Comments on Two Columns
By Arnold Kling
Given the importance that the French Constitution attaches to liberty and the seriousness of the threat to peace and public order posed by the large, restive and nonassimilating portion of its Muslim population, the veil represents a legitimate concern. Banning it would be justified to the extent that Muslim communities in France use the veil to deprive girls of basic educational opportunities and to prevent women from fulfilling their obligations as citizens, or that terrorists create a security threat by disguising themselves in the veil.
I do not share my friend’s sympathies with the French government here. I could see affirming a woman’s right not to wear a veil, but I cannot see forbidding a woman from wearing one. My instinct is to think that banning the veil is not a legitimate role for the state. Nor does it seem wise. When cultural norms are at issue, the challenge is to attract people to your norms, which you don’t do by suppressing someone else’s.
politics increasingly devotes itself to making people feel good about themselves — elevating their sense of self-worth and affirming their belief in their moral superiority.
I am tempted to apply this to someone who commented on one of my recent posts, in which he sounded as if he feels such moral superiority to participants in the Tea Party movement that he prefers liberals, in spite of the economic policies of the latter.
I am prepared to believe that everyone’s political views, including my own, reflect a desire for status. In the case of politics, status is related to group affiliation, and often what matters to you most is the status of your group. More below the fold.I felt all along that the health care debate was about relatively small substantive issues (the legislation left untouched the serious problems in our health care system–its inability to limit the over-use of medical procedures and the imminent fiscal collapse. Even if we “bend the cost curve” by 2080, that will be meaningless, because the demographics will wipe out Medicare by 2030.). However, the group status issues became really huge and really heated. The ruling class told the non-ruling-class were to stuff it.
I am against the ruling class. My line these days is that I consider myself a part of the elite, but not part of the ruling class.
One of my favorite passages in The Best and the Brightest comes a few pages into chapter four.
[Harvard sociologist David] Riesman remained uneasy. In mid-1961 he had lunch with two of the more distinguished social scientists in the Kennedy government. On the subject of Vietnam the others talked about limited war with the combativeness which marked that particular era, about the possibilities of it, about the American right to practice it, about the very excitement of participating in it. All of this smacked strongly of the arrogance and hubris of the era, and Riesman became more and more upset…it occurred to him that his friends did not know much about America…”You all think you can manage limited wars and that you’re dealing with an elite society that is just waiting for your leadership…it’s not an Eastern elite society run for Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations.”
Incidentally, Chadwick Martin also finds Halberstam relevant to current events.
My take on the mortgage finance boom/bust, TARP, the stimulus, health care reform, and the global warming crusade is that they represent a series of ruling-class mistakes. From my perspective, these mistakes are in the tradition of such ruling-class mistakes as World War I and Vietnam.
I attach paramount importance to resisting the ruling class at this time. I view ethnic and cultural controversies as devices used by the ruling class to keep the resistance divided. The ruling class wants you to think that if you don’t support their entrenched power, the country will be over-run by a bunch of anti-intellectual racists and homophobes. I call baloney sandwich on that one.