Category Archive 'Equality'

02 Jul 2018

The Illiberal Nietzsche is the Only One There is

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Drawing of Friedrich Nietzsche by Karl Bauer.

Post-modernist leftists have a habit of invoking Nietzsche as an authority justifying their nihilist rejection of the natural order and conventional morality, but, as Brian Leiter, writing in the Times Literary Supplement clearly understands, Nietzsche is not on the side of Ameliorism, Social Justice, or Egalitarianism in the least. Nietzsche is not a Leftist at all. Nietzsche is the most extreme aristocrat.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) pursued two main themes in his work, one now familiar, even commonplace in modernity, the other still under-appreciated, often ignored. The familiar Nietzsche is the “existentialist”, who diagnoses the most profound cultural fact about modernity: “the death of God”, or more exactly, the collapse of the possibility of reasonable belief in God. Belief in God – in transcendent meaning or purpose, dictated by a supernatural being – is now incredible, usurped by naturalistic explanations of the evolution of species, the behaviour of matter in motion, the unconscious causes of human behaviours and attitudes, indeed, by explanations of how such a bizarre belief arose in the first place. But without God or transcendent purpose, how can we withstand the terrible truths about our existence, namely, its inevitable suffering and disappointment, followed by death and the abyss of nothingness?

Nietzsche the “existentialist” exists in tandem with an “illiberal” Nietzsche, one who sees the collapse of theism and divine teleology as tied fundamentally to the untenability of the entire moral world view of post-Christian modernity. If there is no God who deems each human to be of equal worth or possessed with an immortal soul beloved by God, then why think we all deserve equal moral consideration? And what if, as Nietzsche argues, a morality of equality – and altruism and pity for suffering – were, in fact, an obstacle to human excellence? What if being a “moral” person makes it impossible to be Beethoven? Nietzsche’s conclusion is clear: if moral equality is an obstacle to human excellence, then so much the worse for moral equality. This is the less familiar and often shockingly anti-egalitarian Nietzsche. …

Nietzsche’s central objection to morality is more radical and illiberal: any culture dominated by Judeo-Christian morality, or other ascetic or life-denying moralities, will be one inhospitable to the realization of human excellence. What if, as he says in On the Genealogy of Morality, “morality itself were to blame if the highest power and splendor possible to the type man was never in fact attained? So that morality itself was the danger of dangers?”

Consider his objection to moral views that demand that we eliminate suffering and promote happiness. In Dawn, he writes, “Are we not, with this tremendous objective of obliterating all the sharp edges of life, well on the way to turning mankind into sand? Sand! Small, soft, round, unending sand! Is that your ideal, you heralds of the sympathetic affections?” In Beyond Good and Evil a few years later, he objects to utilitarians that, “Well-being as you understand it – that is no goal, that seems to us an end, a state that soon makes man ridiculous and contemptible . . . . ”

Does a focus on happiness really make people “ridiculous and contemptible”? Nietzsche offers a more ambitious explanation in Beyond Good and Evil:

The discipline of suffering, of great suffering – do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far? That tension of the soul in unhappiness which cultivates its strength, its shudders face to face with great ruin, its inventiveness and courage in enduring, persevering, interpreting, and exploiting suffering, and whatever has been granted to it of profundity, secret, mask, spirit, cunning, greatness – was it not granted to it through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering?

Most suffering is nothing more than misery for its subject, and most happy “comfortable” people are not exemplars of human excellence. Nietzsche surely knew this. (He was no “tourist” when it came to suffering – even before his disability-related retirement from Basel in 1879 and continuing on until his final mental collapse in 1889, he suffered from excruciating physical maladies, probably due to untreated syphilis). What Nietzsche noticed is that suffering, at least in certain individuals (including himself), could be the stimulus to extraordinary creativity – one need only read a biography of Beethoven to see a paradigm example. But even if Nietzsche has correctly diagnosed the psychological mechanism at work, why should a morality of pity for suffering present an obstacle to sufferers realizing their creative potential? Nietzsche’s crucial thought is that in a culture committed to happiness and the elimination of suffering as its goal, nascent Nietzsches and Beethovens will squander their potential in pursuit of both those aims, rather than in pursuing creative work. After all, if it is bad to suffer, then all your efforts should be devoted to avoiding suffering; and if it is good to be happy, then, that should be the aim of everything you do. But human excellence is compatible with neither the pursuit of happiness nor the flight from suffering.

