Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wendell Berry on Small Farms, Local Wisdom, and the Folly of Greed

Wendell Berry. Photo: David Marshall
"For more than forty years, Wendell Berry has worked his family farm in Kentucky the old-fashioned way, using horses as much as possible and producing much of his own food. And he has published more than forty books, writing by hand in the daylight to reduce his reliance on electricity derived from strip-mined coal. Berry has been called a “prophet” by the New York Times, and his Jeffersonian values are so old they can appear startlingly new. His strong pro-environment position has made him something of a cult hero on the Left, as have his antiwar sentiments, which have grown sharper over the years. His 1987 essay “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer,” published in Harper’s, led some to accuse him of being antitechnology, a Luddite. For his part, Berry has criticized environmentalists for not working to protect farms as well as wilderness. His stout self-reliance and unabashed use of moral and religious language in his writing have endeared him to a number of conservatives, even as his stance against corporate globalization has drawn criticism from others. But these apparent contradictions don’t seem to bother Berry one whit.

Born in 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky, Berry published his first book, the novel Nathan Coulter (North Point Press), in 1960. A steady stream of publications in various genres followed, along with honors from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Poet Wallace Stegner once noted, “It is hard to say whether I like [Berry] better as a poet, an essayist, or a novelist. He is all three, at a high level.” Some of Berry’s better-known titles include A Place on Earth (Counterpoint), which the New York Times Book Review called “a masterpiece”; Collected Poems 1957–1982 (North Point Press); Another Turn of the Crank (Counterpoint); and The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (Sierra Club Books). The rural Kentucky of his fiction has often been compared to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. Like Faulkner, Berry has an ear for local language and a feel for place.

Berry taught for more than two decades at Stanford University, New York University, and the University of Kentucky, but he has now quit teaching. Since 1965 he has lived and worked on the 125-acre Lanes Landing Farm in the county of his birth. It was there that my wife and I visited him one Sunday afternoon. He was exactly what I would expect a gentleman farmer to be: tall, rangy in both body and mind, sagacious, and gracious. He and Tanya, his wife of fifty years, were impeccable hosts, making sure that we were seated comfortably on the porch and that our glasses of lemonade remained full. Earlier in the week, I had heard Berry speak to the Sierra Club in Louisville. Despite his busy schedule, he answered my questions in a thoughtful and deliberate manner reminiscent of his prose. The conversation touched on all the primary themes in his tremendous body of work: the importance of place, sustainability, and — above all — community."


Read the whole interview with Wendell Berry, by Jeff Fernside in the Sun Magazine: Wendell Berry On Small Farms, Local Wisdom, And The Folly Of Greed

If you after this interview want to read something by Berry, here are some suggestions:

Unprecedented, Human-Made Trends in Ocean's Acidity

Peach colored soft coral (Dendronephthya sp.) in Komodo National Park. Photo: Nhobgood Nick Hobgood
"In some regions, the man-made rate of change in ocean acidity since the Industrial Revolution is hundred times greater than the natural rate of change between the Last Glacial Maximum and pre-industrial times," emphasizes Friedrich. "When Earth started to warm 17,000 years ago, terminating the last glacial period, atmospheric CO2 levels rose from 190 parts per million (ppm) to 280 ppm over 6,000 years. Marine ecosystems had ample time to adjust. Now, for a similar rise in CO2 concentration to the present level of 392 ppm, the adjustment time is reduced to only 100 -- 200 years." 
On a global scale, coral reefs are currently found in places where open-ocean aragonite saturation reaches levels of 3.5 or higher. Such conditions exist today in about 50% of the ocean -- mostly in the tropics. By end of the 21st century this fraction is projected to be less than 5%. The Hawaiian Islands, which sit just on the northern edge of the tropics, will be one of the first to feel the impact. 
The study suggests that some regions, such as the eastern tropical Pacific, will be less stressed than others because greater underlying natural variability of seawater acidity helps to buffer anthropogenic changes. The aragonite saturation in the Caribbean and the western Equatorial Pacific, both biodiversity hotspots, shows very little natural variability, making these regions particularly vulnerable to human-induced ocean acidification. - Sciense Daily
Read the whole article: Unprecedented, Human-Made Trends in Ocean's Acidity

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Douglas Rushkoff on Getting Past Free Through Radical Abundance

Douglas Rushkoff (Author, “Life Inc.”), “Radical Abundance: How We Get Past “Free” and Learn to Exchange Value Again” English and Dutch captions by Martien van Steenbergen:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pattern Inspiration from Norwich

This week Transition Norwich has posted three articles on the Pattern Language, all written by Simeon Jackson. Thanks!


