Coasting Along

That last post was a little melodramatic. This post is partly to say: I'm still here, worried but not worried sick about my little eating disorder (or old fashioned weak willed glottony if you prefer), and trying to do something about it, in an unmelodramatic way.
I'm also reading articles by Noam Chomsky. Chomsky's method is wonderfully simple - he makes statements that are obvious to the left and heretical to the right, and proves them with a mountain of meticulously researched and referenced evidence.

All the right can do is make silly accusations that he's a conspiracy nut or mentally unhinged - accusations which can only be maintained by not reading any of his work.

That's not to say everything about the man is great. He is very impressive at doumenting what is wrong with the world and why, but is even vaguer than Marx on what a better world would look like, and says absolutely nothing about how to get one.

Elsewhere on the political spectrum I'm ploughing through the archived articles of Reason Papers, a journal of right wing ethics, epistemology and economics, published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

I've often felt that you can judge an idea by the best of the attacks made on it. Darwinism is a good idea, not because it survives the childish strawman insults of creationists, but because it emerges unscathed (or only slightly modified) from honest attempts at refutation by intelligent thinkers who actually understand it.

Marxism (properly understood) is in my view the same, in that respectable, cogent, informed but hostile analysis only makes a small dent, if any. Provided of course that the tennants of the marxist method - the labour theory of value, historical materialism, dialectical logic etc - are in principle refutable.

The articles here are not among the best, but they are very far from being the worst. They are second division, as opposed to second rate. Ayn Rand and Natan Sharansky are right wing cranks - read Reason Papers if you want to understand right wingers who are not cranks.


  1. I powered up my iMac, ostensibly to watch MI::II, but also to look around on the internet.

    Imagine my surpirse to discover that Safari had cached your Journal up to 7th April. There I was, reading about George Melly, Reader's Digest and assorted old ladies in the Surgery, only for me to notice that indeed, it was slightly out of date.

    Oh, bye the way, thanks for the links to Noam Chomsky (always thought I should read more of his stuff), as well as the link to the right wing web site.

    Ayn Rand? Well, unexpurgated libertarianism could be either extremely 'liberating' or exremely worrying.

    Like so many political theories, Ayn Rand probably looks much better on paper than it ever could in real life.

    Devil take the hindmost seem hideously social-Darwinist, but maybe that is just me.

    Oh, and don't loose sleep about the alleged "rise of the bnp', it simply isn't going to happen, even if nulab are trying to use it against blulab. When push comes to shove, people are not really going to support it.

  2. I don't think Rand's work even looks good on paper. Her grasp of the philosophies that she argues against (Hegel, Kant, Marx) is shaky at best, and the arguments themselves are vague and inconsistant.

    Rand does have one redeeming feature - she presents a straight down the line corporate capitalist ideology of towering heroes, feckless workers and a natural order of benevolent, kindly, wise but ruthless supermen born superior - but without any kind of sugar coating. She doesn't admit fallibility or human feeling (apart from triumphal glee) for her heroes, or insight or nobility for her great mass of victims/subjects/workers.

    Most justifications of corporate capitalism claim it benefits the workers in some way - Rand just worships bullys, while desperately imagining herself to be one. Maybe her bully worship is the right wing equivalent of George Bernard Shaw's left wing hero worship.
    Mises social darwinist? I haven't read enough to be sure, but I suspect Mises was a fellow traveller of social darwinists, rather than one of them.
    The BNP are indeed no threat - it's just important to prevent them ever building a base of support and becoming a threat.
    BTW..."Bein Pensant". "Bein" means "well" or "sufficiently", "Pensant" means "thinking".

    Google hits for the term suggest negative connotations, but I can't find a dictionary definition. Is it something like "broad but shallow thinker"?

  3. Having googled the term myself (I picked it up through context, rather than formal definition), the term seems to translate quite literally, to 'Good thinking', or 'Good Thinker'.

    This is not to my mind, a clear definition. The software for trying to translate natural languages produces some surprising (and sometimes amusing) results.

    I'm not sure about 'negative' connotation, but I use the term to denote somebody who doesn't necessarily swallow the entire digest of The Guardian or The Independent uncritically.

    As I am an outsider to most political discourse, fitting into none of the 'categories' so far invented, I take an interest in such matters, without ever really feeling as though I am a part of them.

    I think that rather than being 'broad but shallow', the term probably more accurately equates to 'right thinker', or somebody who thinks the right thoughts in relation to the predominant zeitgeist. That is how it comes across to me, though of course, I could be missing something there.

    Ayn Rand seems to be Libertarianism on Steroids and although the notion of 'rugged individualism' may appeal in some quarters, it is not really a basis upon which to build a complex society that can last.

    The only attraction to it is the lack of interference from a central authority. What it does not address (and points you raise viz-a-viz bullies and bully worship), is the huge inequity of power distribution between ostensibly 'equal' individuals.

    I am not sure that she truly worships bullies as such, but the 'low taxes and devil take the hindmost' approach to social policy has some very ugly potentialities. The foremost of these being that society would soon crumble under the weight of its own internal inconsistencies.

    A while ago, I looked at some of the web pages of the 'Libertarian Alliance' and although there is a strong populist sentiment, I suspect that a literal transcription of their policies to a real world environment would produce something that would simply disintegrate; again due to its own internal inconsistencies.

    One thing I would say about 'Darwinism', social or otherwise, is that 'fitness' does not necessarily connote any kind of moral ascendancy. All it means is that an organism has 'adapted' (ie is able to reproduce) under a given environment. We often think of 'fitness' as having a kind of moral legitimacy; it does not necessarily do so though.