If Nietzsche’s speculative psychology is correct, then we arrive at a startling conclusion. In a hedonistic and sympathetic culture, which devalues suffering and prioritizes its relief, the glorious spectacle of human genius will be missing from the world: no Beethovens, Nietzsches or Goethes.


03 May 2018

“The Most Successful Society in Human History” (If You are a Leftist)

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Ju/’hoansi Bushmen of the Kalahari, from the viewpoint of the Left: “the most successful society in human history.” Too bad for Athens, Rome, and Renaissance Italy!

Equality is the unquestionable, unexaminable Sumuum Bonum and absolute endpoint goal for the contemporary Left. James Suzman, in an essay in Aeon, lauds the “fierce egalitarianism” of the Stone Age Hunter-Gatherer Ju/’hoansi Bushmen, and identifies the key principle that makes their society what it is: Envy!

[R]esearch conducted among the Ju/’hoansi in the 1950s and ’60s when they could still hunt and gather freely turned established views of social evolution on their head. Up until then, it was widely believed that hunter-gatherers endured a near-constant battle against starvation, and that it was only with the advent of agriculture that we began to free ourselves from the capricious tyranny of nature. When in 1964 a young Canadian anthropologist, Richard Borshay Lee, conducted a series of simple economic input/output analyses of the Ju/’hoansi as they went about their daily lives, he revealed that not only did they make a good living from hunting and gathering, but that they were also well-nourished and content. Most remarkably, his research revealed that the Ju/’hoansi managed this on the basis of little more than 15 hours’ work per week. On the strength of this finding, the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins in Stone Age Economics (1972) renamed hunter-gatherers ‘the original affluent society’.

If a society is judged by its endurance, then this was the most successful society in human history

This research also revealed that the Ju/’hoansi were able to make a good living from a sparse environment because they cared little for private property and, above all, were ‘fiercely egalitarian’, as Lee put it. It showed that the Ju/’hoansi had no formalised leadership institutions, no formal hierarchies; men and women enjoyed equal decision-making powers; children played largely noncompetitive games in mixed age groups; and the elderly, while treated with great affection, were not afforded any special status or privileges. This research also demonstrated how the Ju/’hoansi’s ‘fierce egalitarianism’ underwrote their affluence. For it was their egalitarianism that ensured that no-one bothered accumulating wealth and simultaneously enabled limited resources to flow organically through communities, helping to ensure that even in times of episodic scarcity everyone got more or less enough.

There is no question that this dynamic was very effective. If a society is judged by its endurance over time, then this was almost certainly the most successful society in human history – and by a considerable margin. New genomic analyses suggest that the Ju/’hoansi and their ancestors lived continuously in southern Africa from soon after modern H sapiens settled there, most likely around 200,000 years ago. Recent archaeological finds across southern Africa also indicate that key elements of the Ju/’hoansi’s material culture extend back at least 70,000 years and possibly long before. As importantly, genome mutation-rate analyses suggest that the broader population group from which the Ju/’hoansi descended, the Khoisan, were not only the largest population of H sapiens, but also did not suffer population declines to the same extent as other populations over the past 100,000 years.

Taken in tandem with the fact that other well-documented hunting and gathering societies, from the Mbendjele BaYaka of Congo to the Agta in the Philippines (whose most recent common ancestor with the Ju/’hoansi was around 150,000 years ago), were similarly egalitarian, this suggests that the Ju/’hoansi’s direct ancestors were almost certainly ‘fiercely egalitarian’ too.

Ju/’hoansi egalitarianism was not born of the ideological dogmatism that we associate with 20th-century Marxism or the starry-eyed idealism of New Age ‘communalism’. There was no manifesto of ‘primitive communism’. Rather, it was the organic outcome of interactions between people acting explicitly in their own self-interest in a highly individualistic society. This was because, among foraging Ju/’hoansi, self-interest was always policed by its shadow, envy – which, in turn, ensured that everyone always got a fair share, and that those with the natural charisma and authority to ‘lead’ exercised it with great circumspection. This was best exemplified in the customary ‘insulting’ of the hunter’s meat.

