(These ideas are explicated in this sloppy manifesto)

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Cargo Cult Libertarianism

The spectacle at No Treason grows only more amusing. So desperate are some of the contributors for "evidence" of "results"--both enclosed in scare quotes for reasons that will become obvious--that they are willing to post passionate protestations of their proud prostitution. You have to plow through all the comments to see the best of the worst, but it turns out that Economists, no less, have become so thoroughly convinced of the truth of the Libertarian argument that they are willing to do almost anything--except get off the dole. A principled man might argue that Libertarians don't leech off the taxpayers--but that is precisely why these young protestitutes purge themselves of principles.

There is more to this, though. To think in principles is to identify what you are thinking of, to understand it in its essence and in its particulars. To think of a thing as it is not is an error of knowledge, and to project future events or consequences from that error is to commit the fault of intellectual negligence at a minimum--and much worse crimes are within easy reach. And yet this comes up again and again in pretend-Libertarian arguments. First the aversion to thinking in principles--too much like religion, too much like ideology, too much like work. And second the Cargo Cultist's unassailable conviction that the manifestation of some ill-thought-out consequence will be "evidence" of "results".

Is it necessary to point out that this is nonsense? Human beings are exclusively self-controlled. Their resolution to engage in persistent, habitual non-coercive dispute resolution is not "caused" by Economists or their theories, nor is anything else except the ongoing despoiling of the taxpayers. Even so, Economists who claim to be Libertarians--except for the part about getting off the dole--do not seek persistent, habitual non-coercive dispute resolution anyway. I pointed out a while ago that, "David Friedman hears 'monopoly on force' and thinks the problem is 'monopoly'."

At No Treason, Rod Nibbe brought up in a general way the idea of Utilitarian "defenses" of Liberty leading instead to more Collectivism. This, of course, is what Utilitarianism has always done, for the simple reason that Utilitarianism--under whatever name it is disguised--concedes the base premise of Collectivism. This is what I've been saying for the last couple of days, quoting from my corpus over the last couple of decades, but something Rod mentioned struck a nerve.

The idea of School Vouchers is a perfect example of Cargo Cult Libertarianism. The "impractical" "ideological" principled approach to education, for Libertarians, at a minimum, is to get it off the dole, period. But this an hugely unpopular idea and therefore cannot offer any immediate "evidence" of "results". So in 1955, Milton Friedman wrote an article called The Role of Government in Education. As a disclaimer, I have written about School Vouchers in the past, drawing on the much more momentous work of Richard Mitchell. The essence of Mitchell's argument is simply this: Where Friedman claims to find some distinction between government funding and government control, the practical effect of School Vouchers will be to unleash government to destroy the private schools as it has already destroyed the public schools.
We can understand the angry desperation out of which even thoughtful citizens can propose, as remedy for the ills caused by one governmental contraption, yet another governmental contraption. And any system for credits will be exactly that, a wholly owned subsidiary of the state and a bureaucratic agency for the propagation of ideology and the enforcement of "standards." And the standards will be devised not by the enthusiasts of vouchers, who don't really know exactly what they want anyway, but by the same old coalition of educationists and unionists and politicians and social engineers and manufacturers of gimmicks and publishers of pseudo-books, who do know exactly what they want, and exactly how to get it.
By thinking in those awful principles, we can easily understand why this must necessarily be so, but, in fact, we don't actually have to trouble ourselves to think. The "evidence" of the "results" of School Vouchers is already accumulating.

It is interesting, though, to read Friedman's original paper, as charming a chorus of Cargo Cult Cosmology as was ever contrived. It is utterly devoid of any study of or reflection upon education, government-funded or otherwise, but who would expect an Economist to actually study the field he presumes to make pronouncements about? Do you doubt this charge? Nota bene:
Why is it that our educational system has not developed along these lines? A full answer would require a much more detailed knowledge of educational history than I possess, and the most I can do is to offer a conjecture.
The paper is subtly and not-so-subtly anti-Catholic, perhaps, charitably, as a subconscious prejudice. Consider this:
The advantage of imposing the costs on the parents is that it would tend to equalize the social and private costs of having children and so promote a better distribution of families by size.
And this:
Here, as in other fields, competitive private enterprise is likely to be far more efficient in meeting consumer demands than either nationalized enterprises or enterprises run to serve other purposes. The final result may therefore well be less rather than more parochial education.
Astoundingly, the article is more than half devoted to what can only be described as masturbatory econobabble:
For vocational education, the government, this time however the central government, might likewise deal directly with the individual seeking such education. If it did so, it would make funds available to him to finance his education, not as a subsidy but as "equity" capital. In return, he would obligate himself to pay the state a specified fraction of his earnings above some minimum, the fraction and minimum being determined to make the program self-financing.
People who own a history book generally call this "indentured servitude," and here I should disclose that free-market, entrepreneurial indentured servitude is a possible method of discharging debts in a Janioist polity.

