Trade and the Libertarians

Ian Fletcher takes on the free trade Libertarians at WND:

I recently gave a podcast interview to Vox Day, a prominent Christian libertarian, explaining why free trade is bad for America. He followed it up with an article making many of the same points.

Finally, a libertarian gets it.

This did not go over well with some of his followers.

I’m not qualified to speak to the “Christian” aspects of free trade – whatever those are – beyond observing that globalism, of which free trade is a part, certainly looks like the Tower of Babel. But as one prominent libertarian has now seen through the free trade delusion that generally grips his fellow libertarians, this is probably a good time to explain what he got and they didn’t.

Followers? I have followers? And here I thought I merely had Ilk. Anyhow, Fletcher’s casual observation connecting Babel and globalism is one that should give any Christian, libertarian or not, food for thought.

What Fletcher is saying without specifically articulating it is a variant on a point I have previously made with regards to abortion and immigration. There is a difference between liberty of opportunity and liberty of result. But liberty, unlike equality, is a desired net outcome. It is not desirable that everyone be the same, whereas it is desirable that everyone have the maximal amount of personal freedom. This means that contrary to the way in which equality of opportunity is to be preferred to equality of result, liberty of result is to be preferred to liberty of opportunity.

Furthermore, it is no more intrinsically unjust that foreign corporations are forced to pay a tariff in order to sell their wares – or even not be permitted to sell them at all – than foreigners who are not resident in the USA are not permitted to vote for the U.S. president or collect AFDCTANF payments. The so-called moral argument for free trade to which many Libertarians appeal is not only unjust, overtly anti-American, and anti-Constitutional, it is an important tool in the service of one of the most fundamentally evil concepts in the history of humanity, a centralized international government with global authority.

92 percent Austrian

I only scored 92/100 on the Austrian quiz when answering with my own views rather than the official Austrian ones. Of course, I knew what the official Austrian answers were, I simply happen to disagree with the Mises Institute-declared Austrian positions on 1) free trade and globalization and 2) the stock market. In both cases I found that the “socialist” answer was closest to my perspective. I find it rather interesting that those two “incorrect” answers were two of the only three answers which did not come provided with a quote supporting the position from the canonical literature.

I know the issues on the free trade side and understand its logic, but I really fail to comprehend how Austrians can possibly support the idea of a government-regulated stock market in anything close to its current form. There is simply no free market to be found in the stock market; the rules and the technology are stacked in favor of insiders and merely being listed requires paying a vast quasi-tax to the government-favored investment banks.

Pearls from a national treasure

There are few men in history who have attained the zen-like indifference to public opinion of the great Prince Philip of England. The Independent thoughtfully provided us with ninety of his bon mots, one to celebrate each of his ninety years. My ten favorites:

“You managed not to get eaten then?” To a British student who had trekked in Papua New Guinea, during an official visit in 1998.

“How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?” Asked of a Scottish driving instructor in 1995.

“It’s a vast waste of space.” Philip entertained guests in 2000 at the reception of a new £18m British Embassy in Berlin, which the Queen had just opened.

“If it has four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.” Said to a World Wildlife Fund meeting in 1986.

“Do you know they have eating dogs for the anorexic now?” To a wheelchair-bound Susan Edwards, and her guide dog Natalie in 2002.

“Young people are the same as they always were. They are just as ignorant.” At the 50th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme.

“Do you still throw spears at each other?” Prince Philip shocks Aboriginal leader William Brin at the Aboriginal Cultural Park in Queensland, 2002.

“Cats kill far more birds than men. Why don’t you have a slogan: ‘Kill a cat and save a bird?'” On being told of a project to protect turtle doves in Anguilla in 1965.

“Reichskanzler.” Prince Philip used Hitler’s title to address German chancellor Helmut Kohl during a speech in Hanover in 1997.

“I thought it was against the law these days for a woman to solicit.” Said to a woman solicitor.


“All that Lenin learned about business from the tales of his comrades who occasionally sat in business offices was that it required a lot of scribbling, recording, and ciphering. Thus, he declares that accounting and control are the chief things necessary for the organizing and correct functioning of society. . . . Here we have the philosophy of the filing clerk in its full glory.” – Ludwig von Mises

Communism is what happens when atheism meets bureaucracy.

