Render unto Caesar: On the duty of (not) voting

After my last post on voting, I discovered that our friend Zippy Catholic has recently had an excellent series of very compelling posts on what he sees as the moral duty to refrain from voting. I give a brief overview of his arguments and a number of links below the break.

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SlutWalk and the gnostic temptation

Remember SlutWalk? From the Wikipedia page:

Participants protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance.[3] The rallies began when Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, suggested that to remain safe, “women should avoid dressing like sluts.”

It’s one of the peculiarities of the modern condition that advice of this sort is taken as an exercise in moral blame-assignment rather than simple, prudential wisdom. “X is a bad idea so don’t do it or Y might happen,” where, in this case, X = “Getting ruinously drunk in a sexually-charged environment surrounded by people you don’t know, then walking home alone through a bad part of town at 2 AM on a Saturday” but could just as well mean lots of other things, means just what it says and nothing more. And if Y happens, the fact that you’re not morally culpable for Y doesn’t mean X wasn’t, therefore, a bad idea.

Why, then, the leftist/feminist griping that this constitutes “blaming the victim”? Here’s a useful graphic of the typical SlutWalker demographic that gives us some insight into what’s going on in their heads:

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Things fall apart: Spanish youths edition

Deranged Spanish leftists invade a school, attack teachers, threaten to burn priests alive, and try to steal school equipment:

Madrid, Spain, Oct 19, 2012 / 10:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A group of young people shouting, “Where are the priests? We’re going to burn them at the stake,” attacked the Mary Help of Christians Salesian School in Merida, Spain, leaving one teacher wounded.

According to the Salesian Press Office in Spain, the incident occurred at 1:20 p.m. local time on Oct. 18, when “some 100 young people entered the premises of the Mary Help of Christians Salesian School in Merida.”  Nearly 1,000 K-12 students attend the school.

“Custodial workers and some teachers at the school tried to stop the group, but 10 of them were able to gain entrance to the school building, shouting insults against the institution, pushing staff members who were in their way and attempting to disrupt the normal school day,” the Salesians said.

Principal Marco Antonio Romero told the newspaper El Mundo that the young people’s intention was to pull down the crucifixes. “More public education and less crucifixes,” they shouted.

The attackers carried flags from the Spanish Civil War, shouted insults at the teachers and professors and tried to steal several laptop computers from classrooms, the newspaper reported.

The red, yellow and dark purple flags were the same ones used by the Republican faction, left-wing radicals and anarchists during Spain’s bloody, anti-clerical conflict that led to the deaths of thousands of priest, seminarians, religious and laypeople between 1936 and 1939.

During the attack on the school, one teacher suffered minor wounds while trying to keep the young people from entering her classroom.

Coincidentally, I was thumbing through an old volume of poetry earlier and came across one of my favorites, W.B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming,” which I often quoted approvingly at Collapse: The Blog. This line struck me as especially fitting:

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”


Proper Reduction

Reductionist explanation – as, e.g., materialism, or Marxism, or scientism, or for that matter any of the other popular conspiracy theories – is always tempting, for there is generally a grain of truth to it. That’s the only way it could be at all appealing to the questing intellect. Things being all coherent, they must all explain each other; must make sense in terms of each other. Thus may they all be viewed in terms of each other with some profit; and any accurate and adequate formalization of reality must in principle be susceptible to translation into the terms of another formalization likewise accurate and adequate. So it is that we can treat of economic transactions as all physical, and vice versa; or, likewise, treat of economic transactions, and ergo physical transactions, as all moral or aesthetic, and vice versa. We can learn all sorts of interesting and useful things by thinking in this way.  

But where such reductionist explanation is taken as the final word – where, i.e., such assertions as “economics is nothing but scurrying atoms” are bruited about – it is inadequate to the explication of the whole truth in almost all cases. Whenever you hear “x is nothing but y,” cast an especially jaundiced eye. For, no finite set of causes can exhaustively account for all the infinitely many true statements we could form about any subject. And in the final analysis, nature cannot explain itself.

