Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cumulative Consequences

Daniel Greenfield, writing as Sultan Knish, recently inveighed against the higher education racket in “Free Market Socialism” (January 28tth). Among other observations, he noted:

Mass education also devalues the actual education being received. Today's college students know less than yesterday's high school graduates. Today's high school graduates know less than a middle schooler from 50 years ago. And there is no way around that. Tossing everyone into the same system and expecting the same results leads to a lower quality system.

The post-World War II G.I. Bill, passed by Congress to keep countless returning and unemployed soldiers busy and distracted and out of trouble while bureaucrats and policymakers continued to regulate an economy which otherwise would have boomed sooner and faster than it did following the war, was the beginning of higher education’s addiction to and dependence on federal money. Private and public universities and colleges were introduced to the federal teat. The intervention co-opted the “Greatest Generation” and set another precedent for government intervention in the economy and the culture, an unchecked intervention which inexorably and ultimately led to control.

And to the “degree mills” that exist today. Of course the greatest beneficiaries of a mandated college education are the very ones who are in positions of government power or who teach socialist economics, history and “diversity” in those very same institutions.

By way of seconding Greenfield’s points on economics and politics, it should be observed that President Barack Obama has a college education. Why, he was even a “professor” of Constitutional law at the University of Chicago. One imagines that this stint was on-the-job training for how later to usurp the Constitution. Well, both Bushes, and Clinton, and Carter and virtually every president going back to the early 19th century have had a college education. I think George Washington and Lincoln are the only exceptions. And except perhaps for the Adams’s and Jefferson, those graduates invariably made a mess of things, or wisely refrained from trying to apply their college-imbibed learning to policymaking.

Some people wonder whether or not the dumbing down of education (and of Americans) was an “accident.” I don’t think it was a conspiracy. It’s an issue of philosophical disintegration, aided and abetted by government intervention.

Take the G.I. Bill mentioned in the beginning. Aside from becoming addicted to and dependent on government subsidies, in order for private and public universities and colleges to admit hundreds of thousands of discharged G.I.’s to school – countless among them not really after such an education, but they couldn’t find work, so, what the hell – the schools had to lower their admission standards and settle for minimal criteria. Of course, there were exceptions to the rule; many veterans took to “higher education” like ducks to water and did well, usually in the sciences and in engineering.

One unfortunate result of this is that G.I. Bill beneficiaries, when they went into the private sector, were inculcated with the “You’ve got to have a college education to get anywhere” mantra and succumbed to hiring and employment requirements, which they easily met but imposed on a new generation of job applicants. Consciously or not, they helped to foist upon that generation an unnecessary and unrealistic policy for living.

But, just as I had no use for a college education – no law mandated having a college education to pen a novel, and no publisher, either – I don’t think most veterans back then had a use for it, either. They’d done their duty for their country, and perhaps many wrongfully thought that a subsidized education was the least the country owed them. After all, they’d been drafted, that is, the government had required service of their lives and bodies and appropriated those lives and bodies for the duration.

The initial lowering of admissions criteria was the beginning of the dumbing down. No mastermind or secret society conspiracy was behind it, no government master plan to lobotomize Americans could ever be drawn up. That is the stuff of dystopian novels. There’s no such thing as an omniscient or omnipotent evil, just occasional and random concessions by the rational to the occasional and random irrational in acts of futile and suicidal pragmatism.

To pose an analogy: We wound up applying all sorts of car-making rules, including emissions and safety standards, and the steel-bodied 1939 Packard ends up being a General Motors dog-cart, less safe and certainly more expensive.

That is, higher education began early in the 20th century turning out graduates who had to know that Heraclitus was a Greek philosopher, how to perform trigonometry, how to parse and analyze the Constitution, and had been introduced to the literary canon. Now it turns out expensively educated graduate students who may think Heraclitus is either a rock band or a mutation of herpes, cannot balance their checkbooks and for whom simple math is an arduous challenge, have been taught that the Constitution needs “reforming,” and who won’t bother with the literary canon because it can’t be “texted” (not that universities are pushing the canon, anyway, that would be too “elitist” and discriminatory against lesser literature).

And with the dumbing down come shorter attention spans and conditioned appetites for quick fixes and instant gratification.

It’s a matter of cause and effect. Ideas matter, and have consequences. And the G.I. Bill, together with a government reluctant to relinquish control of the economy, was a bad idea opposed by few.

The consequences and results are cumulative in nature, if not checked, opposed or questioned. This rule applies to all realms.

From the minimalization of the American mind and spirit, we turn to the practiced delusions of the political oligarchy.

In his article, “Weaponizing the Passenger Plane” (January 30th), Greenfield noted:

The war against us has been made possible by a leadership that is unable to identify the problem, let alone formulate a meaningful response to it.