This book is our past and our future, our way through transition to a new kind of world, where P2P-practices are the dominant way of life 

Hilltowns vs. Tract Home Developments

BUILDblog Issaquah Ridge 01
Recently during a drive along Interstate-90, just outside of Seattle, we passed by a large tract housing development on a hillside near Issaquah. The development immediately caught our attention for a reason that may seem a bit strange. At first glance it reminded us of some of the Italian hilltowns from our student days backpacking around Italy. We know, ridiculous right? Maybe our periphery vision failed us, maybe we had one too many martinis the night before, or maybe we’re just trying to hard. Whatever the case, we couldn’t get it out of our heads. There were inexplicable similarities in the overall composition, massing and patterns.

Read the rest of the article at blog.buildllc.com

Gaiateorien og eldgamle sosiale nettverk

To interessante artikler i dag hos Science Daily, den første underbygger den kontroversielle gaiateorien, den andre viser at sosiale nettverk har en dyp forankring i menneskenaturen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Menneskelig naturlig miljø


View more presentations from Gamnes farm

En meget god introduksjon til biofilisk arkitektur, sannsynligvis laget av en tysker eller nederlender, da gramatikken bærer preg av dette. Anbefales!

Se original framvisning: Menneskelig naturlig miljø

Hassan Fathy's New Gourna: Past, Present, Future

In 1945, the Department of Antiquities commissioned the renowned architect Hassan Fathy to design and construct a new settlement to which the inhabitants of Old Gourna were to be relocated, in an effort to curtail suspected looting at the nearby Pharaonic sites and facilitate tourism development. New Gourna was at once his greatest achievement and most profound disappointment. Though Fathy's project was meant to shelter 20,000 inhabitants, only part of the plan was realized between 1946 and 1949, due to political and financial complications and opposition on the part of the residents to relocation. The constructed New Gourna included housing and many public facilities. Today, however, nearly 40 percent of the village has been lost due to lack of maintenance and demolitions. - World Monuments Fund

"Twelve Lectures on Architecture; Algorithmic Sustainable Design" av Nikos Salingaros, rangert som tredje viktigste bok i 2011

Takk og pris at jeg anmeldte Nikos bok for P2P-Foundation, slik at denne kunne komme på pallen blant de viktigste bøkene for 2011. Se hele lista: The P2P Foundation Books of the Year 2011: Our annual top ten list of P2P books.
With this new toolbox from Nikos we have the tools needed to truly reunite man with nature both through innate biophilic patterns and geometry. To respect and care for nature we have to create nature through infusing all we create with the geometry found in nature, and to obey the laws of nature. A reason why so many don’t care about nature today is that our cities and towns are anti-nature. - Øyvind Holmstad
Les hele bokanmeldelsen min: A New Permatecture Toolbox! (From Nikos A. Salingaros)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Moderne byutvikling?

Leser i OA (23. jan.) at Gjøvik skal få en "moderne" byutvikling langsetter Hunnselva og i Farverikvartalet. Jeg grøsser ved tanken. Dessverre er modernistisk arkitektur anti-biofilisk og kultbasert, og har ingenting å gjøre med naturvitenskap, fysikkens lover og våre nedarvede biofiliske instinkter.

Nikos A. Salingaros siste bok, Twelve Lectures on Architecture; Algorithmic Sustainable Design, ble valgt som en av de ti viktigste bøkene for 2011 hos P2P-Foundation. Min anmeldelse av boka kan søkes opp ved å skrive inn ordet permatecture hos Google.

Jeg arbeider også for å få publisert essay av Nikos Salingaros og andre forfattere i kretsen rundt Christopher Alexander, hos bloggen til The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, på permaculture.org.au. Vil særlig anbefale: Why Monotonous Repetition is Unsatisfying.

Michael Mehaffy og Nikos Salingaros har nylig skrevet en innsiktsfull serie om biofilisk design hos det New York-baserte arkitekturmagasinet Metropolis Magazine, som er fritt tilgjengelig hos metropolismag.com. Denne serien har jeg omtalt hos kulturverk.com, under tittelen Livets teknologi – ei innleiing.

