Better Enjoy the War: The Peace Will Be Terrible

So, allegedly, went a popular joke in Nazi Germany. How surprising to imagine that they thought of what the peace would be like! The ideology called for a system that was unlikely to ever produce it. A war of all against all, meant to lead to the ethic domination of one party on all others, seems least likely to produce anything like a peace.

Perhaps they always knew that vengeance was coming. The subject of the article is the question: does peace require vengeance? I suspect the answer is that it does: there are times when the failure to exact a due and dispassionate revenge will prevent you from being respected enough to serve as a new locus of authority.

But so say I; decide for yourselves. It is an interesting story.

The Party of Big Taxes

Which party? The Republican Party, or so advises Mark Steyn:
Any “debt-reduction plan” that doesn’t address at least $1.3 trillion a year is, in fact, a debt-increase plan.

So given that the ruling party will not permit spending cuts, what should Republicans do? If I were John Boehner, I’d say: “Clearly there’s no mandate for small government in the election results. So, if you milquetoast pantywaist sad-sack excuses for the sorriest bunch of so-called Americans who ever lived want to vote for Swede-sized statism, it’s time to pony up.”

Okay, he might want to focus-group it first. But that fundamental dishonesty is the heart of the crisis. You cannot simultaneously enjoy American-sized taxes and European-sized government. One or the other has to go.
So what's the scale of "ponying up"? It's there in the piece: every tax of every kind needs to go up by half, assuming we can prevent entitlements from growing any larger than they are today. Which, of course, we cannot do.

Politics, Book III, Parts V-IX

A few more parts of Book III over the weekend, if you like. Part V asks whether everyone should be a citizen -- that is, to have a share in both ruling and obeying -- or if some orders of those in the city should be ruled only. This is similar to the debate we had a couple of years ago about the extent of the franchise, but this is the ancient take on the question. Aristotle doesn't give a final answer to the question here, but he does answer the question from the last post: are the virtues of the good man and the good citizen the same? Yes, he tells us, in states where all citizens are part of the ruling class.

After that Aristotle takes on the question of forms of government. We'll stop with Part IX because a new big question comes up in Part X, which is where the ultimate source of sovereignty ought to reside: with the people, or somewhere else? That's a discussion in itself.

Cheap, ubiquitous solar power

I like the way these young men think.  I wrote about them a few months ago, when they were raising money for their enterprise on Kickstarter, which is now coming along very well.  They almost make me remember what it was like to be young.

Syllogistic Logic

Writing about a recent post encouraging traditional gender roles, a feminist offers a partial concurrence:
But, as time passed — and my 20s became my 30s — I began to realize that when I told men I was independent and didn’t "need anyone," many eventually backed off.
This is not difficult to understand. One of the classic Aristotelian syllogisms was called "Cesare" by medieval logicians. Her problem is an excellent example of how this very basic form of logic works:

I need no men.
You are a man.

I do not need you.

Surely it's no surprise that people who are told they aren't needed eventually go away.

Campus Sexual Harassment

Dr. Jacobson at College Insurrection has a complaint about a sexual harassment case at UVA. I happened to have an opportunity to talk to the woman who is in charge of a similar code governing another major Southern university about how these codes developed.
The Office of Civil Rights’ mandated procedures for investigating sexual assault are tilted heavily against the accused party... [and] judge the student according to a 50.00001 percent preponderance of evidence standard, an approach that mocks even the pretense of due process....

It is remarkable, then, that one such accused student at the University of Virginia was exonerated of the charges brought against him. Unfortunately, what happened next was unsurprising.

The accuser hired an outside attorney–none other than controversial victims’ rights lawyer Wendy Murphy–and filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. Murphy’s argument, as expressed to, comes close to saying that a failure to convict amounts to an OCR violation. “The preponderance standard is simple,” she told the newspaper. “When her accusations are deemed credible, and his denials are not described with the same glowing terminology, she wins.” But under the UVA system, the investigators (serving as the equivalent of a grand jury) have the authority to deem an accuser’s claims “credible.” For the OCR even to consider such an absurd claim would be highly problematic.
What I did not understand until my recent conversation was how much our campus sexual-harassment environment is the product of lawsuits rather than legislation. It is true that the OCR sees enforcement of these codes as a kind of civil rights campaign, but the actual mandate they are enforcing was largely produced by court cases where students sued the schools for having inadequately protected them. The courts accepted that the schools were liable, and said that they would need to have clear procedures in place to handle these cases. Then, when schools created such procedures, time and again they were found liable anyway, forcing the procedures to become even more tilted.

The most recent comprehensive guidance from OCR is here. Note that the letter is addressed to the colleges, and is all about what standards the colleges have to adhere to in order to avoid liability. They cannot leave investigations to the police, for example, nor defer to the courts. They cannot defer on issues that happened at private homes, or indeed anywhere off campus. They must take immediate action of some kind on any complaint whatsoever. They are required -- by SCOTUS precedent -- to adhere to the preponderance standard. If they do not do these things, they will be liable in court.

This current complaint is thus one in a long series of lawsuits that have pushed the standards a little further by seeking judgment against the school in spite of their adherence to established procedures. Such lawsuits have succeeded fairly often -- that's how we got here. The next OCR letter may well instruct the schools that, based on the outcome of this case, if they want to be safe from a liability judgment in court they must regard the accusation in itself as meeting the preponderance of evidence standard.

What troubles me about this is that we've built a rather terrifying system in such an ad hoc manner. This is one occasion where some legislation would actually be welcome. It would be wise to take this cobbled-together monstrosity and replace it with a carefully constructed, fully-considered law that included adequate protections for both parties to the conflict.