Mailvox: When x is merely x

One of the things that often amuses me about genuinely knowledgeable experts is the way they walk around dragging their well-credentialed hammers behind them, desperately searching for an opportunity to show off their ability to hit nails, regardless of whether the nail needs hitting, or, as happens to be the case here, even exists in the first place.

The Staggering Height of the Logic Midget wrote:

Let X be a logical statement; that is, X is a statement considered to be either true or false, but not both.

Assume X is true. By basic rules of logic, not-X is false. Is a truth table needed?

It could be that you are not requiring X to be a logical statement. But no, because you use standard logic notation such as X and Not-X, X must be a logical statement as I described above.

It could be that you are thinking of a more complicated scenario in which logic quantifiers are involved. For example, if there exists a divine statement that’s true, that doesn’t prove that every divine statement is true.

But regardless, no matter how complicated the statement X is, if X is true, then not-X is false. If X is false, then not-X is true.

It could be that you’re thinking of the common mistake of a person claiming that (A implies B) proves (not-A implies not-B).

But regardless, no matter the form of statement X, if X is true, then not-X is false.

What Logic Midget failed to recognize is that not all discussions of logical conclusions involve formal philosophical logic notation. His increasingly deranged argument with Markku was more than a little amusing; it’s as if an economist overheard a woman say that a certain individual was a GDP, then leaped in and started telling her that she obviously didn’t know anything about trade balances and deflators, little realizing that the acronym simply stood for a divinely doomed bastard. This isn’t merely a failure of an assumption, it’s a failure of basic contextual comprehension.

Logic Midget was referring to a statement that I made in summarizing the example of divine promises cited earlier in the comment thread.

“My position is one of volipotence, which means that God can lie or not lie as it suits Him… But I’ve noticed that very few people who discuss theology are capable of grasping implications… It’s as if they can’t see the negative space that always surrounds the positive assertion. X does not absolutely require Not-X, but it does tend to suggest its existence.”

What I was referring to here was the existence of divine promises in the context of the question of God’s perfect truthfulness. The point I made was that the fact God has explicitly assured that specific statements he has made are true tends to imply that other statements he has made will are not. If we like, we can put it this way: X = divine statement guaranteed to be true and Not X = divine statement not guaranteed to be true. Insofar as the formal logic applies in that way, Logic Midget is correct. But only trivially so, because we’re obviously not talking about a single divine statement here, we’re talking about a comparison between different divine statements, in fact, we’re actually talking about the set of all divine statements and two distinct subsets within it.

(I should note that I was not using X in any formal sense here. X simply served as a variable representing any word with a specific meaning that is limited in a manner that carries intrinsic implications. For example, “afternoon” implies the existence of both “noon” and “before noon” just as saying “what I tell you now is true” implies “what I told you then may not be true”. In this case, when X = afternoon and Not-X = before noon, then obviously X and Not-X both simultaneously exist, the rules of formal logical notation notwithstanding, given that afternoon is not before noon.)

In his myopic focus on the tree of formal logic, Logic Midget has completely failed to notice the forest of the actual subject at hand. Because it is not the logical distinction between the truth or falsehood of a single divine statement that is relevant here, but rather the semantic implication of statements that are promises and statements that are not promises. The two points I was making were as follows:

1. There are implications behind the use of certain specific terms. If God’s promises are guaranteed to be true, then His non-promises are not necessarily guaranteed to be true. Insofar as God makes statements that are not promises, there is an implication that those statements are not guaranteed to be true, as well as a further implication that God makes statements that are not true.

2. On the other hand, the implication that these statements are not guaranteed to be true does not make them untrue, it merely allows for the possibility that they may not be true.

Logic Midget really should have known better, but he was too eager to strike an educated pose. And since I am his logical superior despite knowing far less about formal notation, it’s not hard for me to find his two logical errors, both at the beginning and right here: “It could be that you are not requiring X to be a logical statement. But no, because you use standard logic notation such as X and Not-X, X must be a logical statement as I described above.”