Thus there is really but one factor to which we may reduce any phenomenon with complete adequacy: God.

Ayn Rand and Sacrifice

The following is a segment, much rewritten, of an article on Rand’s Atlas that Modern Age ran some few years ago –

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is, up to a limit, a true revelation of redistributive rapacity, even of the old call to sacrifice in its Twentieth-Century ideological manifestation; the novel is, up to a limit, a true revelation of ideology as a reversion to the most primitive type of cultic religiosity: Collective murder as a means of appeasing a supernatural principle.  It is also – it is primarily – a sacrificial narrative, as most of popular, as opposed to high, narrative ever has been and probably always will be.  It follows that the novel’s borrowed premise is sacrifice: Rand invites us to view with a satisfying awe the destruction before our eyes of those who have mistreated the protagonists, with whom she has invited us to identify – one of the cheapest formulas of commercial fiction.  The standard Arnold Schwarzenegger or Clint Eastwood thriller achieves its effect by no different means.  The catharsis in Atlas comes not at the end, however, but around two-thirds of the way through the story.  It is the superbly stage-managed Winston Tunnel disaster.

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Fleming on Rand

Vis-à-vis our recent discussion on the wretchedness of Ayn Rand and what our possible future Vice-President’s loyalty to her ideals says about him, Thomas Fleming has a delightful essay about the deranged slut and the legion of monsters her writings have spawned (h/t to commenter Daniel S. at Thinking Housewife):

Ayn Rand was dreadful in every way.  As an intellectual, she offered a warmed-over version of Nietzsche seasoned with borrowed bits of Isabel Patterson.  Her ideology of “Objectivism” can be summed up in Rand’s own words as “the virtue of selfishness.”  In other words, greed is good, look out for number one, charity is bunk.  Yes, I get it.  It is the creed of the selfish jerks who make everyday life in America so unpleasant.

Then there are her really dreadful novels.  I did succeed in finishing The Fountainhead, and if someone has a taste for cheap romantic fiction with improbably larger-than-life characters, he might actually like such stuff, though Rand faces stiff competition from the likes of Jacqueline Susann, Harold Robbins, and Victoria Holt.  As for Atlas Shrugged–the book Paul Ryan professed to like–it is really awful beyond words. I well remember my own reaction to the over-quoted first sentence, “Who is John Galt?”  Who could possibly care?

The less said of Rand’s personal life, the better.  The long-running soap opera of her marital infidelities with her disciple “Nathaniel Branden” (not his real name) have been disclosed in excruciating detail by Branden’s wife.  From the bits I read, it was a lot like the cheating and lying that caused the breakup of the rock band Fleetwood Mac.  It is bad enough that such tacky people exist in our society.  What effrontery they have to parade their dirty little secrets in public.

Perhaps the worst thing about Rand is the character of so many of her followers:  nerdy little dweebs (as we used to call them back them) who imagine themselves to be supermen.  I used to run into Objectivists all the time, and I could never decide which of their offensive qualities was the most prominent.  Rudeness, arrogance, or imbecillity.

Towards the end is a little anecdote, which makes Rand out to be so utterly depraved that I have a hard time believing it, in which Murray Rothbard noisily departed from Rand’s company after she tried to compel his wife to repudiate Christ. Does anyone know if it’s accurate?

Phase Change

There are a number of different cults in the financial world where I earn my bread and butter. One is the school of technical analysis, whose sectarians are called “Chartists” on the Street. The Chartists try to discern patterns in the curves of recent market indices that resemble other such patterns evident in economic history, and then predict what will happen next on the basis of what followed a previous instance of the recent shape. This is exquisitely bass-ackward, because the recent shape of the curve of a broad market index like the S&P 500 is a derivate of the recent changes in investor expectations about the future course of corporate profits, which are a proxy for changes in overall economic wealth, which are derivates of changes in general economic activity, which are in turn derivates of trillions of discrete economic decisions by actual human agents, that result in physical work. What moves the economy is the work triggered by those decisions; like your decision about whether to enjoy the marginal beer as you read this fascinating blog, or not. For everyone but the Chartists themselves, the patterns in the recent shape of the curve of an index don’t factor into their quotidian decisions. What do thus factor, for most people, are quite concrete moral and aesthetic considerations – like, “Boy, I sure could use a beer; but, these pants are too tight, lately, so …” The Goodness and Beauty, the Economic Value, of society, are produced by the moral and aesthetic decisions of human agents.

