Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: April 2012


The cult of Che and the horror of the “greater good”

Matt Welch at Reason puts me on to an incredible quote that I’ll share in a moment.  First a little back story.  Apparently Argentine Che Guevara has some Irish roots.  So a few not so notable town council members in the Irish town of Galway had decided to honor Che’s roots and, as it turns out, that developed into a plan to erect a memorial to him (the Cuban embassy planned on paying for it). 

That, as you might imagine, sparked outrage from around the world when word finally leaked out.  And so now it appears that the memorial won’t be built.

Che Guevara was a ruthless murderer.  Most sane people, who’ve taken the time to research him, know that.  So why does a communist mass murderer remain so popular? 

Well there’s an element of the left so immersed in advancing what they call the “greater good” that they’re willing to forgive or overlook just about anything in its name.  If you don’t believe me all you need to read is this quote by Darragh McManus in the Independent, talking about the Galway kerfuffle:

Yes, Che was ruthless and fanatical and sometimes murderous. But was he a murderer? No, not in the sense of a serial killer or gangland assassin. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.

Whether morally justifiable or not, there is something admirable in that — pure principle in a world of shabby compromise. Maybe this is why Che remains such an icon, both in image and idea.

The idea?   That it is a “good thing” when one “so immersed in advancing the ‘greater good’” is willing to “push past ethical restraints and their own conscience” to advance it.

Of course, I assume you understand that Guevara and apparently McManus’s idea of a “greater good” wouldn’t be something most people wouldn’t agree with.   Certainly looking at the Cuba that Guevara helped create few would consider it to be an example of “greater good”.  While what existed there prior to the communist takeover was not ideal by any stretch, what replaced it, in the name of the “greater good”, has turned out to be even worse.

And yet apologists like McManus try to make “the ends justify the means” into something to be admired if the “greater good” – whoever gets to arbitrarily define that – is served.

Look at that quote.   It is the blueprint for China, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba and today’s Venezuela.  Certainly Guevara wasn’t a mass murderer on the level of Mao (65 million) for instance.  But that’s not because he wasn’t willing to be … its more because it wasn’t necessary to advance his version of the “greater good”.

I still don’t get the Che chic.  There’s a video at the Reason site at the above link in which a Cuban exile talks about the irony of entertainment and musical celebrities idolizing Che.  He points out the Che hated the music they play and would have moved to shut them down or worse had they been Cubans.

Take a few moments and watch the video.  It’s enlightening (and provides even more irony than you can imagine).  It truly makes the point that ignorance is bliss.  It also wonders why the mass murderers of communism seem to get a pass.

But if you don’t feel a chill reading McManus’s quote then you have no love for human rights and freedom.  This mindset still exists.  There it is in black and white.  I can’t think of a more dangerous ideology than one that tries to justify anything in the name of the “greater good”.

That’s what you should think of every time you see the visage of Che.

It should remind you that many who claim to believe in the “greater good” really mean the ends justify the means.  That might makes right. That whatever it takes to put them in power is okay.

And the celebration of a mass murderer’s life should tell you all you need to know about them.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama’s criticism of SCOTUS hardly “scholarly”

There are times when even I’m a bit surprised at what manages to work its way out of our President’s mouth.  After all, included in what little we do know about the guy is the claim that he was a “Constitutional lawyer”.  He even taught that in Chicago to law students, or so we’re told.

Yet yesterday, in a press conference with the leaders of Mexico and Canada he was asked about the pending Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare and said:

“I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected congress.”

I can’t imagine a more supremely arrogant and yet profoundly ignorant statement than that.  Of course, at least in my day, most school children would have understood the ignorance of that statement.

I’ll illustrate it for you if necessary by adding a bit to his words:

“I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected congress that allows whites to lynch blacks.”

Obviously he’d be clamoring for the SCOTUS to overturn a law like that.  And he wouldn’t hesitate to condemn the “strong majority of democratically-elected” officials that passed such a law n the first place (and lets pretend this was signed before he assumed office – you know, Bush did it).  Strong majorities (in the case of ObamaCare it was 219 to 212) passing anything are irrelevant if what they pass is in conflict with the Constitution – period.

