Thursday, April 22, 2010

Comment on the Belmont Club:
"Fire and Ice"


When the priest asked Voltaire on his deathbed to renounce the Devil and all his works the great man replied that "Now is no time to be making new enemies." Earlier he had written a description of the Quakers in England that admired their personal qualities but condemned them for their "Enthusiasm." Much of the Liberal zeal to control the world by defining and restricting the possibilities of the future can be tied to a sense of religious enthusiasm. This can be traced back to the excesses of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation movements. Unfortunately the swing away from that into an arid skepticism and secularism offers no basis for a productive law abiding and tolerant society. What is needed is a willingness to remain modest regarding your own grasp of the unknown but still committed to the principles and mechanisms that have transmitted the moral values that are proven to work. Obamism is exactly the inversion of what works as it claims a wholly specious and arrogant predictive power coupled with a preemptive determination to deconstruct existing economic, social and political structures.

The great danger of ideologies like Socialism or Scientism is that they claim a predictive power. Lincoln Steffens almost said "I've seen the future, and it works." If the authority of the State is wedded to the power of elites and the possibility of evaluating results to correct their models is pushed into the future rather than based on a valid historical record then dissent will be crushed. What we need are social and political systems that always leave room for the insubordinate voice willing to remind us of GIGO. As Rumsfeld noted we do not know what we do not know. What is catastrophic is when we refuse to consider what we should know and build our models to justify policies that could already be adjudged failures by experience and which can only be seen to be failures in the future after the damage is done.

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