Technical analysis, then, is not only risibly reductionist, but it reduces economic activity, not in the wrong way, but in a wrongheaded way, a way that can’t even be wrong; as if physicists were to attribute the behavior of the physical systems under their study to their tables of measurements of such systems.


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Bitter irony

I am proud of the level of discourse my colleagues maintain at the Orthosphere.  The focus is on the highest things and the biggest questions, and the tone is serene and charitable.  I hate to spoil this, but being a blogger, sometimes temptation gets the better of me.  Below are some rants about the world underneath Heaven, and the tone is cynical to despairing because nothing I see prompts any better feeling.  Now you can’t say you haven’t been warned.

The only voting guide Catholics need

A simpler alternative to the USCCB’s “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” presented in under 500 words:

“Man is a social animal,” and his good is naturally bound up with the good of others. Thus he has duties not only to himself and to God but to family, neighbors, and the wider society. This entails an obligation to act as a co-steward of the common good through participation in civic life and social institutions. Where men are enfranchised, this obligation produces a duty to exercise, and to exercise well, the right to vote (CCC 2240).

But this duty is not absolute and, like virtually all other duties, is conditioned by a number of considerations, including the all-overriding obligation to avoid sin and complicity in evil. Insofar as, in the modern age, it is virtually impossible to cast a vote for a major-party candidate who does not support some form of moral evil, we are absolutely enjoined on moral grounds for voting for such a candidate without sufficiently grave reason.

Faithful Catholics who oppose the reelection of Barack Obama are to be commended for their dutiful attentiveness to the core social teachings of the Catholic faith, especially its opposition to abortion. I can envision no scenarios in which a vote to reelect the current President falls short of being morally grave matter. But the extreme moral depravity of the agenda of the current President is not sufficient to justify an unconsidered vote for his chief opponent, who is himself a supporter of several grave moral evils (including, among other things, torture, unjust wars, and the abandonment of children to the care and upbringing of unrepentant perverts). Such a vote can only be justified if those moral evils are neither the motivating impetus for that vote nor proportionally greater than any good that might come about as a result of his victory. In other words, far from it being assumed that a vote for Gov. Romney is morally justifiable on the grounds that he is the “lesser of two evils,” the mere fact of his being evil means it must be presumed that one cannot vote for him without sufficiently grave reason.

Given his shameless duplicity on the issue of abortion, his personal financial support for the eugenic slaughter of his own grandchildren, and, of course, his appalling record in having supported a bill nearly identical in scope and consequence to Obamacare, it is very unlikely that such a proportional greater good can be found to justify a vote for him, without the benefit of soul-endangering intellectual contortions.

It would seem, then, that Catholics (and men of good faith everywhere) are absolutely enjoined on moral grounds for voting for either major-party candidate. Those who choose to exercise their right to vote should, therefore, either vote for a morally commendable third party candidate (if one can be found), write-in such a candidate of their own choosing, or else spoil their ballots. The same principles apply in general to all candidates down-ticket, as well.


Open thread: The Last Psychiatrist

The Last Psychiatrist is (probably) not one of us (hint: he describes himself as a “misanthropic rummie” who “looks like a mugshot”), but he is a brilliant mind with many flashes of insight into the pathology of modern living. Recurring themes include the pervasiveness of narcissism and the evils of establishment science and mainstream media. Check him out (but be wary, there’s some vulgarity).