Category Archives: conservatives

Liberty is better than slavery: Andrew Klavan and YAF Student Videos

Late in April, Andrew Klavan wrote a wonderfully erudite piece about culture and the media entitled Toward a New American Culture. Klavan begins his analysis by noting:

For many years, conservatives have been complaining about the left-wing bias of both the mainstream media and popular culture. The two are intimately connected because, over and above commercial success, the culture and the artists who create it are empowered by reviews, prestige and awards that the mainstream media bestow, facilitate and publicize.

But it’s now become clear that conservatives are wrong. The media are not biased against the right. They are openly hostile towards us. They are openly attempting to crush one point of view and elevate another. This is not a conspiracy. It is simply the result of a poisonous conformity, a climate of opinion which the MSM, populated almost exclusively by liberals, barely even realize they inhabit.

But in allowing themselves to become immersed in this climate, the bulk of the American media have now become the toadies of the state and the enemies of the people.

Although I am not an artist, I work in a profession (academia) where, if made known, my political and social beliefs could sink my career. The people that I work with are not evil–in fact, I personally like a great many of them–but once their innate assumptions about social justice, environmental justice, the prerogative of the educated elite to determine the course of the nation, and their horror at the folly of letting the less-educated “People” determine their own will are challenged, they go on the offensive. The result is either (1) an attempt to “re-educate” the person who poses a thread, the outcome of which has you publicly renouncing your beliefs and denouncing everything that you know to be true in order to be accepted back into the fold, or (2) marginalization, isolation and demotion.

Klavan provides a vision of what the New American Culture might entail:

Individualism [emphasis mine] is the very essence of both conservatism and art. But I think we can say that such a culture would reflect and uplift the values and perspectives that made the west and America the greatest and freest places on the globe; it would put forward an image of man as our founders knew him to be, flawed and sinful yet capable of striving toward dignity and salvation through self-reliance and sacrifice… In truth, there is only one essential principle our new culture needs to remember and embody and it’s this: liberty is better than slavery. This principle alone implies a moral order and a human purpose. It makes a small state better than a big one. It makes America better than, say, Saudi Arabia. It makes a religion based on “love thy neighbor,” better than one based on submission. This principle alone will guide us away from mealy-mouthed self-abasement to balanced self-criticism and praise amidst our search for the dignity, strength and morality befitting free men and women…. If artists guided by this principle begin to create, if reviewers guided by it write reviews, if foundations give us grants and awards, if investors give us the funding we need, then the cultural infra-structure of the left will collapse of the rot and corruption of its bad ideas. We will take back the culture and if we take back the culture, we will take back the country too.

In this spirit, I link to two student videos created for the Young America’s Foundation. These young people were willing to step forward and challenge a liberal canard: that redistribution of wealth is a positive good.  The aroma of hypocrisy among the student interviewees does not go unnoticed. I encourage you to support this worthy organization.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, Andrew Klavan, Assault on Individual Freedom, conservatives, Education, MSM, Politics, Redistribution, Student Videos, Uncategorized, Young America's Foundation

Lindsey Graham Leads The RINO Parade

Tonight, this from CNN:

Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd said he thinks Emanuel is a “great choice.”

“I know that he and Barack Obama have a very good relationship going back a long time. So it touches all of the critical elements, it seems to me, in beginning that kind of transition we’d like to have. So I think it’s a great choice, and I think the president-elect will be well-served with Rahm Emanuel,” he said.

Republican Lindsey Graham sided with Dodd and called Emanuel a “wise choice.” [emphasis mine]

I hold in my hand a blank voter registration card. If the Republican Party leadership doesn’t repudiate self-serving, aisle-crossing, Liberal-in-Conservative-Clothing RINOs like Lindsay Graham, Olympia Snow, Susan Collins, et al, I will re-register as “Decline to State.” Then, the RNC, NRSC, and all the other scum-sucking, money grubbing Republican PACs will never see a dime from me again.

P.S. – If Sarah Palin hadn’t been on the ticket, I would never have voted for John McCain.

P.S.S. – I’m tired of my Party’s representatives being geriatric dinosaurs or pasty white men who have to use a can of hairspray each day to keep their comb-overs in place.

