October 2010

After reading this from Wilkinson in The Economist on Charles Murray and the “new elite” I sent an email to Will. I still haven’t gotten a reply, so I reproduce it below:
Charles Murray is not god-fearing‏
He’s an agnostic, though respectful of religion and attends Quaker meetings with his wife (who was an English professor at Rutgers when they met). They live in Frederick County Maryland, near Washington D.C (unless his wikipedia article is outdated). I’m not sure whether he’d actually deny being a member of the elite, nor do I believe he thinks the elite needs dethroning. From what I recall when his book on education was coming out he had some editorials on how we need to inculcate wisdom in our elite.

Dinesh D’Souza invited Murray as a witness in the “Religion on Trial” event, where Steve Landsburg argued the other side. You can check it out here.

I also sent an email in reply to this from Stephen Sniegoski. Nicholas Strakon says he’ll forward it along. I also reproduce it below.
Sniegoski complains about Rich Lowry proposing that we threaten to nuke Mecca in retaliation for a terrorist attack. He is of like mind with Adam Ozimek, who calls Tom Tancredo “crazy” for echoing the idea. But as pointed out in the comments section there, that is just the course of action that Thomas Schelling’s analysis of games would suggest. An optimal threat would actually even lead to fewer Muslims being killed than under Uncle Sam’s current strategy.

Looking through my outbox I see that I also sent a link to Mencius Moldbug on the superiority of monarchs to non-monarchial autocrats, which some readers here may also enjoy.

In a comment at Overcoming Bias, Michael Vassar responded to the claim that in our society on average the wealthy are least promiscuous: “If you have spent time with middle class and wealthy people, even a little time, that claim is obviously false. The wealthy are MUCH more promiscuous in my observation.”
I decided to check the GSS. (more…)

I spoke with Chris Wisniewski – like Slavisa Tasic of Critical Review Alumni “fame” – over the summer about his article in the current issue of CR on Ignorance and Culture, wherein he makes the case, contra two scholars named Mark Fenster and Bret Chandler, that modern Cultural Studies fails to illuminate the reality of political non-participation on the part of what we colloquially refer to as “the masses.” The article is actually a rejoinder to said pair’s earlier critiques of Wisniewski, in which they make their case for what 20th century Marxist-inspired Cultural Studies scholars dubbed “ideological reproduction.” This theory posits that underclass political passivity is due to overclass hegemony in the realm of ideas, about, say, inequality. Or race. Or sex. Or WMDs in Iraq?

Wisniewski doesn’t actually confront the substance of such ideas, just whether the idea-peddling-from-on-high idea itself has any merit. He submits that it does not. Using the fact of public ignorance on all matters of politics as a springboard, he argues that if “neoliberal” elites are reproducing their agenda among the citizenry, they aren’t doing a very good job of it, given the fact that few on Main Street would recognize the name “Milton Friedman.”

Wisniewski separates the Cultural Studies paradigm into (more or less) two camps: the followers of Antonio Gramsci and Pierre Bourdieu. Gramsci maintained the theory of cultural hegemony as an explanation for why the working class had not seized the reins of power, as predicted by Marx. The bourgeoisie had thrown its ideological wet blanket over the Italian rank and file, so what could they possibly know about how, or even why they ought, to emancipate themselves?  Gramsci represents the unreconstructed false consciousness take on ideological reproduction. Bourdieu, on the other hand, is the seminal figure in the contemporary view of the concept, with his subtle regard for multiple, overlapping elites and their quiet battles for the attention of the world’s underlings. Wisniewski is partial to the Bourdieu camp, when forced to choose, but he criticizes both, and Cultural Studies as a whole, for assuming that capitalism ill serves the interests of the masses, such that without cultural blinders of one sort or another imposed on the masses, they would intuitively see that their interests would be served by engaging in political action to severely modify or overthrow capitalism. Thus, culture for them is inseparable from an exercise in class suppression, and Cultural Studies following either Gramsci or Bourdieu is premised on the by-no-means-self-evident assumption that the suppressed class–the masses–are harmed by capitalism, so that more political participation on their part would necessarily be good .

