January 2, 2007

Adler, Drezner, and Levy try to close the glass window on debate, and I say, Aw, come on, you're not gonna say that now.

Jonathan Adler declares that "the last words" have been spoken on a subject that I started. What are these famous last words? One is from Dan Drezner, whose post I've already linked to but who adds an update saying that this post from Jacob Levy -- which is Adler's other "last word" -- is "the last word."

Hmmm.... some people seem awfully nervous about shutting down debate... right after slamming me. That's a fascinating approach to debate! That called some movie scene to mind for me... What was it? Something I'd seen recently. Oh, yes. It was this:
McMurphy: The Chief voted. Now will you please turn on the television set?

Nurse Ratched: [she opens the glass window] Mr. McMurphy. The meeting was adjourned and the vote was closed.

McMurphy: But the vote was 10 to 8. The Chief, he's got his hand up! Look!

Nurse Ratched: No, Mr. McMurphy. When the meeting was adjourned, the vote was 9 to 9.

McMurphy: [exasperated] Aw, come on, you're not gonna say that now. You're not gonna say that now. You're gonna pull that hen-house sh*t now when the vote... the Chief just voted - it was 10 to 9. Now I want that television set turned on, right now!

[Nurse Ratched closes the glass window.]
Jonathan Adler closes the glass window. Aw, come on, you're not gonna say that now. You're gonna pull that hen-... that... c-... that rooster-house sh*t now?

You can't close the glass window in blogging. There are no last words in blogging.

So, Drezner says "Jacob Levy gets the last, definitive word." Oh, it's not only "last," it's "definitive"? It's the last, definitive, authoritative, conclusive, decisive, closing, concluding, terminal, ultimate, final thing anyone can ever, ever, ever say on the subject. Could you demonstrate a little more eagerness to cut off the debate there, Dan?

But before Nurse Drezner closes the glass window, he also has an earlier update, where he quotes me responding to him and responds to me.
Althouse responds here:
Idea geeks. Okay. Well, my experience in legal academia is that people who try to get into the idea geek zone need to get their pretensions punctured right away. The sharp lawprof types I admire always see a veneer on top of something more important, and our instinct is to peel it off. What is your love of this idea really about? That's our method.

We are here to harsh your geek zone mellow.
I confess I'm not entirely sure what "geek zone mellow" means. I think Ann is warning the blogoshere [sic] that people in love with ideas qua ideas need someone to take a pragmatist hammer and whack them upside the head every once in a while.
Note the strange situation that always goes on when I engage with academic types. I'm writing in a different mode from them. I'm not trying to model an academic writing style or demeanor. I'm writing in a way that makes the squares exclaim "You, a law professor!" I'm doing something different here.

So, Dan had written about himself as an "idea geek" and the Liberty Fund conferences as places that attract a lot of "idea geeks" who like to sit around and debate ideas in the abstract. So that would be an "idea geek zone." That's not hard, is it? Beyond that, you need to recognize the phrase "harsh your mellow." Think about what all of this means. If you love ideas so damned much, why can't you put these ideas together? Dan, if you want to respond to me and declare things to be last, definitive words, you've got to work harder at trying to understand the things that come at you from a different angle. Don't just scrunch up your face in the Althouse-doesn't-make-sense expression.

Dan continues:
All well and good. But my experience in political science -- particularly international relations -- is that a distressingly high percentage of legal academics write from such an atheoretical, normative perspective that they don't realize that underlying their legal and policy pragmatics are implicit theories that need to be exposed, prodded, probed, and (often) pierced. I might add that it is my fervent hope that legal academics keep on doing this, because it means that they will continue to provide empirical grist for my theoretical mill.
Exposed, prodded, probed, and (often) pierced. No sexual imagery there!

All he's really got is the assertion that he doesn't like pragmatism. It's too atheoretical and normative. But pragmatism is a theory, whether you like it or not. And the demand for normativity is also theoretical. That I don't write blog posts in the style of academic theorizing doesn't mean I couldn't if I wanted to. I'm a blogger, engaged in a writing project of a particular kind that is different from what you're doing and that means a lot to me. I could write a very theoretical article about what I am doing here, but that's not what I do here. Meanwhile, you're essentially stooping to namecalling. How theoretical is that?

Now, let's move on to the supposedly final authority on what I got so terribly wrong when I objected to some abstract theories that would have preserved segregation until racists had a change of heart: Jacob Levy. Jacob Levy is a political science professor at McGill University. (Here's a picture of him.) He has this to say about me:
There's a very strange...

blogspheric discussion afoot about federalism, whether and how American federalism is tainted by Jim Crow, antidiscrimination law vs. freedom of contract, and the bounds of civil discourse-- strange because somehow it's all come to center around Ann Althouse's judgments about who weirded her out at a conference, which seems not to be the most intellectually productive starting point....

Levy is another one of these academic bloggers who launch into writing about me -- taking a superior but clunky attitude -- without getting my approach to blogging. Yes, I wrote a post that was an impressionistic take on my experience in a particular social setting. Now, of course, it wasn't just an introspective me-and-my-feelings manifestation of blogginess. There were daggers in there. And I was doing something provocative. People were provoked. One thing led to another. Various humorless oafs roused themselves to throw punches at me. I take responsibility for doing all of that. It is, after all, what I do.

Levy struts:
I've got a discussion of these questions in my APSR paper, and a much more extensive follow-up in a an article that should be coming out in Social Philosophy and Policy any day now....
Oh, well, then you've got the most intellectually productive starting point. (And ending point, if we're to listen to Adler and Drezner.) You've got some articles. Wow -- the reader is suppsed to think -- unlike with Althouse, this is sure to be intellectual.

Nevermind that I've published scholarly articles on the subject of federalism for the past 20 years. Levy spells out some basic points and platitudes about federalism as if I'd never heard them before. Because, you know, I didn't put them in my blog post. (Go to the link if you want to consume Jacob's pedantry on federalism.)

He then has this about me:
Oy. I just read some more of Althouse's own posts on all this-- which are a really bizarre mix of extreme defensiveness, extreme personal vitriol, and a dramatic interest in herself and her own sense of righteousness.
Don't bother to mention that that I was responding to a vicious personal attack on me. You're a real model of fairness yourself there, Jacob.
And I then remembered the tone, and remembered where I'd heard of Ann Althouse before. (I know she's become a big-deal blogger, but she's never been on my to-read list.) She was the one who found Feministing blogger Jessica guilty of having breasts while standing in the same room as Bill Clinton.
So I'm the one with "extreme personal vitriol," when you swing wildly like that? No one reading this could begin to understand what that old controversy was really about. Shame on you, Jacob Levy, for presenting such one-sided hostility on that touchy old topic. My side of it is that Feministing is a blog that holds itself out as feminist yet spices up its webpage with numerous images of breasts, and that the blogger Levy sees fit to call only by her first name proudly posed in front of Bill Clinton, at a luncheon designed to enlist bloggers in the Clinton political agenda and lacked the feminist grit to object to what Clinton meant for feminism. Not that she "had breasts." That is the meme spread by various bloggers who felt like defending Clinton. You know, Jacob Levy, if you're such a powerful intellectual, why not put a little deep thought into this instead of just catching the meme and re-spewing it. And if you want to pontificate about the ethics of blogging and denounce me, clean up your own act.
The arguments that followed spiralled nastily quickly-- I think due to that same combination of traits. I don't know Professor Althouse-- never met her-- and I have no idea whether the persona of her blog corresponds to her character. (Blogging's not for everybody, and it can be very tricky to keep control of the tone of one's blogging.) But the blog persona seems to be consistent across the two cases, and to be... something less than admirable.
Look in a mirror, pal.

