What “Social Justice” Really Means
For much of my academic life, I considered the terms, “values,” “rights,” and “social justice,” to have equivocal meanings. When these terms were used without clarification, they disrupted any fair social order. Each of the phrases had two or more meanings that usually meant the direct opposite of each other. Conversations and legislation in which these terms were used almost always ended in incoherence. One group used a term one way; the next group used it in an opposite way. Both usages were found in the language with various explanations of how they came into common usage. Each usage had its own philosophical presuppositions.
“Value” was a term from Max Weber or Nietzsche that denied any grounding to our ethical lives. Whatever we choose as our purpose or end was all right. The term admitted no rational scrutiny, only arbitrary choice. “Science,” in this sense, dealt exclusively with the means whereby we might achieve our selected end or purpose, whatever it might be. To say “this is my ‘value’” meant simply that I “opt” for this or that desire. I have no intrinsic reason why one choice is better or worse than another. The word “value” was thus a function of relativism. To “guarantee” values, or agree on them, merely meant accepting whatever we willed, not on understanding and on being held to what is right or wrong, true or false.
The word “rights” caused even more confusion. Especially in Catholic social thought where it was equated with some objective duty. But the modern usage of the word comes from Hobbes. It means that no objective goods can be rationally comprehended. A “right” was whatever I thought that I needed to avoid violent death. A “right” was the intrinsic power to obtain it and keep what I decided.
The Leviathan state was contractually empowered to guarantee these “rights.” This guarantee meant, in effect, the state defined the “rights” that were allowed to exist. The “right” to life confronted a “right” to abortion. When people insisted on their “rights,” they were accused of denying the “rights” of others. Battle after battle to defend the “right” to life was lost because it was seen as a denial of a “right” to abortion. The rhetoric of “rights” was independent of the rhetoric of truth.
“Social justice” was purportedly a new addition to the classical legal, distributive, and commutative justice ideas found in Aristotle. It was rather connected with the Leviathan state. Social justice was based on the idea that what is “due” to people for their flourishing is what decides their good. It was not personal virtue that was at the center of moral and political life. Social and political “structures” determined virtue and vice.
So the “vocation” to “social justice” derived its nobility from “service” to the poor and down-trodden through promises to “re-structure” the state or economy. Oftentimes this renovation of society was promoted in revolutionary terms, because state and social “structures” determined the meaning of virtue and vice. “Social justice” always hovered in the shadow of totalitarianism. The state became the center of all human life. Social Justice received it’s self-justification from what it distributed to everyone.
In this context, Michael Novak and Paul Adams have brought together in one concise consideration an understanding of “social justice” that does not arise from these “value-rights-justice” presuppositions found in the post Machiavellian understanding of modernity and the state. In Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is, they undertake a systematic re-reading of what is known as “Catholic Social Doctrine.” But their “re-reading” turns out to be directed to everyone, to social and political thought as such. The approach is unique and convincing. Initially it arises from the experience of Adams who has been involved in what we now call “social services,” that is, those efforts of the state and other bodies to meet pressing needs of the poor, disadvantaged, or otherwise needy. The theoretical issue is over what kind of analysis best deals with these issues, while retaining and expanding any real meaning of a civilization of love and reason.
As the family has come more and more into a crisis status, the growth of the state agencies to meet the result has been almost exponential. Chesterton said somewhere that if we stop doing things out of personal sacrifice, love, and generosity, we will soon find ourselves having to pay others to do the needed things for increasingly high wages. This same point is really what Benedict XVI argued; namely, that no bureaucracy could substitute for the kind of personal care and love that actual human beings require above minimum physical needs that can be purchased.
What is argued here is lucid and well-grounded. It is a much better explanation of both facts and vision than other approaches to basic world economic and political issues. Social justice is not, as too many maintain or imply, a revolutionary virtue whose object is the restructuring of the state, family, or society as the principal way to deal with modern problems. Rather it is an aspect of Aristotle’s understanding of justice and politics. It is a flushing out of the habit of virtue in all its implications. This virtue is located within each person. It is an acquired habit, the result of repeated and prudent acts.
This centrality of habit/virtue is where the discussion of human good properly belongs. Novak is particularly good in spelling out how this classic virtue is involved in those activities that are necessary, and even beyond necessity, for achieving the common good. The careful discussion of charity is a disciplined effort to acknowledge that into any social order something from outside of it may be necessary for its ultimate good. The classical idea of benevolence is the natural basis of the supernatural virtue of charity.
The “common good” is another basic idea from Aristotle and Aquinas that needs fuller restatement in the light of the centrality of personal virtue. The “common good” is not some grand plan to reform all of society to meet and eliminate every human ill. Novak is a realist when it comes to human evils. Any actual human common good must deal responsibly with this basic problem. Evils (vices) will always be present in any society. They will always need to be confronted with clear eyes. What is wrong in the world is mainly located in the human heart and relates to human freedom. We cannot pass down the virtue or vice of one generation to another because each generation of persons must itself decide whether it will be good or not in its concrete activities. Talk of reform of society that does not include talk of habits, of virtue and vice, is but another way of abandoning any real understanding of man in society.
The common good is an order of thought, habit, law, custom among acting persons in which the actual potentialities of individuals can and do develop. No human being or organization can foresee the varied goods of all types that arise out of the freedom and intelligence of human beings. The common good does not mean that everyone has exactly the same things. It is not uniform. Rather, it means that everyone develops different things. The total goods implicit in human potential and variety are allowed and encouraged to come forth. Thus, the common good will also include those differing institutions of law, police, army, and common sense that directly deal with the vices that also arise from their intelligence and wills.
