Tuesday, January 28, 2003

My new Moveable Type weblog is up and running as of today.

Please come and visit public opinion's new home

Christopher Hitchens

This debate over war with Iraq may be academic after Hans Blix, the Chief UN weapons inspector, told the UN Security Council that Iraq has not accepted international demands that it disarm and Washington immediately said there was no sign Iraq wants to cooperate. Washington is going to war no matter what happens at the United Nations.

Then again, maybe its not academic as we are not at war yet. The article by Christopher Hitchens, 'Wake Up, Peaceniks!' has a more interesting angle than most as he maintains that the 'government and people of the United States are now at war with the forces of reaction.' The response by Steven Lukes, Sorry, Hitchens, this time it should be ‘no’ to war is critical of the way Hitchen's classifies the opponents of war as " ‘peaceniks’, ‘smart-ass critics and cynics’, who lack ‘self-criticism’, make ‘doom-laden predictions’ and exhibit ‘self-satisfied isolationism’. Our ‘past form’ is, apparently, one of opposing interventions in the Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan."

Though I am against Australia's involvement in the US go it alone war I have no doubts that Saddam Hussein's regime is totalitarian, repressive and brutal. For an insight, see Torture stories. It is pretty strong.

Monday, January 27, 2003

NSW Election Website
Many do not dip into Margo Kingston's Webdiary because they think that no pearls of wisdom can be found buried in what they see as journalist dross. So they may have missed this.

It is a site called, NSW Election 2003, and you may still find it of interest, even though it is hosted by the liberal Sydney Morning Herald

There is good material there particularly on the way that the 'crime card' is being used by politicians as an election strategy. It involves responding to the public fear of crime by Scaring up the votes. The aim of the strategy is not to explore answers or solutions but to exploit anxiety for political advantage. The politicians then identify problems they promise to "fix" via sentencing changes, such as "truth in sentencing", "three strikes and you're in", hard-drug pushers would die in jail", "hoodlum patrols would reclaim the streets for our citizens and make them safe again".

And Paolo Totaro here asks, why, are there no properly evaluated studies to measure the efficacy of equally radical proposals such as mandatory sentencing, when the evidenced-based approach was the nom for a medically supervised heroin-injecting room put in place by the State Government? Paolo then makes a good observation:

"Our political leaders do not explain how they translated the public's often justifiable fears about personal safety or crime rates into a demand for expensive, untested policies that, to date, have done absolutely nothing to pre-empt or curb crime - and even less to rehabilitate or educate offenders before release. Rather, the law and order auction that began with Nick Greiner's 1988 "truth in sentencing" legislation and continues today with mandatory sentencing has simply added to our already bursting jails."

And in this piece Paolo refers to a group of international crime experts who have called for an end to the use of law and order as a "political shuttlecock", proposing reforms to safeguard the legal system from electioneering politicians.

These experts observe that the politicisation of law and order has had a "profound effect on the traditional separation of powers between the Parliament, the executive and the judiciary ... [that] hallmark of the Westminster system of government ... appeared to be breaking down at the close of the century in Australia."

And thats a good judgement.
Renovations almost Complete

Public opinion's new home at Moveable Type is up but not running yet. It can be viewed at Public Opinion. What do you think?

philosophy.com will move over to Moveable Type as an associated site whilst a heap of junk for code will stay with Blogger but will be slowly renovated.
Australia Day

There is a posting on Australia Day and nationalism at philosophy.com It is a defence of nationalism.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Market Values to Live by

The 1980s heralded a revolution in Australia. it was a case of out with the old inward-looking, protectionist Australia and in with the new open, competitive and dynamic Australia that was full of get up and go. We had to change our old habits, embrace new ways of thinking, force new ways of doing things: in short we had reinvent ourselves to cope with an infinity of constant change.

The model of what we should become in the global world was the well-heeled and sassy entrepreneur, who was full of confidence as he wheeled and dealed, had panache in the board room and desired to make bucket loads of money. That image of corporate swagger with a just a touch of the bully boy is from the booming 1990s, but it was said to be just right for the times. The Zeitgeist was the invisible hand, which ensured that what evolved was benign.

Remember all that? The justification came from Hayek. This said that the entrepreneur, the one who took calculated risks, made full use of their unique knowledge and seized the opportunities that were open to them, was the ideal individual in the Great Society. They would acquire self -discipline by taking responsibility for themselves and would develop the necessary moral habits (ethos? virtues?comportment?) that were needed to sustain and facilitate the development of the Great [liberal] Society.

Remember that? All the unemployed were being asked to jump on their bikes and pedal into a glorious future by becoming independent self-employed producers liivng in a free market culture.Australia as a nation of entrepreneurs was a heady vision.

We were at the end of history, living in the eternal present of the global market, with our future written by the present. Remember that? Well, how times change.The 'can do step aside' style is now an out of date fashion. Now its all about corporate governance protocols, market regulation, corporate responsibility, compliance with tax.

What happened in between the fashions?

Wreckage. Lots and lots of corporate wreckage.

And the entrepreneurs? This ---- Martino on the rocks ----says it all.

What does that excess say about the social order of the Great Society based on the dynamism of the self-organizing market with its ethos of competition and entrepreneurship? Surely, the corporate wreckage is not due to the heavy hand of politics destroying the delicate institutional framework that facilitated the flowering of individual talent, energy and enterprise?
Internet slows down

Things were very slow over the weekend. Public Opinion barely functioned, it was difficult to access websites, traffic was way down and it was very very slow browsing. Was this the effect of the new worm called Sapphire?
New material on other weblogs

There is a post on Richard Rorty, the well known and influential US pragmatist philosopher, at philosophy.com for people interested in such high culture things. At a heap of junk for code there is a post on market icons----the example is the new MacIntosh Powerbook---called becoming fashionable.