His first error was his assumption that X “is a statement considered to be either true or false, but not both”. He compounded this with his second error in which he stated that “Not-X” is standard logic notation. It is not, as he should have noted that I did not use (¬P), (~P), or even (-P). In fact, if I had been making use of formal logic notation, I wouldn’t have used any of them anyhow, but rather (P –> Q). Sometimes X is just a variable. Note that Logic Midget didn’t bother to ask what X represented, nor did he even comprehend which part of the statement was the logically relevant one here.

So, once more, we see the wisdom inherent in asking a few preliminary questions rather than making assumptions and thereby leaping to incorrect conclusions. But there are few people so predictably prone to making asses of themselves as well-educated individuals eager to exhibit their hard-won educations.

Mailvox: when God makes you lie

Jamsco heroically attempts to explain why using a word in a manner that doesn’t mean what it actually means isn’t an indication of intellectual dishonesty:

The following is meant to be a debriefing of the two days of debating Calvinism. Some of what follows I’ve already stated in comments.

A. I’m developing a theory about you and the way you run your blog.

You’ve addressed the suggestion by others that you are very passionate about this subject (Calvinism) by giving statistics about the number of posts you’ve made relating to the subject. But this doesn’t really address the manner in which you interact with commenter once you choose to jump into it.

To be sure – once you’re in – you’re in all the way. And you’re in it to win. What this means, unfortunately, is that you are not in it to learn.

When someone comments with disagreement to your post or a subsequent comment – from your standpoint, the comments come in one of three ways.

1. A comment that you can pick a part and show that they contain error.
2. A comment that you can’t really see a flaw in (I imagine these are fairly rare). I assume you generally ignore these.
3. A comment that is a curve ball with some kind of oddity which thwarts you of an opportunity to slam it.

It’s this third kind that frustrate you the most and are the most likely to draw out from you cries of “lies!”

For example: WRF3’s definition of the Bible (Anything that teaches us about God). Now it is a weird definition, but for all you and I know, it’s something he’s been thinking about lately and it’s his honest definition and he’s been wanting to mention it somewhere and thought he’d take the opportunity. But you dislike it, because it screws up where you want to go with the conversation (in your attempt to show . . . something about how foolish reformed commenters are – i.e to ‘break him down’). So you call him ‘not intellectually honest’, when you don’t really have evidence of it.

To be clear, Vox, you should have strong evidence before you call someone dishonest even if you mean ‘dishonest with yourself’. And even if you have strong evidence, it might be wise to let it pass and let others be the judge.

Let me begin by stating that I dislike the “weird definition” of “the Bible” because it is, in fact, a completely false and deceitful definition and would be a grotesque insult to my intelligence at half its staggering height. This portion of Jamsco’s email – the quoted portion is but an excerpt – amounts to little more than an attempt to justify blatant and outright intellectual dishonesty of the sort that I so regularly point out among the New Atheists. It is a beautiful exhibit of what has been described as “Humpty-Dumpty language”, after the famous passage from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:

“There’s glory for you!”
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ “
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’ ” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is, ” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty. “which is to be master—that’s all.”

It’s ridiculous to say that WRF’s mendacious definition of “the Bible” thwarted me of an opportunity to slam his hapless argument anymore than Sam Harris’s inventive uses of the term “faith” prevented me from completely eviscerating the very conceptual foundation of his best-selling book. Longtime readers may recall it took me all of one email to force him to publicly declare that he was actually criticizing “tribalism” rather than religious faith per se. And yet, we find ourselves waiting in vain for the next edition of The End of Tribalism. Indeed, I requested a definition of the Bible from WRF3 expressly in order to illuminate for everyone else what I already knew to be a dishonest argument. I wasn’t frustrated at all; Jamsco is merely mistaking my scorn and contempt for this sort of easily anticipated behavior for frustration. And scorn and contempt are more than well-merited regarding for argument that rests upon the idea that the most famous historical written document in the world is Sunday School teachers. That’s not only wrong, it’s a category error.

I don’t call Calvinists – or whatever those who subscribe to notions of divine omniderigence and/or omniscience and/or perfect goodness prefer to call themselves – liars because I am frustrated by them, I am calling them liars because the positions they are holding are inconsistent and therefore require them to lie whether they do so consciously as with the example of WRF3 or unconsciously as I suspect is more often the case.