In many ways, this book is about America and its earlier tradition of law, free markets, federalism, and generosity as something new in the world, yet as something that continues and develops classical and Christian thinking of the good of mankind. The degree to which cultural America has deviated from its own founding on matters of sin and relativism is treated in detail. The Founding Fathers were often aware of the dark side of human nature and sought to counteract it, as some described in the Federalist.
But it is quite clear that America’s general contribution to the world’s fund of practical knowledge is a major accomplishment, particularly concerning issues of poverty and human dignity. The dynamism that exists in each human soul is fundamental to recognize. Man’s intelligence and drive are the real sources for meeting real needs of actual people. But they will not be allowed or properly developed by just any religious, ideological, or traditional mode of thought that impedes the basic place of virtue in human life.
Novak uses several initiatives or remarks of Lincoln to illustrate his point about how social justice properly understood works. He cites Lincoln’s remarks on the provision for patents that the American Founders put in the Constitution. Perhaps no single act has been more important in providing for ordered human progress than the law of limited patents. For this provision allowed individuals to use their own initiative to invent or write things that would step by step contribute to human needs and wants in growing and ever-more complex societies. Again and again, the activities and institutions between the individual and the state are emphasized as central to true social justice. No actual person is an isolated being. Rather he is a member of family and myriads of other associations designed to accompany human purposes through free and responsible human activity
We find here a particularly fine discussion about just what really does help the poor to become not poor. People need not be poor. The first step is to understand that wealth is not another commodity or property. The constant repetition of the statistic about 20 percent own 80 percent of the wealth implies that this is an obvious injustice. It isn’t. The statistic completely overlooks the cause of wealth production and the growth of entire economies including that of the poor. It is ultimately intelligence and the skill in applying it. The principal agent for dealing with poverty is not some foreign aid or rearrangement of laws or state structure. It is a recognition of the capacity of individuals, if given a chance, to deal with problems themselves in free concert with others.
There is an almost diabolical temptation in the souls of many politicians, clerics, and academics to want to solve someone else’s problems. Instead of thinking what people themselves can do to solve their own problems, the temptation is to think of ways to do it for them. This latter approach almost always ends up in emptying society of that individual and personal vitality that alone is able to vivify a society. Neither individualism nor socialism, or their variants, can show the record that a personalist-based approach to social justice as a virtue can achieve.
“It is not at all necessary that there should be poor people on this planet. The Creator of this world has made it abundantly fruitful for all, and has hidden within it huge resources for human wit to discover and put to use for all,” Novak wrote. This book was unfortunately mainly written before Pope Francis’ full comments on economics were clear. The tentative reflections here are based almost solely on Evangelii Gaudium.
If anyone from the pope to the bishops to college professors and students, to media, business people, and government cadre is looking for a succinct and far-reaching guide to reconsider how to think about the order of this world and its relation to the human good, it would be difficult to find a better book than this work of Michael Novak and Paul Adams.
Deobandi Butchery in San Bernardino: 1977 Roots of the Jihad Carnage
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) whistleblower Philip Haney made a startling series of revelations Thursday evening (12/10/15) on Fox News’ The Kelly File. Haney described how he began investigating scores of individuals with links to the traditionalist Islamic Indo-Pakistani Deobandi movement, and its related offshoots, prominently, Tablighi Jamaat. He maintained the groups were exploiting the visa waiver program to transport suspected jihadist operatives in and out of the U.S., thus he started tracking them, and recording these findings within a DHS database. Haney’s efforts (as summarized by Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller) were eventually noticed by the National Targeting Center (NTC), which operates as an umbrella organization in U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Haney was subsequently asked to work for the NTC and rivet his attention on these Deobandi-related organizations. Over the course of his investigation, Haney received an award for identifying more than 300 potential jihad terrorists with links to the Deobandi affiliates.
Tablighi Jamaat certainly merited the attention Haney was giving it, having been connected to a series of jihad terrorist attacks, which included targeting the U.S.: the October, 2002 Portland (Oregon) Seven, and September, 2002 Lackawanna (New York) Six cases; an Aug. 2006 plot to bomb airliners en route from London to the U.S.; attempted bombings in London and Glasgow, Scotland, in July 2007; and involvement in the July 7, 2005, London bombings, which killed 52 and injured more than 700. French investigators have further estimated Tablighi Jamaat ideological indoctrination was associated with 80% of their jihad terror cases.
Haney’s fastidious investigations raised serious concerns about the San Bernardino Deobandi movement-affiliated Darul-Uloom al-Islamia mosque—attended by jihad-waging killer Syed Farook. In addition, Farook’s jihadist accomplice wife, Tashfeen Malik, attended a traditionalist Islamic education center in Pakistan, also connected with the Deobandi movement. Notwithstanding his patriotic, yeoman efforts, DHS shut down Haney’s probe, and revoked both his security clearance and access to the databases he compiled. Retributive investigations against Haney by DHS and the Obama Justice Department, however, revealed no wrongdoing on his part. Tragically, as Haney explained, had his probe not been terminated for alleged “civil rights violations” of jihad-indoctrinated Muslim followers of the Deobandi movement:
Either Syed would have been put on the no-fly list because association with that mosque, and/or the K-1 visa that his wife was given may have been denied because of his association with a known organization.
The Deobandi-linked jihad carnage that transpired in San Bernardino has much deeper roots, not only on the Indian subcontinent, but dating from at least 1977, within North America, as well.