I disagree. The war against us was made possible, and continues to be made possible, by a leadership that is evasive, that will not identify the facts of reality – at least, not publically – because those facts will challenge or contradict their most fundamental premises. Novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand called this “blanking out,” that is, knowing the facts but shoveling them beneath an impenetrable carpet of rationalizations and excuses. Holder, Napolitano, Obama, and the rest of that crew know that Islam is an ideology more than it is a theology, that it is essentially political in nature because it governs every aspect of an individual’s life and also the contents of his mind. Not surprisingly, these are also the ends of liberalism. They recognize the peril posed by Islam. Yet they will not identify it in public and formulate efficacious polices to combat Islam. Instead, they ally themselves with Islam in a replication of the non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

This constitutes a refusal to think. Why do they refuse to think? Because every one of them recognizes a symbiosis between the secular tyranny they prefer and Islamic tyranny. To question one is to suggest that both species of tyranny are prime candidates for intellectual interrogation. If you question the rightness of Sharia Law and assert its incompatibility with individualism and liberty, it is but a short step to question the rightness of the altruist premises of, say, ObamaCare and assert its incompatibility with individualism and freedom. You simply remove Allah and Mohammad from the picture and substitute a bureaucrat or politician and his champion in academia. And from there one must logically question the moral underpinnings of the welfare state. Rebuttals, refutations, and repudiations would follow exponentially from one premise to another.

Privately, a refusal to think will earn one many just desserts, usually death or tragedy. But a public official’s refusal to think, regardless of the issue, affects everyone else, especially the electorate.

I don’t say that Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Holder and the rest of them know this as clear, objectified knowledge. They don’t dare pursue their secret, gloppish, unformed suspicions to their roots. They simply sense the threat as a feral warning that they shouldn’t “go there” if they wish to retain their power, never have it questioned, and rest easy in their hubris. It would interfere with and imperil their agenda to enlarge an omnivorous welfare state complemented by a growing police state. That’s the symbiosis between, say, ObamaCare and the TSA. There are other symbioses festering in Washington – it’s too long a list to include here, feel free to name anything or any action that has not been the subject of controls, including speech – but they’re all cut from the same collectivist cloth.

The rot or cancer of federal controls – and this also applies to any government’s interference in the economy, state or municipal, the scale and object of intervention and control are immaterial – may, like the G.I. Bill, have benign and good-intended origins but foster unintended consequences, with the result always being the same: the steady accumulation of power by the state and the steady extinction of liberty.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Strike" One

The voluntary “blackout” of Wikipedia and other major Internet sites on January 18th in protest of the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation in Congress had Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged written all over it. It’s likely that these sites’ owners even disdain Rand and her philosophy of reason and individual rights, but, there it was. They heard the wolf packs baying in the distance and coming closer, and took action. Here’s your world without us or our minds and our services. That was the message of the novel and of the blackout.

Moreover, the blackout had consequences. It forced the sponsors and advocates of the legislation to think twice about passing it. Can you imagine what might have happened if doctors had gone on a one-day strike before ObamaCare was passed? Possibly Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid would have demanded that National Guard SWAT teams be called up to force doctors to return to their hospitals and clinics. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. There was no strike. That would have revealed the true nature of ObamaCare. It could possibly have delayed or aborted passage of that pernicious legislation. And Vice President Joe Biden would have instead exclaimed, “What’s the big *%#!* deal???”

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act, House Bill 3261), and PIPA (Protect IP Act, Senate Bill 968) were condemned for two main reasons: the congressmen who drew up the legislation revealed a fatal ignorance of how the Internet works and so were proposing to hand government bureaucrats and law enforcement agencies the power to control its content, rendering the legislation ill-conceived and utterly impotent to combat the piracy of movies, music and even copyrighted written content; or because it would indeed empower the government to police the Internet, ostensibly to protect copyrights and intellectual property, but actually to control content and silence opposition to government policies at the behest of whatever lobby, group, or person had influence over Congress.

Some “strikers” and pundits opposed the legislation for technical reasons, citing the confusing language of the legislation. You can’t start a car without a solenoid, they were saying. It’s really very simple. The car can’t be stolen by pirates either if you remove the solenoid. That means the thieves would have to stop and strip or vandalize the car, giving you enough time to call the cops and see them arrested. Or they could bring their own solenoids, usually stolen from an auto parts store. What you’re proposing is that the guy who buys a used car not knowing it was stolen is a party to the theft, and you’d arrest him and let the thieves go free. That’s not really fighting car-theft, is it? – you cretins.

And your rules would crush the whole used-car market, in which the majority of used car sales are legitimate, but no one would want to risk selling or buying a used car because anyone could claim his car was stolen, even though it might have sat on the lot for ages. So, we refuse to be the patsies and fall guys of bureaucrats and other government knowledge “managers.”

