|Baby Economics||Postmodernism's Take on "Flake" Journalism|
by Christopher Chantrill
June 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm
I WAS TROTTING along the other day, reading The Secret Knowledge by newly conservatized playwright David Mamet, when something pulled me up short. Mamet was explaining his revelation upon reading Friedrich Hayeks The Road to Serfdom... He wrote that there are no solutions; there are only tradeoffs... and that this is the Tragic view of life.
No he didnt, I said to myself. Hayek didnt write about the tragic view of life, not in The Road to Serfdom at any rate. Mamet must have mixed up Hayek with Thomas Sowell.
Now this doesnt really matter, except to government functionaries occupying tenured sinecures at government universities. Who cares about a bit of misattribution among friends? If David Mamet has indeed been burning through the conservative canon with a hard, gem-like flame in the last couple of years, it would be surprising if he hadnt got a few things mixed up. Thats what good editors are for.
But then I ran into Christopher Hitchens waspish review of Secret Knowledge in The New York Times. And he repeats the tragic view error. So now we are getting into the Churchillian problem that a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on. Writes Halfway Hitch, after a swipe at Mamet for not reading Hayeks Why I am Not a Conservative:
Briefly, Hayek identified what he called the Tragic View of the free market: the necessity of making difficult choices between competing goods.
OK, this time I checked out the tragic view with Google Books. There is no discussion of tragic view in The Road to Serfdom. The word tragic appears twice, but not as a Weltanshauung. The Constitution of Liberty? There is one hit for tragic,as in This development is especially tragic. And so on.
Hitch would have known this if he had read, learned, and inwardly digested his Hayek as a young schoolboy in Britain, before he squandered his life chasing leftist chimeras until the day of his 9/11 epiphany. Hed have known that Hayek doesnt go in for ringing phrases and overarching paradigms. In fact, if you mine Hayek for pithy quotes you usually come away empty-handed. Hayek is incapable of making any point in less than a paragraph.
No, the chap with the tragic view is Thomas Sowell. Only he calls it the tragic vision and he has written two books about it. In A Conflict of Visions of 1987 he compared the constrained vision of conservatives and the American Revolution with the unconstrained vision of our liberal friends and the French Revolution. The constrained vision is a tragic vision of the human condition, Sowell explained, and goes on to examine the radically opposed ways in which the two visions look at everything from knowledge to equality, power, and justice.
In 1996 Sowell returned to the topic in the The Vision of the Anointed. Liberals are people with the vision of the anointed. Sensible practical people, like Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in The Federalist Papers, hold the tragic vision. Since Anointed has 31 instances of tragic vision and the book gets an entry in Mamets bibliography, I reckon thats where he read about it. Good for him.
Hitchens does get one thing right. He writes, right off the top, that This is an extraordinarily irritating book. For to like it you would have to be persuaded by Mamets unqualified assertions that the animus of the left against Sarah Palin is her status... as a Worker, or that Marx never worked a day in his life. The value of the book is its fighting words, as in: We will recall that the sibilant in the acronym NAZI stands for Socialist. Or what about this?
Contemporary Liberal sentiment endorses the abrogation or elaboration of law to ensure that no one suffers, but the first and most important task of law in a democracy is... to ensure that no one suffers because of the State. And the simple, tragic truth is that this may be accomplished... only by limiting the States power.
That sort of writing is very irritating, if only to a liberal.
What liberals cant quite get their heads around is the idea that modern conservatism is not the European apology for the old landed elite they want it to be, but a movement of irritating middle-class strivers, people like Reagan, son of the town drunk, Thatcher, daughter of the corner grocer, Sowell, high-school dropout. In fact, modern conservatives look a lot like David Mamet, the smart, tough Jewish kid from Chicago, only without all the f-words.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,
Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop
discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values
Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion
The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America