Extra Reading:

Leadership questions in the GOP, HotAir.com

1 Comment

Filed under 2008 Election, conservatives, John McCain, Politics, Republicans, Sarah Palin

One Republican’s View of the Election Defeat: The Fighter Still Remains

Early this morning, me and a colleague were sorting through all the paper in the communal printer’s output tray. She tentatively asked, ” So what did you think of the election yesterday?”

“My husband and I watched the hockey game and a video. Neither of us wanted to watch wall-to-wall pundits bleating over everything and nothing for eight hours.”

Near the bottom of the unclaimed papers, we found a printed email from our Director to one of the senior managers. It was an invite to a cocktail party to celebrate the end of the “W” era. The obviously personal email was filled with invectives against the President.

“You know, Bush has done some things that I don’t like, but this nastiness just isn’t right,” my colleague said furtively and glanced at me sideways.

“Don’t worry. I’m a Republican. I won’t turn you in to the Political Correctness Police.”

Her eyes widened. “Thank God. So am I. I never see you laughing when the others joke about Palin and McCain and other Republicans. My husband and I were both sooo upset last night.”

Welcome, once again, to my surreal job in Academia. After ten years of constant liberal braying and insults, I always assume that I’m the only conservative and that I am all alone. This little story illustrates the depth of fear that non-liberals enjoy while working for liberal universities.

That two people can share an office for a year, sit four feet away from each other during one of the most heated and high-profile political campaigns of recent history, and not know that they share the same political views because we’re both afraid to reveal ourselves and be ridiculed is poignant. Suddenly, the lone wolves are running parallel tracks. Defeat has brought strangers together. One multiplied is two, two multiplied is four, four becomes sixteen… reach out, organize and grow strong.

Useful Reading:

To Conservative Who Are Thinking About Tomorrow, Tony Blankley

A Way Out of the Wilderness, Jeff Flake

How the GOP Got Here, NRO Symposium

Congratulations, Sen. Obama: An Open Letter to the President-Elect, Matt Moon, The NextRight

Not the end of the world
, Chizumatic

Leave a comment

Filed under 2008 Election, academia, conservatives, Republicans

To My Conservative Friends: Don’t Dream It’s Over

Crowded House…

Leave a comment

Filed under 2008 Election, conservatives, music, Politics

Conservative, Average Joe and Proud of It

I’ve always been a dedicated reader of The Rightwing Nuthouse. Blogger Rick Moran always posts interesting, thoughtful commentary. He seems to be increasingly resentful of the criticism that certain “conservative” writers such as Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, and Kathleen Parker have received for their remarks about John McCain’s candidacy and his choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential nominee. Rick has described these critiques as “anti-intellectualism” and attacks on the “thinking class.” If that be the case, how can he defend Kathleen Parker’s Townhall column “Maverick’s Tragic Flaw” in which she essentially says that McCain chose Sarah Palin because he was thinking with his “d**k”?

How intellectual is that kind of argument?

All I know is that I am a Conservative according to the Russell Kirk definition:

Ten Conservative Principles

by Russell Kirk

Being neither a religion nor an ideology, the body of opinion termed conservatism possesses no Holy Writ and no Das Kapital to provide dogmata. So far as it is possible to determine what conservatives believe, the first principles of the conservative persuasion are derived from what leading conservative writers and public men have professed during the past two centuries. After some introductory remarks on this general theme, I will proceed to list ten such conservative principles.

Perhaps it would be well, most of the time, to use this word “conservative” as an adjective chiefly. For there exists no Model Conservative, and conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.

The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata. It is almost true that a conservative may be defined as a person who thinks himself such. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects, there being no Test Act or Thirty-Nine Articles of the conservative creed.

In essence, the conservative person is simply one who finds the permanent things more pleasing than Chaos and Old Night. (Yet conservatives know, with Burke, that healthy “change is the means of our preservation.”) A people’s historic continuity of experience, says the conservative, offers a guide to policy far better than the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers. But of course there is more to the conservative persuasion than this general attitude.

It is not possible to draw up a neat catalogue of conservatives’ convictions; nevertheless, I offer you, summarily, ten general principles; it seems safe to say that most conservatives would subscribe to most of these maxims. In various editions of my book The Conservative Mind I have listed certain canons of conservative thought—the list differing somewhat from edition to edition; in my anthology The Portable Conservative Reader I offer variations upon this theme. Now I present to you a summary of conservative assumptions differing somewhat from my canons in those two books of mine. In fine, the diversity of ways in which conservative views may find expression is itself proof that conservatism is no fixed ideology. What particular principles conservatives emphasize during any given time will vary with the circumstances and necessities of that era. The following ten articles of belief reflect the emphases of conservatives in America nowadays.