The actual argument in this lengthy paper is in fact very brief. Ditching principles and skipping all that silly background study is space-efficient, it turns out:
Governments could require a minimum level of education which they could finance by giving parents vouchers redeemable for a specified maximum sum per child per year if spent on "approved" educational services. Parents would then be free to spend this sum and any additional sum on purchasing educational services from an "approved" institution of their own choice. The educational services could be rendered by private enterprises operated for profit, or by non-profit institutions of various kinds. The role of the government would be limited to assuring that the schools met certain minimum standards such as the inclusion of a minimum common content in their programs, much as it now inspects restaurants to assure that they maintain minimum sanitary standards.
The scare quotes, twice, on the word "approved" are sic, alas. The seed of the destruction of the private schools is the very germ of the idea, there from the outset. It is arguable that the actual intent of the proposal is to limit or even eliminate the Catholic schools. But even leaving that conjecture to the side, it is not possible for anyone who actually troubles himself to think in principles to fail to notice Friedman's egregious error.

Look at the "evidence" of the "results"! Where before we had a government-administered system of indoctrinating children into Collectivism while providing sinecures for a vast army of reliable Collectivists, now we have a government-controlled system of indoctrinating children into Collectivism while providing sinecures for an even-bigger army of reliable Collectivists. And where before there were free-market and non-profit alternatives to Collectivist indoctrination, now every form of school is an agency of Collectivist indoctrination. Vive la liberte! And phooey to those useless stinkin' principles!

This is Cargo Cult Libertarianism in its naked essence. It works backwards from effect to cause, arguing, with nothing like reference to identity or principle, that to have simulated the end-state of Liberty is to have achieved Liberty. There is actually nothing more than a superficial difference between Milton Friedman's Cargo Cult Free-Market Schools and David Friedman's Cargo Cult Free-Market Cops. Both jettison identity and principle to arrive at "results" disastrously at odds with their alleged Libertarian objectives.

In the long run, of course, this doesn't matter at all. Utilitarianism will always betray Liberty, just as it always has. But it has never mattered in the real debate between Individualism and Collectivism. In the short run, I could hope--for my own sake--that the young protestitutes don't get the "evidence" of the "results" they so avidly and so ignorantly seek, but the smart money takes the other side of that bet. But the truth will out, regardless, as anyone who troubles himself to think in principles can easily foresee.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Dancing with the infidel

This is me again, from my past, arguing against the idea of adopting Collectivist premises to defend Liberty, and arguing for transmitting Egoism to Collectivists--where possible. This runs through everything I do, of course, more consequence than cause. But I think it is vitally important to understand that this way of evangelizing for Liberty can work, to the extent that anything can, where nothing else will. Tonight in email, I said, "I can't imagine what they think is going to change if people suddenly mindlessly mouth their gibberish instead of some other gibberish. There is no Liberty without Egoism, and there is no Egoism without an inconquerable love of Splendor. None of this can be reverse engineered--not even if they were working from non-Marxist premises." If there is any way at all to dance with the infidel, and I don't know that there is, it will be my way of dancing.
Dancing with the infidel

by Greg Swann

A friend asked me how we might engage non-libertarians in a non-confrontational, inclusive kind of way. She wanted to know if there is some way that we can address the infidel in his own tongue, so to speak, to attempt to show him that his goals are ours.

My short answer is: No.

My slightly longer answer is: His goals are not ours in any language.

And, pushing the flippancy suppression button: I don't think we actually convert anyone.

With one exception, I have never seen anyone converted to libertarianism. There was a time in my life when I thought it my duty and my honor to convert the heathen masses, to lead the wretched infidels to the path of noncoercive righteousness. I converted no one.