La oss forlate en utdatert modernisme, samme hva de kaller denne, og finne igjen Gjøviks opprinnelige formspråk, hvor tårnarkitekturen stod i en særstilling. Vi må si nei til dagens ideologiske og inhumane maskin- og kulhetsarkitektur, og vende tilbake til en arkitektur for framtida, naturens eget uttrykk.

Innlegget stod som leserbrev i OA lørdag 28. januar 2011.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Piscataquis Village Project Update

"Is it possible for a gang of amateurs from the Maine woods to pull off the nation's first and most audacious Traditionally Designed Village project in the most sparsely populated county east of the Mississippi?"

"Is it possible that such a project can be funded not by major real estate developers, but crowdfunded from the bottom up by small investors or future residents?"

Hello to "contingent investors" and others that have an interest in the Piscataquis Village Project.

What's hard about this?

In the nine month period from when the Piscataquis Village Project Facebook site was first established, until our last update at the end of November, we had gone from zero to 400 fans. In the six week period since November that number has more than doubled to over 800. These "fans" come from all over, geographically (mostly Maine and New England), but the ones I find most gratifying are those originally from Piscataquis County, now living elsewhere, who see the Piscataquis Village Project as perhaps a way they can return "home". A PVHS graduate living in Texas writes, "I'm so excited for all the attention!....So where do things go from here? Let me know! I'm pretty broke, but I'll do what I can putting on online time!"

Since the last update we have been contacted by a London based documentary television company called Raw Television, the makers of Gold Rush for Discovery Channel and Locked Up Abroad for National Geographic. They were looking to do a project about people moving into a new community. While we were ultimately decided not to be "the right fit", it was a rush for a few days and demonstrates the ability of the Piscataquis Village Project to pique interest.

More importantly, we were contacted by a guy named Mike Lydon who had, "heard rumblings of late regarding your Piscataquis Village Project." Mike is a founding principal of a planning firm called The Street Plans Collaborative. He is also a co-author of a book titled The Smart Growth Manual, ranked as "one of the 10 best urban planning, design, and development books published in 2010". The other two co-authors were Jeff Speck and Andres Duany, probably the most prominent of the "New Urbanists", and the designer of Seaside in Florida. We expect continuing conversation with Mike at the Street Plans Collaborative as the Project develops.

Most Importantly since the last update, we have picked up two more contingent investors bringing us to a total of 23 households with committed pledges of $280,000. We've also had our first investor with no direct connection to Piscataquis county, who states that his goal is to "...support the creation of the first car-free, traditional city settlement on the continent." This project isn't just about building one community. It's also about constructing an alternative model for future development.

Folks, we're now in the initial, fragile stage, of this new project, where each additional "non-legally binding commitment" is a vital step to reaching a certain critical mass. We're still pushing that snowball up the paradigm change hill.

Investor commitments are essential. Please consider, or reconsider, becoming a "contingent investor" / future building lot owner, in the Piscataquis Village Project.

"Like"ing and especially, "sharing", the Piscataquis Village Project Facebook page contributes to our publicity efforts as does forwarding this email. If you are unable to open the Piscataquis Village Slide Presentation, I will be happy to forward a pdf. version to you.

Piscataquis Village Project Slide Show

Piscataquis Village Project Website

Piscataquis Village Project Update, November 2011

Piscataquis Village Project translates "Dirigo" as "Let's Get 'er Done!"
Tracy Gayton

Related reading:

Ionization and Air Quality - A Technological Study

Read the original study here (pdf).

Ionized air molecules make up more than a very small percentage of the atmosphere.
However, despite their small numbers, these molecules play a profound role in
maintaining the health of the atmosphere by removing particulate and chemical
pollutants. In the indoor environment, ionization provides an even wider spectrum of
benefits, including the destruction of bacteria and elimination of odors. However,
conventional construction and ventilation techniques tend to negate the benefits of
ionization. This problem can be mitigated by technology designed to augment the
ionization of indoor air.

Natural Sources of Atmospheric Ionization
A small number of natural processes contribute a constant supply of ionization to our
atmosphere. These natural sources of ionization include (1) the effects of radiation, (2)
effects of the earth's electric field, (3) the movements of wind, and (4) the splashing of
water (Lenard Effect).

The decay of naturally occurring terrestrial radioactive materials; radiation from the sun
and cosmic radiation, all cause ionization in the atmosphere by stripping electrons from
air molecules. The molecules effected in this way become positive ions due to the loss of
electrons. The free electrons immediately get picked up by the surrounding neutral
molecules, which thus become negative ions (Sulman, p. 102).