For example, it is incredibly easy to show the doublethink required of a omniderigiste who asserts that God doesn’t lie. If I believe that God wills and actively causes all events that take place, and I also observe that lies are told, then I have absolutely no choice but to conclude that God tells lies and is therefore a liar. None. It doesn’t matter how massive an edifice of epicycles I construct to rationalize away the existence of lies that I observe, or even tell myself, I have to choose between being intellectually dishonest or give up my dogma. In the case of every “Calvinist” with whom I have ever engaged, I have observed that they eventually resort to intellectual dishonesty sooner or later, although I will freely admit that few of them do so as blatantly or as knowingly as WRF3 did. Just to be fair, I don’t believe most of them genuinely realize what they are doing.

That’s why I was certain that I would be able to find inconsistencies and incoherencies in Piper’s writings before I had read a single one. It’s the same reason that I know, without even the shadow of a doubt, that a Keynesian is going to produce some deceptive sleight-of-tongue whenever he finds himself forced to confront the observable fact both inflation and unemployment are rising. I don’t need to know what the specific deviation from either fact or logic will be in order to be 100 percent certain that it will be there to be found, because logic dictates that if the dogma has not been abandoned, then the error has to be there. It’s rather like knowing that there must be a bug in the code because one can observe that the program isn’t working.

I think two things are worth pointing out here. First, anyone who engages in “Humpty-Dumpty” talk is not only a liar, but a purposeful deceiver. I have been mocked in the past at times for arguing from the dictionary, but the main reason I resort so readily to the dictionary is that it is a source that is entirely objective from my perspective. Resorting to such objective sources eliminates a tremendous amount of weasel room both on my part and on the part of others. If I was only interested in winning, why would I ever do this? I can play pedantic and semantic games as well as anyone, but I prefer to avoid them for the most part.

Second, I don’t think it would be accurate to conclude that I am preemptively declaring victory when I am simply pointing out the clear, readily observable errors of others. In the case of the likes of Piper and WRF3, because their position is intrinsically self-contradictory, they have not only lost the argument before I ever entered it, they already knew they had lost it. If they weren’t aware of this, they wouldn’t need to engage in such dreadful contortions and abuses of the language. And that, of course, is not only what bothers me, but is why I consider them to be such intellectual snakes even when they are otherwise decent people.

Mailvox: the Gordian theologian

In which Cartusiae metaphorically shakes his booty for our amusement:

To clarify, does Calvinism have any relation to the historic man, “Jean Cauvin”?

If so, were these beliefs present in the early Latin edition of ((Institutes)), the French edition following, or the more sizable final editions? Were they present in the documents currently in libraries, either as manuscript editions, editions commonly referred to as critical editions, including critical translations?

Given the historically extended second period of Calvin’s ministry in Geneva, which of the sermons and/or extended glosses and scholia exegetically or eisegetically (as you, or something utilizing your denotation, claims) postulates AND sustains the theses you present under the rubric of ‘Calvinism’?

Whether Scots, UK (anachronistically deployed to refer to the various jurisdictions emerging from the 16th century), Dutch, HRE, Swiss, or other congregations, consistories, presbyteries, synods, bishoprics, Electorates or Palatinates, could you indicate which of these in public confession, commentary on confession, commentary on laws emerging from Scriptural reflection, or in merest battlefield support of ‘Reformed’ polities held the positions attributed to Calvinism?

Or, logically, given a universe of propositions, can you inductively construct a probable argument that conforms to ‘Calvinism’ as you define it and a reliable construction of the varieties of historic and constituted bodies, polities, jurisdictions, or even German encyclopediae of the 19th century?

Something as FOL as “For all R such that R is a set of propositions…” and “There exists a c contained in C such that the union set of r contained in R is to a set of c contained in C where C is the superset of statements I attribute to Calvinists, even if I haven’t made them yet but they can be translated by a Jovian sociologist 500 years hence as I would hope them to be translated when ascribed to me.”

Or, please inform me what your understanding of “bereshit bara elohim et haeretz vet hashamaim” might be.

We’ll start there.