Levy prints a comment from a reader who suggests that Levy actually agreed with me about federalism. Levy bristles:
Althouse's position isn't really an anti-dogmatist one. It's dogmatism without a theory.
Levy's all: I have a theory, which is mine, a theory that is, that it is, this theory of mine, this theory that I have, that is to say, which is mine, it is mine...
She's drawn a bright line in a particular place, and those on the wrong side of it are presumed to be arguing in bad faith for malicious motives because no one could ever really hold such a view. Her bright line isn't drawn deductively, but it's a much brighter line than those that have been drawn by any of her critics. Even if I draw the federalism line kind of close to where she does, I do so on the basis of balancing considerations some of which she's preemptively declared it illegitimate to even take into account.
What is he talking about? You may well wonder. What's this bright-line dogmatism? And what are these presumptions I've supposedly made? He seems to be demanding high standards of logical reasoning, but he's engaging in pure rant here. You can't even tell what he's talking about. And even as a generalization, it's nothing even close to an accurate account of what I said. He is simply falling all over himself trying to denounce me.

And this is what Adler and Drezner think is the last word? Oh, you boys are showing all the signs of desperate denial. Let's remember what the subject is. I said that if you are devoted to an abstract theory of government that would have allowed racial segregation to persist indefinitely, then it raises the question whether the reason you like this theory so much is either that you actually desire segregation or that you are insufficiently concerned about it. Once this question arises, you need to talk about it, and the avoidance of the question makes those who have the question feel even more dissatisfaction with the theory. How does that fit with Levy's final rant? It's more strenuous avoidance of my question, with efforts at slurring me for even asking it.

Really, it's quite absurd. The problem of race is central to American law and history. If you don't want to talk about it, you have a problem. If you retreat into abstractions and go on and on about how intellectual and theoretical and logical you are, you look worse and worse to people who care about civil rights.

This is exactly what occurred at that dinner with Ron Bailey. The more intensely the self-styled theoreticians insist on avoiding the serious question about race, the more nagging the question becomes, the more you feel pulled toward blurting out what is -- I admit! -- impolite: How do I know I'm not sitting at a table with racists? How would actually sitting at a table with racists be any different from this? Assuming, of course, they were intellectual racists. With theories. Who spell out deductions for you. And for themselves. I'm sure they've gotten so sophisticated they don't even think about race at all anymore and so cannot imagine themselves as racists, who are those crass, illiterate southerners of bygone days. And this, in case you don't know, is a theory.

Meanwhile, back at the comments to Jonathan Adler's post, someone who calls himself Tom Tildrum has some words about the Levy post that Adler called "the last word":
I'm sorry; I consistently like Levy's writing and have always found him quite sensible, but this post is a trainwreck.

His seven scholarly points boil down to the conclusion that political theory has absolutely nothing substantive to offer on the question at hand (concluding that "it's a case-by-case balancing test" is not a theory).

Overall, Levy's post simply evades Althouse's point: does he believe that to oppose the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 "is not to support Jim Crow"? That's what Althouse was writing about, and the fact that the Liberty Fund's stated principles lead to opposition of *that* extension of federal power. Levy twists around this issue by changing the subject and writing instead about "the centralization of 1937," but that's so far off point as to be nearly irrelevant.

Levy does make the point that "in figuring out the balance of advantages about any particular allocation of responsibility between the states and the center, Jim Crow must loom large in the American historical memory." That point, of course, is precisely what Althouse was arguing at the Liberty Fund conference, and precisely what the libertarians there were insistently ignoring. For some reason, though, when Althouse makes Levy's own point, Levy calls her "dogmatic." Given Levy's focus only on Althouse's arguments, and not on the libertarians' pigheadedness, his analysis is hopelessly one-sided.

What's worse, Althouse is dogmatically anti-racist "without a theory"! Given Levy's own inability to articulate any coherent theoretical point about federalism and racism, this conclusion is simply risible.

Finally, Levy chastises Althouse for her personal tone, while wholly ignoring the personal nature of the Ron Bailey's attacks on her. This is borderline sexist; when a man goes after a woman in this way, Levy has nothing to say, but when a woman retaliates, he's offended.

Thus, I would hate to think that this aberrantly poor post (from a writer whom, as I said, I usually respect very much) should be taken as the last word on this subject. I think Levy needs to respond forthrightly to the real questions that Althouse has raised: can one oppose the passage of the Civil Rights Act without supporting Jim Crow, and if one's principles lead one to support Jim Crow, is that racist? Also, I think Levy needs to examine how much his own predilections and loyalties may have influenced his analysis, and he should apologize to Althouse for the slanted and patronizing tone of his post.
Yeah, really. And Adler and Drezner could apologize for linking to that and calling it "the last word."

UPDATE: Levy doesn't apologize, but, in an update to the post discussed here, he does seem to concede that he doesn't get this blog (not that he intends to start trying). In the comments, Amba gives me some classic Amba-style encouragement that I really appreciate:
Cloistered intellectual weasels vs. a street-fighting thinker, or street-thinking fighter. It really makes you see that thinking needs to be liberated from the academy to have any relevance to reality. Thanks, Ann.
It help to have someone I admire so much see what I'm trying to do and help me keep believing in it.

69 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the response to the original post has been disproportionate and caused quite a bit of self-inflicted damage to reputations.

For some time now, it has reminds me of a bunch of boys who build a small fort with a large sign, "No Girls Allowed," hanging on the outside. After one has the nerve to step in, look around, observe that "I don't want to be in your lousy little fort," all the boys become very upset and start the name calling.

How dare you!

sonicfrog said...

I know she's become a big-deal blogger, but she's never been on my to-read list...

Well, Ann, I'm sure you're very dissapointed about this - heartbroken even, to find that a quality person such as Levy does not feel compelled to read your blog.

I loved this little jibe posted on the blog called "Prettier than Napolion"...

Three different people sent me links to Ann Althouse's spectacular flameout today, so I feel like I have to post about it.

Oh, bother...

Judging from the Althouse Obsession contained throughout the blog (hey, this isn't the famous "Mary", is it) I doubt it took three links to get her to write bout this. I would suspect two would do just fine!

Todd and in Charge said...

I love the Nurse Drezner reference!

amba said...

Cloistered intellectual weasels vs. a street-fighting thinker, or street-thinking fighter. It really makes you see that thinking needs to be liberated from the academy to have any relevance to reality. Thanks, Ann.

altoids1306 said...

I've got to say, I'm a little confused by it all. Like the masterless samurai said, it feels like schoolground dust-up.

Like PJ Media, like the sweater-intern-Clinton episode, once Althouse commits, she doesn't let up. Even if it wasn't personal, it is personal now.

My advice to the boys: back off, you might even be completely right, but it's not worth it. In the large ideological sweep of things, you're all on the same side.

If I may be presumptous enough to offer advice to Althouse: I've been reading this blog for awhile (years), and it's great. Once in a while you launch into something like this, and that's just one of the quirks of this place. But if I were completely new to this blog, and this was the first-or-second post I read, I would conclude that you were some combination of self-obsessed and very bored.

In fact, I'd bet that if somehow you had your memory erased and you read this post, you'd come to the same conclusion. Maybe you don't care, but I guess my point is, you can pick your teeth in front of friends, but not strangers. The problem with blogs is, there are strangers coming all the time.