The traditionalist Islamic Darul Uloom Deoband school was founded in conjunction with the mid-19th century Indian Muslim jihad against British colonial rule, becoming a hub of the broader global Caliphate revival movement centered in India after the humiliating Ottoman defeat during the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War. Mahmood Hasan (1851-1920), the first graduate of the Darul Uloom Deoband, was active in early 20th century jihadist activities against British colonial India, and he was also an accomplished Koranic scholar whose seminal 20th century commentary on the Koran (via his pupil S.A. Usmani) remains an influential work for Indo-Pakistani Muslims. Moreover, per a reverent biography of Muhammad Ilyas (1885-1944), founder of the Tablighi Jamaat, who was “infused with the spirit of Jihad,” Ilyas “took the pledge of Jihad at the hands of the Maulana Mahmood Hasan for that very reason.” Muhammad Ilyas in turn, formally mentored Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi (1914-99)
Nadwi was a founding member of the Muslim World League, a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now Cooperation), a member of the World Supreme Council for Mosques, and a member of the Fiqh Council of Rabita. He participated in a host of other activities under the umbrella of these, and other Islamic supremacist organizations and institutions, including, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). In India, during his “formative years,” Nadwi was associated with Maudoodi’s Jamaat Islami, in addition to Tablighi Jamaat founder Muhammad Ilyas. Nadwi later became president of the Academy of Islamic Research and Publications, which published his own 1983 hagiography of Muhammad Ilyas, who had written directly to Nadwi “perhaps the most detailed letters concerning the aims and principles of the [Tablighi Jamaat] Movement.” Most significantly, Nadwi served as rector of Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama [“Organization of Scholars”], sister institute of Darul Uloom Deoband, and a major disseminator of traditionalist Islamic, Deobandi teachings.
Gustave von Grunebaum published a brilliant analysis of Nadwi’s defining 1951 work, What Has the World Lost Through the Decline of the Muslims? Nadwi’s book invokes the words of the second “Rightly Guided” Caliph Umar’s [r. 634-644 AD] envoy to Yazdagird [III, d. 651], the last Sasanian king of Iran:
Allah has sent us so we can lead out those he wishes from the service of all the servants to the service of Allah alone, and from secular constraint into freedom and from the oppression of the (earlier) religions to the justice of Islam.
Arguing that the Muslim community (umma) is the only power with the ability to overcome the dominant, corrupting Western (European) spirit, Nadwi, as von Grunebaum observes, advocates “the transfer of leadership to the Muslim world,” because Islam’s message “holds as good now as it did in the seventh century.” Nadwi, in his triumphal exuberance, proclaims:
Behold the world of man looking with rapture at the world of Islam as its savior, and behold the world of Islam fixing its gaze on the Arab world as its secular and spiritual leader. Will the world of Islam realize the hope of the world of men? And will the Arab world realize the hope of the Muslim world?
But Nadwi also maintained that prior to re-assuming global hegemony, Islam must undergo a “spiritual revival” along traditionalist lines, while steeping itself in the sciences to master modern technology, commerce, and the arts of warfare. Von Grunebaum’s analysis concludes with this foreboding insight, all the more relevant today:
In his final chapter Nadwi calls on the Arab world to assume its traditional leadership of Islam. The religious importance of the Arabs is emphatically asserted. …For it is the Arab world to which will fall the generalship in the final ejection of Europe; its [Arab Islam’s] faith, the power of its message, and divine help will assist it.[O]ne realizes that his prescription for the world is simply an injunction to return to, or, as he would say, to resurrect, a golden age that never existed. Salvation by sameness, the implied belief that what worked once will always work, and the unconcerned readiness to forego the wider horizons that have been opened by man, and for the most part, by Western man, during the last centuries—one cannot help feeling both frightened and depressed by the appeal that Nadwi’s message appears to have for certain Muslim circles. [NOTE: That “appeal” has mushroomed in the intervening half century]. The ultimate impenetrability of one civilization by another is demonstrated, unintentionally it is true, but, for that, all the more convincingly. Even as, in the late Middle Ages, orthodoxy in self-defense was prepared unhesitatingly to narrow down the scope of the Muslim experience by pushing Hellenizing philosophy and the natural sciences to the periphery, in precisely the same way, although perhaps with still greater radicalism, Nadwi is throwing overboard the Western concept of science—the objectivization of experience and its interpretation as a rational system—whose philosophical and operational meaningfulness he obviously never realized. Needless to say, Nadwi shies away from any specific suggestion of how a victorious Islam would remove the illnesses that he diagnoses in our world. Rather, he does not shy away from the specific; it simply does not occur to him that the model of the golden age might not provide the required panaceas. Not a word, therefore, on the position envisaged for the minorities…
A decade later (1961), Nadwi wrote an essay for the Islamic Center of Geneva, Switzerland, titled, “Responsibilities of Muslim Young Men Proceeding to the West,” which extolled the Sharia, and promoted its universal application, including, by inference, within non-Muslim societies.
The preserved treasure of the Islamic Sharia is present, without any distortion or amendment, as it was left behind by the bringer of the Sharia, the Prophet himself. The Sharia is the most complete and the most perfect jurisprudential system in the world. It denotes an admirable blending of the ancient with the modern and can serve the needs of all ages and climes. It is also well established for the future. It possesses such wise and sound foundations that the edifice of a healthy society or civilization can always be built on them.
