The Politics of Fragility

A couple weeks ago, author Michelle Goldberg wrote an excellent article for Slate about how conservatives uncomfortable over the Transgender bathroom issue are co-opting Left-wing rhetoric to push back … for instance releasing a video of female rape and sexual abuse victims describing how men in bathrooms, trans or not, is an instant “trigger” for re-traumatization.

political-correctnessIt’s an irony that even conservatives are now employing “victim mentality” tactics typically used by SJWs and Feminists against them … and in the process highlighting the contradictions of Feminism and Progressivism. To quote Goldberg:

Those contradictions, however, are real. There’s no coherent ideology in which traumatized students have the right to be shielded from material that upsets them—be it Ovid, 9½ Weeks, or the sentiments of Laura Kipnis—but not from undressing in the presence of people with different genitalia. If we’ve decided that people have the right not to feel unsafe—as opposed to the right not to be unsafe—then what’s the standard for refusing that right to conservative sexual abuse victims? Is it simply that we don’t believe them when they describe the way their trauma manifests?

Which underscores the very inherent instability of a strategy relying on the Politics of Fragility … when weakness becomes a corrupted form of strength, then we all suffer for it. Moreover, when our public policy is based more on feelings than logic, then we as a society become paralyzed in making tough decisions, being accountable for our own mistakes, or willingly changing course when needed.

The whole Transgender issue highlights the problem of basing your political platform on such an approach, as Feminists and Progressives and SJWs have done:

Some radical feminists believe that these contradictions should make people on the left reconsider their commitment to trans rights. Certainly, creepy men can and probably will take advantage of trans-friendly bathroom laws to try to prey on women. Shortly after Washington state allowed trans people to use bathrooms and changing rooms that correspond with their gender identity, a man barged into the women’s locker room at a local pool, announcing, “The law has changed, and I have the right to be here”

The point NOT being whether there is any merit to the risk of sexual assault due to allowing Transgender individuals bathroom access opposite their biological sex. That is debatable. Rather, the point here is that the language being used circumvents our ability to make sound policy decisions. It stifles rather than engages rational debate.

In short, it highlights how the tactics of Feminists/Progressives/SJWs undermine our Western Liberal principles.  Particularly from a Classical Liberal perspective.  In other words, Progressives are NOT liberals.

Another glaring example of the above is Oklahoma’s move last week to pass a bill that requires students in schools to use the bathroom of their assigned biological sex at birth, unless special accommodations are needed for their sincerely held religious beliefs.  Clever, really.

You see, right-wing conservatives are now arguing that people should be able to violate legal or societal norms based on their beliefs. Maybe it’s that they believe in a Christian God … or maybe it’s that they believe they are a woman trapped in a man’s body. There is no way to prove the validity of either belief. So if transgenders can use whatever bathroom they want, why shouldn’t, say, Christians be able to refuse to cater gay weddings or pay for birth control?  It would be hypocritical to argue otherwise.

The whole transgender issue is problematic for Progressives on the far left … because it exposes the weaknesses of adopting the Politics of Fragility as a platform.

politics-of-fragilityIt was interesting to see even President Obama criticize Political Correctness and the fragility of many college students to ideas they disagree with at a commencement speech at Rutgers a couple weeks ago, even though some of the President’s other comments were clearly criticisms aimed at Trump. Nonetheless they highlight the fact that even among mainstream Democrats like Obama, there is some understanding beginning to surface that Progressives and their Politics of Fragility are a real risk to Liberalism and Western Democratic principles.

You can’t simultaneously seek to stifle debate while maintaining that you are merely pushing for more “freedom” … because eventually those same tactics will be turned against you.

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Otherkin – The Transgender Conundrum

otherkin-transgenderThe Politics of the Fringe. Transgenders in public bathrooms, Otherkin, and the like. Despite what conservatives may say, the real problem is not about sexual predators or voyeurs … no the real problem is the practicality of accommodating every tiny minority without impinging on the freedom of the vast majority of people. It is a Classical Liberal problem.