Simon said...

Ann said:
"Nevermind that I've published scholarly articles on the subject of federalism for the past 20 years."

That's a point you've made before in this subject, but if you'll allow a minor (if familiar) criticism: almost none of that material is available to people without Lexis or Westlaw access, and even for people that do have such access, you don't maintain a list of those articles anywhere that I know of. I have a list of sixteen of your articles, but I had to piece it together from footnotes, citations and google searches, and so it's probably missing several. Consequentially, I'd be willing to bet that you could count on one hand the readers of this blog, including me, who've read your scholarship.

Your scholarship is great. It sets an important context for your blog (and a fortiori, a vital context for your position in this spat over federalism). You should make it easier for people to read it.

C.J.Colucci said...

If all these bright folks don't "get" what you're doing, you might want to consider the possibility that they are not to blame.

C.J.Colucci said...

If all these bright folks don't "get" what you're doing, you might want to consider the possibility that they are not entirely to blame.

pablo H said...

Really, it's quite absurd. The problem of race is central to American law and history. If you don't want to talk about it, you have a problem. If you retreat into abstractions and go on and on about how intellectual and theoretical and logical you are, you look worse and worse to people who care about civil rights.

This is exactly what occurred at that dinner with Ron Bailey. The more intensely the self-styled theoreticians insist on avoiding the serious question about race, the more nagging the question becomes, the more you feel pulled toward blurting out what is -- I admit! -- impolite: How do I know I'm not sitting at a table with racists?

I don't know about the law, but race in NOT CENTREL to US history. Again, I find this obsession with "racism" odd. Its 2007 not 1967.

Why is Althouse, a white women in lilly white Madison, so worked about
"civil rights" and the plight of black folks?

Where are the massive violations of civil rights in the USA? I don't seem them. Why should we still be running around obsessing over this issue? Why is Althouse on the look out for "racists" where none exists.

Why does Althouse think that people under 45 should share her obsession and desire to live in the past, fighting racists that don't exist?

Sorry, I just don't get it.

Pogo said...

The concern with libertarianism in extremis, as I'd mentioned previously, is that private likes and dislikes writ as large as a town beget police enforcement of those seemingly individual desires, and eventually these become systematic and codified into law.

That is, the libertarian tradition rapidly devolves into an anti-liberty position of state dominance over personal freedoms.

It's not just theoretical, it 's Jim Crow.

But I agree that the unintended side effects of the Civil Rights legislation created an overbroad intrusion into private life and have undone property rights, the bulwark of liberty.

Much damage was done trying to rectify the legacy of slavery. It's quite possible that both sides went too far, and that both sides are wrong.

Ann Althouse said...

Internet Ronin said..."For some time now, it has reminds me of a bunch of boys who build a small fort with a large sign, "No Girls Allowed," hanging on the outside. After one has the nerve to step in, look around, observe that "I don't want to be in your lousy little fort," all the boys become very upset and start the name calling. How dare you!"

Definitely. The boys' club aspect of this really comes across. I wasn't going to write about this dispute anymore, and I'd already read Levy's screed. But then I saw that "last word" business from Adler echoing Drezner's "last, definitive word" thing, and I just couldn't let that stand. They look bad clumped together like that. Strange that they don't notice. They love to call me "bizarre," but they are too prone to look exactly like each other, and to assume that is a way to look good. It only is until you get called on it. I had to call them on it.

sonicfrog said: "'I know she's become a big-deal blogger, but she's never been on my to-read list...' Well, Ann, I'm sure you're very dissapointed about this - heartbroken even, to find that a quality person such as Levy does not feel compelled to read your blog."

Yeah, really. LOL. I'd never even heard of him.

Todd and in Charge said..."I love the Nurse Drezner reference!"

Thanks. I really had that sliding glass window image in my head before I could place it. Academia is, apparently, a mad house, and this blog is my bus ride and fishing expedition.

amba said..."Cloistered intellectual weasels vs. a street-fighting thinker, or street-thinking fighter. It really makes you see that thinking needs to be liberated from the academy to have any relevance to reality. Thanks, Ann."

Thank you, as always, for seeing what I'm trying to do and helping me keep believing in it (and framing it in new and memorable words).

altoids1306 said..."I've got to say, I'm a little confused by it all. Like the masterless samurai said, it feels like schoolground dust-up."

Maybe, but if so, I have to fight back. And maybe not, because race really shouldn't be edited out.

"Like PJ Media, like the sweater-intern-Clinton episode, once Althouse commits, she doesn't let up. Even if it wasn't personal, it is personal now."

I can see when people are trying to push me back, and the more they try the more I will stand my ground. And the male bloggers are all too confident that they can bully a woman out of the relevant part of the blogosphere. I can see that I drive them crazy, and it has become a method. They want to remake blogging into an academic exercise and they want to make the rules. They constantly try to delegitimitize me, usually by labelling me as crazy or stupid -- or not "theoretical" and "intellectual" -- to try to scare me from doing what I thoroughly mean to do -- this thing that Amba understands. This experience has redoubled my commitment to my approach. The fact that they attacked me over the issue of the importance of desegregation makes it a little too easy, though. If you have a moral compass, you know I'm right on the substance of this one. 40 years after the Civil Rights Act, it should be a no-brainer. Apparently, if you've got a sufficiently inflated academic head you can make it a hard question again. Pffftt! No wonder they're defensive. All it takes is one little prick.

"My advice to the boys: back off, you might even be completely right, but it's not worth it. In the large ideological sweep of things, you're all on the same side."

Not if the game is boys versus girls. Or academic experts versus people with basic common sense.

"If I may be presumptous enough to offer advice to Althouse: I've been reading this blog for awhile (years), and it's great. Once in a while you launch into something like this, and that's just one of the quirks of this place. But if I were completely new to this blog, and this was the first-or-second post I read, I would conclude that you were some combination of self-obsessed and very bored."

Hey, it's a blog. It's an environment that represents one person's mind. If you get started here, you can see you're dealing with a real person. I'm committed to putting myself out there, and that means attracting attacks like this. I decided to accept the consequences a long time ago. If you think this is just self-indulgent, you should think again. There is a lot of risk, as the incidents you cite show. It's not fun to get caught up in these things, but it is part of the game I choose to play.

Anonymous said...

I would have been more interested to see you spend some time fleshing out the proper balance between civil rights and freedom of association, rather than discussing the blog discussion of the Libery Fund discussion. But I suppose I'll have to go look up your law review articles for that. Got any cites in this regard?

Henry said...

Levy's final FINAL last update -- which is to link to this post -- is final enough for me.

Can some Supreme Court Justice just retire now?

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't know about the law, but race in NOT CENTREL to US history."

Well, that's on the lists of dumbest comments ever.

A Menken Moment said...

I haven't really wanted to comment on this dispute, but I feel compelled to observe that while the theoretical must always be subject to revision from the empirical, the empirical is never apprehended without being informed by the theoretical, even if unconsciously. A steady regard for the objectivity of the idea, moreover, can prevent the mind from becoming so swamped in subjective emotion that the ad hominems begin to shape the discourse.

I hope too that while all citizins of good will readily acknowledge that the issue of race relations has weighed heavily upon the history of our nation, a benevolent mind can accept that for some it has not been the most important issue, that because our nation was ordained and established by a constitution, the ideas it manifests--all of them in toto and severally--may, in the minds of others similarly benevolent, claim overarching importance.

Anonymous said...