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

This word order signifies harmony. There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth. Twenty-five centuries ago, Plato taught this doctrine, but even the educated nowadays find it difficult to understand. The problem of order has been a principal concern of conservatives ever since conservative became a term of politics.

Our twentieth-century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order. Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the fifth century before Christ, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which fall societies that mistake clever self-interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an oldfangled moral order.

It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society—whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society—no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.

Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity. It is old custom that enables people to live together peaceably; the destroyers of custom demolish more than they know or desire. It is through convention—a word much abused in our time—that we contrive to avoid perpetual disputes about rights and duties: law at base is a body of conventions. Continuity is the means of linking generation to generation; it matters as much for society as it does for the individual; without it, life is meaningless. When successful revolutionaries have effaced old customs, derided old conventions, and broken the continuity of social institutions—why, presently they discover the necessity of establishing fresh customs, conventions, and continuity; but that process is painful and slow; and the new social order that eventually emerges may be much inferior to the old order that radicals overthrew in their zeal for the Earthly Paradise.

Conservatives are champions of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know. Order and justice and freedom, they believe, are the artificial products of a long social experience, the result of centuries of trial and reflection and sacrifice. Thus the body social is a kind of spiritual corporation, comparable to the church; it may even be called a community of souls. Human society is no machine, to be treated mechanically. The continuity, the life-blood, of a society must not be interrupted. Burke’s reminder of the necessity for prudent change is in the mind of the conservative. But necessary change, conservatives argue, ought to he gradual and discriminatory, never unfixing old interests at once.

Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription. Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time. Therefore conservatives very often emphasize the importance of prescription—that is, of things established by immemorial usage, so that the mind of man runneth not to the contrary. There exist rights of which the chief sanction is their antiquity—including rights to property, often. Similarly, our morals are prescriptive in great part. Conservatives argue that we are unlikely, we moderns, to make any brave new discoveries in morals or politics or taste. It is perilous to weigh every passing issue on the basis of private judgment and private rationality. The individual is foolish, but the species is wise, Burke declared. In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice, for the great mysterious incorporation of the human race has acquired a prescriptive wisdom far greater than any man’s petty private rationality.

Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues. Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. As John Randolph of Roanoke put it, Providence moves slowly, but the devil always hurries. Human society being complex, remedies cannot be simple if they are to be efficacious. The conservative declares that he acts only after sufficient reflection, having weighed the consequences. Sudden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery.

Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety. They feel affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems. For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality. The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law; all other attempts at levelling must lead, at best, to social stagnation. Society requires honest and able leadership; and if natural and institutional differences are destroyed, presently some tyrant or host of squalid oligarchs will create new forms of inequality.

Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent—or else expire of boredom. To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things. All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order. But if the old institutional and moral safeguards of a nation are neglected, then the anarchic impulse in humankind breaks loose: “the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.

Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked. Separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Upon the foundation of private property, great civilizations are built. The more widespread is the possession of private property, the more stable and productive is a commonwealth. Economic levelling, conservatives maintain, is not economic progress. Getting and spending are not the chief aims of human existence; but a sound economic basis for the person, the family, and the commonwealth is much to be desired.

Sir Henry Maine, in his Village Communities, puts strongly the case for private property, as distinguished from communal property: “Nobody is at liberty to attack several property and to say at the same time that he values civilization. The history of the two cannot be disentangled.” For the institution of several property—that is, private property—has been a powerful instrument for teaching men and women responsibility, for providing motives to integrity, for supporting general culture, for raising mankind above the level of mere drudgery, for affording leisure to think and freedom to act. To be able to retain the fruits of one’s labor; to be able to see one’s work made permanent; to be able to bequeath one’s property to one’s posterity; to be able to rise from the natural condition of grinding poverty to the security of enduring accomplishment; to have something that is really one’s own—these are advantages difficult to deny. The conservative acknowledges that the possession of property fixes certain duties upon the possessor; he accepts those moral and legal obligations cheerfully.

Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. Although Americans have been attached strongly to privacy and private rights, they also have been a people conspicuous for a successful spirit of community. In a genuine community, the decisions most directly affecting the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily. Some of these functions are carried out by local political bodies, others by private associations: so long as they are kept local, and are marked by the general agreement of those affected, they constitute healthy community. But when these functions pass by default or usurpation to centralized authority, then community is in serious danger. Whatever is beneficent and prudent in modern democracy is made possible through cooperative volition. If, then, in the name of an abstract Democracy, the functions of community are transferred to distant political direction—why, real government by the consent of the governed gives way to a standardizing process hostile to freedom and human dignity.

For a nation is no stronger than the numerous little communities of which it is composed. A central administration, or a corps of select managers and civil servants, however well intentioned and well trained, cannot confer justice and prosperity and tranquility upon a mass of men and women deprived of their old responsibilities. That experiment has been made before; and it has been disastrous. It is the performance of our duties in community that teaches us prudence and efficiency and charity.

Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions. Politically speaking, power is the ability to do as one likes, regardless of the wills of one’s fellows. A state in which an individual or a small group are able to dominate the wills of their fellows without check is a despotism, whether it is called monarchical or aristocratic or democratic. When every person claims to be a power unto himself, then society falls into anarchy. Anarchy never lasts long, being intolerable for everyone, and contrary to the ineluctable fact that some persons are more strong and more clever than their neighbors. To anarchy there succeeds tyranny or oligarchy, in which power is monopolized by a very few.

The conservative endeavors to so limit and balance political power that anarchy or tyranny may not arise. In every age, nevertheless, men and women are tempted to overthrow the limitations upon power, for the sake of some fancied temporary advantage. It is characteristic of the radical that he thinks of power as a force for good—so long as the power falls into his hands. In the name of liberty, the French and Russian revolutionaries abolished the old restraints upon power; but power cannot be abolished; it always finds its way into someone’s hands. That power which the revolutionaries had thought oppressive in the hands of the old regime became many times as tyrannical in the hands of the radical new masters of the state.

Knowing human nature for a mixture of good and evil, the conservative does not put his trust in mere benevolence. Constitutional restrictions, political checks and balances, adequate enforcement of the laws, the old intricate web of restraints upon will and appetite—these the conservative approves as instruments of freedom and order. A just government maintains a healthy tension between the claims of authority and the claims of liberty.

Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society. The conservative is not opposed to social improvement, although he doubts whether there is any such force as a mystical Progress, with a Roman P, at work in the world. When a society is progressing in some respects, usually it is declining in other respects. The conservative knows that any healthy society is influenced by two forces, which Samuel Taylor Coleridge called its Permanence and its Progression. The Permanence of a society is formed by those enduring interests and convictions that gives us stability and continuity; without that Permanence, the fountains of the great deep are broken up, society slipping into anarchy. The Progression in a society is that spirit and that body of talents which urge us on to prudent reform and improvement; without that Progression, a people stagnate.

Therefore the intelligent conservative endeavors to reconcile the claims of Permanence and the claims of Progression. He thinks that the liberal and the radical, blind to the just claims of Permanence, would endanger the heritage bequeathed to us, in an endeavor to hurry us into some dubious Terrestrial Paradise. The conservative, in short, favors reasoned and temperate progress; he is opposed to the cult of Progress, whose votaries believe that everything new necessarily is superior to everything old.

Change is essential to the body social, the conservative reasons, just as it is essential to the human body. A body that has ceased to renew itself has begun to die. But if that body is to be vigorous, the change must occur in a regular manner, harmonizing with the form and nature of that body; otherwise change produces a monstrous growth, a cancer, which devours its host. The conservative takes care that nothing in a society should ever be wholly old, and that nothing should ever be wholly new. This is the means of the conservation of a nation, quite as it is the means of conservation of a living organism. Just how much change a society requires, and what sort of change, depend upon the circumstances of an age and a nation.

Such, then, are ten principles that have loomed large during the two centuries of modern conservative thought. Other principles of equal importance might have been discussed here: the conservative understanding of justice, for one, or the conservative view of education. But such subjects, time running on, I must leave to your private investigation.

The great line of demarcation in modern politics, Eric Voegelin used to point out, is not a division between liberals on one side and totalitarians on the other. No, on one side of that line are all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order, and that material needs are their only needs, and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.