But it is during a series of addresses Nadwi delivered in the summer of 1977 to U.S. (primarily) and Canadian audiences that one sees his unabashed advocacy of Sharia supremacism—overturning “infidel” Western legal systems—by these Muslim diaspora populations. The speeches are open calls for Islamization by both non-violent proselytization, and jihad (spelled, as per the Indian Muslim predilection, “jehad”), even jihad martyrdom. Nadwi appeals to North American Muslims for patience, and unwavering forbearance, but also gives explicit sanction for jihad martyrdom violence—so “Islam be made stronger and brought into power and authority”—entirely consistent with the San Bernardino carnage wrought almost 40 years later by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Mailk.
Nadwi’s own introductory comments (reproduced in the speech collection, “From the Depths of the Heart in America,” 1978) outline the itinerary of this 1977 tour, which included not only mosques, and Islamic centers, but major U.S. universities, and the United Nations:
This is a collection of my speeches in the United States and Canada which I visited in the summer of 1977. I went there at the invitation of Muslim Students Association, mainly to attend its Annual Conference at Bloomington in Indiana. After the Conference, a tour was arranged by the Association which took me to almost all the important cities and educational, cultural and industrial centres of North America where a considerable number of Muslims drawn from India, Pakistan and the Arab countries live for various reasons. The original itinerary included New York City, Jersey City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles in the States, and Montreal and Toronto in Canada, to which Washington was added later. In all, I addressed twenty gatherings, half of them in Arabic and half in Urdu. I had an opportunity of speak at five leading American Universities—the Columbia University at New York, the Harvard University at Cambridge, the Detroit University [sic; University of Michigan?] at Ann Arbor, the South Californian University at Los Angeles [sic; University of Southern California, or University of California at Los Angeles?] and the Utah University at Salt Lake City, and was, also, asked to give the Friday sermon in the Prayer Hall at United Nations Headquarters and in the Jami’ Masjids of Toronto and Detroit. Muslims who are studying in America or have taken up residence there took a keen interest in the meetings and came from far and near to attend them.
These preliminary comments introducing the collection of speeches also reaffirm Nadwi’s “constant endeavor” throughout his sojourn in North America to:
speak straight from the heart, without mincing the matters, and to offer some sincere suggestion to the Muslim brothers and sisters who have settled in the West, particularly in America. As for the Western Civilisation, it has been viewed from a height which Islam confers upon its followers and from which both the Old [Europe] and the New [America] Worlds seem narrow and empty, and their glitter false and unreal.
Nadwi brazenly elucidated Islam’s religious supersessionism in words delivered at the Muslim Community Center of Chicago, “before a large gathering of educated Muslims,” on June 19, 1977. Outlining what he referred to as the “Deputyship of Ibrahim” [Abraham of the Old Testament], Nadwi urged his Muslim audience to pursue their divine mandate to replace both Judaism and Christianity as the abiding North American faiths, with Islam:
This country [the U.S.] is an idol-hall in which the Azan [Muslim call] of Ibrahim has to be given, and this you, alone, can do. You are the real descendants of Ibrahim, not the Jews who have strayed far away from his path. Not the Christians who are the followers of the Christianity of St. Paul, not of Jesus. They have been divested of true Christianity. It was a colossal conspiracy that bore fruit. No religious conspiracy has,- perhaps, been so successful. It brought about a complete metamorphosis of Christianity. Now, whether Catholics or Protestants, they are the adherents of St. Paul. They have lost the claim to be the successors of Hazrat Ibrahim. You are his successor.
Finally, Nadwi delivered chilling speeches to Muslim audiences in Toronto (June 10, 1977), and again in Chicago (on June 20, 1977), which openly sanctioned waging jihad, and being martyred in North America as a paramount “responsibility for Muslim immigrants,” justified as endeavors at “protection of faith [Islam]” which “must take responsibility over everything.” Punctuated by Koran 2:193, Nadwi issued these clarion calls for jihad:
The Koran has alluded to it in these words: …. “Until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah. (II: 193).” What it denotes is that the state is reached in which Truth is triumphant and no battles are waged for the souls of men and they do not have to undergo the ordeal of deciding which way to turn: only Allah is obeyed and divine honors are paid to Him alone. There prevail justice and faith in Allah. For it is preaching, and the sanctioning of what is right and forbidding of what is wrong, and, if need be, even Jehad. For it is Islam to be made stronger and brought into power and authority so that even for the fainthearted people it might not become so hard to follow the path indicated by Allah that they gave way to despair and decided that it was beyond their endurance. …Allah may take from you the task of spreading the guidance in this land, and, one day, it might adopt Islam. It is not inconceivable…Your stay here is not only justified, but also a Jehad if you have made sure of the preservation of Islam for yourselves and your future generations and are carrying out the duty of the preaching and propagation of Faith and presenting an image of the Islamic way of life which is attractive to others. Look into your intention from time to time, and make it right. The aim and idea behind all your acts should be the propitiation of Allah and the service of Islam and Muslims. You will, then, InshaaAllah, earn the reward equal in value to that on Jehad, and, sometimes, even on martyrdom.
Nadwi’s invocation of a quintessential jihad verse from the Koran, 2:193, and his accurate assessment of “what it denotes” are consistent with the gloss on 2:193 by the early Deobandi ideologue Mahmood Hasan:
War against infidels is permitted for the eradication of wrong and oppression and for the prevention of the infidels from betraying other people from Islam and for the establishment of [an] Islamic system in the land…[Those] who are still active in spreading infidelity and barring others from Islam, they should be slaughtered of course.
Slaughtered of course, indeed. Jihadist butchers Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik certainly understood this Deobandi, and hence authoritative Islamic, Koran-sanctioned method for “eradicating wrong and oppression,” so they “slaughtered” the “oppressive” San Bernardino infidels. When will our criminally negligent political and law enforcement leadership be held accountable for the consequences of allowing this mainstream, genocidal Islamic ideology—jihad—to be preached with impunity throughout the U.S.?