Crimminy, I'm sure this comment will be deleted, but I'm worried about Althouse's sanity. The various blogs cited to referred to the "final word" because this issue has been taken as far as it can go. Althouse is going to continue to accuse people of racism and misrepresent their opinions no matter how long the debate continues.

IE: "if you are devoted an abstract theory of government that would have allowed racial segregation to persist indefinitely, then it raises the question whether the reason you like this theory so much is either that you actually desire segregation or that you are insufficiently concerned about it." No one who has posted on the other side of the debate has espoused any devotion to "an abstract theory of government that would have allowed racial segregation to persist indefinitely," but Althouse continues to push the meme. In fact, the other side of this debate have expressly stated the contrary, to Althouse's deaf ears, and have only defended the intellectual pursuit of abstract thinking -- the challenging of ideas that even they hold dearly. That's something few in the blogosphere, esp Althouse, seem capable of -- challenging one's own closely held beliefs. Althouse's continued rantings on the issue (I can't believe this is the same person who has criticized Glen Greenwald's lengthy and unstructured writing -- for example, Ann, it's spelled "encouragement," not "encoragement." You really owe Greenwald an apology for that ad hominem attack) just lends support (circumstantial) to the idea that she became similarly unhinged at the conference.

Sigivald said...

Exposed, prodded, probed, and (often) pierced. No sexual imagery there!

Well, yeah. I'd read that as medical, not sexual.

At least, I don't find prodding and probing and piercing (as opposed to, say, penetrating) to be especially sexually charged. It reads more like a visit to a doctor than a sexual adventure.

Elliott said...

Unlike Levy, I do read this blog pretty regularly because I love train wrecks, I'm fascinated by Althouse's self delusion, and I'm amazed that she retains her non-wingnut friends in Madison while spewing the crap she does here.

Jacob said...

I confess that I don't understand how acknowledging that Ann is a big-deal blogger but that I haven't read her is a slight, an assertion that she should have heard of me, or any kind of claim of superiority. She is; I'm not; I could hardly slam a glass ceiling on someone who's several orders above me in the blogging food chain; etc. I did not intend or imply that somehow it was a fault of Ann's that she wasn't on my to-read list; necessarily, most blogs aren't on most people's to-read lists.

But if saying so somehow inadvertently implied one of those things, then I apologize for that.

Ann Althouse said...

jogoldbe said..."No one who has posted on the other side of the debate has espoused any devotion to "an abstract theory of government that would have allowed racial segregation to persist indefinitely," but Althouse continues to push the meme. In fact, the other side of this debate have expressly stated the contrary, to Althouse's deaf ears, and have only defended the intellectual pursuit of abstract thinking -- the challenging of ideas that even they hold dearly."

You really need to go back and read the older posts. I attended a conference, organized by Jonathan Adler, where we spent 9 hours talking about the theories of a man -- Frank S. Meyer -- who vehemently opposed desegregation. I was put off by him and very skeptical of his theories because of the positions he took in his time. I was surrounded by people who wanted to credit his theories uncritically. When I ask people to engage with the real world -- which was a context all about race -- they won't do it, and they go out of their way posturing about how they shouldn't have to do it. I say this is not enough. Since you seem to be a liberal, I really can't understand why you don't agree with me. Do you have your head on straight?

Ann Althouse said...

Elliott said..."Unlike Levy, I do read this blog pretty regularly because I love train wrecks, I'm fascinated by Althouse's self delusion, and I'm amazed that she retains her non-wingnut friends in Madison while spewing the crap she does here."

Well, you don't read it very carefully. You don't seem to realize that this controversy has me pitted against people to my right. You ought to accuse me of sucking up to my lefty friends. It would make a hell of a lot more sense.

Anonymous said...

ROTFLMAO
Once upon a time some pretentious Nitwits were playing a virtual reality game. They declared themselves to be Super Hero Intellectual Theoreticians.
They made up the rules to the game and changed them at will. They decided what was Truth and made it flexible. One day a True Wit pulled back the
curtain to take a peek at this virtual world and came into range of their deathly barbs. The True Wit fought back and quickly overcame the Nitwits because they were using virtual weapons and she used Real World weapons. The Nitwits surrendered by declaring the last shot had been fired.
Prof. double AA keep up the good fight. This is the most fun I've had in years.

Elliott said...

Ann, more self-delusion at work; you need to adjust your dial. Drezner, Levy, and Kerr are not to your right. As to the others, I don't read them, but at least they don't pretend they are moderates.

Dirty Harry said...

I've been reading all of this from the beginning and while I trust Ann's account of what happened and agree with Ann completely that the feds must insure Civil Rights, I think it all comes down to this:

At a conference where decent people disagreed on this issue, Ann -- for whatever odd reason -- chose to make a spectacle of herself rather than just take a walk or leave the room like most grown ups would. Now, she's fighting to smother her humiliation and regain her pride with the last pathetic pieces of ammo available to those who find themselves looking foolish: She's hurling the "ists" around: Racist and sexist -- at people who so obviously are not.

It is fascinating. Not unlike Kerry's nationally televised apology for his botched-joke.

I think the Prof needs to step away from the blog for a couple weeks.

Ann Althouse said...

Jacob said..."I confess that I don't understand how acknowledging that Ann is a big-deal blogger but that I haven't read her is a slight, an assertion that she should have heard of me, or any kind of claim of superiority. She is; I'm not; I could hardly slam a glass ceiling on someone who's several orders above me in the blogging food chain; etc. I did not intend or imply that somehow it was a fault of Ann's that she wasn't on my to-read list; necessarily, most blogs aren't on most people's to-read lists. But if saying so somehow inadvertently implied one of those things, then I apologize for that."

Jacob, you wrote at length about me, insulting me, but you have little familiarity with this blog and obviously don't have any feeling for how I write about things here. Yet somehow you felt free to attack me and put a major effort into trying to hurt my reputation.

Now, you come by and apologize for the least little part of my criticism of what you said about me. Hey, you chose to attack me viciously! You got linked at Volokh and Drezner for your assault. Now, you say you're just a little blog and you start talking about the "glass ceiling," as if I'd written something about the "glass ceiling." Where was that?

I had the image of a "glass window," explained in the post, a cultural reference that has nothing to do with the "glass ceiling." Why not read a little of what I have to say before criticizing me? It's absolutely mindboggling! You preen about what an intellectual you are, how full of theory and deduction, unlike me, and then you read that poorly and make that pathetic apology. You have got to be kidding

ASX said...

Where are the massive violations of civil rights in the USA? I don't seem them. Why should we still be running around obsessing over this issue? Why is Althouse on the look out for "racists" where none exists.
There aren't massive violations of civil rights because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as other legislation. Ann is not "running around obsessing." She's having a debate about the implications of pure libertarianism. If you have been following the discussion, Ann pointed out (not loudly enough) that Bailey et al., continue to advocate the right of private parties to discriminate on the basis of race.

We can celebrate the end to institutional racism in America and the fact that "people under 45" no longer are even aware of how great problem it once was. But this accomplishment came DESPITE the Liberty Fund and libertarians. This discussion started because Ann enounted a small faction of right-wing libertarians (the Liberty Fund) who continue, in 2007, to defend the right of private institutions to systematically discriminate against blacks.

What is truly shocking is how many people oppose Ann's viewpoint and deny the danger to Liberty represented by the extremists at the Liberty Fund.

Ann Althouse said...

Elliott said.."Ann, more self-delusion at work; you need to adjust your dial. Drezner, Levy, and Kerr are not to your right. As to the others, I don't read them, but at least they don't pretend they are moderates."