 

I have a BA, did all of my course work for an MA (didn’t finish my thesis because the events of 9-11 showed me how pathetically idealistic and ridiculous my hypothesis was), and I have an IQ of 136. I am not stupid nor useless, but the liberal Academics that I work for view me as both. I may be qualified to balance their budgets. I may be qualified to pour their Chateau Margaux at Chez Panisse. I may be qualified to clean their house. But, I will never be their equal nor someone who they can converse with on an equal footing, about anything from football to climate change.

I refuse to let the “elite” of my political party treat me the same way.  I don’t think most of the conservative leaders in the Party view me as a dimwit,  just some of the “Inner Ring“–those who need to preserve their pseudo-intellectual, self-important egos.

I voted for Romney in the Republican primary.  By all accounts such a distinguished businessman and public servant should be the Republican nominee for President.  What happened?  Instead of pointing fingers at McCain, Palin and the Average Joes in the Party, these writers should be asking themselves how and by whom the nominating process was manipulated and stolen and how we ended up where we are.

If you don’t like Sarah, by all means vote for Obama.  Just don’t expect me and my .45 to ride to your rescue when your First Amendment Rights are usurped by a power-hungry, power-consolidating, socialist administration. Ah shit, yes I will… just on principal.

2 Comments

Filed under 2008 Election, Barack Obama, conservatives, John McCain, Kathleen Parker, Politics, Republicans, Rick Moran, Russell Kirk, Sarah Palin

Evil Plot Uncovered: American women are being fattened up to produce conservative children!

In her Blog at the New York Times, Olivia Judson writes:

Here’s something I’ve found myself speculating about recently: could the obesity epidemic have a political impact? In particular, could obesity in a pregnant woman influence the eventual political outlook of her child?

This a fine example of ever-increasing attempts to disrespect conservatives (i.e., Republicans) before the Nov. 4th election. It would be laughable, except that so many brainwashed liberals will read this contorted piece of cut-and-paste pseudo-science and take it as truth: “Yeah, look at all those fat people living in trailer parks who cling to their guns and religions and have McCain/Palin bumper-stickers on their beat-up Chevy trucks.”

Judson tries to make the great intellectual leap between two hypotheses described in recent studies:

(1) people who are more easily startled tend to be politically conservative (see my recent post, Portrait of a blinking idiot: New litmus test for right-wingers and conservatives).

First, according to a report published last month in the journal Science, strong political views are correlated with distinct physiological responses to startling noises and threatening images. Specifically, the study found that people who support warrantless searches, wiretapping, military spending and so on were also likely to startle at sudden noises and threatening images. Those who support foreign aid, immigration, gun control and the like tended to have much milder responses to the stimuli.

(2) environmental stressors increase the hormone levels of fetuses and could potentially effect the personality of the baby, making it anxious and producing learning disorders.

Judson then tried to tie these into a neat little package of speculation:

In the United States, the obesity epidemic began about 30 years ago. We are now at a point where one third of all pregnant women are obese. Their children will be voting in about 20 years’ time. If an “obese” environment in the womb has an impact on aspects of personality that affect political views, we may soon be seeing a big shift in the body politic.

She implies that people who are more easily startled and anxious tend to be politically conservative. Women who undergo stress during pregnancy release more hormones and tend to give birth to anxious children with learning disorders. Obese women release higher levels of hormones and therefore may produce more anxious children who will grow up to be conservative Republicans.

Huh?

I wonder how Judson will incorporate this recent finding by researchers at UC Berkeley into her hypothesis?

Study links higher risk of adult obesity with extra cash from government program?

While a poverty-alleviation program launched by the Mexican government that has been modeled in the United States and around the world has led to improved health and cognition outcomes in children, a new study by University of California, Berkeley, researchers says that the cash component of the program has a downside for adults.

The program, called Oportunidades, provides money to impoverished families on the condition that they participate in health-promoting activities, such as getting annual health checkups and attending nutrition and hygiene education seminars. This is in contrast to traditional welfare programs that provide cash to families based solely upon their income or where they live.

The study published today (Monday, Oct. 20) in the Journal of Nutrition found that adults in households that received more cash from the program were more likely to be overweight, obese and have higher blood pressure than those who had received less money over time.

Following Judson’s logic, you might be tempted to conclude that increasing welfare payments to the poor will produce more obese women who will give birth to fearful, conservative children who grow up to vote Republican.

If I were an evil, sarcastic person I’d say “free pizza and burgers for everyone!”