And of course, I am always surrounded (virtually, that is) by bright young missionaries of freedom--flesh-pumping, bible-thumping, hoop-jumping zealots with firm convictions and fast modems. They convert no one.

And we all yak and yak and yak and the infidels yak right back, and it seems that no one is ever converted.

And yet this is not a cause for despair. After all, I am here and you are here and we are here and we are all together, all alone in our finely-honed fanatical individualism. And thus you may say to yourself, well, how did I get here?

It's a good question. For, on the one hand, we seem never to convert anyone. And yet we seem to suffer no apostasies, no irredeemable heresies.

The obvious explanation is that we are, all of us, actually converts. But, with rare exceptions that I will argue seem to prove the rule, this fails the test of observation. We can each of us explain how we came to be libertarians, using that term as a political or philosophical category. But few of us can tell interesting and truthful stories about converting the unwashed hordes.

The ludicrous explanation is that we are born, not made, libertarians. That like Athena, like Minerva, we emerged from the head of god fully formed and fully armed--with really cool hats and stylish but comfortable hiking boots.

This is true of me, and it's true of a lot of libertarians with whom I've spoken: I was very bad at taking orders from morons long before I learned that there are good, stridently philosophical reasons for objecting to the orders of morons. I was a rebel before I could speak, and I'd bet a large dollar that I was a rebel in some intrauterine fashion before I was born. My conversion to philosophical libertarianism owes directly to the heroes of Ayn Rand, like whom I behaved--in my imagination, and in reality in my very best moments. But I have always been constitutionally a libertarian--in my heart, in my bones, in my guts--and I always will be.

This is part of me--part of us I say--a founding stone of my ego, my soul, my self. I am a libertarian because I am an individualist. And I am an individualist because I am an egoist. I was all of these things before I ever had concepts for them. And, as nearly as I can tell, I am an egoist because I always was.

I think you always were, too.

Certainly that would explain why we have no apostates. There are former libertarians, and most of them now more closely resemble Republicans. But I have never met a person who once understood and upheld individualism and yet is now a collectivist. It just doesn't happen.

And the one exception I mentioned was this: I met a focused liberal (already a rare bird) who was dangerously contra-doctrinaire on the subject of speaking his own mind. Arrogantly, in some respects manipulatively, I said to him, "You're a libertarian, you just don't know it yet." A year later he was a libertarian. I claim no credit for this. All I did was make one snotty remark. In my opinion, he didn't convert himself to anything, he simply discovered what he'd known and failed to notice all along.

That's what happened to me when I danced with Dagny. And I expect that's what happened to you, too.

All of which tends to imply that we had no choice about this, and perhaps we didn't. I certainly don't remember choosing self-interest over self-sacrifice. A great many people helped me to learn how to act for my self-interest and not the contrary, and I am very, very grateful to those people. But a great many others attempted to teach the opposite lesson, and somehow it never took.

Stipulate it, if you would. We're treading on ground that is entirely pre-verbal, and virtually anything one says in this realm borders dangerously on religion. The question I came here to ask is:

How did they get here?

We are what we are for some reason. It's probably pre-verbal, possibly pre-natal. What accounts for our collectivists, those wretched infidels with their bizarre and incomprehensible language?

If we are born, not made, would not the same be true for them?

Could it be that they are born collectivists, doomed to suffer endless self-sacrifice and to inflict their suffering on everyone else? Fated by malevolence or simply perversity to strive endlessly and absurdly to destroy every value human life requires? Robbed at birth or even before of undiluted delight, the boundless joy that can only be known in solitude, in the quiet of a mind in love with itself?

I hope not. And I wish not. And I think not.

It would be logical and very depressing to conclude that we are what we are most fundamentally through no choice of our own, and that they are what they are without their choice. But another interpretation is possible, and it's one that I assert not just because it offers me some hope for the redemption of the human race:

They are like us, but they've had it well and truly beaten out of them.

