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Below the cut tag you'll find a letter that I wrote to Dr. Steven Yates, a regular contributor to LewRockwell.com, in response to his recent essay, I agreed with the general theme of Dr. Yates' essay, but I did have some reservations. Here's a bit that really stuck with me:
I approached the topic [of affirmative action -- particularly affirmative action as practiced on university campasses where the push was on to increase female representation in the faculty of departments traditionally staffed almost entirely by men] as an individualist and a libertarian, and began to observe the response. I was not the only one. A number of solid, forthright scholarly works critical of affirmative action had begun to appear. Philosopher Nicholas Capaldi’s Out of Order: Affirmative Action and the Crisis of Doctrinaire Liberalism, sociologist Frederick R. Lynch’s Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action, and political scientist Herman Belz’s Equality Transformed: A Quarter Century of Affirmative Action were just three.

But in academia, a taboo had begun to fall over the discussion. It would gain momentum. None of these books received reviews in major journals, favorable or otherwise. It was the beginning of the era of political correctness, and horror stories were beginning to emerge of professors – some of them highly respected in their disciplines and popular with their students – getting into serious trouble over alleged "insensitivity" to minority students. The latter had come to have a power all out of proportion to their numbers, the power of inculcating guilt in white males and having it enforced through university administrations. It seemed to me almost self-evident that political correctness had been invented to protect affirmative action programs and the mindset behind them from the intense scholarly scrutiny it had begun to receive. The insinuation of political correctness was that anyone who had doubts about such programs was almost by definition a covert racist and sexist, and therefore to be discounted rather than responded to. Critics of affirmative action found themselves shouted down. The attacks on white males and on "Western, white male-dominated culture" rapidly snowballed during the early 1990s. Jesse Jackson’s "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go!" has become legendary.

Hello Again,

I just read your essay, and I was currious what kind of responses you've been getting to it. While I do not identify myself as a Christian, I aggreed with much of your argument, specifically that a lack of self-control gives rise to externally imposed social and/or governmental control.

I too followed the philosophy of science grad-school track, though I didn't stay with it long enough to get a Ph.D. and enter the philosphy profession. (Good thing too. Academic political correctness drives me nuts.)

I'd never encountered the idea that political correctness evolved when and how it did as a bulwark for affirmative action, but the idea makes sense to me.

I have known and even associated myself with many zealous advocates of materialism and rational empiricism. It was their rational irrationality and unwavering hostility towards religion and religionists which drove me from their ranks.

I'm glad I didn't read Rand in my late teens or early twenties. I came upon her dogmas second-hand and for a while acted the part of the intolerant, self-congratulatory Randroid even though I'd never read any of her books. With great plots and characters to act as anchors for that mindset, I probably wouldn't have shaken her doctrines as early as I finally did. I developed my extreme distaste for objectivism and Ayn Rand entirely as a result of my encounters with her dyed-in-the-wool true believers. Unfortunately, the Libertarian Party membership stripped of its Randroid contingent proably couldn't fill a mid-sized convention hall.

I wonder what olive branch you could offer to the irrational rationalists to convince them to embrace Christianity and raise their children in a faith that they presently regard as the epitomy of maladaptive delussional thinking? Are you willing to "meet them half-way?" If so, what would it mean to do so?

Disagreements: I found your comment about marijuana most off-putting. If the LP party abandoned their opposition to the Drug War, I would dissociate myself from them in heartbeat. I regard marijuana as an incredibly valuable and beneficial plant, and not just for making paper and skin care products. I do aggree that unkempt 60's throwbacks make poor advocates for the LP and libertarianism, but I think such people comprise a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of marijuana enthusiasts in the US.

I think you give Epicureans a bad wrap by using the term as a synonym for gluttony and lack of self-control. Surely you must know the difference. That tactic struck me as disengenuous and burned up a share of the good will I hold for some of the other positions you have on offer.

I look forward to your future essays, and if you ever write that sci-fi novel I'll be sure to read it.

Merry Christmas.

-Kevin M. O'Connor

link: http://www.lewrockwell.com/yates/yates87.html


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 26th, 2003 09:51 am (UTC)
I liked both his essay and your response. Let us know if he replies to you.
Dec. 26th, 2003 10:01 am (UTC)
Will do
I had a nice correspondence with him a few weeks ago, and I meant to post it to this journal, but then I deleted all the messages in a fury of clean in-box mania.
Dec. 26th, 2003 10:35 am (UTC)
An executive summary, then?
Dec. 26th, 2003 12:33 pm (UTC)
executive summary
Hmmm... The discussion involved a bit of nit-picking. It revolved around Dr. Yates' claim that secular societies (by which he meant Communist governments), in the absense of a belief in a moral authority higher than government, tend to grow tyranical and go on killing sprees. I said he was equivocating on the definition of "secular" government. I said that I thought communist governments that required their citizens to take a particular position with respect to the existence of God (i.e. they require that their citizens espouse anti-theism) do not count as secular but rather as a weird brand of theocracy. He sort of conceded the point.
Dec. 28th, 2003 01:39 pm (UTC)
Re: executive summary
Excellent post. I have often been considered a traitor of my gender because I oppose affirmative action. In regards to this:

"It revolved around Dr. Yates' claim that secular societies (by which he meant Communist governments), in the absense of a belief in a moral authority higher than government, tend to grow tyranical and go on killing sprees."