An article by Derek Broes in Forbes on January 20th, “Why Should You Fear SOPA and PIPA?” cuts to the chase. After posing the rhetorical question, “What’s so bad about trying to protect movies and music from being pirated?” Broes notes:

The birth of SOPA and PIPA has been established through the efforts of the lobbying arms of the studios and labels The MPAA and RIAA. SOPA or (Stop Online Piracy Act) is in the Senate and PIPA, or (Protect Intellectual Property Act) is in the House [sic]. Both bills are essentially the ‘same wolf in sheep’s clothing’ so there is really no need to try and differentiate.

If passed, SOPA and/or PIPA will give the Justice Department the ability to shut down almost any blog or website at will, PLUS it will also do absolutely nothing to stop those that pirate movies or music.

Today the studios and labels rely on DMCA take down notices to handle piracy on websites such as YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook. The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) allows the website to take down the content within a specific period of time after receiving a DMCA notice without penalty.

Broes has the venues of the legislation backwards, but adds that in “most cases all of the companies mentioned above do a fantastic job, and thus far have not done too much complaining about the costs of implementing technology and resources for a successful DMCA compliance structure.” He then wades into the complexities of the Internet and how piracy is practiced on it. This article should be read for the “solenoid” details to better understand how piracy is possible and why SOPA and PIPA would not actually stop it.

If the government, and those behind government, didn’t like Huffington Post or Breitbart.com it would now be legally plausible and simple to shut them down. After all, Huffington Post editors at some point in time have posted links to content from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and other organizations. These networks could now claim that the Huffington Post was infringing upon their copyrights, and that Huffington editors, under SOPA/PIPA, be charged for each offense and go to jail. Yes jail.

“That would never happen” a friend of mine that works at a major studio told me. My response to him was simple. “I have never known a law that gives the government more power that they have not only used but exceeded the law’s intent to gain even more power.”

Broes concludes:

SOPA and PIPA are dangerous, half-baked solutions that will cost millions of jobs, stifle innovation and ultimately do nothing to stop piracy at all. It [sic] could be used as a solution for those in Government that seek to silence their opposition, even if that was never the intention. Hollywood has many large donors that are huge contributors to Obama so, even though Harry Reid postponed a vote on the bill, you can bet that they will try to wait for the frenzy to calm down before voting on a somewhat different version of the bill and most likely have a different name than SOPA or PIPA. After all, those names are as about as unpopular as members of Congress right now.

And who would be the Alpha Male wolf leading the pack? Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and regulatory “czar.”

Alec Rawls in an article on the “Watts Up With That” anti-climate change site, “Regulatory Czar wants to use copyright protection mechanisms to shut down rumors and conspiracy theories” (January 20th), also gets down to brass tacks and opens with:

As Congress considers vastly expanding the power of copyright holders to shut down fair use of their intellectual property, this is a good time to remember the other activities that Obama’s “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein wants to shut down using the tools of copyright protection. For a couple of years now, Sunstein has been advocating that the “notice and take down” model from copyright law should be used against rumors and conspiracy theories, “to achieve the optimal chilling effect.”

What kinds of conspiracy theories does Sunstein want to suppress by law? Here’s one:
… that the theory of global warming is a deliberate fraud. [From page 4 of Sunstein's 2008 “Conspiracy Theories” paper.] [Italics Rawls’]

What an odd but cruel metaphor for Sunstein to employ – chilling effect – when advocating the gagging of critics of global warming. Yet Sunstein means it. Rawls poses a real life conundrum:

Suppose you are a simple public-spirited blogger, trying to expose how Michael Mann, Phil Jones, Tom Wigley, and other Team members conspire to suppress the research and destroy the careers of those who challenge their consensus views. If Sunstein gets his way, Team members will only have to issue you a takedown notice, and if you want your post to stay up, you’ll have to go to court and win a judgment that your version of events is correct.

Sunstein is for government information “management” of men, to combat what he cynically deems “rumors and conspiracy theories,” that is, truth or the search for truth. He views men as mere sociological units and passive receptors of sense data which their “bias” translates into subjective interpretations of reality. Nothing that men know, that is, men who are not in power to enforce their own subjectivity, has any validity. Reality is unknowable. The peace and quiet of society must be preserved at all costs, even if it means tearing out the tongues of men or addling their minds with “preferred” or "official" truths.

If men sense that they are being tracked by wolf packs – if they sense that a government or president is preying upon their freedom, their wealth, their livelihoods, their lives – then this is simply a group “bias” or a psychosis that the government must combat with knowledge manipulation. Rawls writes:

The path from Sunstein’s 2008 “Conspiracy Theories”” article to his 2009 On Rumors book is straightforward. According to Sunstein’s 2008 definition, a conspiracy theory is very close to a potentially libelous rumor:

… a conspiracy theory can generally be counted as such if it is an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role. [Abstract]

At this time, Sunstein’s “main policy idea” was that:

government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories….