I pointed out to Wisniewski how similar the Bourdieu perspective appeared to be to textbook political pluralism, but he responded that for Bourdieu, the practices embodied (the “habitus,” as the French thinker would describe it)  in the institutions intimately known to political actors are jealously guarded, and thus detrimental to a legitimate democracy. For Bourdieu, and the mainline of Cultural Studies scholars, such habitus undermines the participatory potential of the modal citizen by keeping him or her separated – intentionally or not (and for the relatively sophisticated Bourdieu, it is not) – from the knowledge needed to improve their lot. By contrast, in the mainstream American political science research paradigm known as political pluralism, interest groups are legitimate and sincere proxies in any properly functioning representative democracy.

As Wisniewski highlights, the idea that more participation is a de facto good is simply assumed at the outset by his critics, which makes for the real normative crux of their disagreement. There is certainly a positive correlation between greater knowledge of political issues and participation in politics, but the question of  whether this is beneficial overall is open to interpretation.

I should point out that what Wisniewski is getting at should be distinguished from the obvious influence of the media on the views of ordinary voters on certain highly visible events such as the BP oil spill, Koran-burning pastors or, as mentioned above, Iraqi WMDs. The issue at hand for Wisniewski and his interlocutors is the extent to which full fledged ideologies are being grafted onto the masses, by elites, to the former’s detriment, and the latter’s benefit.

In any case, there’s much to chew on in the interview, including a dig at hip-hop-as-politics, reminiscent of a John McWhorter argument.

As an aside, I’ll mention that Chris Wisniewski is a contributor to NYC based Reverse Shot, a quarterly, independently published film journal.

HT: Jeffrey Friedman for assistance with this write-up.

Here’s H.A:
“I think you’re emotional dishonest (although you come close to honesty with the “class conflict” line at the end) but I think it’s hard to get around the point that your mind, like mine, is relatively mediocre compared to the best human minds when it comes to determining the expertly designed hard-to-rebutt rules vs. the experts with discretion balance, -and similarly, our notions of what the democratic masses want is also mediated to us by experts.

Regulatory capture of experts is also a problem -but of course once again we’re going to get best of breed analysis of this by the relevant experts.

In other words, I don’t see a way out of microspecialized expert communities and their respective consensuses (consensi?) on any given topic -I think we should efficiently surrender our egos to it and move on.

To be on the side of angels, I think we should develop our own microexpertise according to our comparative advantages -to prey on latent envy is destructive, IMO.

Don’t bother with cognitive class warfare in our hurtle towards information theoretic death. I think if we take a comprehensive look at policing, undeformed by status envy, it would be reasonable to conclude that mass irrationality is a huge priority over quantitative elite capture by financial interests or ego. So as an agent, I think it behooves you to look critically at how you divide up your own policing pie.” (more…)

Agnostic claimed most whites are friendly towards it. I decided to check the GSS.


Hie actually put his comments here rather than Delong’s post, but since they seemed rather out of place I decided to move them.

I occasionally check back on long-dormant blogs to see if there is any new activity. Someone mentioned Ilkka Kokkarinen’s The Fourth Checkraise not too long ago, and indeed his most recent break was considerably shorter than previous ones. I decided to check out Nick Szabo’s Unenumerated, and he has also returned to resume his series on Roman history. I haven’t been that productive recently. Once I get really settled in I’ll try to finish a lengthy review of a book I finished perhaps more than a month ago.

I’ve read and commented on this a while before, but not at this blog. Roger Garrison discusses Milton Friedman’s “plucking model” of booms & busts here. The Austrians generally claim that busts are caused by artificial booms, and that trying to prop one up through monetary policy just ensures a worse crash will eventually occur (the obvious strategy might then be to constantly inject more money to avoid ever experiencing a recession like Australia, which leads us to the accelerationist controversy). If that causality were correct, I’d expect that looking at a preceding boom would tell you about the subsequent bust. But the plucking model reverses that and says busts look more like the mirror image of the following boom. As Garrison acknowledges, that seems to match the facts. I’ve heard some Austrians claim that ABCT is not a general theory of all recessions but only some particular ones. Those more knowledgeable about Austrian economics (of which there appears to be no shortage on the internet) are welcome to enlighten me in the comments.