I would not say that having a moral authority higher than government prevents tyranny. On the contrary, history has shown that moral superiority -- either political or religious philosophy -- is the true danger to liberties. Many have been killed in the name of one god or another.

One only has to look at the going ons in the Middle East.
Dec. 28th, 2003 02:34 pm (UTC)
Re: executive summary
Well, in terms of the numbers of people killed, Communist regemes have killed more of their own people than have any other form of government. We're talking about tens of millions killed in just one century. No pope or sultan can match that record.
Mar. 7th, 2004 12:24 am (UTC)
Months later
I was reading another article on Lew Rockwell, this one from the 70's about the cult of Ayn Rand, when I stumbled across this gem:
It should be clear at this point in history that an ideological cult can adopt the same features as the more overtly religious cult, even when the ideology is explicitly atheistic and anti-religious. That the cults of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Trotsky, and Mao are religious in nature, despite the explicit atheism of the latter, is by now common knowledge.

And I thought back to this thread and thought I'd make a note for no one but myself.

link: http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard23.html
Dec. 26th, 2003 10:37 am (UTC)
I have really mixed feelings about the relevancy of affirmative action in modern society; it appears to be a way to force people to do what there are already laws in place to do, which is to be fair and equanaminous in choosing candidates for employment and education, unbiased by race, sex, age or religious preference.

I do have problems with the idea that there are people 'disabled' by those categories, and that they should somehow be 'more equal' (if that is a term) than others for a position. The reverse discrimination that has ensued is enormous, not to mention the ridiculous levels of political correctness, which I see in many cases as 'say what is tactful, not what you think' and doesn't affect mindsets, only social niceties. One of the toughest things for some folks to accept is that a bigot is a person who has deep set prejudices towards someone else... it's a term that can apply to anybody, not just the crackers of the world. PC doesn't ameliorate that, it only whitewashes it.

Being an advocate of honesty, I don't espouse political correctness. A spade is a spade, even if you call it a dark colored pointed object. I think the more honest we are about who we are, and the more accepting we are of each other as different rather than homogenous, the farther we will get towards real balance and equality. Insults are never acceptable... but truth is. Might be brutal, might be ugly, but it is the coin of the realm in cooperative human relations, in my opinion.

Thanks for posting the essay and your response.

Dec. 26th, 2003 12:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Hmm
Truth is good.

The reverse discrimination that has ensued is enormous, not to mention the ridiculous levels of political correctness, which I see in many cases as 'say what is tactful, not what you think' and doesn't affect mindsets, only social niceties.

I'd say political correctness has an enormous impact on mindsets simply because students, who in an academic setting not ruled by political correctness would normally encounter a panopoly of viewpoints, only hear the party line. Because faculty members cover their asses and keep mum about any reservations they may harbor concerning the seemingly universal truths of politically correct thought students never encounter the actual viewpoints of that their favorite instructors; viewpoints which in a different environment they would have received warmly due to the esteem in which they hold those instructors who genuinely impress them.

The true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought reveals itself as a jarring dissonance.

-Leonard Schapiro
Dec. 26th, 2003 03:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Hmm
When you put it that way, I can see how it has a much larger impact than I had imagined. I had not seen it specifically as a form of propaganda, but that is how it is structured. How clever.
Dec. 30th, 2003 07:33 pm (UTC)
I have noticed that many atheists, not just the Randian ones, have this fervent hostility against religion. And while their fervor may be unpleasant, I believe it only comes from a rational conviction that they are right. I do not believe it is correct to call these fanatics "irrational rationalists." Their hostile behavior does not mean that their stance is incorrect. Perhaps a better name would be "obnoxious rationalist." If they are fanatics then they are only fanatics for truth.
Dec. 30th, 2003 07:47 pm (UTC)
Basically, what seems to have driven him away from objectivism is the hostile attitudes some of the followers have displayed towards religion, rather than an actual rational examination of the nature of religion and god.
Dec. 30th, 2003 09:43 pm (UTC)
"irrational rationalists"
I do not believe it is correct to call these fanatics "irrational rationalists."

Then I don't think that you've met the kinds of folks I have in mind when I use the phrase "irrational rationalists." I've seen CSICOP-types use all manner of logical fallcies in advancing their materialist worldview.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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