In the hypothetical most of us would immediately identify the fact that a) murder and lynching are not within the power of any majority to sanctify and certainly not a power granted in the Constitution and b) it is the job of the Supreme Court to strike down laws that are unconstitutional regardless of how strong the majority voting for it.

I can’t imagine a supposed, or at least self-described, Constitutional scholar making such an ignorant statement to begin with … but there it is.  He then followed it up with this:

“I just remind conservative commentators that for years we have heard the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint. That an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example and I am pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.”

Smartest guy in the room?  I’m sorry, but that just doubles down on ignorance.

As we’ve discussed (most recently on the podcast) it isn’t the job of the Supreme Court to do the job of Congress.   Instead, its job is  to determine whether or not what Congress has done is compliant with the limits the Constitution places on it.  That’s it.  There is nothing which requires the Supreme Court to “fix” laws that Congress has passed.  

Justice Kennedy alluded to this when he said that the removal of the individual mandate would completely change the law in a way that was clearly not what Congress intended.  Thus the “conservative” thing for the court to do would be to strike down the entire law and tell Congress to go back to work.  Of course the Democrats and Obama know that if the entire law is struck down, the likelihood of it being “fixed”, given the Republican House, are remote.  Thus we hear the usual nonsense about “judicial activism” and the other garbage Obama tossed out above making the rounds on the left.

Then there’s the remark about “an unelected group of people”.  My goodness Constitutional scholar, they’re “unelected” and appointed for life for a reason.  And that reason is to remove politics, as much as possible, from their deliberations and allow them to focus entirely on the law and Constitution.  Obviously, it seems, politics haven’t been kept out of the Supreme Court, but for the President to take a juvenile shot like that at the Court while it is in deliberations is fairly outrageous.

Bottom line: If those Obama quotes now illustrate “Constitutional scholarship” in this day and age, this Republic is in very deep trouble.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Quote of the Day: Unemployment reality check edition

James Pethokoukis provides us with the quote (a little context when you hear all the “sunshine and roses” employment reports):

[T]o restore the job market to the state it was in back in 2007, before the recession, would require the creation of 14.8 million jobs in today’s terms, a daunting task to say the least.

FRED supplies the graphic:

 

040212obamajobsgap

 

Enough said.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Higher Education: Here’s a surprise

OK, I’m being facetious in the title.  Well, at least for those who’ve been paying attention.  For the rest, this may actually come as a surprise:

Political activism has drawn the University of California into an academic death spiral. Too many professors believe their job is to "advance social justice" rather than teach the subject they were hired to teach. Groupthink has replaced lively debate. Institutions that were designed to stir intellectual curiosity aren’t challenging young minds. They’re churning out "ignorance." So argues a new report, "A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California," from the conservative California Association of Scholars.

My guess is, and I think this would be easily substantiated, that the U of C system is just an example of the problem, not the sole problem.  (The study is here.)

Of course the left has a ready answer for all of this:

UC Berkeley political science Professor Wendy Brown rejected that argument. (Yes, she hails from the left, she said, but she doesn’t teach left.) The reason behind the unbalance, she told me, is that conservatives don’t go to grad school to study political science. When conservatives go to graduate school, she added, they tend to study business or law.

"If the argument is that what is going on is some kind of systematic exclusion," then critics have to target "where the discouragement happens."

So, other than “stereotypes are us”, Prof. Brown has no real explanation.  Because, of course, unless all “conservatives” go to business and law and none to political science (which we know isn’t true), the problem isn’t about who does or doesn’t got into grad school, but who gets hired by universities, isn’t it?   And most people with a modicum of common sense know that most people who hire have a tendency to hire people like what?   Like them.

And anyway, it appears its not really about learning or acquiring skills such as critical thinking:

At the same time, grades have risen. "Students often report that all they must do to get a good grade is regurgitate what their activist professors believe," quoth the report.