While gays and lesbians make up about 5-7% of the population, those experiencing gender dysphoria only make up about 0.3% of the population, and only a fraction of those actually choose to live life as the opposite sex or undergo hormone therapy or surgical sex change.  As such, we are, in essence talking about an issue that effects maybe 1 out of every 2000 people. Which is a very very small minority.

It is reasonable to ask whether it is really practical for our public policy to accommodate every tiny minority out there. The reality is that it is probably NOT practical.

tocqueville-effectLumping transgenders in with the Gay and Lesbian community is a little intellectually dishonest. Gender dysphoria is a very different issue, and the number of those affected is a tiny fraction. Even many of my gay friends are uncomfortable with including transgenders in the LGB community, because they feel it undermines the legitimacy of their cause.

For instance, there is also a small minority of people who identify as Otherkin. They actually believe they are cats or mermaids trapped in human bodies. Would it also then be reasonable to force Target to put kitty litter in bathrooms for these people?

At some point, you have to accept the fact that we can’t accommodate every tiny minority. Not without disrupting life for the other 99% of people. It is just not practical.

Those who argue it is practical, are arguing for the Doctrine of the Minority.  They are placing vague notions of “equality” over the rights and freedoms of the vast majority of people. Because such “equality” entails measures that are disruptive or create inefficiencies.  It is a veiled yet subtle anti-Liberal stance. Or as Tocqueville argued two centuries ago:

“Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.”

The reality is that you cannot have both complete equality and complete freedom. Those two things are incompatible.

A simple commonsense solution would be to encourage more unisex bathrooms, where possible. Engaging in social shaming of who is “intolerant” of who, or arguing about who should be more “uncomfortable”, is counterproductive.

Moreover, it really shouldn’t be the place of massive corporations like Target and the NCAA to try to force people’s elected representatives to behave in ways they see fit. Such actions undermine the principles of Western Liberal democracy. That power belongs solely to the individual people who elect those representatives.

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Enemy Within – The Danger of a Single Narrative

A couple days ago, writer David Brooks wrote a piece for the New York Times about the Danger of a Single Story.  By that, he was alluding to the notion developing in recent years about the negative consequences of allowing a single dominant narrative to shape the way we view the world and the things we do.

PrintMoreover, he delved into the psychology of why certain individuals feel the need to publicly announce their allegiance to that narrative, what Brooks calls “identity markers”. In that sense, public outrage and SJW facebook memes are not so much about political ideas or oppression or equality, but rather ensuring one’s continued acceptance by “the tribe”.

The reality is that Mr. Brooks is in fact alluding to Virtue Signaling.

If you find you are continually frustrated when you point out the nonsensical double standards or contradictions expressed by certain political affiliations (e.g. progressives or SJWs), like this video about college students thinking it’s okay that a 5’9’’ white guy declares himself a 7-year 6’5’’ Chinese woman … then the problem is that you think you are having a political discussion, when really you are having a social psychology discussion.

It is not about facts and figures … it is about who is in who’s tribe.

Virtue-SignalingA perfect example is two articles published by the Chicago Tribune last week, on the same exact day.

Example 1: Chicago Blackhawks player Andrew Shaw was suspended for making “homophobic” remarks toward a referee after being sent to the penalty box during a heated playoff game. In short, he was upset and called the ref a “faggot” in the heat of the moment. The outrage was immense (including from the Tribune itself), and Shaw later apologized.

Example 2: Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) president Karen Lewis referred to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner as an “ISIS recruit”, inferring that he was a Muslim terrorist. Rauner is a Republican who is pushing for pension and other reforms to solve Illinois’ Bankruptcy crisis. The outrage in this case was minimal. There was no similar censuring from the Tribune as in Shaw’s case.

Here we have two very similar cases of people name-calling others, both at the minimum uncivil, and perhaps offensive to some. Both were uncalled for. Both were using other’s identities as a form of shaming language. Yet one case was seen as socially appropriate, and the other case a platform for moral outrage. Why?