My Uncle Robert Garrett USN received military honors this past Monday at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery. The schedule is tight at the cemetery. Time is meted out with military precision in small increments for final farewells and ceremonies. Those not engulfed in grief – the honor guard and officers – are eminently serious.
With the ceremony concluded, I retrieved my video gear, and walked out. I met the officer in charge of the honor guard and said, “Thank you sir.” He nodded a serious acknowledgment, and then he paused to say something. I turned to look at him, and his face broke into a massive smile as he said, “Merry Christmas!” It was unexpected and beautiful.
And I realized the ceremony he had just performed was his Christmas gift to our family, and his wish brought me right back into a warm and peaceful space from the most solemn one we had just witnessed. I wished him Merry Christmas too, and that was all for our exchange.
But there was a lesson in that moment. That’s why they do what they do – why the military go downrange to risk their lives to put down evils all over the world. Our culture is exceptional for its simple good things, Christmas among them. This officer knew what to protect. He wanted to come home and practice his exceptional Americanism – maybe wish a total stranger Merry Christmas and really mean it. He knew the cost in American lives it took to provide that safe protected space from the persistent forces around us trying to destroy, occupy, and diminish everything American.
The snowflake students talk about their spaces safe from microaggression, completely oblivious to what it costs men like this officer to create the environments where someone like them can waste oxygen on toy battles over petty insults.
Well, he wasn’t wasting his oxygen. He gave out honors, and then Christmas presents. It’s what real Americans do.
“A man’s got to know his limitations,” said the character Harry Callahan. A community also has to know its limitations. What can a community do? It can hold meetings. It can pass laws and resolutions. It can collect and spend money. It can affect things within its domain.
The murderers yesterday lived in multiple community domains. At least one of their domains embraced religiously motivated mass killing of innocent people.
Meanwhile, the majority of people in the publicly visible community domains which the killers shared when they weren’t preparing for their murders, apparently did not know about the murders the killers were preparing to do. Whatever clues to their intentions the killers may have left in the world as they travelled internationally and assembled their murderous hardware were insufficient to trigger a response in the general community.
So, these calls for a community discussion and a community response to end gun violence, to the extent they don’t account for things that happen outside of the general community, seem naïve.
Ironically, to aggravate the problem, we’re governed by a true Islamophobic president who cannot bring himself to openly address the murderous sub cult within the Islamic community who have on numerous occasions killed innocent people in American gun free zones.
Realistically, Islamophobic leadership added to the list of inherent community limitations makes the outcome of more religiously motivated innocent killing foreseeable. It will occur again.
Attempts to control the hardware for killing in the general community won’t have any affect inside the murderous sub cult of Islam, just as it’s impossible to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.
Still, an individual can have a rational, instinctual response to the above set of circumstances, in the interest of self and family preservation. This is the position American individuals now find themselves. They can and must respond with anticipatory behaviors that will improve their chances of survival by reducing the set of their individual limitations.
Becoming more lethal, more evasive, more cautious, more mobile, getting in better physical condition, integrating defensive capacity into their lives, these are all rational responses for individuals to counter the risk of religiously motivated innocent killing that the general community limitations, by default, permit.
Different combinations are going to work for different people, but prudence would indicate that proceeding under the status quo until randomly harvested by a foreseeable threat is not a rational survival strategy.
“Nineteen ninety-four was the year the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, the US, and the UK all sat side by side at a long table in Hungary to sign what would be known as the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.
The brief document is far from a comprehensive treaty or even a security guarantee, but its intent and purpose was clear. Ukraine was giving up the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world under heavy pressure from Russia and the United States. In exchange, Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma wanted a public pledge from Clinton, Yeltsin, and John Major that they would “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”
Obviously Russia violated the agreement when it invaded and then annexed Crimea in March 2014. As for the other signatories, there are no means of enforcement in the memo[.]
[W]hat does it say when twenty years later Ukraine is practically helpless against the giant nuclear-backed war machine of Vladimir Putin and the United States tells Ukraine sorry, but it should have read the fine print in Budapest?
…It tells the world that American security promises are worthless (and British ones, for good measure). The only point of Budapest was to demonstrate to any potential aggressor–all eyes on the Russian bear next door, obviously–that the United States was putting Ukraine under its nuclear wing. If such displays are meaningless, and having one’s own nuclear weapon is the only way to be safe from aggression, it will not take long for other countries to move full speed toward acquiring them. Japan and Taiwan count on America to deter China. South Korea counts on America to deter North Korea. And whether they admit to it or note, half of the nations in the Middle East have rejected a push for nuclear weapons to match Israel’s because of America’s long shadow. It is difficult to see that restraint lasting very long if President Obama continues to meet Russian military aggression with weak sanctions, worthless negotiations, and expressions of deep concern.”
Gary Kasparov, “Winter Is Coming” 2015, pp. 51-53.
With respect to the Obama/Kerry agreement with Iran, evidently nuclear agreements signed by American Democrats aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
You have a lot of explaining to do. None of your concepts about an afterlife can be proven. None of your claims about Allah can be demonstrated. None of your foundations for religious belief can be shown to exist through the application of reason to observable facts.
Now, in your defense, all religions suffer from these basic evidentiary problems. Islam is no different in this respect. What makes Islam unique among religions, however, is that no other religion excuses bloodshed, killing, and legal sanctions, against certain people, in the defense of religious beliefs.