On the issue under discussion, the three scholars I write about here -- I'm not talking about Kerr -- are clearly to my right. If you don't think they are, explain concretely why you think so. I am defending government power to enforce civil rights. They are defending adherence to a theory that was used to obstruct civil rights and the intellectual integrity having to engage with issues of race. So, explain why they are to the left of me on this. Hint: You can't. Sticking some remark about me being delusional doesn't argue anything at all. You need to refrain from doing that in the future and provide some substance.

And if you think I'm on the wrong side of this dispute, I don't think you're much of a liberal.

Smilin' Jack said...

I attended a conference, organized by Jonathan Adler, where we spent 9 hours talking about the theories of a man -- Frank S. Meyer -- who vehemently opposed desegregation. I was put off by him and very skeptical of his theories because of the positions he took in his time.

Can there be any doubt that everyone involved in writing the US constitution--as well as everyone involved in interpreting it for the first hundred years or so--would today be considered a racist? Yet you've spend your entire professional life--not just nine hours--talking about this racist-inspired constitution. Does that mean you have to prove you're not a racist?

Ann Althouse said...

Dirty Harry: "At a conference where decent people disagreed on this issue, Ann -- for whatever odd reason -- chose to make a spectacle of herself rather than just take a walk or leave the room like most grown ups would."

This is simply false. The incident described by Ron Bailey occurred after the conference, long into a dinner at which everyone had had several drinks, and in a noisy restaurant where we couldn't hear each other. I got into an argument with one person, and Ron suddenly reeled around and yelled at me very harshly. I tried to control myself and stay at the table, but it was so ugly that I got up and in fact did walk out of the room. Bailey, for some stupid reason, decided to describe that at length on the Reason blog, rather than to engage with the substance of the argument. I'm damned well going to defend myself after that.

And I have not accused anyone of being a racist. I have said that if you are going to associate yourself with ideas so closely associated with racism, you need to actively disassociate yourself from racism. I put that position very strongly, but I absolutely mean it.

sonicfrog said...

Hi jacob.

That quote stood out because the tone seemed a bit snotty. I haven't read your blog (I didn't know it was there) so I don't know your writing style, but if I were going to throw some 'tude toward someone, it sounds like something I might write (there I go, projecting again). If it wasn't meant to contain an emotive barb, then no apology should be neccesary. However, since the quote was taken out of context, one of my pet peaves (dying is another), I maybe should be the one to apologize. Now let's go get a cup of coffee!

sonicfrog said...

Hi jacob.

That quote stood out because the tone seemed a bit snotty. I haven't read your blog (I didn't know it was there) so I don't know your writing style, but if I were going to throw some 'tude toward someone, it sounds like something I might write (there I go, projecting again). If it wasn't meant to contain an emotive barb, then no apology should be neccesary. However, since the quote was taken out of context, one of my pet peaves (dying is another), I maybe should be the one to apologize. Now let's go get a cup of coffee!

Dirty Harry said...

Well, I am right that you made a "spectacle" of youself at a conference related event. And you should've left the room before you made a "spectacle" of yourself. Or before the "spectacle" began. To defend yourself by saying you did eventually leave the room is kind of silly. Eventually you'd have to, right? Or, you'd still be there.

But it's your tarring people with the racist and sexist stuff that's most pathetic and beneath you. Especially when you know it's not true.

Just so you know there are black libertarians. Are they associated too closely with racism?

You're being ridiculous.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I predict that the next edition of the podcast will be audible only to bats.

Shawn L. said...

Ann, I've read your blog for quite a while, and I'd like to think I "get" your blogging style.

But...

I'm surprised at the level of complaint with you have with people who are disagreeing with your positions. To some degree, you are also complaining about people whose opinions are similar to yours!

By "The Last Word" the various writers weren't declaring all further debate closed, just the last word from them. They had said everything they had to add to the debate.

Something happened in Chicago, and in the blogoshpere that inhibited greater understanding between you and those who hold the opinions that troubled you. Maybe it was a refusal on your part to believe that those people genuinely held those opinons. Maybe you questioned those opinions in a manner that came accross as an attack. Maybe others misunderstood you.

I don't know, I wasn't there. But please, don't expect to criticize people and their ideas and be somehow offended that they attempt to stand up and defend themselves.

Your use of humor and some mockery often works, but right now, its making you look like you can't take criticism as well as you can dish it out. You seem to be living down to the worst connotations of the term "Diva."

Amanda said...

She posed proudly, did she? What a slattern.

Revenant said...

I think Levy needs to respond forthrightly to the real questions that Althouse has raised: can one oppose the passage of the Civil Rights Act without supporting Jim Crow,

As with the question "can one support the right of Nazis to march in Skokie without supporting Nazism", the answer is so obviously "yes" that no further discussion is needed.

If people can't distinguish "supporting a right" from "agreeing with every exercise of that right" then no amount of discussion or argument will get the point across. If they can distinguish between those two things then they'd already have gotten the point by now.

Gahrie said...

I attended a conference, organized by Jonathan Adler, where we spent 9 hours talking about the theories of a man -- Frank S. Meyer -- who vehemently opposed desegregation.

Really? Are you sure it wasn't just federally imposed desegregation he was opposed to?

Meade said...

Dirty Harry said...
... Just so you know there are black libertarians. Are they associated too closely with racism?

Harry, aren't we ALL associated too closely with the disease of racism -- black, white, libertarian, authoritarian -- and every color and ideology in between. The point is, all Americans have a responsibility to learn to get over it if we intend to be worthy of the idea and ideals our founders bequeathed to us.

Althouse confronted what she perceived to be tacit apology for a theorist who was unabashedly willing to compromise some of those ideals -- equal rights under the law -- for the right of some individuals to discriminate against others based on race, thereby denying them their equal rights as individual persons.

Accepting and defending codified racism makes one a racist. Plain and simple.

Althouse needed to know that she wasn't engaged in a social situation, eating and drinking, with racists dressed in libertarian clothing.

Who wouldn't?

Simon said...

Gahrie said...
"[You] attended a conference, organized by Jonathan Adler, where [you] spent 9 hours talking about the theories of a man -- Frank S. Meyer -- who vehemently opposed desegregation. Really? Are you sure it wasn't just federally imposed desegregation he was opposed to?"

That is an specious distinction. To be opposed to federally-imposed desegregation is to be opposed to desegregation, unless you can convincingly explain why the South - after nearly a century of failing to voluntarily desegregate - was suddenly going to get God and do so sua sponte. To say that you're opposed to the only mechanism by which something can be accomplished is to say that you are opposed to the thing. You might as well say that you weren't opposed to America landing a man on the moon, you're just opposed to the government doing it.

It seems to me that there are two separate and distinct "federalism" questions at issue (assuming that the Fourteenth Amendment had not already settled the issue): the Constitutional Federalism question, which is a descriptive inquiry as to whether Congress had the power to pass the Civil Rights act, and the normative federalism question of whether Congress should have passed the Civil Rights Act, assuming it had the power to do so. The answer to both questions, it seems to me is "yes"; I can respect someone who says no to the former question, although I would disagree with them roundly, but it is the people who answer no to the second question, the normative question, who it seems to me are the people Ann has taken issue with, and rightly so.

Ann Althouse said...

Note on rejected comments: I will reject comments that name anyone in this controversy who has not yet been named here. I will also reject long restatements of the facts that require me to write long corrections. I don't like to do this with a well-written and thoughtful comment, which is why I'm explaining myself.

