Monday, September 21, 2009

Twitter

I'm on twitter:

@gidreich

I think I'll use twitter to point out any interesting links I come across. I see many of these and don't usually want to write a complete blog post on them. I have two tweets so far.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bill Whittle Redeems Himself

It seems that I wasn't the only one challenging Bill Whittle's recent depictions of the false alternative of conservative cynicism vs. leftist idealism as they derive from "constrained" vs. "unconstrained" visions of human nature (following the views expressed in Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions). As a result, Whittle, to his credit, invited Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute (hat-tip Ari Armstrong) to describe the proper alternative as suggested historically by Aristotle and John Locke and, of course, more recently by Ayn Rand. The first of what is apparently a two part interview, can be found here.

As a general comment I would like to say how happy I am to see Bill Whittle do this. For the most part I have found Whittle's video essays on PJTV quite incisive and enlightening, particularly his excellent video on the story of dropping of the first atomic bomb. It is heartening to see that he is rational enough to be willing to present an important point of view that presents an alternative to the false dichotomy he presented.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Elan Journo on Winning the Unwinnable War

In a highly recommended two part interview by Reut Cohen on PJTV, Elan Journo discusses his new book Winning the Unwinnable War.

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Conservatives vs. Idealism

Despite the vaguely united opposition to Obama, important fundamental differences remain between the various different groups. For a reminder that Objectivists have a lot less in common with Conservatives than it sometimes seems look no further than Bill Whittle's latest video essay:
A Tale of Two Revolutions: The War of Ideas & the Tragedy of the Unconstrained Vision
or shorter URL: http://tinyurl.com/m3mo6a.
I disagree with his analysis of the essential difference between the American and French revolutions, as well as his implicit claim that the Founding Fathers were really "Conservative" thinkers who did not think very highly of human nature. Whittle relies on Thomas Sowell but this is also Dennis Prager's favorite topic: Liberals think people are basically good and Conservatives do not.

It's not that there's not some truth in the criticism of Rousseau and his followers. Certainly they had a corrupt concept of human nature as changeable and that ultimately lead to attempts to make a new man through indoctrination and mass terror. More importantly they were less individualistic than the Americans who relied on Locke. And most importantly, Rousseau was the beginning of the reaction to the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason. He explicitly rejected much of those periods stood for.

However, my main problem with Whittle's argument is that he's saying that human beings are basically low, corrupt, and miserable people who deserve no better than freedom. I completely agree with Ayn Rand that that is a completely immoral and uninspiring argument that will continue to drive anybody with an ounce of self esteem into the left. Man may have chosen to do much evil at various points in history but human nature is not defined by statistics but by its essence, namely by the fact that man survives by the use of reason, a faculty that he can choose to use or not. It is because throughout much of history people have not thought nor acted rationally (despite much recent rhetoric to the contrary) that numerous disasters have been imposed on men throughout history. But there were many times when men did act rationally and morally and laid the foundation for a much better future, personal or global. It is those men that ought to be regarded, not as supermen or isolated aberrations, but man at his best, the potential that is available for anybody to achieve, through his own efforts, as long as he commits to think and act accordingly.

It is this ideal that ought to be promoted by lovers of liberty if they hope to inspire people to fight for their freedom. It is profoundly uninspiring to fight, as apparently Bill Whittle and Thomas Sowell do, with Hobbes' view of human nature as the most that can be achieved and freedom as the condition we have to settle for because we are no good. Freedom is the condition of the proud rational individualist who esteems himself and expects others to do the same. Whatever the condition appropriate for those who regard themselves as imperfect, flawed beings, who dare not aspire to any ideals, it is not freedom.