… government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of those who subscribe to such theories. ["Conspiracy Theories," pages 14-15] [Italics Rawls']

Sunstein wrote in On Rumors:

“….[R]umors [or conspiracy theories] often arise and gain traction because they fit with, and support, the prior convictions of those who accept them. Some people and some groups are predisposed to accept certain rumors, because those rumors are compatible with what they think they know to be true.” [p. 6]

So, if your conviction is that your life is your own, and you notice that various regulatory “czars” assert otherwise, that you must live for the good of the nation and sacrifice yourself to penury, and defer to elitist society managers before you buy a can of soup or light a cigarette or purchase a pair of shoes, and you conclude, with others who hold and share the same conviction, that the government is encroaching on every little aspect of your life and that this enveloping trend seems to be a conspiracy – well, SOPA or PIPA would allow the government to send in its “infiltrators” to set your mind straight. Or perhaps an ATF or DHS SWAT team for a more visceral persuasion, if you persist in your delusion that the government is intent on enslaving you.

Picture a worst case scenario under SOPA or PIPA: The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or the Islamic Circle of America, or the Muslim Public Affairs Council filing a complaint with the government about “rumors and conspiracy theories” being posted on Jihad Watch or The Middle East Forum, and demanding that these sites be taken down as defamatory and disrespectful and malicious, even though all these sites do is report on the crimes committed in the name of Islam and the stealth jihad conquest of the country. Or imagine Ron Paul wishing to have his weird foreign policy statements expunged from the Internet record so that no one could judge him by those statements.

Imagine the doors to all kinds of knowledge shut in your face because Cass Sunstein has diagnosed you as nuts.

Do not be fooled by the ubiquitous photo of a smiling Cass Sunstein. He is a totalitarian of the first rank. But while he is only one of dozens of such creatures in the current administration, SOPA and/or PIPA would empower him to impose his vision of an ideal society

Another website, “Cloud Tweaks,” carries an article by Jeff Norman on the intricacies of “cloud computing” and the inherent dangers of SOPA and PIPA.

Understandably, many would-be cloud users might be warded off by fear of a federal shakedown. Businesses should also be concerned, since their employees might choose to store important information in cloud sites that might be dismantled and rid of their data.

The SOPA/PIPA affair has not concluded by any means. Both Craigslist and Wikipedia warn their users that the bills will continue to lurk in Congress’ shadows, perhaps to eventually resurface in a revamped and less easily overpowered form.

Let us concretize the peril and the stakes this way: the Internet enabled me to research and write this article in record time – one day – whereas in the past researching and writing such an article may have taken me a week. But all the research capabilities were there, thanks to protected IP’s and the skill and knowledge of those “providers” (too frequently regarded by regulators and a mooching public as “common carriers”). Yes, there are pirates who exploit the Internet, but they need to be combated with objective law, and not by slapdash legislation drawn up by men with faulty and fatal grasps of how and why the Internet works.

Finally, a great lesson is being overlooked even by those who welcome Congress’s second thoughts about SOPA and PIPA. The Internet blackout proved, perhaps more than the Tea Party movement ever put Congress on notice that Americans were tired of its juggernaut to national insolvency and socialism, that power-lusters and their abettors can be stopped cold. On January 23rd, PC World reported:

By the time the week was over, dozens of lawmakers had abandoned the two bills or voiced opposition, and a cloture vote on PIPA scheduled for this Tuesday in the Senate was delayed as lawmakers try to find a compromise. In the House, Representative Lamar Smith, the lead SOPA sponsor and Texas Republican, killed his bill.

And that was “Strike One” against statism. Who will throw the next pitch at Congress and the White House? Who will emulate John Galt? Doctors, or oil companies?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Objectivist Round-Up

Welcome to the January 12th, 2012 edition of the Objectivist Round-Up. This week presents insight and analyses written by authors who are animated by Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. According to Ayn Rand:

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

"About the Author," Atlas Shrugged, Appendix.

So without any further delay (and in no particular order), here's this week's round-up:

Keith Weiner presents Inflation: an Expansion of Counterfeit Credit posted at keithweiner's posterous, saying, "One of the most important topics of our era, and the proper concept of "inflation"."
Joseph Kellard presents Book Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson posted at The American Individualist, saying, "My review of Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs."

Diana Hsieh presents Video: Tenacity in Pursuit of Goals posted at NoodleFood, saying, "In Sunday's webcast, I discussed how to be tenacious in pursuit of your goals. Check out the video!"

Darius Cooper presents US "Entitlement" programs - Impact on debt posted at Practice Good Theory, saying, "I examine Federal liabilities for Social Security and Medicare."