The rest of them are pretty peaceful in matters of dogma, and most importantly, practice. And to that extent, no harm means no foul. People can believe all sorts of things. And they can even act in all sorts of religiously motivated ways. And so long as those actions are consonant with other innocent human beings, it’s all good.
But Islam isn’t like all of the other religions now, is it? You can’t connect objective reality to your religious beliefs, can you? All you have is religious fervor, and no substantive foundation. That must drive you nuts.
And your insanity must be why Islam spawns so many harmful acts – not by the majority of you, but certainly by a material number of you.
Islam has pretty much cornered the market on mayhem these days. Used to be the Communists and Fascists were the major evil powers in the world, but nowadays the Muslims who slaughter innocents while shouting religious nonsense make those purely-political totalitarians look a bit old fashioned.
Here’s the deal. Until you change your ways and become observably, predictably, born again good citizens who can live compatibly with the rest of the world, you deserve to be stopped from causing more harm by all available means.
But save your breath on your religious explanations. Perform whatever dogmatic gymnastics you need to, to enable you to eliminate Islam’s propensity to spawn harmful behaviors, or take the consequences.
You’ve backed the rational world up into the position of having to kill you to stop you from causing more harm. And that’s not the worst of it – you kill yourselves far more than anyone else does! The fact that Muslims get hurt the worst in your jihad calculus only seems to assuage your religious sensibilities! More insanity.
I’ve reread this Memo several times. I’ll admit it’s a bit glib, but I don’t think there’s a hyperbolic or false word in it. Modernity awaits your arrival.
I want to thank well-meaning non-Muslims who, in the wake of these attacks, have emphasised that they have been carried out by a small, twisted minority. A terrorist’s goal is to sow hatred and discord, and by not giving in, you are defeating their plans.
But I want to say that as a Muslim, I wish that we weren’t so quick to emphasise that this has nothing to do with us. While I personally have never killed anyone and none of my friends and family have ever resorted to violence, radicalism has everything to do with Islam. And the failure to address that out of a well-intentioned commitment to tolerance is making the problem worse.
ISIS is a Muslim organisation, and it is an Islamic problem. Let me say it again to be perfectly clear. ISIS is a Muslim organisation, and they are a cancer at the heart of Islam. And the problem will not go away until Muslims confront that.
ISIS attackers scream ‘Allah hu’akbar’ during their attacks.
ISIS recruits cite Qur’anic verses as justification for the rape and enslavement of women.
ISIS soldiers kill archaeologists, gay men and women, and people who refuse to convert to Islam because they are blasphemers.
There are no Christians in ISIS. There are no Buddhists, Jews, Pagans, Taoists, Houngans, Catholics, Wiccans, Hindus or even Scientologists in ISIS. ISIS is a Muslim organisation and they kill in the name of Islam.
So don’t say that ISIS aren’t ‘true Muslims’ or that they are ‘not really Muslims’. Like any large organisation, ISIS exists in a spectrum. You have the aimless, restless teenager who never amounted to anything in his life and traveled to Syria because he can’t find a job and doesn’t know if the Qur’an is to be read from left to right or right to left. But you also have pious professionals, businessmen, and academics who read their Qur’an cover to cover, pray every day, were seduced into radicalism, and truly believe that the Islamic State’s goal of conquest is a noble one. The so-called ‘Caliph’ Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has a doctorate in Islamic studies.
So if you feel that Muslims are being oppressed or killed in Muslim countries, I expect you to also be just as outraged by ISIS. Because they have killed more Muslims in Iraq, Syria and Jordan than the entire US army. They have done more damage to the name and reputation of Islam than any Western nation. ISIS is Islam’s biggest enemy, not the US, not Israel or France or Germany or the Russians.
We have to own the problem. We have to admit that this is a religious problem, and we need to renew our commitment to a secular country which treats all religions equally. I have believed in the importance of secularism all my life, and with every day that passes that belief grows stronger. Religion is no way to govern a nation. Not any religion, and not any nation.
ISIS is not America’s problem, nor the British, nor the French. ISIS is not Syria or Iraq’s problem. ISIS is a problem for Muslims. And if you can’t admit that, you’re not really a good Muslim either.
We’re Still Haunted by the Labor Theory of Value
Why are so many students convinced that they should receive better grades for the papers they’ve spent so much time writing? It’s not a belief about the quality of those papers; it’s a belief about the hours and hours spent working on them.
This fundamental misunderstanding about the value of labor is at the center of the Marxist critique of capitalism.
The Center of Everything
For thousands of years, humans were sure that the earth was the center of the universe and the sun revolved around it. With the advent of systematic inquiry, scientists had to develop more and more complex explanations for why their observations of the universe did not fit with that hypothesis. When Copernicus and others offered an alternative explanation that was able to explain the observed facts, and did so more clearly and concisely, the heliocentric model triumphed. The Copernican revolution changed science forever.
There is a similar story in economics. For hundreds of years, many economists believed that the value of a good depended on the cost of producing it. In particular, many subscribed to the labor theory of value, which argued that a good’s value derived from the amount of work that went into making it.
Much like the geocentric view of the universe, the labor theory of value had some superficial plausibility, as it does often seem that goods that involve more labor have more value. However, much like the story in astronomy, the theory got increasingly complicated as it tried to explain away some obvious objections. Starting in the 1870s, economics had its own version of the Copernican revolution as the subjective theory of value became the preferred explanation for the value of goods and services.