Once I’ve determined a baseline of your understanding of causation, then I can better comprehend your stance vis-a-vis your understanding of the relation between causation, determination, agency, the attribute commonly ascribed to God as ‘justice’ but understood in terms of the originating words, since the cognates emerging from proto-Semitic ANE are drastically different than the extended and quite contradictory–in the strong sense–definitions currently punting about under the cloak of justice; then perhaps I can adequately meet your conversation about the adequation of warranted and credible models of divine responsibility and the coherence of ‘calvinism’ with said scriptures.

No, we really won’t. I pay absolutely no attention to the overblown theological autoeroticism of the sort Cartusiae is exhibiting here with his rhetorical questions. One thing I have observed over the years is that people who don’t actually know what they’re talking about and cannot defend either the facts or the logic of their positions invariably retreat into impenetrable jargon when the mere fact of their waving credentials is insufficiently effective. What Cartusiae has written might intimidate some, but it merely makes me laugh out loud. I mean, I studied economics under economists who wrote the econ textbooks. Do he seriously think I haven’t seen the high-flown jargon tactic before… or had any trouble dealing with it?

VD: “That’s not true. Your argument falls apart here.”

CE: Well, Mr. Day, only after you demonstrate that you have first grokked the confarbulation of the schixamotroid can we begin ascertaining if you truly possess the One True Understanding of the Grand Moxistic Illuminastine’s definition of the upper middle will of God, which of course you must exhibit before we can deal with your impertinent observation that I appear to have calculated 342 as the sum of 2 plus 2.”

VD: That’s all irrelevant. The problem is that 2+2 simply isn’t 342, it’s 4. The foundation of your vast monstrosity of an argument hangs on a miscalculation. So, it’s wrong, your collection of impressive credentials and recitation of irrelevant encyclopedic details notwithstanding.

CE: You know nothing about [insert subject here]!

Perhaps I don’t. And yet, ironically enough, I don’t need to. It doesn’t matter what term is applied, whether it is Reformed, Calvinist, or omniderigiste, because I am not objecting to the labels, but to the specific ideas and the arguments that have been presented to me. In this case, all the navel-gazing theological babble in the world will not change the fact that X!=Not X nor will it make the observable evil in the world vanish. Cartusiae and others who fancy themselves credential experts in the field of God can tie as complicated a Gordian knot as they like, but any sufficiently practiced logician will simply avoid all the extraneous nonsense and cut through the relevant rope.

I’m entirely comfortable with all of the theological possibilities reasonably in play, ranging from the Bible being the imperfect, incomplete, and inconsistent Word of God to God being an omniderigent puppet-master who is typing these words through the mechanism of my fingers as one minute part of an awesomely elaborate Kabuki play. Something is, but none of the concepts absolutely, necessarily has to be… which is why I conclude that the optimal approach is to seek to understand the truth as best we can understand it from the Scriptures, observe it in the world around us, and articulate it through properly applied logic. If the credentialed babblers of the theological world had any utility at all, you would think they would at the very least have been able to come up with a word or two to describe what a significant number of people, both Christians and non-Christians, actually happen to believe regarding God’s relationship with the world.

The only thing of real interest to me is a conclusive answer I have not yet received from anyone capable of speaking for the Calvinist camp. I would like to know if the Wikipedia summary accurate when it states: “Calvin argues that the knowledge of God is not inherent in humanity nor can it be discovered by observing this world. The only way to obtain it is to study scripture. Calvin writes, ‘For anyone to arrive at God the Creator he needs Scripture as his Guide and Teacher.’ He does not try to prove the authority of scripture but rather describes it as autopiston or self-authenticating.”

If this is accurate, then it would explain much about what I have long seen as the logical incompetence exhibited by those holding to various strains of the creed that can be reasonably described as being somehow “Calvinist”.

Mailvox: this should be amusing

Like Sam Harris, DK claims to have solved the ought vs is problem:

I suspect you’re not interested in the fact that I’ve solved the ought-from-is problem,* but I figure I shouldn’t make the decision on your behalf. You call the project ‘futile’ which is to say you have some very good reasons to be uninterested in any particular instance of it. I would
like to know what those reasons are. Especially, is there some reason you shouldn’t be interested, even if I’m right?

As it is true I’ve solved the problem, I should be able to contradict these reasons, except possibly that last reason.

*(More precisely, there’s an irrefutable definition which, when called ‘ought,’ leads to system that looks like morality, based entirely on unmistakable facts like that people have preferences.)