Because one case (CTU Lewis’ comments) was seen as fitting the dominant Cultural Narrative: heterosexual white men are “bad”, guilty of historical sins, and should be labeled as such.

The real danger of such cultural narratives is that when one “single story” (to use David Brooks’ term from above) comes to dominate the discussion, then it warps our sense of right and wrong.  Political decisions and policy choices that need to be based on facts and figures can no longer be done as such. Because we are no longer having a fact-based political discussion … rather we are engaging in acts of social display.

But the real danger is much more insidious … because as any group rises to power, the extremists within their ranks will engage in Totalitarian behavior to try to shape and control the cultural narrative. Snake-eating-tailSocial displays and virtue signaling gradually displace and undermine the positions and ideals which brought you to power in the first place. The principles of your movement become fractured by caricatures and contradictions and increasingly extreme positions. In the end, the undoing of any political movement that achieves power is often its own Totalitarian behavior. Like a snake eating its own tail.

It is the enemy within.

Given the tendency towards such totalitarian behavior and virtue signaling within political movements and  “tribal” affiliations in the modern world, it does raise the question if this process is some sort of natural cycle in the evolution of human groups, nowadays manifested as ideas and political movements. A way for nature to continually shuffle the deck … perhaps the fluidity of human “tribes” both in modern times and prehistory served some evolutionary purpose for promoting greater genetic variance and avoiding the stagnation that might otherwise arise.

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Women’s Soccer – Equal Pay for Unequal Value

tocqueville-effectIt was interesting last week to see the blowup and outrage over the pay of the U.S. women’s soccer team relative to the men. The gist was that women were only making a fraction of what the men do, even though they bring in “more” money. People were furious … equal work for equal pay they raged. Some of the players even filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Of course, that comparison was based only on the 2015 year, when the women’s world cup happened and there was no comparable major men’s tournament for the U.S. team. Over the last 4-year cycle, the men’s team actually brought in more revenue.  Men’s pro soccer (MLS) in the United States also generates more revenue than the women’s pro nba-equal-pay-mythleague (WPSL), same as the NBA making more money than the WNBA, and thus paying its players more. John Smallwood from the Philly Enquirer actually wrote a great piece on this yesterday.  It’s all about market economics. Even the readers of the original USA Today article seemed to understand the discrepancy.

But there is a deeper underlying issue here: that Progressives and SJWs are determined to undermine the Free Market principles that are the basis of a Liberal society, because they misunderstand the difference between work and value.

As a startup founder, I can tell you one thing: People are not paid for the work they do … they are paid for the value they create.  And women’s sports generate less revenue, less value. The whole equal pay for equal work argument is misleading, when really the question is about equal pay for equal value. But the reality is that women are arguing for equal pay for unequal value. That is not equality … it’s just another form of inequality.

Susan-anthony-equal-pay-equal-work-value What was even more disturbing was seeing members of the U.S. men’s team, like Tim Howard, supporting the cause. Rather than standing up for the Liberal principles that America was founded on – the country that he gets paid to represent while playing a children’s game – they caved to the first Progressive rabble-rousers that came around. Is that really a show of respect for women … or merely a show of disrespect for the privilege of representing so many hardworking men and women who are paid for their value doing everyday jobs, value based on a free market economy. Players like Tim Howard apparently support equal pay for unequal value.

The white-knighting is strong with this one …

white-knight-knightingThe real issue is that Mr. Howard doesn’t seem to realize the unintended consequences of what he is supporting. In trying to be “good”, he is promoting new forms of inequality. Screwing over one group to benefit another. In the meantime, Mr. Howard likely doesn’t care personally, as he is at the end of his national team career. Other men will pay the price, and Howard looks like the “good” guy.

Except that he isn’t … he is simply a coward too afraid of the gynocentric female masses to stick up for his fellow man. Or perhaps he is too naïve to understand. Either way, he bites the hand that feeds him.