Assuming that both individualism and collectivism are in some sense unavoidable pre-dispositions is not an utterly hopeless posture. At least we can out-breed them, if we get busy. And we can lend some support to this position by observing that the classical liberal argument was advanced by the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, himself the father of what we call the Western political tradition. What distinguishes West from East, fundamentally, is individualism. It was the Nazarene who so stunningly made the individualist argument by choosing to be gruesomely executed rather than renounce his ideas and comply with the orders of morons. We love this story so much that we have made it the core of every story we love, including Rand's. And the people who loved it before us crafted the philosophies and the institutions we now uphold and improve upon. And they were commanded to go forth and multiply, and they did it with abandon.

But we could use the same data to support the contrary position: That it was the life-loving values of the Christians, and not their sheer numbers, that won the West. They bred like crazy, yes, and out-bred every potential competing creed. But they also raised their many children to pursue self-interest at least most of the time.

And stipulating that, we come back to the infidels. If they are not genetically different from us, not inherently different due to some irreversible pre-disposition, not sprung from the behind of Hades, frailly deformed and forlornly disarmed, then how are they different from us?

Surely no one who has ever been to the supermarket can doubt that bad parents can be horribly and yet casually brutal to their children. Properly speaking, self-destruction is the dismantlement of the ego by the ego. But what becomes of a child whose proto-egostuff is raped and murdered before he even has the conceptual facility to abstract the ego. We know what becomes of these children if they are stupid: They become drunks or addicts or criminals or apathetic wretches and, in most cases, the next generation of abusive parents.

But what about the smart ones? Words are a way of apprehending and categorizing reality. But they can also be a way of avoiding or rationalizing reality. If you take an ego-mangled child who nevertheless has a fine mind, a deft ability to manipulate concepts, what do you get?

We all know the answer, don't we? We yak and yak and they yak right back. And we say to ourselves, "The lights are on, but on one's home", and we don't know that no one is home. That the rebel we expect to find inside every fine mind is cowering in some cognitive basement while its imaginary evil twin--Ivy Starnes, Karl Marx, Nero, Herod--enacts a pantomime of a person upstairs.

We cannot speak to them in their language because what we have to say cannot be said in their language. We utter the pidgin of the absurd: "Self-interest is the best way to practice self-sacrifice," is self-consuming. "The best way for the group to advance itself in the aggregate is for each individual member to pursue his own objectives relentlessly," is mere babble; the group is what there is, and there are no individuals. And, "Freedom is even better than slavery," is suitable only for Madison Avenue Orwellians.

What we can do, to offer up the smallest smidgen of hope, is help them learn to speak our language. We have an ally, in the sense that that mangled ego yearns to break out of the basement. And we have a powerful enemy, since the evil twin is entrenched and very well defended. Nature is just, and in the long run one cannot pursue self-destruction with the mind without achieving it with the body, and so the unhappy consequences of error can serve as reinforcement of your gentle sermons. I wouldn't expect much progress, and I certainly wouldn't expect it rapidly, but--I fervently believe, and I believe I can prove--people can discover that they have been wrong, and they can change their behavior accordingly.

It's not a matter of enormous concern for me, really. My missionary days are done, and my long-term goals are rather more ambitious than Peter's. But we can talk to the infidels, not in their language but in ours. And if they talk wisely and if they talk well, someday they may learn to dance.

True fact: Often when I'm alone and working and when I love the work I've done, I yelp, I bark. Not like a dog, particularly, and onomatopoeia conceals more than it reveals. But I yip, loud and proud, a boisterous and liberating expression of delight undiluted. I don't want to dance with the infidels, nor even to talk with them. For the most part I am happy enough to let them stumble to their own damnation, and there are days when I would hasten them. But there is inside me a yearning to have everyone know, if only for an instant, what it feels like to love life in the way that I do when I bark for joy.

We are libertarians, and we define ourselves, in large measure, by what we rebel against. But we are as much defined by what we are loyal to. The infidel won't be converted when he claims to hate the state or to uphold the individual. He will be converted when he discovers that the interests of one's own self come before any other claim. When he acknowledges that no one but himself can imprison him in a dank basement of fear and doubt and humiliation. When he permits himself to embrace life, the precious life that each of us should treasure and too many of us squander. He will be converted when he lets himself yip like the fox puppies romping in the dewy dawn. He will be converted when he dares to dance, awkwardly, gracelessly, proudly, joyously free...

The greatest children's bookstore in the history of the world...