The electric field of the earth causes ionized molecules to gain kinetic energy as they move along the 400,000-volt gradient that exists between the ionosphere and the surface of the earth. When a fast moving ion collides with a neutral molecule, the neutral molecule loses one or more electrons. The loss of electrons causes the neutral molecule to become a positive ion. The electrons knocked free during the collision are immediately picked up by surrounding neutral molecules; resulting in new negative ions (Jokl, p. 268).

Winds and weather are a large source of ionization. The movement of weather fronts
produces great amounts of ionization through friction. Air masses moving against the
earth, or against other air masses cause a transfer of electrons, and thus ionization
(Sulman, p. 245).

Falling water also produces ionization. Whenever water droplets collide forcefully, small
particles separate from the water surface carrying a negative charge into the atmosphere.
The larger water droplets and the main body of water become positively charged. This
phenomenon, named after its discoverer, is called the Lenard Effect (Jokl, p. 278).

All sources of ionization have the effect of electrifying the atmosphere. The electrical
charge of the atmosphere at any location on the earth's surface (aside from human factors) depends upon the productivity of these natural sources of ionization. The prevalence of either negative or positive ionization in any location will have an impact on the health of the animals, plants, and humans living in the area.

Falling water produces ionization. Photo: The High Fin Sperm Whale

The Origins of Banana Cultivation (Wahgi Valley, New Guinea)

Quite a fascinating piece on the origins of banana cultivation: Multidisciplinary perspectives on banana (Musa spp.) domestication (see also: Jordbruket er et globalt spleiselag)

Did you know that banana cultivation originates from New Guinea and the  Wahgi Valley? Photo: Enzik

Friday, January 20, 2012

Vi har energiblod på hendene

The fact is everything we do is shaped by energy - by electricity, by oil, by gas- and there is not one of these sources of power that doesn't somehow leave blood on our hands and present some kind of dilemma. - Charlotte Du Cann
Tankevekkende innlegg av Charlotte Du Cann i dagens utgave av Energy Bulletin: Waking up in Forest Row

Det triste er at all denne forurensningen og forsimplingen av landskapet, med vannkraftutbygginger, vindmøller og kraftgater, kunne vært unngått hvis vi holdt oss til Bill Mollisons stadig mer aktuelle visdomsord:
When the needs of a system cannot be met from within itself, we pay the price in energy and pollution. - Bill Mollison
Jeg fikk et interressant tilsvar i kommentarfeltet:
To increase or maintain order in an open system, the laws of thermodynamics dictate that entropy must be exported in the form of disorder, and energy is required to do this. 
Mollison has simply paraphrased this unalterable aspect of the universe and its laws. 
Importing energy and materials is the same as exporting entropy to somewhere else. 
Liebig's law of the minimum will regionally reassert itself as energy becomes more expensive, with obvious implications for regional carrying capacities. - Erich

Energi-import = Entropi-eksport. Foto: Guy Erwood

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Christopher Alexander Talks on the Process of Creating Life

Although the quality of this recording is not the best, the authority of Alexander is so strong that you are hooked whats ewer! 
The First Part of Chris's lecture to the Urban Design Group in London on the 23rd of November 2011. After being introduced by John Worthington, he proceeds to take off his jacket and gives one of the most memorable talks that I have ever listened to. His opinion that "Design" is one of the most fatuous activities of an architect was challenging to this group of Architects and Planners at the time but after a careful study of his talk it seems to me that that he may be absolutely right. As they say enjoy! - Islandshrine









It's a tragedy that a BBC team is not foot following this one of our times greatest men.
Five hundred years is a long time, and I don't expect many of the people I interview will be known in the year 2500. Christopher Alexander may be an exception. David Creelman, author, Interviewer and Editor. Knowledge Manager, HR magazine, Toronto

Related reading:

LeCorbusier: the Pol Pot of Architecture

A great review of Theodor Dalrymple's classical essay The Architect as Totalitarian, in today's issue of Better Cities & Towns:

- LeCorbusier: the Pol Pot of architecture
Some people say we should stop blaming Le Corbusier, as he was a shild of his time. Unfortunately this is not true, in contrary our time is a child of Le Corbusier. - Øyvind Holmstad
Has any man harmed our world more than this person?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Christopher Alexander Lecture at Berkeley, California


I 'm going to write an introduction to this amazing lecture by Christopher Alexander last year, a must see for everyone wanting to live in a livable world. Meanwhile, share this video with all your friends!