Edward Cline presents Rivals for Your Life: Religious Conservatives vs. Islam posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, "Conflicts between mere beliefs – beliefs without evidence of what is believed, beliefs based on the unknowable, beliefs based on the whim or emotion that “I just want it to be so” – have led and will continue to lead to horrific warfare in which force determines the victor and the outcome without really settling the question of whose God was greater."

Paul Hsieh presents The Truth About RomneyCare posted at We Stand FIRM, saying, "My latest PJMedia OpEd rebuts Romney's deceptive claim that his Massachusetts health plan didn't impose price controls. And what similar price controls under ObamaCare will mean for residents of the other 49 states."

Santiago and Kelly Valenzuela presents Movie Recommendation - The Artist posted at Mother of Exiles, saying, "My brief comments about a wonderful new movie and a link to the trailer."

Kelly Elmore presents Reepicheep's Coracle: Things I Learned on My Travels Aside from the Order of Succession of the Monarchy posted at Reepicheep's Coracle, saying, "This post is a tongue-in-cheek catalog of lessons learned traveling in England, from the value of solo-travel to the uselessness of hotel reviews to complaints about spousal train negotiation."

John Drake presents Tenacity in Goal Pursuit posted at Try Reason!, saying, "Diana Hsieh's excellent Philosoph in Action video about tenacity in the pursuit of goals inspired me with some futher observations. See the video, read my comments, and get cracking on those goals!"

Jenn Casey presents Progress on my Goals posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "Off to a great start in 2012!"

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That concludes this edition of the round-up. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Objectivist round-up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Rivals for Your Life: Religious Conservatives vs. Islam

“If you, as a servant of your god, must use one hundred thousand warriors to destroy me, a solitary servant of my God, then you whisper to me, Muhammed Ahmed, who will be remembered from Khartoum: your god or mine?”

— General Charles Gordon to the Mahdi in Khartoum (1966). Writer, Robert Ardey

In April 2009 I noted in a column, “The Irrelevancy of Conservatism,” which was devoted to examining why conservatives and the Left hated novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, that

Rand herself marked the malaise of conservatism in 1962 in her essay, “Conservatism: An Obituary.” Identifying why conservatism was finished as a distinct political ideology and political force, she wrote:

“If the ‘conservatives’ do not stand for capitalism, they stand for and are nothing; they have no goal, no direction, no political principles, no social ideals, no intellectual values, no leadership to offer anyone. Yet capitalism is what the ‘conservatives’ dare not advocate or defend. They are paralyzed by the profound conflict between capitalism and the moral code which dominates our culture: altruism.”

More importantly, however, the article reveals that conservatives are afraid that men are realizing that Ayn Rand is fundamentally relevant to today’s political, moral and economic crises, and that they, the conservatives, have grown irrelevant. The “transcendent order” of Russell Kirk (1918-1994), cited by [William R.] Hawkins as a source of moral and political wisdom, was based “variously on tradition, divine revelation, or natural law,” but has made way for the “transcendent order” of the brute collectivism of the state, to which Americans are more and more expected to defer.

“What should really agitate the public is not the principle of government intervention to prevent an economic collapse, but how the politicians have seized the opportunity to spend huge sums on non-emergency, special interest programs.”

And what is the wisdom of conservatives? It is the “dean of conservative thinking” Russell Kirk’s, which the reader may sample here, beginning with:

“….Conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.”

So it is an anti-ideology, or a set of “sentiments” and non-ideas, or a “state of mind” which is supposed to animate anyone to try to dam the advancing, liberty-destroying lava of statism. Hawkins offers his conservative credentials in this outburst:

“The most alarming sign that the anarchists are trying to take over the Tea Party movement is the sudden revival of the amoral and anti-social screeds of the late and unlamented Ayn Rand. Her name has been bantered around far too often on talk radio and by Fox News commentators.”

Hawkins should wonder why her name is so frequently “bantered around,” and not [William F.] Buckley’s or Russell Kirk’s. Perhaps it is because men are searching for answers and ideas, Rand has had them for decades, and answers and ideas are not to be found in conservatism. He should also learn that Rand was neither an anarchist nor a libertarian.

As if to underscore the religious, anti-reason color of conservatism, Hawkins manages to introduce Original Sin as an ingredient of the financial crisis:

“True conservatives know the character of Mankind is ’fallen’ and that there is a dark side to human nature to which bankers and fund managers are just as vulnerable as anyone else. Freedom without responsibility, and rights without duties, leads to license and wrong-doing.”

I ask here, almost three years later: What responsibilities? What duties? Hawkins names none. And why are rights contingent on meeting and fulfilling them? True conservatives, however, speak for themselves. Only they know how far they have “fallen” and are more acquainted with the dark side of their “souls” than they should wish anyone else to be.