Gahrie: "Really? Are you sure it wasn't just federally imposed desegregation he was opposed to?"

It has been hard, in the blog format, to be adequately clear that there are two issues, one about federalism and the other about property rights (and opposition to all sorts of government regulation at all levels). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 raised both problems. It was federal legislation that pushed the limits of Congress's enumerated powers, and it also imposed regulation on property owners and created room to make arguments based on due process (5th Amendment) and the right of assocation (1st Amendment).

The individual rights of property owners were of the greatest concern to the libertarians whom I argued with and found frighteningly hardcore. There was also material in the readings on both of these things. Meyer took a very strong position about limiting government and preserving individual autonomy (as opposed to coercing virtue). I went into the conference feeling very strongly attracted to this idea, but left feeling horrified by how far the libertarians would take it if they had the power. I needed them to say they wouldn't take it to such an extreme. I was surprised at how much the really meant it.

The three bloggers I take on in this post were writing about federalism, but Ron Bailey was writing about the argument we had about property rights. Levy's post is especially confusing because he writes first about federalism, then drags in the Bailey dispute. These ought to be kept more distinct.

Dirty Harry said...

Meade,

I guess Ann would have to ask a black libertarian to "actively disassociate themselves from Uncle Tomism" then.

And no I don't think we're all associated too closely with the disease of racism and I find that comment wholly elitist.

We live in a country horrified that Michael Richards used the word "nigger" and Gibson blamed all the wars on "Jews." These were major news stories -- stories at all -- because these things are so rare in our society. We as a nation are horrified by this stuff. Look at the effect what happened to that poor Shephard kid in Wyoming had on us.

We are an admittedly imperfect, but as a whole, an unbelievably tolerant society. America has her sins but we have come a remarkably long way. Arabs kill 3,000 of our citizens on 9/11 and in a country of 300 million no Arab-Americans are hurt in ignorant retaliations. That's an astonishing fact and Ho I choose to define us. Not that we all have some disease. We are an extraordinary nation and the least diseased in the history of the world.

I've lived in L.A for four years and can tell you the movie "Crash" is an utter lie. I lived in a small southern town for ten years and heard the N-word maybe 5 times.

If there is a race problem it stems from race-baiters who use racial politics and racial-demonization to wear down the other side and shut them up. Which, much to my shock and disappointment, is exactly what Ann has been doing.

All this made sadder by the fact that she's right on the federaism issue. But it's not enough for her to be right -- they have to agree -- or she loses it and demonizes them.

Simon said...

"it also imposed regulation on property owners..."

Conservatives have no problems with that. The obvious corollary to Burke's aphorism that "[w]hatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself" is that no man has a right to undertake actions which "trespass[] upon others," and actions that so do are legitimate subjects of regulation by the polity.

"...and created room to make arguments based on due process"

But those arguments, surely, only carry water if one buys into substantive due process. Which most legal conservatives reject emphatically. Funnily enough, the only originalist I can think of who might buy this sort of argument is the non-formalist originalist Randy Barnett - a libertarian, who has been repeatedly criticized for his all-consuming premise that the Framers were preternaturally modern libertarians.

Libertarianism is good stuff to cut conservatism with, each tending to curb the other's worst impulses, but anyone who's smoking it pure needs their head -- and their heart -- examined.

Tom T. said...

That was me on Volokh's site. Over here I'm just Tom T., and I'm a regular reader of your site and the VC.

Anonymous said...

Pragmatism is a strategy not a theory

Jacob said...

I think Levy needs to respond forthrightly to the real questions that Althouse has raised: can one oppose the passage of the Civil Rights Act without supporting Jim Crow,
Forthright.

amba said...

It's a thrill to discover that someone I admire so much admires me.

JNoV said...

On the substance of the conference discussion and Frank Meyer's views, I think gahrie gets it closer than Ann.

Meyer was focused on issues of government power, not race. As I've noted in the comments to other threads on this site, Meyer got many civil rights issues wrong, and had an odd view of federalism (that was, incidentally, quite tangential to his political theory), but he was also critical of segregationists and repeatedly acknowledged the continuing injustices suffered by black Americans.

As for whether libertarians are sensitive enough to civil rights, if libertarian views of property rights (such as those defended by Meyer in a tiny portion of the conference readings) had been the norm, Jim Crow would never have existed. With a few exceptions (such as Brent Bozell Sr.), during the post-WWII period libertarians were far more quick to condemn segregation and racist government policies than Burkean conservatives.

Jonathan H. Adler

JimK said...

This entire mess has devolved into Ann trying to prove that these men (have we already forgotten her original complaint was about a woman?) are trying to bully little ol' her and the "men" painting Ann as a hysteric who is out of her depth.

You all started out talking past each other and you're still doing it. Not one of you has learned a damned thing from this, and now you've all dug in your heels and emphasized and compounded all the mistakes you made instead of learning from them.

Bloggers...no...intellectuals...no, wait: adults...adults should be better than this.

Jacob said...

This is silly, but at this point I worry about letting any inaccuracy at all into the stream of this conversation: It was not I who posted that link above, to my comment on the Volokh Conspiracy. JTL

Simon said...

Jon,
"if libertarian views of property rights ... had been the norm, Jim Crow would never have existed."

Yes, but those views weren't the norm, and Jim Crow did exist. What matters is what your theory holds for that reality. Have you listened to a word that Ann said?

Anonymous said...

JimK said:
"Bloggers...no...intellectuals...no, wait: adults...adults should be better than this."

I have to agree. There has been some talk about whether certain people "get" this blog. Right now what I'm "getting" is that it's about petty bickering.

Simon said:

"To be opposed to federally-imposed desegregation is to be opposed to desegregation, unless you can convincingly explain why the South - after nearly a century of failing to voluntarily desegregate - was suddenly going to get God and do so sua sponte. To say that you're opposed to the only mechanism by which something can be accomplished is to say that you are opposed to the thing."

At the time of the civil rights struggles, I can certainly see how people would have reasonably believed that federal intervention would not work, and that the only way to resolve the matter was through efforts by individuals.

Anonymous said...

Jacob, as a general admirer of much of what I've read on your blog and at Volokh (which I had bookmarked long before I heard of Althouse or became a regular here), I have to say that you comments, here particularly, were as unpleasant as they were unexpectedly snide and personal. Extremely unprofessional, I believe.

(Not that you should care what I think as you don't know me. I won't unbookmark you or the Volokh Conspiracy in consequence, but I will long remember your sorry statements and conscious decision to ignore the norms of both common courtesy and civil discourse.)

AlaskaJack said...

The smartest thing said about this whole sorry mess was said by EliRabett: "Pragmatism is a strategy not a theory."

This is exactly right. "Pragmatism" tells you how to achieve a political end in the most practical and efficient way. It tells you nothing about the worthiness of unworthiness of the end. One can be a pragmatic communist, socialist, national socialist or progressive liberal. Whether any of these ends are good, bad or evil can only be settled by arguments based on abstract principles. Without such principles, the pragmatist is helpless. Appeals to "common sense" or the opinion of "decent people" wont cut it. Like Voltaire said, "Common sense isn't so common." And the "decent people" argument reminds one of Pauline Kael's (paraphrased) comment on Nixon's election:"I don't believe it; nobody I know voted for him."

Tony Fats summed it up real good on New Years Eve at Ernie's Bar and Grill: "Der's only problem with pragmatism; it don't work."

sonicfrog said...