The Battle to Bring Life and Beauty to the Earth:
Alexander will then talk on themes related to the way these buildings were made and are used and what it would mean if these principles could be applied to creating environments everywhere and society in general. What would that take? First is the recognition of what is described in BATTLE as system B - the method of production that is now prevalent throughout the world, which is centered on the profit motive, and supported by institutions and governments. Then we need an understanding of system A, the system which built the Eishin campus, despite system B. It was a very rough road, with many painful, arduous, and sometimes seemingly hopeless battles. But along the way, Alexander and his colleagues learned that it could be possible for these two systems to become working partners, using the best of both to achieve something that is impossible now. The most important message of BATTLE is the vision of a way forward, that we could choose together, to build a society and an environment of such a kind that we would be fulfilled in living there. The Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium of the Berkeley Center for New Media
Related reading:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Frø for et nytt fellesskap

Hvilket vidunderlig sitat:
In her studies Elinor Ostrom found, that “neither the state nor the market” is a successful means for commons management (1990). Based on traditional economics she analyzed the practices of natural commons and finally simply proved liberal dogmatics wrong. Markets are not a good way to allocate resources, and the State is not a good way to re-distribute wealth and manage the destructive results of markets. Best results occur if the people organize themselves according to their needs, experiences and creativity and treat resources and goods not as commodities, but as common pool resources. - P2P Blog
Her er en video av en flokk flotte damer som har forstått dybden av dette sitatet:


Les mer her.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Current Media Situation

The present situation results in part from the enormous power that mass communications media put in the hands of a small elite that can flood the world with the opinions of chosen experts and swamp critical thought with trivia and soundbites. That power makes molders of opinion — media people, entertainers, experts, educators — integral to government; our rulers control opinion because those who control opinion are among them. - James Kalb

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Liberalist's and the Traditionalist's Opposite Goals

For most people, being in a position of power or influence means that you want to influence others and achieve your own goals. In North America, these goals tend to be self-defined and independent from the wider social context. As a result, thinking analytically -- focusing on one's own goal and how to achieve it without being distracted by the surrounding context -- can be advantageous. - Science Daily
This is how liberalists think, to achieve your own goals is the purpose of life, the wider context doesn't matter. The opposite is the traditionalist, where tradition, community and God is the context within every goal is part of a larger whole.

Read James Kalb's most important essay: Radical Traditionalism and the New World Order

(Hopefully this theme will someday be worked into an essay for the PRI-blog and Energy Bulletin)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kooperativ fornybar energi

When the needs of a system cannot be met from within itself, we pay the price in energy and pollution. - Bill Mollison
Kooperativ fornybar energi, en bærekraftig og uavhengig permakulturløsning! Hadde dette vært standard ville situasjonen min vært unngått, hvor teknokratiet trer en uønsket og anti-biofilisk design nedover hodene på folk, i konflikt med permakulturens design. Hvordan skal en fullblods permakulturell kunne leve under slikt overformynderi?

Les mer i Energy Bulletin: Co-operative renewable energy in the UK: a guide to this growing sector (report)

Photo: Oliver Dixton

Adjø, slektsgård

Småbruket Gryteengen

Tekniske inngrep i natur og lokalsamfunn har også en bakside, og mon tro om det virkelig er all denne teknologien som påtvinges oss, som gjør våre liv verdt å leve? Ikke minst gjelder dette i forhold til det gode liv på landet. For ikke lenge siden ble alle tekniske inngrep hyllet som framskritt, i tida før biofilien (naturtilknytning) ble etablert som begrep av Edvard O. Wilson. I dag vet vi at tekniske inngrep som bryter med våre nedarvede biofiliske instinkter senker livskvaliteten.

Personlig har jeg måtte fly landsbygda som følge av storsamfunnets prioriteringer. For meg gjaldt det en høyspentledning utenfor småbruket Gryteengen på Toten. I forbindelse med oppgraderingen av denne traseen har jeg forsøkt å få denne fjernet fra de mest intensive designsonene rundt tunet, slik disse er definert av permakulturen, ved Bill Mollison (permaculture.org.au). Dessverre strandet disse forsøkene.

Min bønn for framtida må være at man unngår forstyrrende tekniske inngrep i de mest intensive designsonene, hvor man legger ned sin sjel og sitt livsverk. Personlig er jeg ikke i stand til å nedlegge all den lidenskapen som skal til for å skape en sprudlende permakulturell design, når denne konstant overskygges av storsamfunnets uønskede inngripen.