John Venlet at Improved Clinch has been reading and commenting on Plutarch's "Lives":
Wars and conquering of nations and peoples aplenty are presented, along with backstabbing, political chicanery, wisdom of the ages, and a good dose of barbarity. Though the book covers ancient history and peoples, you can find examples of the actions from those times in today’s world.

Not many individuals will be willing to pick this work up as a book to just sit and enjoy. But I did and I am pleased I took the time to do so.
Indeed. Working backward from best-seller lists to best-of-2003 lists to the best-100-books-of-the-20th-century, etc., we have within our easy reach the best books the human mind has ever devised. How can we know they are the best? Because they survived some of the worst crimes the human mind has ever devised. Everything we have of Catullus survives from one copy of his works made in his lifetime, and that one copy is now itself lost.

Bolchazy-Carducci operates the greatest children's bookstore in the history of the world. You might wonder why I am pointing you to a children's bookstore. Alas, we have been infantilized by what poses for modern education, and we are all children to the ancients. Oxford University Press runs the greatest adult bookstore in the history of the world. Either way, when you're reaching for something to read, why not reach for the best?

Monday, April 12, 2004
Let 'em eat steak...

John Kennedy at has infested his weblog, and one hopes not his mind, with a splattering of nattering young proto-Collectivists. They don't see themselves that way, of course. They call themselves Consequentialists, but any independent observer would call them Utilitarians. A Utilitarian, if you must be reminded, is a 'thinker' who presumes to defeat Socialism by conceding its core premise. In other words, all Utilitarians--including their Consequentialist offshoots--are Collectivists--Anti-Individualists de facto.

This is news to no one, of course, or at least to no one who actually maintains a sensory link to reality. I wrote about this phenomenon, the whoring of Individualism to Collectivism, some time ago, and now seems like a good time to reprise that essay.
How to make the brains run on time


Let 'em eat steak...

by Greg Swann

Here's a great way to lose an argument.

First, find yourself a typically unfocused collectivist type. Invite him to whine about whatever it is that he thinks is vitally important--the poor, racial or sexual bias, the environment, exploitation of cute and cuddly animals, TV violence, cyberporn or the starving millions overseas. We can predict with absolute certainty that, whatever the issue, the solution proposed will be more government. So, bright spark that you are, you proceed to tell our unfocused wretch that liberty is far better than statism at addressing the issue under discussion.

Which is true, of course.

And thus: You lose.


Because you're playing the other man's game. The reason humans must live in a condition of liberty is not because permitting us to be free is a good way to deal with the poor or racial or sexual bias or the environment or animal abuse or TV violence or pornography or even the problems of the starving millions abroad. The reason humans must live in a condition of liberty is because this is the way we are made. I might chain my dog or permit him to run free, but I am not anyone's dog, and there is no one who can righteously claim dominion over me. This is our argument, this and dozens of variations on it, and this is the argument we must make to every unfocused Napoleon who comes shambling down the boulevard.

We cannot tell him that our eggs are just as tasty as his. First, he won't believe us, since you can't make his favorite omelet without breaking heads. Second, he won't believe that we believe what we're saying, since he knows that we're individualists--egoists--right down to the yolk. When we tell him all about the wonderful benefits individual liberty offers to the collective, we sound to him like what we are when we speak this way: Frauds.

Frauds not because what we say is untrue, but frauds because we would be exponents of liberty even if it were not good for the poor or the environment or the huddled masses yearning to play video games. We would be for liberty even if it were worse than statism. We are not in this to make the trains run on time, and selling our immense values by dressing them up in a way we hope will be attractive to the sworn enemies of freedom serves only to make us look like salesmen.

And bait-and-switch salesmen at that. Because the only thing they're buying is the one thing we refuse to sell. The particular "vitally important issue" is completely unimportant. What matters is more government. What matters is chaining that dog, breaking those heads.

Not to make the trains run on time, not to feed the poor, not to shield children from the pornography they can't read anyway. What matters is power for its own sake, and any issue will do, so long as no one can make a convincing-enough case for solving it with spontaneous, voluntary human action. Religion and monarchy were devastated by Gutenberg, so Marx invented the horrors of the exploitation of the poor by the people who were making them rich. Marxism was exposed by television, so scads of wretched Napoleons are in a frenzy searching for the new grail, the unanswerable question, the "vitally important issue" for which chaining all of humanity forever is the only possible solution.