Premises have a way of percolating to the top sooner or later. This is the case with conservatism, specifically religious conservatism. There is secular conservatism, which is more a species of pragmatism than it is of principled ideology. Capitalism “works.” A modicum of freedom “works.” (But not “too much” of either.) And there is religious conservatism, which is a marriage of pragmatism and faith, otherwise known as “social conservatism.”

Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum gave us an idea of what it means to be a “social conservative.” The Blaze offers the low-down on Santorum and explodes the notion that he is against “big government.”

Today, Santorum tells voters that Medicare is “crushing” the “entire health care system.” In 2003, Santorum voted for the Medicare drug entitlement that costs taxpayers more than $60 billion a year and almost $16 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Santorum voted for the 2005 “bridge to nowhere” bill and was an earmark enthusiast his entire career.

These days, Santorum regularly joins a chorus of voices claiming that he would greatly reduce the role of federal government in local education. When he had a say, he supported No Child Left Behind and expanded the federal control of school systems. In his book, in fact, Santorum advocates dictating a certain curriculum to all schools. The right kind. It’s not the authority of government that irks him, but rather the content of the material Washington is peddling today.[Italics mine.]

There is no reason that candidate Mitt Romney is any different. He’s a social conservative, too. What is it that social conservatives want to “conserve”? “Traditional” values and big government as our shepherd and arbiter of those values. Hardly an ideology.

The fundamental obstacle for conservatives to understanding the pernicious influence of altruism is precisely their altruist premises. They will not question those premises. To question them is to question the role of government as a proactive agent for altruism as an apology for freedom and capitalism. The history of conservatism, especially in the 20th century, bears out the truth of this contention.

The Left allies itself with Islam because of shared totalitarian yearnings and ends.

Religious conservatives, however, oppose Islam basically because it is a rival creed, a “competing faith.” It is not a turn-the-other-cheek creed. It advocates throwing stones, lots of stones, in the form of real rocks and passenger jets and arsonist’s torches. The quotation from Khartoum that precedes this column may be taken as evidence of that fear, although Charlton Heston’s Gordon, speaking with conviction to Laurence Olivier as the Mahdi, doesn’t seem particularly fearful. But after his first fictive meeting with the Mahdi, he confesses to an aide:

"I seem to have suffered the illusion that I have a monopoly on God."

Perhaps that’s why conservatives hate Islam. Let’s look at the “Five Pillars of Islam”:

Allah is the only God and Mohammad his prophet (shahada)
The Haj (or pilgrimage to Mecca)
Prayer five times a day (sala)
The giving of alms (zaka)
Ramadan (saum, month-long fasting)

We are all now familiar with the unnamed “sixth” pillar of Islam: Jihad.

What are the parallel pillars of the Christian faith? The Christian God is the only God. To some Christians, Allah is an apostate, or Satan himself; to others, he’s just another “false idol” with peculiar habits. A one-time trip to Vatican City to hear the Pope give his Easter sermon can be taken as the Christian Haj. I don’t think other Christian denominations have a similar obligatory pilgrimage to make. Prayer five times a day isn’t required of Christians, although I’m certain many pray every day before meals and participating in sports events and the like. Charity is also a major altruistic practice in Christianity; in fact, it’s regarded as a key virtue. Lent is the Christian Ramadan.

Jihad? The only modern equivalents have been the missionary “outreaches” of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the modern versions. These, however, have never entailed violence against pagans or infidels or native populations. The Spaniards, however, took along priests to convert South American Indians to Christianity as sanctifying baggage in their quest for gold, and there were the religious wars of Europe.

So, the similarities are there. An interesting site, “Theological differences between Islam and Christianity,” features a prĂ©cis on the doctrinal differences between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam:

The faith of Muslims is based on the works of accomplishing the five pillars of Islam. Christianity, on the contrary, it based on faith that people can be freed from their sin[s] by the blood of Christ Jesus.

Most Arabs are Muslim, but most Muslims are not Arabs. There are millions of followers who are of Persian and Asian descent. Arabs came from the line of Ishmael (the half brother of Isaac - father of the Jews). However, descendants of Ishmael were a nomadic people who intermarried with the Midianites (Judges 8:1, 12, 22, 24) and others, while the Hebrews largely avoided a racial mix. After Islam violently imposed its doctrines on the Arab world, Muslim men were permitted to take wives of any faith in order to raise the children in Islam. (Muslim women were [and still are] obligated to marry only Muslim men.)