Given the fact that DK wrongly derived “very good reasons to be uninterested” from “belief in futility, this doesn’t bode well for the likelihood that his solution is correct. But, as per my policy of giving everyone, however crazy, a shot, I emailed him back as follows.

I’m not interested because it hasn’t been solved. The solution isn’t a fact, it is simply your opinion at this point, and I doubt your opinion is any more founded in fact than Sam Harris’s opinion that he solved the problem. But if you wish me to dismantle whatever crackpot solution you’ve proposed and illustrate why it is incorrect, I will be happy to do so. Based on the weasel words in your description, I suspect you are simply playing the same sort of logically illegitimate semantic games that Harris does.

“If I irrefutably define “3” as “2”, then I have proven that 2+3=4!”

Brilliant stuff. Anyhow, go ahead and send me the link. I’ll take a look at it.

I’m sure you will all join me in eagerly awaiting our introduction to the first major philosophical breakthrough of the 21st century.

The libertarian Plato

Sometimes people make the mistake of asking what I’ve been reading lately. This post may explain why they seldom make that mistake more than once. Now, I may be among the more vehement critics of the dishonest Socratic logic presented in Plato’s dialogues, but even I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that the correct reading of Plato’s totalitarian Republic is to conclude the exact opposite of what is written in it, as Patrick Tinsley does in his very unusual paper entitled “Plato and the Spell of the State“:

[W]e will contend that totalitarianism is not at all Plato’s proposed solution to the problem of untrustworthy politicians. His mistrust runs too deep for that. Far from advocating the totalitarian state, Plato opens it up to the light of truth, exposing it as an unjust and literally unnatural breach of the convivial social order. And he does something else as well. As we shall see, Plato attempts to show that the totalitarian state is an abomination not only for its victims, but also for its rulers. This is so, it turns out, because the desire to rule is an unruly desire; it corrupts, corrodes, and even colonizes the soul that it seduces. In the end, the desire to possess the body politic will possess the body of the politician. Whosoever would be master is doomed to be a slave….

Before we understand Plato’s rhetorical strategy, therefore, we must see that the view of Plato as totalitarian proceeds from the false assumption that Plato’s dialogues express the author’s true beliefs, typically through the character Socrates. In fact, Austrians from Menger to Rothbard fail even to acknowledge that the Platonic Socrates is a literary character. They simply read the dramatic elements out of Plato’s plays and treat them as treatises instead. According to them, Plato believes what Socrates says, and nothing besides. But this way of reading Plato produces a paradox. Namely, that if Plato believed the words that he wrote for Socrates, then he should never have written them.

The way out of the paradox is to substitute a literary reading of Plato for a literal one. We cannot take Plato, or Socrates, at his word. Instead, we must read between the lines. In order to understand Plato, we must understand that his meaning, very often, is what he leaves unwritten—and that what his characters say in dialogue, Plato delights in deconstructing with dramatic details and unspoken textual cues. His text “knows for whom it should speak and for whom it should remain silent.” If Plato speaks through Socrates, then, it is only because Socrates’ speech is so frequently
ironic, concealing his true beliefs behind a veil of silence.

It would be an understatement to say that I do not find this argument persuasive. To be honest, I find Sam Harris’s arguments not only more compelling, but less indicative of past drug use. Tinsley’s conclusion strikes me as the bizarre result of combining libertarianism, Plato-worship, post-modern literary interpretation, an obsession with the English Vice, and an imagination unfettered by the limits of reason. This is not a paper that is likely to convince the average conservative Republican that libertarians don’t smoke marijuana. Or marijuana liberally laced with angel dust followed by a crack-infused chaser of tiger’s blood, for that matter.

To begin with, the supposed paradox is no such thing; few would be so foolish as to seriously argue that because Socrates happened to say a few negative things about writing, everything that Plato wrote down about his words is therefore completely and necessarily invalidated. Tinsley builds up a mountain, and a very strange mountain at that, from an insignificant molehill. But he’s just getting started, we haven’t seen anything yet.