That is what they want, that or fates even worse, and there is absolutely nothing to appeal to them in the great big grab bag of libertarian benefits. We have nothing to offer them, nothing but our surrender, and the whole ragtag, unfocused lot of them are united in their steadfast aversion to the one thing we seek, human liberty.

No compromise is possible between people who have antithetical objectives, and we lose every time we attempt to engage them on their own turf. We cannot play the other man's game, not without losing our own goals.

But what about our own game?

A vexing question comes up once in a while, and I may be the wrong person to answer it. The question is this: What if, in a condition of total or nearly-total liberty, people starve?

My knee-jerk reaction is almost comically libertarian: It would be wrong of me to stop them, if that's what they want to do.

Those of us who seek to beard the unfocused lions have a different knee-jerk reaction: The market and private charity will provide.

I don't know if I buy that. It's possible that people will line up for the honor of handing out breadsticks and cans of soup, but I know I won't be among them. I am free enough with my money, when I have any, with people whom I think are deserving of a break, but I am explicitly and adamantly opposed to indiscriminate charity. Moreover, I think a person would have to be a pretty exotic flavor of stupid to manage to starve in a land this abundant; no interest of mine is served by subsidizing stupidity. And finally, starvation--and vice generally--is a self-correcting malady if left unmolested. Pain is nature's gentle way of letting you know there's a flaw in your thinking.

So: What if people do starve? So what? The man behind the curtain in that question, and in every other imponderable "what if", is that there might be a good reason for chaining all of humanity forever.

There isn't.

They damn us because bad things can happen in a free society. It's true, and it's no use countering with all the good things that can also happen. We make the trains run on time--in order to brag about it in our advertising. We feed the poor--as an unintended consequence of bidding up the price of their labor. We protect the environment--as a means of protecting our own property values. We make unrelenting war on unreasoned sexual and racial biases--to reap the benefit of undervalued labor and untapped talents. We find ways to mediate peacefully among seemingly intractable competing interests--for the sake of our own profit. We do everything they claim to want done--and they damn us for it.

And they damn us yet again because innocent people can be hurt in a free society. People can starve. They can drink or drug themselves to death. They can be injured or killed in crimes or accidents. A person can work and work and yet never achieve some desperately sought-after goal. And if I let him run free, every now and then my dog is going to leave an unwanted deposit in the neighbor's yard. It happens.

But our response should not be any form of the expostulation, "Yeah, but..." When they tell us about all of those awful, horrible bad things that can happen we need to ask, "You mean, bad like a crematorium? Bad like a slave labor camp? Bad like a planned famine? Bad like 150 million political murders on three continents?" And then it will be the collectivist's turn to say, "But, but, but..." And he'll mean it. They don't want Naziism or Communism. They just want bland old familiar welfarism. At which point we must ask, "Oh, you mean that liberty poses such potential terrors that it's worth it to forevermore confiscate half or more of every dollar produced by every man, woman and child alive?"

We can say what we want to them, really, because we have no hope whatever of persuading them of anything, ever. But we ought to mind what we permit to escape our lips, I think, for our own sake. We make the brains run on time, and if we leave them free to starve, soon enough the poor will learn how to be free to thrive. But if we whore egoism to the egoless we will give them nothing they want, and yet we will destroy everything we have in such glorious abundance.

We are free because we must be. Not because we should be or want to be or are ordained by god to be. Not because our liberty is the wellspring of all the wealth humanity has ever produced. Not because that accumulated wealth is a treasure no one man could ever produce--or steal--on his own. Not because leaving us alone will produce more for everyone else or even for anyone else. We are free not for the collective, not for utility, not for practicality, not for beauty or divinity or dignity or art. We are free because we cannot be otherwise, ever, no matter what. We are free because we cannot be chained by anyone without our consent.

And how do we consent to our own enslavement?

Simple: All we have to do is play the other man's game...
Greg Swann doesn't let his dogs run free. He does, however, have a lot more to say on this subject at Janio at a Point.

Islam watch: The death rattle...

From the City Journal article, cited below, by Theodore Dalrymple:
One of the reasons that we can appreciate the art and literature of the past, and sometimes of the very distant past, is that the fundamental conditions of human existence remain the same, however much we advance in the technical sense: I have myself argued in these pages that human self-understanding, except in purely technical matters, reached its apogee with Shakespeare. In a sense, the mullah is right.