Today, the labor theory of value has only a minuscule number of adherents among professional economists, but it remains all too common in other academic disciplines when they discuss economic issues, as well as among the general public. (The labor theory of grades is, as I noted above, particularly popular among college students.)
The Specter of Karl Marx (and Adam Smith)
One reason the theory is still the implicit explanation of value in many other disciplines is because they rely on the theory’s most famous adherent for their understanding of economics: Karl Marx. Marx was hardly the only economist to hold this view, nor is the labor theory of value unique to socialists. Adam Smith believed in a somewhat weaker version of the theory as well.
Without the labor theory of value, it is not clear how much of Marx’s critique of capitalism remains valid.
For Marx, the theory was at the center of his view of the problems of capitalism. The argument that capitalism exploited workers depended crucially on the view that labor was the source of all value and that the profits of capitalists were therefore “taken” from workers who deserved it. Marx’s concept of alienation focused on the centrality of labor to making us human and the ways in which capitalism destroyed our ability to take joy in our work and control the conditions under which we created value. Without the labor theory of value, it is not clear how much of Marx’s critique of capitalism remains valid.
Part of the problem for Marx and others who accepted the theory was that there were so many seemingly obvious objections that they had to construct complex explanations to account for them. What about the value of land or other natural resources? What about great works of art that were produced with a small amount of labor but fetched extremely high prices? What about differences in individuals’ skill levels, which meant that there would be different amounts of time required to produce the same good?
The classical economists, including Marx, offered explanations for all of these apparent exceptions, but, like the increasingly complex explanations of the geocentricists, they began to feel ad hoc and left people searching for a better answer.
The Austrian Revolution
In economics, that answer came when, much like Copernicus, several economists realized that the old explanation was precisely backward. This point was clearest in the work of Carl Menger, whose Principles of Economics not only offered a new explanation for the nature of economic value but also founded the Austrian school of economics in the process.
What Menger and others argued was that value is subjective. That is, the value of a good is not determined by the physical inputs, including labor, that helped to create it. Instead, the value of a good emerges from human perceptions of its usefulness for the particular ends that people had at a particular point in time. Value is not something objective and transcendent. It is a function of the role that an object plays as a means toward the ends that are part of human purposes and plans.
Thus, according to the subjectivists, land had value not because of the labor that went into tilling it, but because people believed that it could contribute to the satisfaction of some direct want of their own (such as growing crops to eat) or that it would contribute indirectly to other ends by being used to grow crops to sell at the market. Works of art had value because many people found them to be beautiful no matter how much or how little labor went into producing them. With value being determined by human judgments of usefulness, the variations in the quality of labor posed no trouble for explaining value.
Indeed, economic value was a completely separate category from other forms of value, such as scientific value. That’s why people pay money to have someone give them a complete horoscope reading even though astrology has no scientific value whatsoever. What matters for understanding economic value is the perception of usefulness in pursuit of human purposes and plans, not some “objective” value of the good or service.
Turning Marx Upside Down
But the real Copernican revolution in economics was how the subjective theory of value related to the value of labor. Rather than seeing the value of outputs being determined by the value of the inputs like labor, the subjective theory of value showed that it’s the other way around: the value of inputs like labor were determined by the value of the outputs they helped to produce.
The high market value of well-prepared food is not the result of the value of the chef’s labor. Rather, the chef’s labor is valuable precisely because he is able to produce food that the public finds especially tasty, beautiful, or healthy.
On this view, labor gets rewarded according to its ability to produce things that others value. When you then consider the ways in which labor combining with capital enables that labor to produce goods that humans value even more, which in turn increases labor’s remuneration, Marx’s whole worldview is suddenly turned on its head. Capital does not exploit labor. Instead, it enhances labor’s value by giving labor the tools it needs to make even more of the things that humans value.
Understood correctly through the subjective theory of value, capitalism is fundamentally a communication process through which humans try to sort out how best to make use of our limited resources to satisfy our most urgent wants. Exchange and market prices are how we make our subjective perceptions of value accessible to others so they can figure out how best to provide us with the things we value most.
We Have More Work to Do
For economists, the labor theory of value holds roughly the same validity as the geocentric view of the universe. For that reason, Marx’s whole theoretical apparatus, and therefore his criticisms of capitalism, are equally questionable.
Unfortunately, many people, academics outside economics and the public alike, are simply unaware of the Copernican revolution in economics. Knocking down the labor theory of value remains a labor-intensive and valuable task.
Sorting things out, providing grist for the grievance millers; a few might see the medicinal spirit here, but the adult adolescents most in need of the medicine will foreseeably emote with more blind defensive rage at the man holding the mirror.
What should matter is what you show people – the intentional connection offered and objectively accepted – an orderly social transaction based in reality, and manageable by both giving and receiving parties. And perhaps most people still operate this way. I’m not talking about them.
I’m talking about those for whom the inferences 3rd parties make are more important. People governed by this standard must be seen to process the culture around them appropriately and in a good light.
Social media probably empowers the mechanism, however, societal approval was never intended to mask content problems in the general culture. Everything got tolerable when the most important objective became to look good. Things are way out of balance now.
I’m talking to those who are not shy about telling you what looks good, what you may acceptably talk about, respond to, and engage. Young people and the perpetually adolescent will express social correctness about politics, life styles, entertainments, and psychoactive substances, but no subject is safe from the socially correct.
Speech outside of their bounds will cause shunning, taboo, ostracism, ritual condemnation, and vicious attack. Social correctness is political correctness on steroids.
Intrinsic value, durability, and objective worth, don’t weigh heavily in the analysis because those things require agreement. They can’t be imposed by one party over another. Social correctness is about power.