One need not assume that Plato agreed with absolutely every word that Socrates uttered to take them at face value. From the ideological perspective, it doesn’t actually matter if the dialogues are faithful recreations of actual conversations in which Socrates participated or if the Socrates of Plato’s dialogues had no more connection to the historical Athenian than the dreaming Scipio of Cicero’s dialogues had to do with the historical Roman to take the words of those dialogues literally.

In fact, it doesn’t even matter if Tinsley is correct and Plato was actually a libertarian opponent of the totalitarian state. As an Italian admiral once told me: “In the end, it all comes down to Plato versus Aristotle. It always does.” Regardless of whether it was his intention or not – and based on what Rothbard tells us of the Greek’s philosophical focus on the polis rather than the individual, I am quite confident it was his intention – Plato has long been the ultimate champion of the collective. His writings serve as the foundation for the intellectual defense of the State and have been utilized as this manner by his fellow statists for centuries.

Even though one could not possibly accept it, one might be inclined to take Tinsley’s argument more seriously if it did not veer off onto a lengthy tangent on “the depraved depth of the tyrant’s erotic abnormality.” What on Earth, one finds oneself wondering, does any of this have to do with Plato, let alone the State?

“This anal orientation can also be found in the Sphinx’s riddle, which, by suggesting the two-, four-, and three-footed sexual positions associated with sodomy, “quite clearly [calls for] a pederastic explanation.” Oedipus must solve the riddle of his father’s crime. That the Sphinx’s “riddle of the foot” plays on the relationship between pedia and pederasty is confirmed by several ancient sources.”

It turns out that the point of this anal extravaganza is to inform us that Plato has constructed Socrates as the anti-Oedipus, who we are instructed was apparently was a passive sodomite in addition to being a parracide and a literal motherfucker. What we are supposed to conclude from all of this is that Plato is attempting to show us, in a subtle manner so subtle that it has been lost on classic scholars for more than two millenia that “when a tyrant perverts the natural order, the natural order perverts him, afflicting him with the most revolting and unnatural appetites”. This, apparently, is a “unique method for dispelling the state”.

Unique? Most definitely. Effective? Highly dubious. The correct reading of the author of The Republic? Let us just say that I remain unconvinced. But let us not speak too harshly of “Plato and the Spell of the State”, as what it lacks in compelling argument it more than makes up for in pure, unadulterated comedic appeal. I couldn’t care less if Tinsley is right or not, because on a scale of one to ten, I would give “Plato” a twelve. Because in this case, eleven just isn’t enough.

The temples of Reason crumble

David Brooks explains, though only in part, why enlightenment humanism has failed:

We had a financial regime based on the notion that bankers are rational creatures who wouldn’t do anything stupid en masse. For the past 30 years we’ve tried many different ways to restructure our educational system — trying big schools and little schools, charters and vouchers — that, for years, skirted the core issue: the relationship between a teacher and a student.

I’ve come to believe that these failures spring from a single failure: reliance on an overly simplistic view of human nature. We have a prevailing view in our society — not only in the policy world, but in many spheres — that we are divided creatures. Reason, which is trustworthy, is separate from the emotions, which are suspect. Society progresses to the extent that reason can suppress the passions….

[The present] body of research suggests the French enlightenment view of human nature, which emphasized individualism and reason, was wrong. The British enlightenment, which emphasized social sentiments, was more accurate about who we are. It suggests we are not divided creatures. We don’t only progress as reason dominates the passions. We also thrive as we educate our emotions.

Brooks is looking in the right direction, but he’s not looking far enough. Man is not merely an emotional being, but a spiritual one. He seeks purpose and meaning in addition to happiness and joy. A new humanism that attempts to incorporate emotion into its rationalist models will certainly improve upon the dreadful performance of the previous models, but is still going to fall considerably short of effectiveness as the continued failure of utilitarianism in all its various permutations demonstrates.

The humanist model of the British enlightenment is certainly superior to the French one. But so long as humanists cling stubbornly to their dogmatic secularism, in the face of an increasing body of scientific evidence demonstrating the superiority of the religious models in terms of health, demographics, societal stability, and human happiness, even their improved models of human behavior are doomed to certain failure.

I have pointed out many times before that man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing creature. Man’s behavior cannot be understood or reliably anticipated until both his rationalizations and his purposes in concocting those rationalizations are reasonably understood.