Hey Jacob, how 'bout that coffee????

Anonymous said...

Adler, Drezner and Levy make Larry, Moe and Curly [or is it Groucho, Zeppo and Harpo?] look well-behaved and intelligent.

Pompous pseudo-intellectual morons getting their knickers in a twist & "closing the debate" are every grad student's common experience with second-rate thinkers.

Adler, Drezner and Levy sound like a local band of ambulance chasers down here in S. Florida. Probably got the same ethical boundaries as these local shyster creeps.

Ernst Blofeld said...

I don't think Ann is doing anything particularly novel by writing in a non-academic tone. Drezner certainly isn't writing in the academic style. He is, however, doing a much better job of explaining his ideas, and is much shorter on the histronics.

Levy's "dogmatism without a theory" crack cuts to the chase on the underlying dispute. Maybe Ann has been writing about Federalism for 20 years, but I don't see much evidence of that in the ideas presented on the blog. Using the style adopted so far I'm not so sure they can be presented well.

Perhaps it's all a piece of performance art to see how the right-blogosphere responds if poked in the same way as the left-blogosphere. As a right wing death beast I can't get too excited about it; I knew Ann's politics were unsound coming into this.

(Sexism alert: I used the term "poked".)

Jacob said...

Oh sorry, I probably should have made that clear– I posted the link to the VC thread. I'm the other Jacob who posts on the blog (e.g. here.

Anonymous said...

In reading this entire saga, and all the included links, the person who comes the closest to grasping what's going on is JimK with his assertion that you're all talking past each other. I submit that Ann knows exactly what the Liberty Fund guys are talking about and understands them completely; it's the Liberty Fund guys that still don't have a clue.

It occurred to me that the reason the libertarians refuse to engage Ann's central question is because they do not perceive it's relevance. To them, Ann is changing the subject. They're talking about federalism, and all of a sudden she's talking about civil rights and getting all het up about racism.

I've been involved in a number of exchanges like this in real life, and I don't think there's anything more frustrating. Ann is making a point (or asking for clarification of a point) that is tangential to the point the Liberty Fund folks were making. I understand where Ann is coming from, but after reading through all this, it's obvious that the Liberty Fund people still don't, and since they don't care to, they probably never will.

Ann Althouse said...

Ernst: This blog is not an attempt to re-writing scholarly opinions in a non-academic tone.

JNoV said...

Simon --

We don't disagree.

Because the Jim Crow South was anything but a libertarian paradise, I don't think libertarian theory, by itself, determines whether the CRA provisions focused on private discrimination were worth enacting. The judgment is inherently prudential. On the whole, I believe the CRA was worth it because the alternative of allowing the continued public and private subjugation of African-Americans was far worse (and, incidentally, I did not hear anyone at the Liberty Fund conference suggest otherwise). To acknowledge that there were costs, in the form of federal interference with the freedom of association, is not to say the CRA was wrong, or to oppose civil rights. It is merely to point out that there was a trade off involved.

My point above was that the association with hard-core libertarian views and support for segregation is based on a faulty premise. And, again, while I certainly heard folks say they believed, in theory, that the freedom of association should include the right to discriminate, I did not hear anyone suggest that such discrimination was anything but a bad thing, or that the CRA was not better than the available alternative.

Jonathan H. Adler

Simon said...

The Emperor said...
"[Simon said that] [t]o be opposed to federally-imposed desegregation is to be opposed to desegregation, unless you can convincingly explain why the South - after nearly a century of failing to voluntarily desegregate - was suddenly going to [do so] ... [but] [a]t the time of the civil rights struggles, I can certainly see how people would have reasonably believed that federal intervention would not work, and that the only way to resolve the matter was through efforts by individuals."

Perhaps so, perhaps not. But two interrelated points spring to mind in response. First, it seems as though you're trying to recast Meyer's objection to the CRA (and that of the Chicago conferees) as a practical objection: your argument would be a reasonable defense if you were defending someone who said "CRA won't work." But that isn't the case: these people were saying that "under our political theory, CRA is bad." Second, even if that were a defensible position then, is it still reasonable to take the same position today, even knowing that federal intervention did work? Because I had thought that the salient problem here isn't just that Meyer wanted to shut the door on Federally-mandated desegregation fifty years ago, it's that several Chicago conferees seem to be espousing an ideology that would then and would today shut the door on the Civil Rights Act, even knowing how it worked out.

So the real question is, can you see how people might reasonably believe today that the Civil Rights Act was an unjustified transgression against personal freedom? Because that seems to have been Ann's point since day one: assuming the question to be purely one of normative political theory, assuming the Constitutional question and the practical question (viz. "will it work") is off the table, if your normative political theory stands in opposition to desegregation, by the Civil Rights Act as the only way to accomplish it, you need to get a new theory. And, moreover, if you have a normative theory that was used at the time to oppose the Civil Rights Act, then if you don't believe that your theory would have stood in opposition to desegregation and the Civil Rights Act, you need to explain why the people who used it in that way at that time were wrong, why the theory is misapplied. And it's in your interests to do so, for crying out loud! Ann may have a somewhat different view of federalism to mine -- in her view, as I understand it, "federalism should be understood not in terms of states' rights, but rather in terms of the national interest in the independent functioning of the states," Althouse, How to Build a Separate Sphere: Federal Courts & State Power, 100 Harv. L. Rev. 1485, 1508, and "federalism is no mere vestige of the pre-constitutional era ... The states are a means; the end is the liberty of their citizens. States are valuable alternative governments which have power because it benefits the people to diffuse power," Althouse, Variations on a Theme of Normative Federalism: a Supreme Court Dialogue, 42 Duke L.J. 979, 980 -- but the idea that she's somehow attacking it here is absurd. Seems to me that she's the one trying to defend federalism - from wounds inflicted by its own adherents!

It's precisely the same as going to a Marxist convention and not talking about Russia. There's no point in talking about Marxism, absolutely none, unless and until you've explained why the Soviet Union was a perversion of Marx. If your idea of Marxism does support the Soviet Union, you need a new theory, and if it doesn't, it is incumbent on you to explain at least why your theory doesn't lead to tyranny, and ideally, that it cannot.


Joan said...
"It occurred to me that the reason the libertarians refuse to engage Ann's central question is because they do not perceive it's relevance. To them, Ann is changing the subject. They're talking about federalism, and all of a sudden she's talking about civil rights and getting all het up about racism ... I've been involved in a number of exchanges like this in real life, and I don't think there's anything more frustrating."

That sounds about right. And it is frustrating. I've had a lot of conversations about foreign law with people, both on the blogosphere and IRL, and we might as well be speaking different languages. It's often the same way trying to talk to liberals about ConLaw; they get frustrated, confused and angry at what they see as mere technical details, procedural irrelevancies. (which, to be bipartisan about it, was also the reaction I got from conservatives when I tried to explain to them why the nuclear option was a non-starter). The Critical Theorist can't understand how the formalist can be more interested in law than justice, and the formalist can't understand why the Critical Theorist thinks there's a difference. So I second Joan's analysis.

Simon said...

I can finally fit in with this blog's pop culture zeitgeist. ;)

Jon, your argument reminds me of this Geico commercial.

Larry: "your customers save a lot of money."
Geico: "Easy money."
Larry: "But they do have to go to Geico.com
Geico: *snort* "Which is like what? Asking you to stand up! If I say, 'Scuse me, did you know that if you stand up you can save lots of money, I doubt you're going to be like, no thanks, I'm so rich that I think I'll keep my seat."