Skilled Ju/’hoansi hunters needed a thick skin. For while a particularly spectacular kill was always cause for celebration, the hunter responsible was insulted rather than flattered. Regardless of the size or condition of the carcass, those due a share of the meat would complain that the kill was trifling, that it was barely worth the effort of carrying it back to camp, or that there wouldn’t be enough meat to go round. For his part, the hunter was expected to be almost apologetic when he presented the carcass.

Of course, everyone knew the difference between a scrawny kill and a good one but continued to pass insults even while they were busy filling their bellies. Hunters rarely took the insults to heart, and those dishing them out often did so through broad grins. This was a performance in which everyone played well-rehearsed roles. But it was also a performance with a clear purpose, as beneath the light-hearted insults lay a sharp and potentially vicious edge.

More than any other food, meat was capable of making the Ju/’hoansi forget their customary good manners, so it required extra diligence in distribution. It also meant that there was a risk that particularly skilled and energetic hunters might begin to consider others to be in their debt, so fracturing the delicate egalitarian balance that sustained band (or small kin-group) life. The insults ensured that individual hunters took care not to be so successful that they stood out or, worse still, began to imagine themselves to be more important than others.

There you have the essence of what Leftism stands for and has to offer: Envy and Stone Age equality.


09 Feb 2018

Peace Corps Volunteer Testifies: “Trump Was Right”

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Karin McQuillan says that she learned in the Peace Corps in Africa that Trump Is Right.

Three weeks after college, I flew to Senegal, West Africa, to run a community center in a rural town. Life was placid, with no danger, except to your health. That danger was considerable, because it was, in the words of the Peace Corps doctor, “a fecalized environment.”

In plain English: s— is everywhere. People defecate on the open ground, and the feces is blown with the dust – onto you, your clothes, your food, the water. He warned us the first day of training: do not even touch water. Human feces carries parasites that bore through your skin and cause organ failure.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that a few decades later, liberals would be pushing the lie that Western civilization is no better than a third-world country. Or would teach two generations of our kids that loving your own culture and wanting to preserve it are racism. …

Senegal was not a hellhole. Very poor people can lead happy, meaningful lives in their own cultures’ terms. But they are not our terms. The excrement is the least of it. Our basic ideas of human relations, right and wrong, are incompatible. …

Take something as basic as family. Family was a few hundred people, extending out to second and third cousins. All the men in one generation were called “father.” Senegalese are Muslim, with up to four wives. Girls had their clitorises cut off at puberty. (I witnessed this, at what I thought was going to be a nice coming-of-age ceremony, like a bat mitzvah or confirmation.) Sex, I was told, did not include kissing. Love and friendship in marriage were Western ideas. Fidelity was not a thing. Married women would have sex for a few cents to have cash for the market.

What I did witness every day was that women were worked half to death. Wives raised the food and fed their own children, did the heavy labor of walking miles to gather wood for the fire, drew water from the well or public faucet, pounded grain with heavy hand-held pestles, lived in their own huts, and had conjugal visits from their husbands on a rotating basis with their co-wives. Their husbands lazed in the shade of the trees. …

The Ten Commandments were not disobeyed – they were unknown. The value system was the exact opposite. You were supposed to steal everything you can to give to your own relatives. There are some Westernized Africans who try to rebel against the system. They fail.

We hear a lot about the kleptocratic elites of Africa. The kleptocracy extends through the whole society. My town had a medical clinic donated by international agencies. The medicine was stolen by the medical workers and sold to the local store. If you were sick and didn’t have money, drop dead. That was normal.

So here in the States, when we discovered that my 98-year-old father’s Muslim health aide from Nigeria had stolen his clothes and wasn’t bathing him, I wasn’t surprised. It was familiar.

In Senegal, corruption ruled, from top to bottom. Go to the post office, and the clerk would name an outrageous price for a stamp. After paying the bribe, you still didn’t know it if it would be mailed or thrown out. That was normal.