My how the world has changed. It was not long ago that the Marxist academic left was launching critiques of consumer capitalism based on their elitist taste for "popular culture", consumer desires and hedonism; and for the way the culture industry sought to create passive disciplined consumers. Now we find our identity, soul and enjoyment in the marketplace and celebrate its carnivalesque qualities. We are now excluded from life if we are not able to play the consumer game with flair and success.
Chewing over Christopher Pearson

I wasn't able to read CP, my favourite neocon, this weekend. It was not until this morning over breakfast that I was able to read his pearls of wisdom in his weekly columnn in the The Weekend Australian. Whilst talking about regional haute cuisine Adelaide style (marinated kangaroo tail marinanted and served with oyster sauce and emu liver pate), CP says:

"For the bolshier of my friends, the kangaroo and emu as national emblems were just a joke (like nationalism itself)and eating was all they were fit for. These days all but the bolhiest of my friends have cahnged their tune about nationalism. The too often shambolic character of the UN is more transparent and diluting domestic sovereignty is a clear abrogation of reponsibility.The fantasy of world government looks every bit as anachronsitic as our federal coat of arms, but where one is sinister the other is harmless and hallowed by time."

The left anti-nationalist? Only one current---the internationalist one that celebrated a dynamic, thrusting revolutionary capitalism penetrating deep into the tissue of tradition and premodernity ( India, China & Australia)--was anti-nationalist.
The other strand was deeply nationalist and anti-American (hostile to the US as an empire) before it went postmodern.

CP is not a very reliable guide to our intellectual history. His narratives appear to based on a lot of forgetting.

But I do agree with CP that our national anthem needs some zip and passion. Its banal. Lets have one that we, as a confident people, are proud of rather than embarrassed about.

This is no secular liberal state. It has become a theocracy where the Orthodox rabbis are an arm of government, and settlers believe that God has ordered them to built in illegally occupied Palestinian lands and to keep that territory with force of arms if need be.

Here are a couple of weblogs that dealing with this area that I have come across. The first, Debkra file, says that it starts where the media stops. And the other is In context. The Australian media's reporting on the Middle East is a bit thin.
Says it all

The Australian Government has sent troops to the Middle East and is saying to its citizens does not mean a commitment to war. Troops have been sent even though the diplomatic efforts through the United Nations have not been exhausted, polls show that around two thirds of Australians oppose the nation joining in any US led attack on Iraq, and the Australian Parliament has not been consulted.

This line from Cameron Stewart,'World at War',Weekend Australian sums it up. Cameron says:

"...what is becoming increasingly plain---that if the US marches into Iraq, Australia will be marching along side it, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks."

The reason Australia is doing this?

It will allow Australian forces to properly prepare for any war and it will increase pressure of Iraq to surrender his suspected weapons of mass destruction. Thats the justification given by John Howard.

It's not even the pretence of a case. I presume that Howard's case for war will be made by President Bush's upcoming State of the Union address, where Bush is expected to lay out a case against Iraq. Meanwhile the Bush administration is engaged in a campaign to bolster public opinion at home and abroad whilst Europe remains sceptical. Whilst In Britain, War Concern Grows Into Resentment of U.S. Power .

Lets face it. Australia has all but abandoned the United Nations.

Over at Eye of the Beholder Scott Wickstein makes a good point about Australia's involvement. He says:

" The point is that Australia's contribution isn't going to make a scrap of difference to the military outcome. It's a purely political decision, and how this advances Australia's political standing, I've no idea."

I heartily agree. So do a lot of other Australians.
A bit of neo-con dash and splash

For those interested this lecture by Stanton Evans gives a good working account of conservatism. He says:

"I define conservatism pretty much in the way that most Ameri-cans would define it - as the practical political position identified with such spokesmen as Senator Barry Gold-water and former Governor Ronald Reagan. This is a view which stresses the primacy of individual freedom, the economic merits of free enterprise, the importance of limited government, the need for a strong national defense, and so on. In philosophical terms, this con-servatism is thought to rest on a respect for tradition and custom, affirmation of religious principle, the rule of law, and a belief in constitutional processes."

And then he adds:

"Within conservative ranks there are, and for many years have been, two over-arching philosophical tendencies. For want of better terms, these have been loosely defined as "libertarian" and "traditionalist." The first stresses the primacy of individual freedom and limitations on the power of the state. The second stresses shared com-munity values in general, religious principle and reliance on tradition."

The argument that I have been developing is that there is a tension, if not a contradiction, between these libertarian and traditionalist strands. These are less strands and more liberal and conservative traditions. They formed an alliance to fight socialism and communism in the 20th century. But with the fall of the Berlin wall in the 1980s, and communism defeated, the battles lines between conservatism and liberalism have, once again, become sharply defined, as they were in the 19th century.

This, more or less, is a reworking of the argument of Irving Kristol. See here for some of Kristol's'writings. This argument holds that the driving ethos of conservatism is in fundamental disagreement with, and antagonistic to, the key liberal idea (eg.a utilitarian neo-classical economics) that the individual is sovereign. Conservatives, on this account, uphold the authority of the state and the primacy of politics over economics.

Stanton Evans directly takes on my incompatibility thesis. He says it can be :

,...demonstrated that there is no inherent conflict between the libertarian and traditionalist emphases within the conservative com-munity. These two emphases, I would contend, are aspects of a coherent world-view-hemispheres which make a whole. I would, indeed, go further: to suggest that these emphases are "compatible," or that they can somehow be made to fit together, is to understate the degree of reciprocity between them.'

Its worth a read. it has a good account of the liberal philosophy of history that we all learned on daddy's knee.