Apropos:

Geico: "The Civil Rights Act broke the back of segregation in the South."
Chicago conferee: "ooh, but we have to acknowledge that there were costs."
Geico: *snort* "Which is like what? If I say, 'scuse me, but we could break the back of segregation in the south, and all it'll cost is that a bunch of racist f*cks are going to have to stop denying service to black people, I doubt you're going to be like, no thanks, I'm dying to be on the wrong side of history."

The point of that commercial, it seems to me, isn't that standing up is no big deal, it's that the cost-benefit analysis is so far skewed towads benefit that talking about the costs is tantamount to missing the point. You don't want to be the guy who stood next to the guy who invented the wheel and said "sure, your invention could have some benefits, Hamish, but what of the cost?"

I'm sympathetic to libertarianism, and I do think that conservatives who lack that a certain libertarian streak are missing something important from their political makeup. As I said upthread, it's great stuff to cut Burke and Oakeshott with, and conservatism and libertarianism are complimentary ideas that round each other out. But on its own, the pure stuff, is absurd and indefensible.

The Jerk said...

My side of it is that Feministing is a blog that holds itself out as feminist yet spices up its webpage with numerous images of breasts

Sounds like someone just doesn't get the Feministing blog.

Anonymous said...

The fact that they attacked me over the issue of the importance of desegregation makes it a little too easy, though. If you have a moral compass, you know I'm right on the substance of this one.

I'm pretty sure the crux of the issue was asking people at a dinner table to prove to you that they are not racists.

As to the assertion that those with a moral compass know your right, and the corollary that those who think you're wrong haven't a moral compass, I don't know what to say.

DRJ said...

Prof. Althouse,

If you feel that people do not adequately understand and appreciate what you are trying to do at your blog, then you need to make your goals and methods more clear. I'm a long-time reader of moderate intellect and education, but I rarely "get" your point.

To your credit, you seem to delight in circling around a subject and viewing it from every angle but if you expect your readers - especially casual readers - to understand your point, you delude yourself. Review the comments from almost any of your philosophical or political posts: They are typically filled with conflicting opinions as your commenters guess what you meant. Frankly, I've always thought part of your enjoyment came from leaving your readers confused, knowing most would come back in search of the real answer to Althouse.

As an avant garde experiment, I applaud your blog but please don't complain because we don't "get" you. That's self-indulgent and I trust it's beneath you.

W.B. Reeves said...

I've been catching up on this debate and though its late in the day, after wading through all cheap shottery and personal nastiness, I do think there is substantive point that Professor Althouse has brought forward.

What's at the heart of this whole business is a fundamental truism about ideological approaches to real world conditions. That being, that a blinkered subservience to an abstract theory will often lead to practical consequences that negate the values supposedly championed by the theory in question.

The 20th century's premier example of this is, of course, the tortured history of the failed Soviet experiment. The lesson might be summarized as: In order to secure the liberation of the people it became necessary to tyranize them. This forshadowed a later example of the same sort ideological blindness that took place in South east Asia: "In order to save the village it became necessary to destroy it".

I must admit that I was surprised that Prof. Althouse was surprised to discover that the Right wing contains such true believers. I suppose it's possible, living in a place like Madison, to be lulled into the notion that such folks exist only on the Left. I'm afraid that Althouse has neglected her inquiries into Rightwing theology, since she appears to have thought prior to this epiphany that the Conservative movement was a welcoming environment for pragmatists.

A lot of intelligent people have been similarly misled. Our current politics result, in a large degree, from a fixation on the perceived excesses of the Left that has accepted, uncritically, the Right's pr that they are the "practical", "commonsense" and "responsible" alternative. In the wreck of the Bush administration and the GOP's extinct Majority, all that boiler plate about the "adults being back in charge" rings more than a little hollow.

Still, it's a bit disheartening to realize that Prof. Althouse is seemingly unaware that in questioning the Libertarian/Conservative formulation of Federalism she is striking at a taproot of Rightwing ideology as it has devolved over the last 40 years. Had she understood this she wouldn't have been so surprised by the response her criticism engendered.

The notion of Federalism that she encountered at the Conference is the ideological glue that has held the otherwise disparate elements of the contemporary "Conservative" movement together. It is the modus vivendi that has allowed paleo-Conservatives, neo-Conservatives, Right Libertarians, Dixiecrats and Social Conservatives to cohabitate.

Each of these currents endorses "Federalism", albeit for differing and sometimes conflicting motives. Right Libertarians support it ostensibly because it limits the ability of the national government to infringe on the individual. Paleo-Conservatives see it as defense of traditional relations of local power and authority. Neo-Conservatives embrace it as a weapon against a national Liberalism detached from their dreams of global hegemonism. Social Conservatives wield it against the encroachments of modernity in all it's cultural and political forms. The Dixiecrats were the true trailblazers, having argued for generations that Federalism and Conservativism were synonymous with their brand of apartheid politics.

The challenge that Prof. Althouse posed, regardless of the merits or demerits of her style, turned over a rock that Right Libertarians prefer remain unmoved. To whit, the Federalism they espouse actually represents a historic accomodation to racist sentiment, the antithesis of any doctrine of individualism, for mean political advantage. Likewise, it enables a corresponding accomodation with Social Conservatives whose entire political raison detre is the use of Government's coercive powers to maintain conformity with traditional social, cultural and sexual mores.

One might ask how Right Libertarians reconcile the principle of individual liberty with such crass political opportunism. The short answer is that they don't. They much prefer to pretend that the contradiction doesn't exist.

Therein lies the motive for the rain of derision that they have showered on Professor Althouse for having the temerity to suggest that their elegant abstractions be measured against real world consequences. It is a pile on that some commentators on the left, to their discredit, have chosen to join.

proudtobealiberal said...

In discussing the intersection of federalism & racism, it is useful to note that President Reagan spoke of state's rights when he began his campaign for the presidency near Meridian, Mississippi, not far from where three martyrs of the civil rights movement, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman died and from where their murderers lived in freedom.

If it were not for federal intervention, their bodies might well still be buried under an earthan dam.

John Noonan's book on the Fourteenth Amendment makes clear that Congress intended to give Congress (not the Supreme Court that decided Dred Scott) the power to protect the civil rights of Americans.

The conundrum for the right wing is that liberals (including a sizeable number of moderate and liberal Republicans, a breed now nearly extict) were on the right side of the civil rights battle.

And if liberarians disagree with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, do they say it is now unconstitutional? Do they think Congress should repeal it? Or are they just willing to accept their defeat on the issue?

Ann Althouse said...

Proud: "And if liberarians disagree with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, do they say it is now unconstitutional? Do they think Congress should repeal it? Or are they just willing to accept their defeat on the issue?"

I think this is the subject they had a long argument about in the middle of the night. Ron Bailey was willing to say that the results were positive. I think some or all thought the act was and is unconstitutional. Why would you think anyone would think it was unconstitutional at the time but became constitutional later? Anyway, I think people might say that the act had a good effect but that this fact has no relationship to the question whether it is constitutional and that it can't overcome the strict libertarian principle (favoring individual autonomy, small government, property rights, and a free market). These are the people I disagree with profoundly.

Knemon said...

"I'm pretty sure the crux of the issue was asking people at a dinner table to prove to you that they are not racists."

RACIST!! And probably SEXIST!!

"As to the assertion that those with a moral compass know your right, and the corollary that those who think you're wrong haven't a moral compass, I don't know what to say."

Say, "You've jumped the shark."