One of my most vivid memories was from the clinic. One day, as the wait grew hotter in the 110-degree heat, an old woman two feet from the medical aides – who were chatting in the shade of a mango tree instead of working – collapsed to the ground. They turned their heads so as not to see her and kept talking. She lay there in the dirt. Callousness to the sick was normal. …

All the little stores in Senegal were owned by Mauritanians. If a Senegalese wanted to run a little store, he’d go to another country. The reason? Your friends and relatives would ask you for stuff for free, and you would have to say yes. End of your business. You are not allowed to be a selfish individual and say no to relatives. The result: Everyone has nothing. …

I couldn’t wait to get home. So why would I want to bring Africa here? Non-Westerners do not magically become American by arriving on our shores with a visa.


21 Oct 2013

Our Socialized Health Care Future

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Adam Garfinkle, writing at The American Interest, debunks the egalitarian rhetoric used to promote federalizing health care.

[N]o one seems willing to call what is going on by its real name: class-based triage, or rationing, of medical care.

We can see this more clearly if we put these two data points together: We are slowly (or not-so-slowly) but surely moving toward a much more finely gradated class-based system of healthcare. Compared to where we were before Obamacare passed, the top is moving up and the bottom is moving down faster than ever, leaving a thinner middle where most Americans with employer-provided health insurance have typically been—somewhere in the murk between HMOs and PPOs of various descriptions. Now, those who can afford it will increasingly pay more and get more. Those who cannot afford it will pay less and get less.

Now, there is nothing surprising about this, and it’s what happens in most countries with some form of government-mandated universal health care. There are always private healthcare options in those countries, for people who can afford it, to detour around the public option. But it is not what Obamacare advertised.


Daniel Greenfield (author of the widely-admired Sultan Knish blog, responds:

Actually they will pay more and get less. When they do pay less, they will be paying more for less services. It may not be obvious to them, but the insurers will have done the math.

The problem is that triage of this sort is inevitable.

The market naturally rations products and services. There’s no way to get around that. Even in a totalitarian state with a planned economy, national health care and price controls, professionals will just go to the most rewarding fields.

And there’s always a class structure. Soviet academics lived much better than their colleagues lower down on the ladder. Meanwhile Soviet medicine was pretty terrible. The smart people were going into research and then not doing any research because the entire system was too far behind to catch up.

The more the system is tampered with, the more the middle, which is a product of the free market collapses, reverting everything back to the 99 percent and 1 percent model that the left pretends we have now. Except it’s really more like a 67%, 9% and 24% model.

ObamaCare forces more doctors to become completely inaccessible to anyone other than the wealthy. The process began with HMOs, that original ingenious plan to solve the health care problem, which instead made it more expensive and less rewarding for doctors to do business. Costs kept going up and so did health care.

This is just one of the final steps on the rung before we end up with no middle ground. This won’t just have an impact on the people in the middle, it will eventually destroy the quality of medicine in general.

There’s only so much room at the top. If the only way to really make money is by treating the rich, that requires far fewer doctors and that means there’s much less room in medicine.

Medical schools will turn out more mediocrities, Third World students who excel at rote memorization but have no interest in patient care, and the top tier of medicine will continue shrinking down. There will be some good people at the top, but their numbers will diminish with each generation.

And then American medicine will die. But you’ll always be able to go and see a Nurse Practitioner for some obesity counseling.

27 Aug 2013

Yale President Comforts Incoming Freshmen on Inequality

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Fatuous imbecile in action.

New Yale President Peter Salovey, in his address to incoming freshmen, described his own “modest upbringing”, admitted that there is inequality at Yale, but assured students they will wind up rich and happy anyway.

“You, Class of 2017, bring your different cultures, religions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations to this campus.” [link]

Yale president Peter Salovey delivered an address to incoming freshman about equality and the American dream. He spoke of his own immigrant grandparents and modest upbringing, and encouraged students to be open and open-minded about their own class (“one of the last taboos among Yale students”).

Estimated Yale tuition + room and board + books + personal expenses, according their website, is $60,900 for academic year 2013-2014.