Those who practice the "Five Pillars" of Islam worship a god named Allah, who was the chief god of the Quraish tribe that controlled Mecca. This god was selected by Mohammad from among the 300 plus idols honored at the Ka’aba, and Muhammed tried to modify his moon god to become the God of Abraham. The symbol of this moon god, Allah, is known as the crescent symbol of Islam. Conversely, the Christian god revealed Himself to Moses as "Yahweh" (Exodus 3:14-16). In the Torah and in the Koran, Allah and Yahweh speak in the third person plural, yet both Judaism and Islam dogmatically proclaim their god to be singular. ("Hear Oh Israel, the Lord your God is One God" Deut. 6:4) As Christianity branched off of Judaism, they saw this as additional evidence for the Trinity.

All varieties of Christianity are founded on saving one’s soul, or on personal salvation, and the different denominations encourage or prescribe various degrees of ardor to that end. This does not necessarily entail, either, going on a homicidal rampage.

Christianity, on the other hand, follows the Lord God of Israel. Christians believe that God sent His Son to Earth to be the atonement for sin….[A]ll a person needs to do is accept the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. The Great Commission to all Christians states, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV.

Personal salvation in Islam, however, is as bloody-minded as one can imagine.

Muhammed specified that God does not have a son. Because of this, there is no redemption from sin in Islam. Salvation comes by works which never carry an assurance of being good enough unless one were to die for Allah as a suicide bomber or die killing infidels in battle. "If you should die or be killed in the cause of Allah, His mercy and forgiveness would surely be better than all they riches they amass. If you should die or be killed, before Him you shall all be gathered" (Sura 3:157-8). "Those who are slain in the way of Allah - he will never let their deeds be lost. Soon will he guide them and improve their condition, and admit them to the Garden, which he has announced for them" (Sura 47:5).

Another religious site, “Yahweh (the God of the Bible) vs. Allah (the god of the Koran),” stresses these differences between Christianity and Islam (comments in brackets are mine):

(A) Allah is distant and unknowable. The God of the Bible is close and personal.
(B) Allah does not love every person; Yahweh [God’s moniker in the Old Testament] does love every person. [Although he did have his temper tantrums and could be maliciously capricious, causing plagues of locusts, deaths of first-borns, turning wives into pillars of salt, the Tower of Babble, and so on. This is the “tough love” of a psychotic, and differs little from Allah’s behavior.]
(C) Allah did not, would not, and will not die for you, nor would he ever send anyone to do so [Allah did not have a son]. But the God of the Bible loves you so much He sent His one and only Son to die for you. And He stands ready to grant you everlasting life if you will receive Him by faith. [Islam, or “submission,” by any other name.]

Both Christian conservatives in America and Islamic fundamentalists seem to hate gays, hold traditionally non-Progressive old school conservative ideologies, demean women, and are guided in their lifestyle and thinking by their basic doctrinal texts, i.e., the Bible and Koran. Which, condensed, means adhering to an old time religion, because it requires nothing more than faith and credulity.

We can understand the animosity held by Islam for Christianity. The Koran is very clear about what to do about the “People of the Book” – slay, subjugate, or convert them if they don’t accept the Koran as God’s final word and Mohammad as the last and most important prophet. Islam is the youngest of the three major faiths and much of its doctrine was cadged from Christian and Jewish scripture – with much tongue-in-cheek inventiveness over the centuries. And Islam does not so much fear Christianity as hates it and intends to eradicate it.

But why do especially Christian conservatives hate and fear Islam? When one reads the comments on the latest Islamic depredation or instance of taqiyya on sites such as Jihad Watch or Atlas Shrugs, a fair percentage of the readers feel obligated to bring God into the discussion. Their ardor is virtually palpable, and any deprecatory remark made by an atheist about Christianity or God usually provokes outrage and posses form. There is a clinical or sociological term for such mob behavior: majority syncing bias.

Because most of Christian doctrine is founded on the life, homilies, and travails of Jesus Christ, possibly that fear and hatred of Islam are based on the secondary status that Islam accords Christ, as a mere prophet, not a “son of God.” Islam claims he was sent to earth by Allah to advance the cause of Islam. In fact, Islam contends that Christ was never crucified, but simply “raised up to Him.”

Islam and the People of the Book,” by Anwar Shaikh, provides a very simple explanation that supports this contention:

Of course, the Koran treats Jesus as a Prophet of God and confirms that he had been given the power to perform miracles but it defies the Christian fundamentals. For example, it refutes the doctrine of Crucifixion, which holds that God made His Son the Sacrificial Lamb to carry away the people's burdens of sin:

"...for their saying, We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God. Yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown them... God raised him up to Him..." (IV - Women: 155)

It means that God did not allow Jesus to suffer crucifixion, which is the kernel of the Christian faith. He raised him from the cross, and replaced him with someone, who looked like Jesus. Thus Islam destroys the very foundation of Christianity. Not only that, Islam subordinates Jesus to Muhammad. The Hadith No. 287 of Sahih Muslim, volume one, states: "...the son of Mary will soon descend among you as a just judge. He will break crosses, kill swine and abolish Jizya..."

That is, Christ will return to destroy Christianity at Allah’s behest. Presumably Judaism and Jews will have been exterminated long before Christ reappears. Muslim Brotherhood Legal Expert Yusuf al Qaradawi earnestly wishes it to happen. He’s President Obama’s pick to negotiate a “peace” between the U.S. and the Taliban. In 2009, on Al-Jazeera, he implored:

“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them–even though they exaggerated this issue–he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”

It’s all part of Allah’s plan, you know. Christ, however, is noted for wanting to be kind to animals. Would the Islamic Christ approve of halal, and really go about killing swine? And dogs? And apes?

And Christianity and Islam both have their unique versions of the “end of days.” The sun will rise in the West, billions of corpses will come back to life, stars will go out or fall to earth, the Horsehead Nebula will neigh, the Crab Nebula will sidle up to Orion, almost knocking over the Pillars of Creation, there will be earthquakes and pestilence, water running up hill, and everyone queuing up in an infinite line to be judged by one or the other deity (you can make this stuff up; the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and other religious documents prove it). St. Peter and God are on one side of this vast celestial arena, the Angel Gabriel and Allah on the other, ready with their naughty-nice lists. Satan and his legions of minions are waiting and fuming (literally, they’re from Hades) outside the arena, impatient to collect kindling for the hellfire as Allah or God casts souls into it.

What a premise for an opera bouffe!

There are no serious or fundamental conflicts between men of reason. Reason is their guide. If there are conflicts or differences between them, the most consistent man will be proven right. Knowable reality will govern the outcome. But conflicts between mere beliefs – beliefs without evidence of what is believed, beliefs based on the unknowable, beliefs based on the whim or emotion that “I just want it to be so” – have led and will continue to lead to horrific warfare in which force determines the victor and the outcome without really settling the question of whose God was greater.

God, after all, has always been on the side of enemy combatants.

Islam is not only a major rival religion to Christianity, but it also has an aura of greater potency which Christian conservatives must envy. It sanctions violence and deceit as Christianity does not, and flouts practically all of the Ten Commandments. Violence and deceit are great time-savers when one is trying to collect souls and extort jizya from the greatest number for the greater God in the shortest time. Thus, failing persuasion or dawa, Islam can just barge into societies and cultures and nations with sword and club and impose its will, committing murder, coveting and taking wives and property, lying from ear to ear, cursing, taking the name of the other guy’s God in vain, sparing those who recognize Allah, and so on.

Of course, in Islam, everything a person does is “written,” predestined to happen by Allah. So the average Muslim is but an automaton. He’s only doing what Allah intended him to do. Still, if he slays unbelievers and other infidels and is killed “in action,” as a “martyr,” he will be guaranteed Paradise. So, Islamic justice is hard to reconcile with reason. One may as well pat one’s coffee-maker on the head for, well, making coffee, and tie a bright red ribbon around it.

But then Christian ethics is little better. Without going into the issue of the contradictory attributes of omniscience and omnipotence – some Christian doctrines allege that God also knew everything that one will do eons before one’s Stone Age great-great-grandparents were conceived – one encounters the minimal role of volition as the key to one’s salvation. It also renders the deed-doer selfless, as well, because no good deed is supposed to be performed with the expectation of reward – not even personal, “spiritual” satisfaction – but only for its own sake as a Kantian maxim. Instead of performing the deed in the name of Allah, it is done in the name of the deed. The least quantum of self-interest in performing a good deed leaves the deed tainted with selfishness or with greed for absolution or a place in Heaven.

Of course, this puts the receiver or beneficiary of a good deed in a moral quandary. It is his happiness and well-being that is supposed to be one’s motive. But shouldn’t the same maxim apply to the beneficiary? If his life is saved by a selfless benefactor, how can he not feel selfishly grateful? Ideally, he should feel just as selflessly disinterested in the preservation of his life as the benefactor was supposed to have been in having saved it.

The consistent altruist would be dead from a brief career of selfless service to others. And the consistent beneficiary would be dead from refusal to accept any alms, for they would only make him happy.

So, “social conservatives” find a comfortable medium between altruism and staying alive. The policy explains their practiced compartmentalization of Christian morality, their hypocrisies and inconsistencies, and their politics.

“Ay, there’s the rub,” mused Hamlet. Christians consider it nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous illogic rather than acknowledge it.

Logical conundrums, however, do not weigh upon the minds of devout Muslims. Islam does not paint itself into such ethical corners. It is not concerned with contradictions, moral absurdities, or syllogistic traps. It is brutally frank in its means and ends. Convert or die, or cough up the protection money. Nice cheek, infidel Christian. Can you turn the other one? Thanks for tolerating me. Now, get out of my way.

Perhaps that is why Islam is feared – and envied – by its rival religionists.