Hardly an atmosphere (akin to a “hostile workplace”, no?)in which a “conservative” would feel comfortable and certainly not one in which a critical thinker would be welcome.

Peter Berkowitz took a look at the study and concluded that the result was much worse than imagined:

The politicization of higher education by activist professors and compliant university administrators deprives students of the opportunity to acquire knowledge and refine their minds. It also erodes the nation’s civic cohesion and its ability to preserve the institutions that undergird democracy in America.

[…]

The analysis begins from a nonpolitical fact: Numerous studies of both the UC system and of higher education nationwide demonstrate that students who graduate from college are increasingly ignorant of history and literature. They are unfamiliar with the principles of American constitutional government. And they are bereft of the skills necessary to comprehend serious books and effectively marshal evidence and argument in written work.

In other words, they’re indoctrinated and not taught to think critically.  And, per the study, they’re actually ignorant of “the institutions that undergird democracy in America”.  That would, in part, explain their ‘shock’ at the validity of the arguments against ObamaCare (so there’s your example of the point).

Granted, this is but one study, it’s by a conservative group and there may be a bit of confirmation bias concerned on my part, but I’d love to see the left really document an actual challenge to its substantive points instead of doing what they usually do – wave it away.  While it may be one study by a conservative group, it does note that which Berkowitz points out – “numerous studies” of the system demonstrate the facts listed, i.e. an increasing ignorance of history and literature, unfamiliarity with the principles of American constitutional government, lacking skills necessary to comprehend serious writing, marshal evidence and argue their point effectively.  Or, in other words, think critically.  Wait, isn’t that what universities are supposed to teach?

Start there.  Explain.

HT: Instapundit

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


I don’t know about you, but I left my lights on last night

You may not have even known about Earth Hour last night when environmental activists were urged to turn off their lights from 8:30 to 9:30.

Instead I celebrated “Human Achievement Hour” by leaving mine burning brightly.  Helen Whalen Cohen explains:

Technology and innovation have made our lives immeasurably better. We can fly to other countries in hours. Medical achievements have made formerly deadly diseases curable. The poorest people in the United States have what would have, until recently, been considered luxury items. There are seven billion people living on this planet, and lives have never been so long and so prosperous. Talk about a cause worth celebrating.

Nothing makes that clearer than the light at night made by man.

Of course that doesn’t mean, then, that I am against good stewardship of the earth’s resources, all for  wiping out animal species or want dirty air and water.

Hardly.  That, of course, is the usual false choice set out there by radical environmentalists.  I, and most people like me, believe that human achievement and good stewardship can coexist.

What we don’t believe is that human beings are a blight on this earth and that technology does more harm than good.   In fact, I think Earth Hour is probably a good thing for demonstrating that point.   I’d even go a step further for those who like to do that and tell them to go to the breaker box in their house and trip the main breaker and turn off all the electricity.  Then turn off the gas.  Finally, walk out to the box in the front yard and turn off the water.  And let’s extend it for a while.  Say a day?  2 days?  A week?

A few days of drawing water from the creek, washing clothes on scrub board, cooking over a fire and reading by candle light might drive the point home. Oh, wait, no books … produced by technology, right?  No phones, fast food or driving a car either.  Have a doctor’s appointment during that time?  No CT, MRIs or much of any sort of test.  Sorry … but enjoy!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with what humans have achieved and we should celebrate it.  Not sit in the dark for an hour each year pretending things are worse.  That doesn’t “save the planet” … the planet is fine, thank you very much.

Anyway, I’m pushing for “Earth Days” next year.  Let’s see these folks put their actions where their mouths are.

2 to a week of fun without technology.  Make it attractive and better and you may get my attention.

In the meantime I’m planning to celebrate of "Human Achievement Days” during that time where I will essentially live as I am now (yup, I celebrate HAD every day).

Guess who will enjoy their days more?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 01 Apr 12

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the Supreme Court arguments on Obamacare.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.