Extra Reading:

Should we worry about the fat vote?, Salon.com

1 Comment

Filed under conservatives, Evil Plots, Humor, Obesity, Politics, Republicans

Prop 8 and Creative Class® Warfare

This week, the San Jose Mercury News published an opinion piece (Keep the door open to world talent; reject Prop. 8) by Andrew Szeri, the Dean of Graduate Studies at UC Berkeley. Szeri argues that recognition of same-sex marriage plays a prominent, if not deciding, factor in attracting well-educated international talent to the United States. I found this claim to to be an odd, if not surreal, rationale for a “No” vote on Proposition 8.

A vote for Proposition 8, denying the recognition of same-sex marriages, yanks away the welcome mat from talented people who aspire to come to the United States and join one of the most dynamic societies on Earth. They want to move to a place where their talents can be fully exercised, in a society of mutual respect and understanding.

When I think of same-sex marriage, the last thing that weighs on my mind is whether Akshay and Padma from ITT Bombay will refuse to attend graduate school in California because the backwards cretins will not let one man marry another man.

However, as William Wulf, past president of the National Academy of Engineering, noted in testimony before Congress, America’s reputation is changing. “The international image of the United States has been one of a welcoming ‘land of opportunity,’ ” he wrote in 2005 testimony, “The Importance of Foreign-born Scientists and Engineers to the Security of The United States.” “We are in the process, however, of destroying that image and replacing it with one of a xenophobic, hostile nation.”

It may well be that a segment of the international community sees the U.S. as “xenophobic” and “hostile.” But, this is a function of U.S. immigration policy, hostility toward ever-increasing numbers of foreign nationals crossing the border illegally, and an entrenched bureaucracy that makes it difficult to get the appropriate visas. It has no apparent correlation with laws allowing same-sex marriage?

To test the thesis, I took a straw poll among my international colleagues. The question I asked was: Did U.S. policy on same-sex marriage have any influence on your decision to come to the U.S.? They looked at me with blank stares. Not one claimed that same-sex marriage policies factored into their choice of which university or their choice of U.S. state to live in.

What is the connection? When it legalized same-sex marriage, California joined the ranks of other enlightened parts of the world. The legalization of same-sex marriage may be regarded as the ultimate sign of the openness of a society…. Are we willing to send to Canada or to Europe the talent that comes knocking at our door? They will make their inventions in Canada and Europe, not here; start their businesses there, not here; enrich the culture there, not here; and shape opinion there, not here.

Wow, I didn’t realize that I’ve been living in the Dark Ages for the past 40 years. The problem with this statement is that in Europe only Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway allow same-sex couples to formally marry. Most of the other Western European nations recognize only civil unions. If Szeri’s statement is true, California will not be competing with Britain, France, Germany or Ireland for these highly-prized Creative Class® individuals because they are do not allow same-sex marriage.

Just how did Szeri come to the conclusion that a society’s approval of same-sex marriage is a paramount symbol of a tolerant and inviting society? By training and profession, Szeri is a professor of mechanical engineering. He is not an expert on economic competitiveness and or human capital. As it turns out Szeri is an acolyte of Richard Florida–academic, author, consultant, and “creativity” guru.

University of Toronto social theorist Richard Florida argued in the Washington Monthly in 2002 that such values are crucial to attracting and retaining the “creative class” of highly educated scientists and engineers, artists and entrepreneurs. “Talented people seek an environment open to differences,” he wrote. “When they are sizing up a new company and community, acceptance of diversity and of gays (and lesbians) in particular is a sign that reads ‘non-standard people welcome here.

Richard Florida has written numerous books and papers discussing the role that physical and social amenities play in attracting human capital to specific regions of the nation. In his paper, Creative Class or Human Capital?, Florida describes how the 3 T’s (talent, technology and tolerance) play a major role in attracting highly-educated, highly-skilled individuals to certain cities and the economic and social impact. One of the indicators of tolerance is what Florida calls the “Gay index” or the “Bohemian-Gay index.” He postulates that gays and bohemians (artists, musicians and other who don’t live traditional lifestyles) are more highly concentrated in cities/regions that are socially “tolerant”. In The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida says that the “Gay Index” of a community as being a “reasonable proxy for an area’s openness to different kinds of people and ideas.” Just why and how this is a reasonable proxy goes unexplained. It is little more than untested conventional wisdom.

