, there is little evidence suggesting that merely preventing people from discussing differences in life-outcomes by race bridges the gaps of socioeconomic inequality. In other words, there is no reason to believe that the mere ethic of equality ameliorates the plights of those whom the left regards as the most disadvantaged.
Bounded rationality typifies all ideological discourses and the left’s position is not an exception to this rule. While they cannot address all of the aforementioned objections to their position, they can try to prevent people from entertaining such ideas. As the ideology of academia became more uniform and intransigent toward the end of the 20th century, the left increasingly concerned itself with controlling the scope of discourse on campuses. The escalation of the hyper-PC environment across American campuses is the case in point and it bears testament to why universities are becoming places of intellectual coercion and behavioral prohibition (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/11/the-new-intolerance-of-student-activism-at-yale/414810/).
The academic moral climate is not entirely relativist, relativism is merely one of the two pillars of the modern left’s moral campus. According to Jonathan Haidt’s findings, modern liberals base their morality on two maxims: that of care and fairness http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/jonathan-haidt-the-moral-matrix-breaking-out-of-our-righteous-minds/) . Relativism buttresses the ethic of care as such an orientation urges people to regard all individuals and groups as deserving of their compassion, regardless of how perverse and reprehensible they may seem. Fairness as the left defines it, is merely a euphemism for the ethic of equality. The left tends to maintain that because all people have “inherent worth” it is only fair for everyone to live in roughly equal material comfort.
The combination of fairness and care creates a peculiar synthesis of fervent moralism and relativism which characterizes the mindset of the modern PC leftist. With such missionary zeal, the academic establishment maintains that if more people were to accept their point of view, a “better society” would be created under the banner of pluralistic tolerance, multiculturalism and equality of positive life outcome. Galvanized by these convictions, the Ivory Tower bureaucrats feverishly lobby the Democratic Party for increased government involvement in education. In light of the super-abundance of student loans that any student can access with ease, the proliferation of degree mills with over 90% admission rates and the rapid integration of degree mill curricula into four year universities, they have clearly succeeded.

Post-modernism heralds the end of the modern tradition in philosophy which was founded on objectivity of truth. The modern academic PC movement represents the integration of post-modernism not only into the scholarship of humanities, but also the general academic milieu. Given that truth is now deemed to be specific to cultural values all of which are deemed equally desirable under the ethic of equality, there is no basis for preservation of rigorous academic standards. Traditional education has always been founded on the concept of intellectual merit and because this ideal can no longer be sustained, academia has entered the post-educational era. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Tyranny of the weak

Tyranny of the Weak
There is no progress in human history. Democracy is a fraud. Human nature is primitive, emotional, unyielding. The smarter, abler, stronger, and shrewder take the lion's share. The weak starve, lest society become degenerate: One can compare the social body to the human body, which will promptly perish if prevented from eliminating toxins” Vilfredo Pareto
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