Of course, for that to happen we would have to have a legislature that was capable of producing a fully-considered law on any subject at all, let alone one so fraught as this. Judging from the recent Presidential and Congressional campaigns, it is impossible to imagine that our political system is capable of that.

Politics III, Part IV

In this one section we take up a matter of tremendous import. Are the virtues of the good man and the good citizen the same, or different? In other words, would a polity of good people make up a good state?
There is a point nearly allied to the preceding: Whether the virtue of a good man and a good citizen is the same or not. But, before entering on this discussion, we must certainly first obtain some general notion of the virtue of the citizen. Like the sailor, the citizen is a member of a community. Now, sailors have different functions, for one of them is a rower, another a pilot, and a third a look-out man, a fourth is described by some similar term; and while the precise definition of each individual's virtue applies exclusively to him, there is, at the same time, a common definition applicable to them all. For they have all of them a common object, which is safety in navigation. Similarly, one citizen differs from another, but the salvation of the community is the common business of them all. This community is the constitution; the virtue of the citizen must therefore be relative to the constitution of which he is a member. If, then, there are many forms of government, it is evident that there is not one single virtue of the good citizen which is perfect virtue. But we say that the good man is he who has one single virtue which is perfect virtue. Hence it is evident that the good citizen need not of necessity possess the virtue which makes a good man.
So, citizens have different roles. But because different roles excel in different ways, Aristotle wants to say that the 'good man' -- who is excellent in one way, as a good man -- is not the same as the good citizen.
The same question may also be approached by another road, from a consideration of the best constitution. If the state cannot be entirely composed of good men, and yet each citizen is expected to do his own business well, and must therefore have virtue, still inasmuch as all the citizens cannot be alike, the virtue of the citizen and of the good man cannot coincide. All must have the virtue of the good citizen- thus, and thus only, can the state be perfect; but they will not have the virtue of a good man, unless we assume that in the good state all the citizens must be good.
Here the objection is that all citizens cannot be expected to be good people. Yet insofar as we still expect them to be good citizens, they must be capable of a virtue of a sort. Good argument?
Again, the state, as composed of unlikes, may be compared to the living being: as the first elements into which a living being is resolved are soul and body, as soul is made up of rational principle and appetite, the family of husband and wife, property of master and slave, so of all these, as well as other dissimilar elements, the state is composed; and, therefore, the virtue of all the citizens cannot possibly be the same, any more than the excellence of the leader of a chorus is the same as that of the performer who stands by his side. I have said enough to show why the two kinds of virtue cannot be absolutely and always the same.
This is the first argument again. Here we get different problems, but the same issue: people fill different roles in the state. Some are husbands and some are wives, some police and some policed. How can they have the same virtues?

At this point Aristotle seems to take it as proven that the good citizen and the good man have a different moral structure. That strikes me as an alarming conclusion. He carries on to consider examples -- please read them -- concerning rulership and similar cases.

I would like to say that he goes wrong here. Perhaps you would care to agree; or perhaps you would care to defend him. Where and why, ladies and gentlemen?

Crime Stories

Back in October, Little Ms. Attila wrote a piece chiding networks for having "partisan" crime shows:
This has led to a sort of culture war in our crime shows, and a tendency to categorize them as “left-leaning” -- like Law & Order-- or “right-leaning” -- like the NCIS shows, or Blue Bloods. Relatively few try to split the difference, as does Criminal Minds (when it isn’t descending into gun-controlling preachiness)...

Morality belongs in the public square, but it should be a morality that we all agree with.

And there are moral principles we all agree with, like protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty.
I humbly disagree with the proposition that drama should appeal only (or even always chiefly) to universal moral principles, insofar as any can be discovered. Drama is one of the great areas for exploring moral qualms and questions, conflicts and difficult areas.

It's already difficult to discuss certain contentious moral disputes in politics. If we can't discuss them in drama either, I wonder how we ever shall. All that will be left is shutting up and letting our would-be betters tell us what opinions are acceptable.

That said, when she said she was writing about crime shows, I didn't initially think of the shows that focus on things from the law-enforcement perspective. I thought she was going to talk about shows about criminals. These do demonstrate an interesting perspective, because in making the hero opposed to the state, they show what values transcend the law in our hearts. These are the dramas that explore the distinction between morality and the law.

I'm only familiar with two current television shows at all, and I've only actually seen one of them -- the other one I know of because of the excitement it generates among some friends of mine. That latter is Dexter, on the Showtime network, which apparently skews left. Certainly these of my friends are all very left-leaning, Obama-supporting intellectuals. None of them would ever engage in actual violence of any kind themselves, but they are really into the show.

The premise of the show is that the hero is a serial-killer, who has learned to subject his homicide to a sort-of moral code. The moral code is universalist -- it applies to everyone equally at all times -- and the appeal of the guy is that he can subject bad people to horrendous penalties with impunity, things the law can't do.

The other show is Sons of Anarchy, which Jimbo at BLACKFIVE recommended to me some years ago. Its audience apparently skews right. Here there is no impunity, and there is no universal moral code. What justifies crime and violence is family, which the state cannot adequately protect. The criminals can't adequately protect it either -- they suffer greatly over the years, which is not surprising given that there is an openly Shakespearian cast to the plot. Still, it is a way of protecting the people they love from predatory drug-selling gangs, a stalker in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, racist gangs, street gangs, and those who manipulate the law to their own purpose. They also have a thing against rapacious developers who want to turn their hometown into a place too expensive for them to live anymore.

It's an interesting divide, I think. The one side dreams of setting aside the law to enforce a moral code on people who refuse to live by it. The other dreams of setting aside the law to defend the people and the place that they love. It's the opposite of universal: it's very particular.