But if we made a fetish of Shakespeare (much richer and more profound than the Qu’ran, in my view), if we made him the sole object of our study and the sole guide of our lives, we would soon enough fall into backwardness and stagnation. And the problem is that so many Muslims want both stagnation and power: they want a return to the perfection of the seventh century and to dominate the twenty-first, as they believe is the birthright of their doctrine, the last testament of God to man. If they were content to exist in a seventh-century backwater, secure in a quietist philosophy, there would be no problem for them or us; their problem, and ours, is that they want the power that free inquiry confers, without either the free inquiry or the philosophy and institutions that guarantee that free inquiry. They are faced with a dilemma: either they abandon their cherished religion, or they remain forever in the rear of human technical advance. Neither alternative is very appealing; and the tension between their desire for power and success in the modern world on the one hand, and their desire not to abandon their religion on the other, is resolvable for some only by exploding themselves as bombs.
But the anger of Muslims, their demand that their sensibilities should be accorded a more than normal respect, is a sign not of the strength but of the weakness—or rather, the brittleness—of Islam in the modern world, the desperation its adherents feel that it could so easily fall to pieces. The control that Islam has over its populations in an era of globalization reminds me of the hold that the Ceausescus appeared to have over the Rumanians: an absolute hold, until Ceausescu appeared one day on the balcony and was jeered by the crowd that had lost its fear. The game was over, as far as Ceausescu was concerned, even if there had been no preexisting conspiracy to oust him.
Observing this, of course, there are among Muslim youth a tiny minority who reject this absorption into the white lumpenproletariat and turn militant or fundamentalist. It is their perhaps natural, or at least understandable, reaction to the failure of our society, kowtowing to absurd and dishonest multiculturalist pieties, to induct them into the best of Western culture: into that spirit of free inquiry and personal freedom that has so transformed the life chances of every person in the world, whether he knows it or not.

Islam in the modern world is weak and brittle, not strong: that accounts for its so frequent shrillness. The Shah will, sooner or later, triumph over the Ayatollah in Iran, because human nature decrees it, though meanwhile millions of lives will have been ruined and impoverished. The Iranian refugees who have flooded into the West are fleeing Islam, not seeking to extend its dominion, as I know from speaking to many in my city. To be sure, fundamentalist Islam will be very dangerous for some time to come, and all of us, after all, live only in the short term; but ultimately the fate of the Church of England awaits it. Its melancholy, withdrawing roar may well (unlike that of the Church of England) be not just long but bloody, but withdraw it will. The fanatics and the bombers do not represent a resurgence of unreformed, fundamentalist Islam, but its death rattle.

BurqaLib: Juliet unmourned...

John Venlet at fingered this untterly amazing article by Theodore Dalrymple writing in City Journal:
One father prevented his daughter, highly intelligent and ambitious to be a journalist, from attending school, precisely to ensure her lack of Westernization and economic independence. He then took her, aged 16, to Pakistan for the traditional forced marriage (silence, or a lack of open objection, amounts to consent in these circumstances, according to Islamic law) to a first cousin whom she disliked from the first and who forced his attentions on her. Granted a visa to come to Britain, as if the marriage were a bona fide one—the British authorities having turned a cowardly blind eye to the real nature of such marriages in order to avoid the charge of racial discrimination—he was violent toward her.

She had two children in quick succession, both of whom were so severely handicapped that they would be bedridden for the rest of their short lives and would require nursing 24 hours a day. (For fear of giving offense, the press almost never alludes to the extremely high rate of genetic illnesses among the offspring of consanguineous marriages.) Her husband, deciding that the blame for the illnesses was entirely hers, and not wishing to devote himself to looking after such useless creatures, left her, divorcing her after Islamic custom. Her family ostracized her, having concluded that a woman whose husband had left her must have been to blame and was the next thing to a whore. She threw herself off a cliff, but was saved by a ledge.

I’ve heard a hundred variations of her emblematic story. Here, for once, are instances of unadulterated female victimhood, yet the silence of the feminists is deafening. Where two pieties—feminism and multiculturalism—come into conflict, the only way of preserving both is an indecent silence.