            The debate between Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke is widely regarded as the basis between the left and the right. Thomas Paine regarded politics as similar to any other intellectual endeavor that requires the capacity for deep thought, critical analysis and creative synthesis. Resembling Plato’s Philosopher King, the politician regards the problems of society as that of “applied metaphysics” where solutions to all social ailments can be obtained through the exercise of reason alone. In line with Aristotle’s distinction between episteme and techne, Burke regarded politics as a practical rather than an intellectual endeavor. He rejected the doctrine of Socratic intellectualism that underpinned the Philosopher King thesis, asserting that people who know what constitutes the good are capable of acting in an evil manner.
On an even more fundamental level, Burke categorically dismissed the premise that one can obtain knowledge about any political problem through the exercise of the intellect alone. For Burke, one becomes a competent political decision-maker by learning history of his nation and getting a sense of his people. Just as is the case with any other craft, one becomes an effective political decision-maker through deliberate practice. In stark contrast, Thomas Paine believed that when a person becomes sufficiently intelligent, he becomes capable of making effective political decisions. On this basis, he supported greater access to education and his views are cited in defense of those who rallied behind Horace Mann’s endeavor to create publication education in America.
Throughout much of the history of Western civilization, education was only available to the social elites. Yet, the prosperity generated by the Industrial Revolution created the possibility of public education. At the turn of the 20th century, the left clamored for the “democratization of knowledge” and their endeavor finally came to fruition in the aftermath of World War II. FDR’s GI bill flooded universities with students of rather limited intellectual potential. Slowly but surely, academic institutions began lowering their standards to accommodate the shifting demographics of the student-body.
 In line with Raymond Cattel’s forecast about dysgenics, the curriculum increasingly emphasized less abstract subjects by shifting focus away from purely theoretical disciplines and toward the political. As the Great Depression tilted American politics to the left and the new wave of European immigration fostered support for Marxist thought, the Frankfurt school of thought took root in American college campuses. The new generation of leftist pedagogues led their students to believe that class warfare was not only economic in character, but also contained racial and gender components. In stark contrast to the traditional American progressives who followed in the foot-steps of Thomas Paine, the new left viewed social problems from a collectivist rather than an individualist perspective. For these activists, the main purpose of political action was no longer to remove the restrictions to the individual’s flourishing, but to eliminate barriers to the advancement of marginalized groups.
To their minds, white man was the architect of such barriers and Hitler embodied the proof for this assertion. As Malcolm X was to later articulate, the white man was the ultimate enslaver, exploiter and the oppressor. In keeping with Marx’s premise that economic circumstances shape public opinion rather than vice-versa, the academic left maintained that white men created a complicated social structure of oppression. Therein, they exploited not only the poor, but also women and minorities. In their efforts to refute the claim that there were biological differences between genders and ethnic groups, the Ivory Tower activists became skeptical of the existence of human nature.
The more outspoken leftists such as Jean Paul Sartre, categorically maintained that human nature was an illusion and his chorus of aficionados across the Atlantic spawned theories that human nature was merely a social construct. Along with it, gender, race, ethnicity and culture were reduced to invidious social constructs that served white men at the expense of all other groups. In keeping with the Marxist narrative, they interpreted Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” not as an economic treatise on how countries become prosperous but as another white man’s rhetoric for preservation of an oppressive social order. Christianity was seen not as the collective consciousness of the Western civilization as Jung described it, but as an elaborate construct for oppressing women and people of color. Above all, the new left vociferously objected to the “white man canon” which they regarded as the basis of an oppressive society.
Building on the premise that human nature was a social construct, the thought leaders of the new left’s establishment reasoned that education can resolve all of societal ills. By their lights, the most accomplished of philosophers, artists and scientists were white men because this demographic group enjoyed the most access to education. Therefore, the “democratization” of knowledge should swiftly solve the problem by providing all marginalize groups with requisite resources for achievement of a more equitable society. At the heyday of the civil rights movement, the Marxists progressed from a fringe movement on campuses to a potent force that would emerge as the prevailing academic current in polite society for decades to come.
Similarly to the Jacobin radicals who subscribed to the doctrine of Rousseau’s General Will, the American Marxists promoted the interests of society over that of the individual. If one’s right to free expression had to be sacrificed to achieve that goal. Building on Thomas Paine’s conception of politics as applied metaphysics and Plato’s Philosopher King Thesis, the new left had little regard for de-centralization of power. The academic establishment was entrusted with the responsibility to determine which doctrines were conducive to the public good and which opposed it.
With the abominations of the Third Reich fresh in the memory of the European intellectuals who gained influence across college campuses, the relativist philosophical orientation became more pronounced. It was then politically incorrect to criticize any group other than white males. Borrowing from the Christian doctrine that sin originates in thought rather than action, the new left endeavored to purge the collective consciousness of racist, sexist, homophobic and ableist thoughts. Any step toward tolerance of free expression on behalf of those suspected of harboring such notions was seen as a slippery slope toward another genocide. Over decades, this ideological trajectory evolved into a modern conception of a micro-aggression where a person who engages in acts that could be construed as offensive to minorities commits genocide in his heart just as a Christian husband is deemed to commit adultery by entertaining erotic thoughts about another woman.
The culture of political correctness gave rise to the victim culture that directly incentivizes people to portray themselves as members of an oppressed group (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/the-rise-of-victimhood-culture/404794/). As the political correctness movement further gained momentum, the federal government expanded to accommodate the needs of marginalized groups. In so doing, it acquired the requisite political capital to reward businesses that complied with their agenda and punished their rivals who failed to do so. Nonetheless, government aid can only go so far in shaping the economic behavior of market entities. They may pay lip service to the government agenda, yet to maintain a certain level of productivity, they would be forced to recruit reasonably competent workers rather than beneficiaries of affirmative action. Regardless of how much lip-service businesses pay to the government’s unicorn dreams agenda, the fools will not inherit the earth.
Academic credentials putatively represent intellectual competence, yet grade inflation has been on the rise since the GI bill and this created a rift between what academic achievement enables one to achieve in the work-place and what it actually does. The wealth disparities between white males and the traditionally underprivileged minorities have widened not despite the increased access to education, but largely because of it. As academic standards continue to decline, university curricula become less abstract and more ideologically charged, students become less capable of making meaningful contributions to the economy. Their employers could not care less what they know about LGBT history, sexual harassment, corporate social responsibility or going green. A modicum of common-sense is more than sufficient to allow one to behave appropriately in a business environment and a dozen of classes on these topics will not make students more productive in the real world.
As the new left becomes even more entrenched in the polite society, these trends are likely to persist. Real wages will continue to stagnate, wealth disparities will widen further, the middle class will shrink and Pareto’s words will become prophetic. The self-proclaimed Philosopher Kings will wield a heavier influence over government policy, further stratifying class divisions under the banner of social justice. In response, the plebeians will compete for their status as members of an oppressed group, calling for the government to ameliorate their plights. In the words of Leon Trotsky, the traditional American values of entrepreneurship, self-reliance and individual achievement will be consigned to the garbage heap of history.