There are several criticisms of Florida’s thesis:

(1) Florida’s methodology and data analysis have been criticized and refuted. In his article Urban Amenities: Lakes, Opera, and Juice Bars Do They Drive Development?, Terry Nichols Clark, of the University of Chicago, discusses additional amenities that draw people to specific geographical areas, and he reminds the reader that “what attracts one person can repel others. There is no ‘silver bullet’ for urban dynamics.” Clark’s research also concluded that “Percent gays…had inconsistent or near zero relations with many factors…. For instance, percent gays is unrelated to high tech patents and growth in college graduates using data for all US counties.” Clark also states “We found weak or zero linkages between gays and tolerance, risk aversion, college towns and amenities using direct tolerance and risk items….”

My straw poll of my international colleagues seems to support this. They listed the following reasons for choosing the Bay Area: mild climate; large local populations of Indians, Asians and Latinos with similar cultures and languages; easy access to the beach (diving, surfing) and the mountains (skiing, snowboarding); and entertainment (symphonies, theaters, etc.). Not one considered that the large gay population meant that the Bay Area or California were more inviting than any other area of nation.

(2) Florida’s Creative Class® theory was developed in the 1990s during the dot-com boom. That boom went bust, and how just how applicable any of its economic, social and cultural factors are in 2008 remain to be seen. Author Karrie Jacobs wrote in 2005 “Maybe Florida bugs me because I lived for a time in 3 T’s central, San Francisco, from the pinnacle of the dot-com boom to the bottom of the bust. I lived in a place that was so perfectly attuned to the needs and desires of a particular creative class that hardly anyone else could stand it (or afford it).”

(3) There is recent evidence that the well-educated and skilled workers that Florida claims are attracted to urban areas with high “Gay indexes” are leaving due to increasing home prices and cost of living (Mayor battles a trend of families leaving city, San Francisco Chronicle; Bright Lights, big city… and few kids, Christian Science Monitor; Where Did All the Children Go? In San Francisco and Other Big U.S. Cities, High Costs Drive Out Middle-Class Families, The Washington Post; Children in exodus; SF has lowest number of families in state, San Francisco Chronicle; Saying Goodbye California Sun, Hello Midwest, The New York Times). San Francisco is also seeing its African-American community disappearing due to gentrification of its less expensive neighborhoods (Black population deserting San Francisco, study says, San Francisco Chronicle; Census: Blacks leaving San Francisco in droves, The Berkeley Daily Planet).

(4) Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is the San Francisco Bay Area attractive to the Creative Class® because there are so many gays and bohemians, or are the gays and bohemians attracted to the Bay Area because of the high quality of life created by the Creative Class®?

There is a certain elitist condescension to the idea that one class, the Creative Class®, is to be preferred and pursued instead of, or at the expense of, other classes of people. It is also presumptious to place the interests of one class or gender over another without considering the extraordinary impact this might have on the rest of society. This type of thinking is a perfect example of the hubris of the human intellect that sees itself as the Master of the Universe, all-knowing and all-powerful, capable of engineering societies and environments in its own conceited image.

Do we really want to undergo social engineering based on the speculations of highly-educated but fallible academics such as Richard Florida and Andrew Szeri? Do we want to abandon over 5,000 years of human civilization, tradition, and culture for theories that are taken to be true but are based on insufficient evidence?

I will end with the wisdom of Russell Kirk, who notes that the intelligent conservative

“… thinks that the liberal and the radical, blind to the just claims of Permanence, would endanger the heritage bequeathed to us, in an endeavor to hurry us into some dubious Terrestrial Paradise. The conservative, in short, favors reasoned and temperate progress; he is opposed to the cult of Progress, whose votaries believe that everything new necessarily is superior to everything old…. prudence is chief among virtues. Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity.

Extra Reading:

The California Supremes and Gay Marriage, Thomas Lifson, American Thinker

Inferiority Redefined, William C. Duncan, American Spectator

Redefining Marriage Away, DL Tubbs and RP George, City Journal

Why We Need a Marriage Amendment, DL Tubbs and RP George, City Journal

Gay Men Support Prop 8, California Conservative

Going Beyond Same-Sex Marriage, Mark Tooley, American Spectator

Leave a comment

Filed under 2008 Election, Andrew Szeri, California, conservatives, Prop 8, Richard Florida, Russell Kirk, same-sex marriage