13.4.16

EMERGENCE WILL FIND A WAY.

Arnold Kling offers, for National Affairs, an instructive meditation on the methodology of economics that is, at the same time, a warning for those who would marginalize angry and formerly mainstream people.
[K]nowledge embedded in social norms and practices is vast compared to the knowledge of even the brightest, most educated individuals. As individuals, we cannot figure out very much by ourselves, but we learn a remarkable amount from others. In short, some social scientists in recent years have been building (or rebuilding) a powerful case for cultural intelligence.

One implication of their findings and arguments is that two sets of institutions in particular — markets and traditional social and familial practices — are the most important products of the process of social evolution building on cultural intelligence because they are the foremost means by which that process operates in free societies. It should hardly surprise us, therefore, that these two sets of institutions are also the foremost targets and objects of scorn of today's progressive planners.

This suggests that we should be concerned about the ideas that are being transmitted by the dominant institutions in the United States — the media, higher education, and the teaching profession. These institutions tend to impose strong conformity to the progressive narrative, which treats our culture as creating large classes of victims and views expert social engineering as the right approach for solving problems. If our leading cultural institutions are thus geared toward suppressing cultural intelligence, we need to think about how to change them.
It started some time ago, when the trendy shapers of opinion turned "bourgeois" into an epithet.  But the norms and institutions that might have been thereafter deconstructed might have been evolutionary stable, and conferred evolutionary advantage.  "Evolution, not intelligent design, is how societies advance."  Put somewhat more formally, mutations can take any form.  Selection for advantage cannot be managed too finely.  Thus adaptation cannot be reduced to a planning manual.
The importance of cultural intelligence implies that we should be skeptical of giving any individual or small group of individuals the responsibility to exert vast power over society. We should be wary of the social engineers and instead listen to the social ecologists.
When that vanguard denies coherent beliefs, or too quickly claims the existing way of things is oppressive, what happens next is not amusing.
The prestige of traditional social norms, meanwhile, is clearly declining in our society, and, to the extent that such norms are necessary for stable, prosperous lives, this is a serious problem. Our popular culture works relentlessly to undermine the prestige of people who follow traditional social norms, and there are very few institutions pushing in the opposite direction.

College campuses are centers of contempt for business and for cultural norms alike. There, prestige is accorded to those who denounce entire classes of people as villains and who claim to speak on behalf of other classes labeled as victims. It is ironic that our institutions of higher education are so often the sources or drivers of our contempt for these two institutions — the market and the family. Both institutions are the products, and also the settings, of the kind of evolutionary process that appears to be responsible for the enormous economic, political, and social progress that the modern West has made. They have made possible a society successful, wealthy, and comfortable enough to reject the foundations of its own success.

But we cannot sustain such a society if we persist in rejecting those foundations. In order to accept them, we must first understand them. The failure of the contemporary academy to treat as prestigious and valuable our evolved and evolving social institutions is rooted in a failure to acknowledge that such evolution — rather than the engineering and management approach to social change advanced by today's academic economists, sociologists, and political scientists — is how society in fact advances. It is a failure of the academy in its own terms: a failure to grasp the truth and to acknowledge it.
It took a long time for the academy to align itself so completely with a bundle of bad ideas.  It will take a long time for better ideas to overturn the dominant paradigm.

In the popular culture, sometimes a mugging by reality activates an immune reaction.  Thus Charlie Hebdo mutates from a part of the avant-garde to something else.
Where the editorial says that something like Brussels cannot happen "without everyone’s contribution," it is talking about Europe itself, not Muslims. It is talking about "the dread" of open debate, "the dread of being treated as an Islamophobe or being called racist," which, it says, makes public life in Europe less open, less honest, and more prickly. It’s right.

And how have Charlie’s critics responded to its critique of the culture of "You Can’t Say That?" By saying to the mag: "You can’t say that." Charlie’s editorial is an "anti-religion rant," said Salon. To which the only reasonable response is: So what? Why shouldn’t people be anti-religion? The anti-Charlie set isn't about protecting Muslims from harm; it’s about protecting Islam from rebuke.

The real problem in Europe today is not so much Islamophobia, though anti-Muslim sentiment certainly exists; it’s Charliephobia, if we take this term to mean the fear of letting a magazine, or anyone else for that matter, dissent from PC orthodoxy, reject relativism, and engage in robust discussion about any worldview they choose. It’s this culture of worshipping self-censorship over freedom of thought and frankness of debate that is damaging public life and brewing communal tension and in some cases violence. Indeed, I would say that the campaign against Islamophobia has done more to foster awkwardness and bitterness in 21st-century Europe than Islamophobia has.

So yes, a mask has slipped. The Charliephobes’ mask. Their claim to be against "punching down," to care about ordinary, vulnerable people, has been exposed as utter bunkum. In truth, they’re all about protecting a global religion, an ideology, from ridicule, and in the process they’re doing more damage to freedom and social solidarity in Europe than they could ever understand.
Indeed. There are Europeans asking, "Why are Moslems allowed to do things that we are not allowed to do?"  In the United States, V. D. Hanson suggests, it is Trump voters asking, "Why are ethnic hustlers allowed to do things that we are not allowed to do?"
In our world, in which uncouth tribal leaders can say almost anything, these whites wanted their own Sharpton or Ramos, and finally got him with Donald J. Trump. As is true of most revolutionary movements, the aggrieved are not as angry at their perceived opponents as they are contemptuous at the enablers of them.

Given his cruelty, obnoxiousness, and buffoonery, Trump should have been a three-month flash in the pan, exactly as most of his critics had prophesied and dreamed. I hope he will still fade, as he should. But the fact that he has persisted this long may be because the hatred our elites so passionately claimed was aimed at the Other was actually directed at themselves.
Yes, and to use the formulation popular on the trendy left when it comes to sexual practices or obnoxious music or any of the other manifestations of transgressiveness, that toothpaste is out of the tube.  Donald J. Trump may fail, for not doing the groundwork, to secure the Republican nomination, and yet the sentiments that he speaks to, that is the contempt of normal Americans for the metrofexual smug, will not so easily fade.

No comments: