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  1. 09 Jan '13 00:07 / 1 edit
    I mentioned the article below in another thread and thought it might be worthy posting it, especially as the author, John J. Reilly, died last year, and his website has since gone offline.

    Reilly was an orthodox Roman Catholic and what one might describe as a "big government" conservative (i.e., he believed a strong state was necessary to preserve traditional liberties). Are his claims true? Is the difference between left and right in the modern era superficial? Is he right to argue that "big government" has essentially vanished in the last forty years or so? Are the claims he makes about the contradiction between mass immigration and state-funded public services reasonable? Is he right to argue that the attitudes of "Consciousness III" are demographically untenable in the long term?
  2. 09 Jan '13 00:08 / 2 edits
    The Triumph of Consciousness III by John J. Reilly.

    A few years ago, Diarmaid MacCulloch reminded us at great length in his historical survey, The Reformation, that the 16th century was a century of "reformations," of reforming councils and statements of faith, of polemics and scandal. That was almost as true of Catholic as of emerging Protestant Europe. To note this fact is not to imply that there was nothing to choose between the two sides (or three sides, or more in some places); it does imply that the people of that time had a characteristic way of doing things. The point is of wider application. It is not unreasonable to characterize Robespierre as "Left" and Burke as "Right," for instance; they lived in the first generation to which those terms may be applied. However, that very opposition meant that the opponents were part of a single conceptual system. Burke's idea of tradition was inflected in a way that made it comprehensible to the Left of his generation, even if they found it repulsive. Left and Right are positive and negative particles that have been circling around each other since they separated during the Enlightenment, and they will continue to do so until modernity ends.

    These observations are exercises in historicism. That is to some extent an acquired taste, one that many worthy persons never acquired, C.S. Lewis not least among them. For him, the Zeitgeist was the sort of spook that the critic should seek to exorcise from an historical account, especially when received opinion about the spirit of a past age got in the way of a direct assessment of what the people of that time were trying to say. Nonetheless, he also had a lively sense that one of the uses of the past is to make us skeptical about the present. As he noted in Surprised by Joy:

    "Owen Barfield made short work of what I have called my 'chronological snobbery', the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the uncritical acceptance that whatever has gone out of date is on that account to be discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also a 'period', and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions."

    What was true of Lewis's present is also true of our own. By "our own," I mean the early 21st-century world of the Baby-Boomers, all other generations being slackful and of no account (a point to which we will return). There are controversies in our era, intractable, long-running controversies, whose partisans believe that life will not be worth living if the other side wins. When that sort of thing happens, it is a good bet that the two sides participate in some deeper cultural insistence.

    We need not wait until "the future" to perceive such an insistence; again, one of the uses of historical memory is to make such an insistence visible. Indeed, one may predict the importance of such an insistence even before it takes hold, though as is the nature of successful prophecy, its fulfillment is likely to appear ironic in light of the context in which it was made. Consider this piece of true and accurate prognostication, from a book published in 1970:

    "There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act."

    The quotation is from no less a source than The Greening of America, by law-professor Charles Reich. That book was accounted the leading description of the ideology of the Counter Culture, the natural ideology of "the kids" (though not, of course, invented by them in every detail) who were born in the decade-and-a-half after the Second World War and would soon carry all of America before them. The Greening of America does not bear rereading, unless perhaps you are fishing for quotes for a magazine article. The bulk of the book consists of New Left commonplaces and sentimental multiculturalism, plus a large measure of non-specific but highly apocalyptic ecological engagement. The book is held together by a dialectical model of American history. In seems that Consciousness I, the frontier spirit, was replaced by Consciousness II, the technocratic mindset of the Organization Man. The terminus to the series, as you might expect, is Consciousness III. The author describes it in these terms:

    "Consciousness III starts with the self. In contrast to Consciousness II, which accepts society, the public interest, and institutions as the primary reality, III declared that the individual self is the only true reality. Thus it returns to the earlier America: "My self I sing." The first commandment is: thou shalt not do violence to thyself."

    What Charles Reich foresaw here does pretty obviously express itself in the ideology of autonomy that underlies the Cultural Left. That includes the constellation of presumptions and practices that inform contraception, abortion, gay marriage, and, in theory, euthanasia. (The underlying unity of these things is not controversial, by the way; the jurisprudence from one to the other is seamless.) Our cultural and political discourse, however, would be greatly clarified if we kept in mind that Consciousness III also underlies economic libertarianism and the radical hostility to government per se. The Tea Party is quite as much a vindication of Charles Reich as perpetual funding for Planned Parenthood.

    It is not a new observation that the student radicalism of the 1960s actually began on the Right, that Hillary Clinton began her political engagement as a Goldwater Girl; and for that matter, that the candidacy of Barry Goldwater preceded that of George McGovern. It is still insufficiently appreciated, however, that this early activism was not simply a transitory phase, soon to be transformed by the Summer of Love and the Tet Offensive into various kinds of liberalism. It was the basis for what "conservatism" came to mean in the 21st century, a pea from the same pod that gave us an equally novel meaning for "liberalism."

    One of the most astonishing things about the last third of the 20th century was how totally the New Deal state lapsed. This is something that our contemporary fans of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, for instance, tend to miss. In that book, there is an uppity, Soviet-light command-economy government attempting to tell entrepreneurs what to make in their factories and what traffic to carry on their railroads. The book presented a parody of how the New Deal regulators functioned, but the way they did function sometimes merited parody. Indeed, at the time the book was written, there were government agencies that could mandate "balanced" content in news reporting, and that embraced the task of ensuring monopoly profits for a few pampered airlines and telecommunications companies. The interest rates on bank savings accounts were set by administrative fiat. Private persons could not own gold. Such wickedness; the mind boggles.

    Now that was Big Government; Consciousness II Government, if you will. With the exception of some residual macroeconomic regulation of agriculture, it has almost all gone away.

    The Consciousness III Government that superseded it was entrepreneurial. It was as entrepreneurial, in its own way, as the businesses that took advantage of the purely economic deregulation that occurred at the same time. The enforcement of the new class of social and business regulation was turned over to the private bar rather than to centralized administrators. The public interest bar was empowered to sue to correct abuses of the environment or of health and safety, or imbalances in the demographic structure of the workforce. The term for this device was "the private attorney general." In large measure, regulatory agencies became mechanisms for enforcing private court judgments. Indeed, when people object to the activism of the courts, what they are usually objecting to is the entrepreneurial zeal of Consciousness III lawyers.

    In the context of business regulation, the two versions of Consciousness III are sometimes in conflict. Such conflicts occasion hard words, which are often spoken in splendidly financed electoral battles. In many other contexts, however, the two forms of Consciousness III, what we may call autonomy and libertarianism, complement each other with eerie ease. Mary Ann Glendon noted in First Things (Principled Immigration June/July 2006) has characterized the great demographic change that occurred in the last generation as "replacement immigration" necessitated by a more anti-natalist society. From the perspective of autonomy, this development reflected both the normalization of a Consciousness III family ethic, as well as an exercise in bio-politics designed to subvert the very idea of national borders. For libertarians, of course, the new immigration, especially its illegal element, meant lower labor costs paid to workers who were not in a position to demand public services.

    Such serendipitous accord can generate conflicts that are not always apparent. If a short answer must be given for why the United States did not develop a single-payer or other form of universal health insurance over the past 30 years, a good one might be that no society with open borders can have a walk-in policy for public health-services. Further application of loose immigration policies will reveal that the point applies to all public services, but that's another question.
  3. 09 Jan '13 00:09
    If Consciousness II was the ideology of the New Deal and the world wars, of the mobilized society, then Consciousness III is the ideology of demobilization. It is incredulous of the public good. For libertarians, obviously, the public good is measured by the judgment of the market. For the autonomous, the situation is different only superficially. The mark of autonomy is the assertion of claims against the state, and against the claims of one individual against another; the most extreme example of the latter, perhaps, is the civil liberties model of the child "alone with her rights," with no essential relationship to parents or family. Both wings of Consciousness III fly to an atomic model of the individual, with society an aerosol of atoms.

    Such an aerosol, we may note, is historyless. At least in principle, its state at one point in time can differ from that at another point in time in no important way. Consciousness III, like the third stage of other dialectical models, is therefore a terminal state of mind, a spirit of the eschaton. Indeed, in trying to predict what autonomy or libertarianism will say about a given public policy question, it is often helpful to assume that ours is the last generation. Both wings of Consciousness III are resistant to claims between generations. They can dismiss claims from the future because Consciousness III is already the future incarnate, and so they also knowingly inherit nothing from the past. The disconnection of the generations has become increasingly apparent in recent proposals to reform Social Security and healthcare for the elderly by abolishing their nature as intergenerational transfer systems. That is the libertarian solution. The autonomous solution, we may be sure, will be the discovery and vigorous promotion of a right to die.

    There is some daylight between autonomy and libertarianism on ecological questions. Libertarianism has thus far found difficulty imaging a market mechanism that would allow for the conceptualization of such issues. Autonomy, on the other hand, is disconcertingly eager to plan for a future biosphere that need have no people in it. The gap could be closed, at least in principle, if we consider that a Consciousness III Generation would be most perfectly realized in a race of sterile immortals. That point has not been lost on the Transhumanist Movement, which at the moment is largely a libertarian enthusiasm. The terrestrial biosphere could be saved, then, if we moved not just beyond humanity, but biology.

    This description of Consciousness III may sound excessively damning. In fact, if every era has its blind spots and prejudices, then so too every era has its virtues. The era of Consciousness III is by no means without accomplishments. In the past generation, most of the world has moved out of primary poverty, in large part because of public policies devised by Consciousness III statesmen. Never in human history has the world been so demilitarized, the numerous brushfire wars notwithstanding. Despite the best efforts of the diversity industry, racial and ethnic consciousness shows every sign of declining to minor elements of personal identity. Also for the first time in history, there is now some hope that the relationship between men and women will find its own level, though that is unlikely to be a condition of general fungibility. The triumph of Consciousness III has coincided with something like a common, real-time, consciousness of the human race; a singular development, one that may turn out for good or ill, and quite likely for both. As for other elements the Consciousness III world, we may debate what God thinks about them. What Darwin thinks, however, we can be pretty sure.
  4. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    09 Jan '13 02:40
    Good luck in getting any responses to that.
  5. 09 Jan '13 04:51 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    I mentioned the article below in another thread and thought it might be worthy posting it, especially as the author, John J. Reilly, died last year, and his website has since gone offline.

    Reilly was an orthodox Roman Catholic and what one might describe as a "big government" conservative (i.e., he believed a strong state was necessary to preserve tradi that the attitudes of "Consciousness III" are demographically untenable in the long term?
    First he says that big government is necessary to ensure liberty but then says that big government has vanished?

    It would help splain the NDAA I suppose, but these two positions seem contradictory to say the least.

    I think the only thing the man gets is that there is no real difference between "right" and "left" in government.
  6. 09 Jan '13 11:33
    Originally posted by whodey
    First he says that big government is necessary to ensure liberty but then says that big government has vanished?

    It would help splain the NDAA I suppose, but these two positions seem contradictory to say the least.

    I think the only thing the man gets is that there is no real difference between "right" and "left" in government.
    Which of the following do you disagree with? Reilly lists a number of major interventionist policies which have not only been abandoned, but which seem like elements from political prehistory these days.

    One of the most astonishing things about the last third of the 20th century was how totally the New Deal state lapsed. This is something that our contemporary fans of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, for instance, tend to miss. In that book, there is an uppity, Soviet-light command-economy government attempting to tell entrepreneurs what to make in their factories and what traffic to carry on their railroads. The book presented a parody of how the New Deal regulators functioned, but the way they did function sometimes merited parody. Indeed, at the time the book was written, there were government agencies that could mandate "balanced" content in news reporting, and that embraced the task of ensuring monopoly profits for a few pampered airlines and telecommunications companies. The interest rates on bank savings accounts were set by administrative fiat. Private persons could not own gold. Such wickedness; the mind boggles.

    Now that was Big Government; Consciousness II Government, if you will. With the exception of some residual macroeconomic regulation of agriculture, it has almost all gone away.
  7. 09 Jan '13 11:34
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Good luck in getting any responses to that.
    Did you read it?
  8. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    09 Jan '13 13:46
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    Did you read it?
    Yes, I read it. I can't say that I fully comprehended it, however. His prose was far too ponderous to for me to endure a second reading. I was left with the vague impression that the whole thing was a load of hogwash, but I couldn't tell you precisely why.
  9. 09 Jan '13 14:14
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    Which of the following do you disagree with? Reilly lists a number of major interventionist policies which have not only been abandoned, but which seem like elements from political prehistory these days.

    One of the most astonishing things about the last third of the 20th century was how totally the New Deal state lapsed. This is something that our co ...[text shortened]... on of some residual macroeconomic regulation of agriculture, it has almost all gone away.
    I see, so the notion that government is not increasing is all based upon Ayan Rands novel and the comparison to it related to todays government.

    Whatever. All I know is that last year alone, the government passed more than 40,000 new regulations and laws. Also, job expansion seems to come mostly from the government with increased salaries and benefits to boot.

    I guess Rwingett is a better man than I since he read it all. As for myself, I stopped reading once the author claimed that government was not increasing.

    Idiot.
  10. 09 Jan '13 14:38
    Originally posted by whodey
    I see, so the notion that government is not increasing is all based upon Ayan Rands novel and the comparison to it related to todays government.

    The comparison is based on specific, enumerated policies which have been abandoned. There is no fairness doctrine. There is no ban on private ownership of gold. There is no favouring of specific airlines, etc. This kind of government interference really has vanished.

    All I know is that last year alone, the government passed more than 40,000 new regulations and laws.

    What's your source for this improbable claim? You're suggesting the government passed a hundred laws a day. Even congressmen have to eat and sleep!

    I guess Rwingett is a better man than I since he read it all. As for myself, I stopped reading once the author claimed that government was not increasing.

    A shame. The article is well worth reading, because it explains why a lot of people think the way you do!
  11. 09 Jan '13 16:25
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Yes, I read it. I can't say that I fully comprehended it, however. His prose was far too ponderous to for me to endure a second reading. I was left with the vague impression that the whole thing was a load of hogwash, but I couldn't tell you precisely why.
    I think it's extremely well written - certainly compared to most academic prose these days.

    His argument certainly explains why the kind of socialism you espouse doesn't get a very respectful hearing these days.
  12. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    09 Jan '13 16:30
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    I think it's extremely well written - certainly compared to most academic prose these days.

    His argument certainly explains why the kind of socialism you espouse doesn't get a very respectful hearing these days.
    I honestly can't bear to read it again. If you want to summarize it, though, I'll give it a go.
  13. Standard member finnegan
    GENS UNA SUMUS
    09 Jan '13 19:42 / 3 edits
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    I mentioned the article below in another thread and thought it might be worthy posting it, especially as the author, John J. Reilly, died last year, and his website has since gone offline.

    Reilly was an orthodox Roman Catholic and what one might describe as a "big government" conservative (i.e., he believed a strong state was necessary to preserve tradi that the attitudes of "Consciousness III" are demographically untenable in the long term?
    Are his claims true? you ask. Relying on your text alone, and struggling to interpret it, I think the answer is no they are not true. He sorts out a highly selective and contentious account of affairs to fit a tidy and frankly meaningless classification system while using loaded terms to label his categories; "the entrepreneurial" Consciousness III rather than the Neo Liberal, narcissistic Consciousness III for example. I will pick up one paragraph from your posts as follows:

    The era of Consciousness III is by no means without accomplishments. In the past generation, most of the world has moved out of primary poverty, in large part because of public policies devised by Consciousness III statesmen. Never in human history has the world been so demilitarized, the numerous brushfire wars notwithstanding. Despite the best efforts of the diversity industry, racial and ethnic consciousness shows every sign of declining to minor elements of personal identity. Also for the first time in history, there is now some hope that the relationship between men and women will find its own level, though that is unlikely to be a condition of general fungibility.


    The reference to "primary poverty" is a curious one because it is a particular way of discussing poverty that appeals more to the Right than the Left in politics. I would suggest that the modern accumulation of extreme wealth by a powerful and very small minority is more comparable to the Roman Empire than anything more modern. Extreme inequality is a massive feature of the so called entrepreneurial, post New Deal world that is neatly concealed for example by choosing one particular concept of poverty. In fact, poverty is grotesquely prevalent across our planet. Nor are the improvements recently witnessed in South America due to anything resembling Consciousness III but rather a move to what is called Consciousness II, the mobilized state. In Europe, the attack on the achievements of Consciousness II by the agents of Consciousness III represents a reversal and abandonment of goals to reduce poverty.

    To describe our world as "demilitarised" is again absurd. Comfortable, narcissistic electorates in countries like the USA and the UK appear unable to get their heads around the staggering miltary budgets which they are funding, and the reference to "numerous bushfires" somewhat conceals the extent to which our developed nations export military aggression. There is nothing demilitarised about this planet in our time.

    The claim that racial and ethnic consciousness is in decline, never mind that it has become a minor element of personal identity, is laughable. Fukayama's smug claim that the fall of the Berlin Wall represented the End of History was demonstrated to be absurd as what emerged across the formerly communist bloc was in fact a rebirth of nationalism and ethnic conflict on a massive scale. Nationalism in the USA is at an astonishing level and in Western Europe it has not been diminished as a result of the European Union. On both sides to the atlantic, antagonism to immigrants and aggression to "foreign" cultures, notably Islamaphobia, display the continuing if not escalating weight of racism in our "developed" world.

    What it means for relations between men and women to "reach its own level" is as opaque and empty as you might expect from a Catholic thinker, but he hides behind that obscure term "fungible" his conviction that men and women can never be equal. I am not sure what women in India, or in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the rape victims in the former Yugoslavia, would have to say about this, never mind the countless women trafficked around Europe to feed its brothels. Yes the women's movement is achieving good things but not without continuing struggle and the continuing pressure to regress. In the UK the Coalition Government's slashing attack on the welfare state and on all public spending turns out to make women the main losers by a huge margin over and over again, as their gains are withdrawn. As they were in the 19th century the needs of women are again unaffordable for a laissez faire, wealth driven, unequal society.

    What a load of nonsense it all is.
  14. Standard member Soothfast
    0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,
    09 Jan '13 23:42
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    [b]The Triumph of Consciousness III by John J. Reilly.

    A few years ago, Diarmaid MacCulloch reminded us at great length in his historical survey, The Reformation, that the 16th century was a century of "reformations," of reforming councils and statements of faith, of polemics and scandal. That was almost as true of Catholic as of emerging Protestant ...[text shortened]... plies to all public services, but that's another question.[/b]
    This reads like a lengthy preface to a book that will set out to substantiate the claims made with real flesh and blood examples and data; but as it stands, as an article by itself, it's largely wordplay. Terms like "left", "right", and "big government" are bandied about, but those terms are not precise and don't serve to shed light on matters. I do get the gist that two points are being made:

    1) Government these days, at least in the U.S., is actually "smaller" than it was roughly two generations ago.

    2) The "left" and "right" (which I guess are relabeled "autonomy" and "libertarianism" toward the end of the tract) in the U.S. are not as different as they seem.

    Concerning (1), it depends on what's meant by "big government". If we mean intrusiveness into personal lives, it's a mixed bag. There are more laws and regulations that ever in some areas of life (occupational safety regulations, nondiscrimination policies, environmental rules, permit requirements for home improvements, etc.), and fewer in others (especially in areas of banking, commerce, investing, and other concerns of capitalism's elite caste).

    Concerning (2), there are differences between the left and right, but certainly the similarities are greater. Both the left and right (again, sloppy terms) in the U.S. are committed to worship of the free market, the Constitution, and the military (i.e. imperial power). Thus, in the broad areas of economics, politics, and nationalism they form a united front. Only in social policy do the differences become stark, and even then most on both sides tacitly agree that some social welfare institutions must be maintained in order to conserve the integrity of the body politic and avoid domestic instabilities that may lead to revolution. Toward that end, however, the Democrats want more bandages to dress the wounds inflicted by capitalism upon the populace, the Republicans fewer. It's only a matter of degree.
  15. 10 Jan '13 00:09 / 2 edits
    Originally posted by finnegan
    Are his claims true? you ask. Relying on your text alone, and struggling to interpret it, I think the answer is no they are not true. He sorts out a highly selective and contentious account of affairs to fit a tidy and frankly meaningless classification system while using loaded terms to label his categories; "the entrepreneurial" Consciousness III rather faire, wealth driven, unequal society.

    What a load of nonsense it all is.
    Interesting (and reasonable) response. Though I'm intrigued that you focus your dissent on the brief paragraph that praises "Consciousness III" rather than the much larger section that seems to damn it. Reilly was himself a "Consciousness II" thinker, on the whole. Somewhere else he wrote that a productive modern conservatism would look something like the New Deal, using the power of the state to promote social cohesion and prevent chaos.

    So far they haven't even been close. In fact, the last decade has seen fewer war deaths than any decade in the past 100 years, based on data compiled by researchers Bethany Lacina and Nils Petter Gleditsch of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Worldwide, deaths caused directly by war-related violence in the new century have averaged about 55,000 per year, just over half of what they were in the 1990s (100,000 a year), a third of what they were during the Cold War (180,000 a year from 1950 to 1989), and a hundredth of what they were in World War II. If you factor in the growing global population, which has nearly quadrupled in the last century, the decrease is even sharper. Far from being an age of killer anarchy, the 20 years since the Cold War ended have been an era of rapid progress toward peace.

    I may return to your wider comments, but just to pick up on your rejection of Reilly's claim that the world is increasingly demilitarised, here are some statistics from Joshua Goldstein which support his argument (note that he's not claiming that the world is wholly demilitarised):

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/08/15/think_again_war

    In fact, the last decade has seen fewer war deaths than any decade in the past 100 years, based on data compiled by researchers Bethany Lacina and Nils Petter Gleditsch of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Worldwide, deaths caused directly by war-related violence in the new century have averaged about 55,000 per year, just over half of what they were in the 1990s (100,000 a year), a third of what they were during the Cold War (180,000 a year from 1950 to 1989), and a hundredth of what they were in World War II. If you factor in the growing global population, which has nearly quadrupled in the last century, the decrease is even sharper. Far from being an age of killer anarchy, the 20 years since the Cold War ended have been an era of rapid progress toward peace.

    Armed conflict has declined in large part because armed conflict has fundamentally changed. Wars between big national armies all but disappeared along with the Cold War, taking with them the most horrific kinds of mass destruction. Today's asymmetrical guerrilla wars may be intractable and nasty, but they will never produce anything like the siege of Leningrad. The last conflict between two great powers, the Korean War, effectively ended nearly 60 years ago. The last sustained territorial war between two regular armies, Ethiopia and Eritrea, ended a decade ago. Even civil wars, though a persistent evil, are less common than in the past; there were about a quarter fewer in 2007 than in 1990.

    If the world feels like a more violent place than it actually is, that's because there's more information about wars -- not more wars themselves. Once-remote battles and war crimes now regularly make it onto our TV and computer screens, and in more or less real time. Cell-phone cameras have turned citizens into reporters in many war zones. Societal norms about what to make of this information have also changed. As Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker has noted, "The decline of violent behavior has been paralleled by a decline in attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence," so that we see today's atrocities -- though mild by historical standards -- as "signs of how low our behavior can sink, not of how high our standards have risen."