There is something called the Tocqueville Effect, posited by the great Classical Liberal Alexis de Tocqueville, which states that as social conditions and opportunities improve, social frustration grows faster. People become disconnected from the value of the work they do, or the safety they have. Outrage Culture takes over. In short, greater social “equality” often precipitates greater social unrest.

alexis-de-tocquevilleWhen we see people misunderstanding that pay is based on value (in the U.S. women team’s case), and that there are unintended consequences for supporting equal pay for unequal value (in Mr. Howard’s case) … we are in fact seeing two sides of the same coin.

And they both lie at the crux, the disconnect, between what is Liberalism and what is Progressivism. Both of them support a form of inequality – even though members of either group would vehemently argue that they don’t – the difference is simply that classical Liberals support a form of inequality based on value or merit (i.e. meritocracy) whereas Progressives support a form of inequality based on group identity.

And if you say, wait, don’t extreme right-wingers, Nazis and fascists and the like, support inequality based on group identity? I would simply direct you to Horseshoe Theory. The only difference between the extreme right-wing and the extreme left-wing (i.e. Progressives) is which groups should be made to suffer.

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Virtue Signaling and the Male Apex Fallacy

Virtue-Signaling Virtue Signaling is utilizing a display of disgust at those “other people” to indicate how good you are and how bad they are. It has little to do with the actual underlying merit of a thing or idea. Because in truth there are few things in this world that are all good or all bad. Moreover, the goodness or badness of something is dependent on what you value.

Nonetheless, such virtue signaling is rampant in our modern world. People are eager to signal to others that they are “good” and “virtuous”.  Facebook and Twitter are basically a Virtue-Signaling-Environmentalismplayground for such virtue signaling … a constant stream of Outrage Culture devoid of any real discussion about the pros and cons of various ideas.

And if you spend any time on Facebook at the moment, you quickly learn that Trump is Hitler and Bernie is a communist and Hilary also might somehow be Hitler (but a lying one) … the other side is EVIL. Discourse at the level of a 4th grader is a hallmark of Virtue Signaling.

It’s ironic, cause Friedrich Hayek’s whole book “Road to Serfdom” (published 70 years ago) is all about how people like to blame their opponents for failures, when those failures are often the unintended consequences of their own policies or beliefs.

Imagine you are driving down the road, and you see up on your right (in America at least) a car trying to pull out of a parking lot into traffic. Suddenly the car in front of you slams on their brakes, comes to a complete stop, just to let the car out. Is what they did a “kind” act? Was it “good”?

Now some may say “yesVirtue-Signaling-white-guilt”, it was polite and courteous to pause and let someone go first. But what about the other cars behind the suddenly stopped car in the middle of moving traffic? They would have to slam on their brakes too, unexpectedly. Chances are some driver 2-3 cars back may have got rear-ended, even if the original stopped car was fine. And, moreover, the car pulling out of the parking lot that they let in will one day be back behind some other car that may stop suddenly to let another car in. The “kind” act today may come back to leave them rear-ended in the future.

But you might say, if they don’t let them in, then that car may have to wait to pull out for a very long time … how is that fair?

The reality is that, in this scenario, there is no situation where everyone wins. No matter what the original driver chooses to do – stop and let the car in, or go on and reduce the risk for drivers behind them – someone will win and someone will lose.

And this, my friends, is the failure of Virtue Signaling … it believes in an everyone-wins scenario. But in real life, just like the car driving example, those scenarios do not exist. They only exist when you ignore the plight of the cars behind you. There will always be winners and losers, no matter what you do.

Apex-Fallacy The Apex Fallacy is the notion that the strength, power, or privilege of a group is judged based on the top individual of that group, rather than the true average. For instance, judging the power and privilege of men based on that of Fortune 500 CEOs or NBA athletes, even though 99.99% of men are not CEOs or famous athletes.

The Apex Fallacy is often used as justification for the forced disenfranchisement of one group, even if not every member of that group actually enjoys the privileges of that group. Think poor white boy from Appalachia … not every white male is the CEO of a Fortune 500 Apex-fallacy-1company. Punishing the poor white boy is fundamentally unfair … and people intuitively sense that, regardless what the Progressives say.