Heartening: “Why did I choose to talk about Yale and the American Dream today? To assure you — especially those of you from families that are not affluent – that the dream is very much alive here at Yale. Ten years after they graduated, members of the Yale Class of 1998 reported impressive — and similar — average salaries and a high level of life satisfaction, regardless of whether they came from families whose standard of living was ‘far below average,’ ‘below average,’ ‘average,’ or ‘above average.’”

14 Apr 2012

If It’s Good Enough For Goldman, Then It’s Good Enough For Me


Worried about income inequality? Sheila Blair has a cure for the problem. Just make the federal government treat everybody the way it treats big banks.

Are you concerned about growing income inequality in America? Are you resentful of all that wealth concentrated in the 1 percent? I’ve got the perfect solution, a modest proposal that involves just a small adjustment in the Federal Reserve’s easy monetary policy. Best of all, it will mean that none of us have to work for a living anymore.

For several years now, the Fed has been making money available to the financial sector at near-zero interest rates. Big banks and hedge funds, among others, have taken this cheap money and invested it in securities with high yields. This type of profit-making, called the “carry trade,” has been enormously profitable for them.

So why not let everyone participate?

Under my plan, each American household could borrow $10 million from the Fed at zero interest. The more conservative among us can take that money and buy 10-year Treasury bonds. At the current 2 percent annual interest rate, we can pocket a nice $200,000 a year to live on. The more adventuresome can buy 10-year Greek debt at 21 percent, for an annual income of $2.1 million. Or if Greece is a little too risky for you, go with Portugal, at about 12 percent, or $1.2 million dollars a year. (No sense in getting greedy.)

Think of what we can do with all that money. We can pay off our underwater mortgages and replenish our retirement accounts without spending one day schlepping into the office. With a few quick keystrokes, we’ll be golden for the next 10 years.

Read the whole thing.

I bet she can convert a lot of conservatives into going along with this one.

12 Aug 2010

Race, History, and Equality

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John McWhorter, in the New Republic, finds Amy Wax’s Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century as depressing as it is persuasive.

The reviewer concedes that experience seems to show decisively that Wax’s contention that outside efforts, no matter how well-intentioned, cannot cure poverty is perfectly correct. Booker T. Washington was right all along in arguing that the African American race needed to concentrate its energies on uplifting itself, and that W.E.B. Du Bois was wrong in desiring to confront the rest of America demanding redress and compensation.

Wax is well aware that past discrimination created black-white disparities in education, wealth, and employment. Still, she argues that discrimination today is no longer the “brick wall” obstacle it once was, and that the main problems for poor and working-class blacks today are cultural ones that they alone can fix. Not that they alone should fix—Wax is making no moral argument—but that they alone can fix.

A typical take on race has no room for stories such as this one. In 1987, a rich philanthropist in Philadelphia “adopted” 112 inner-city sixth-graders, most of them from broken homes. He guaranteed them a fully-funded education through college if the kids would refrain from drugs, unwed parenthood, and crime. He even provided tutors, workshops, after-school programs, summer programs, and counselors when trouble arose. Forty-five of the kids never made it through high school. Thirteen years later, of the sixty-seven boys, nineteen were felons; the forty-five girls had sixty-three total children, and more than half had their babies before the age of eighteen. Crucially, this was not surprising: The reason was culture. These children had been nurtured in communities with different norms than those that reign in Scarsdale.

What this means, Wax points out, is that scrupulous recountings of the historical reasons for black problems are of no significant use in finding solutions. She notes:

    The black family was far more stable 50 years ago, when conditions for blacks were far worse than they are today. Black out-of-wedlock births started to climb and marriage rates to fall around 1960, long after slavery was abolished and just as the civil rights movement gained momentum. Perhaps a more nuanced explanation for the recent deterioration is that the legacy of slavery made the black family more vulnerable to the cultural subversions of the 1960s. But what does this tell us that is useful today? The answer is: nothing.

One of the most sobering observations made by Wax comes in the form of a disarmingly simple calculus presented first by Isabel Sawhill and Christopher Jencks. If you finish high school and keep a job without having children before marriage, you will almost certainly not be poor. Period. I have repeatedly felt the air go out of the room upon putting this to black audiences. No one of any political stripe can deny it. It is human truth on view.

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