Social correctness is relative, adaptable, subject to fresh interpretation each time it is used. It is an ad hoc device, made up on the spur of the moment to transfer power from one person to another under the color of social justice. But unlike social justice, true justice is an objective evidentiary process.
In Seattle the 12th man is the crowd who help the team on the field. At least the 12th man is an objective expression everyone can see. But social correctness is like an invisible third party monitoring every exchange, who is completely subjective. Outsiders can’t see the structural barrier to real communication between them and the socially correct. But that’s okay since the socially correct will inform them.
Engage on a taboo subject, or bring up a non-prescribed inquiry that could expose a vulnerability, and you’d better brace yourself for hysterics and emotional terrorism. Speak correctly or deal with a freak-out.
Everyone has vulnerabilities, makes mistakes, has stories of personal foolishness in their lives. Enjoyment of our human foibles is a substantial source of humor for secure adults. But the socially correct see foibles as a first step down the path to a judgment, and a judgment could lead to the whole socially correct lattice coming under scrutiny. Scrutiny could lead to loss of control, power shifts, and decloaking the cultural icons that define intolerance. We’re talking substantial disempowerment of the socially correct.
Boundless tolerance requires strict intolerance to keep it up. It couldn’t be more hypocritical. It also couldn’t be more subjective and passive aggressive. This is a tool which makes everyone but the speaker of socially correct truth into a loser.
I wish I could turn the clock back to the time before people got their heads so full of this stuff – a nicer, more humorous, not so super sensitive time. But the cults have grown, and their subjects appear quite comfortable in their blinders hauling those heavy wagons of social correctness around.
Hopefully these pathologies will self-limit over time once natural selection has killed off all the hosts.
“As much as we’d like this to be a truly definitive commentary about Hillary’s testimony at the Benghazi hearing, at the time of this writing there are still hours to go…so we’ll just have to do the best we can.
In a nutshell, Hillary has been doing a fine job of being imperious, calm, and inhumanly disinterested in the deaths she has accepted “responsibility” (but not blame) for. Much like Jack the Ripper, you have to at least give her credit for being skilled at her craft.
Elijah Cummings, the ranking (emphasis on “rank”) Democrat on the committee has spent the day covering Hillary’s ass like a pair of overstretched panties from Lane Bryant, actually going so far as to pronounce the entire committee a political construct with no other purpose than to hurt Hillary’s chances to become president. It is worth noting that Cummings knows for a fact that this isn’t true, essentially giving him the same culpability (albeit after the fact) as the terrorists who burned our embassy and murdered American citizens.
As for Hillary, she seemed unbothered by the revelations that on the night of the attack she sent an email to Chelsea saying that it was a planned attack from Al Qaeda affiliates, and the next day she had a phone call with the Egyptian prime minister in which she explicitly stated that the attack had nothing to do with any Youtube video.
Days later, of course, she trotted out the Youtube video story while speaking in front of the coffins of our dead…she shared it with the families who had lost their sons…Susan Rice took the lie to the Sunday news shoes…and then Barack Obama took the completely fictitious story to the United Nations, where he disparaged America’s freedom of speech, and declared that “the future must not belong to those who would slander Islam.”
And all to cover Hillary’s hiney for her complete ineptitude in office, and to cover Barry’s ass for his ludicrous campaign claim (damn near his ONLY campaign claim) that “GM is alive, Bin Laden is dead, and Al Qaeda is on the run.”
So – is the media exploding over these revelations? They are not. It’s relatively safe to say that the media gives not a single damn, very few care about the truth on the Republican side, and no one cares about the truth on the Democratic side except to the extent that they want to hide it.
So as long as Hillary looks calm and composed while lying (which, we should note, sociopaths find remarkably easy) it seems likely that she’ll sail through this hearing and be that much closer to being nominated to run for president.
And should our nation be unfortunate enough (but perhaps deserving enough) to see her win that high office, we can only pray that her personal security will be no greater than that of Ambassador Chris Stevens.”
Neither Republicans nor Democrats will dare to “shut the government down” since, by doing so, Americans would discover free life without political Leviathan hovering over head, and they would discover just how much they don’t need Republicans and Democrats.
Without Big Brother, Americans would become self-reliant again. Without a social agency running to the rescue under lights and sirens, Americans would call on each other to help them in an emergency.
Without swarms of Officers from a multitude of New Offices sent hither to harass our people and eat out their substance*, Americans would solve their own problems, save for their own futures, provide for their own health needs, freely trade under voluntary agreements with others in America and around the world, carefully husband their physical and monetary resources to maximize wealth accumulation, preserve their environments, pursue creative income-generating acts to build better futures, care for disadvantaged and unfortunate members of their church and community, and basically do all that is necessary to form a civilized society.
Without government propaganda consuming and occupying the American discourse, Americans would discover they have the necessary skills to form a civilized society without being led by the nose like cattle.
Without politicians berating them about all that government must do for them, Americans would discover real self-esteem bubble up from within themselves as responsible functioning citizens.
Nearly 10% of Americans work for governments, however, their financial impact on America is far greater – the national debt they’ve run up is more than $2 trillion higher than our GDP. Obviously, American governments serve themselves first and foremost.
The relevant question is not whether to shut down the government. The relevant question is why on earth have we not shut it down already? It’s not like things are getting better!
Let’s turn off the microphones, close up the buildings, terminate the bureaucracies, and allow Americans to discover free life again without this crushing burden over head.
We have survived Leviathan thus far. We can certainly do much better without it dragging us down.
*See the Declaration of Independence.