Even within the sexual marketplace, such cognitive distortions reign supreme … e.g. the assumption that most men are like Brad Pitt and go out and take whatever they want whenever they want. For most men, however, life is hard work. As much rejection as success. Very little given for free. Most has to scrapped and clawed for. And men are hyper-competitive with each other, even success is just a reason for others to try to pull you down.

And this brings us to the unique kind of Virtue Signaling often seen on social media or real-life: men supporting feminism or defending women as oppressed or other sorts of White-Knighting. This sort of virtue signaling derives directly from the Apex Fallacy … the notion that there can be no male “losers” because all men have already won.

And just as in the car example, they ignore the plight of those cars behind them. They believe inherently in the fallacy of a “win-win” solution in real life.

The point is – whether it be in politics, or driving a car, or in intersexual dating dynamics – such Virtue Signaling depends on a willful ignorance of the unintended consequences.  A word of warning to the men out there: when someone tells you to “do the right thing” when it comes to women … there is no “right thing”. Someone will bear the consequences … more than likely a man. It might even be you yourself. As such, virtue signaling might prove your own undoing.

Protect yourself.

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The Failure of Neoliberalism: Groups do not equal Individuals

Neoliberal-iconsThe failure of Neoliberalism – which to many represents a libertarian economic approach – is not in its embrace of classical liberal economics … rather, its principle flaw is in its embrace of the idea that groups of people equate to individuals.

Neoliberals (such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan) in general support an empowerment of groups, e.g. corporations, to operate free of regulation, and wield power both politically and economically that is traditionally reserved for individual persons. From this principle extends a number of corollaries. For instance, the concept that corporations “have political views” and should be free to spend money on campaigns.

The thing that neoliberals do not seem to understand is that by empowering groups such as corporations, we actually diminish the power of individual persons.  Not because people within those organizations may not have a say in how the organization is run or what political campaigns it gives money too … but simply for the fact that an individual person will never have the money or influence of a corporation. They will simply be shouted over.

Perhaps not the intended consequence, but a consequence nonetheless. Ironically, in that sense, neoliberalism actually exhibits a sort of collectivism reminiscent of socialism … the only real distinction is how one defines the group collectives: worker collectives vs. corporate collectives. It is not laissez-faire capitalism.

No true classical liberal would support empowering groups over individuals, even if it is done so as an unintended consequence. And as such attributing neoliberalism to the ideas of libertarianism or Friedrich Hayek’s works is laughable at best. Neoliberalism was simply trying to mish-mash the principles of classical liberalism with collectivist planning (albeit with corporate “collectives”). Its failure lied in thinking that groups of people could be equated to individual persons.

If you’ve ever read Hayek’s Road to Serfdom (linked above), you would know he’d be rolling in his grave at that.

friedrich-hayek-freedom-social-justice-mirageThe Supreme Court is currently deliberating on whether religiously-affiliated organizations should be forced to provide birth control coverage as part of their health care insurance for employees. What is interesting about the case, given the above discussion of the critical failings of Neoliberalism, is how both the Right and the Left have taken principles of neoliberalism and applied them to particular issues that fit their agendas. Call it cherry-picking

In the current Supreme Court case, the debate is really about whether groups can “have religious rights” the same as individual persons. That would be the religious right’s argument.

And equally on the Left, we have Progressives and SJWs arguing that certain groups should be given special privileges (e.g. Affirmative Action for women or blacks) even at the expense of disenfranchising individuals who are not part of that group, even if they are just as under-privileged (think poor white children from rural Appalachia).

Both sides are in essence arguing that groups equate to individuals. That groups are entitled to individual rights. Even at the expense of actual individual persons and their rights.

Cannot say this clearly enough, so I will say it simply: That is NOT a Liberal position. Nor does it align with Western principles of classical liberalism, free markets, and individual rights.

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