Jeg vil oppfordre storsamfunnet til å vise større hensyn i forhold til tekniske inngrep i menneskers liv og omgivelser. Mine røtter til slektsgården og historien er revet av, er dette virkelig i samfunnets interesse? Det var ingen ting jeg heller ønsket enn å videreføre disse historiske trådene.

Publisert i Oppland Arbeiderblad 4. januar 2012.

Bilde Facebook her og Wikimedia her.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Charles Eisenstein: To Build Community, an Economy of Gifts

Nylig kom jeg over en tekst av Charles Eisenstein, som viser hvordan vårt velferds- og markedsfundamenterte samfunn undergraver fellesskapsverdier (og da tenker jeg på ekte fellesskapsverdier fundamentert i lokalsamfunnet). Essayet kan leses her: To Build Community, an Economy of Gifts.

For å pirre nysgjerrigheten velger jeg å gjengi et utdrag av Eisensteins tekst:

“Com­mu­nity is nearly im­pos­si­ble in a highly mon­e­tized so­ci­ety like our own. That is be­cause com­mu­nity is woven from gifts, which is ul­ti­mately why poor peo­ple often have stronger com­mu­ni­ties than rich peo­ple. If you are fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent, then you re­ally don’t de­pend on your neigh­bors—or in­deed on any spe­cific per­son—for any­thing. You can just pay some­one to do it, or pay some­one else to do it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Local Autonomy

Semi nomadic Sami or Laplander family in Northern Norway or Sweden. They use traditional clothing.  

By suppressing local particularities and turning distinctions and differences into injustices inclusiveness suppresses self-organization, and therefore social spontaneity and voluntary initiatives of all kinds. 
Ordinary people can’t act effectively unless local discretion is widely diffused and the informal good sense of the people is accepted as a generally sound basis for action. Inclusiveness rejects both. If there’s significant local discretion inequalities will result, and “the informal good sense of the people” is shot through with settled prejudgments—that is, with prejudices. 
For that reason inclusiveness requires suppression of local initiative and self-rule. Those things are unjust from the standpoint of social justice in any event. If I do something that benefits brother Bob, that’s unfair because cousin Dick and uncle Harry get left out. More generally, informal arrangements like mutual assistance based on local networks and moral codes make the benefits of social life depend on group membership. That’s obviously unjust, so such arrangements must be destroyed. 
That’s one reason schools teach children to throw off parental, communal, and religious authority. Those authorities aren’t based on liberal principles, and they lead to particular local connections that don’t benefit everyone equally. It’s also one reason antidiscrimination laws force institutions to treat the attack on traditional and natural authorities as part of their reason for being. (If they don’t insist on their total commitment to “celebration of diversity,” they’re likely to get sued.) 
The natural result of such policies is degradation of functional communities and families. Our rulers view that as a good thing. It eliminates competitors to the liberal state, frees individuals from traditional bonds that are understood as irrational and discriminatory, and clears the ground for a truly rational and just ordering of society. - James Kalb

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Logic of Liberalism

Photo: Hieronymus Bosch 

The result of the attempt to make social relations scientific is contemporary liberalism, including inclusiveness, diversity, and all the rest. When scientism is applied to morality and politics it gives us both a highest good and a highest standard of justice. From those two principles it’s possible to generate a complete political and moral system, one that’s extremely simple and rigorous and therefore excludes all distinctions other than those it relies on. 
The highest good scientism gives us is freedom, understood as satisfaction of desire. Preference and aversion are observable, and they’re available to us as guides. Since that’s so, scientism tells us, why not stick with them, and concentrate on setting up a system that gives us what we want and gets rid of what we don’t want? Why bring in other standards based on things that are harder to demonstrate, like God, natural functions, essential qualities, or the good, beautiful, and true? That, it is thought, would be unscientific and therefore irrational. 
The standard of justice that corresponds to scientism is equality. What’s good is simply what’s desired, scientism says, and since all desires are equally desires, all goods must equally be goods. It follows that the desires of all men deserve to be treated equally. To say one man’s desires are less valuable than another’s is simply to value him less. That’s arbitrary, discriminatory, and oppressive. It’s the sort of thing that leads to Auschwitz, and can’t be allowed. 
In effect, scientism tells us that there are no transcendent goods, just desire, and there are no essences of things that we have to accept and respect, the world is what we make of it. Also, formal logic and means/ends rationality is the whole of reason. For those reasons the rational approach to politics, social life, and morality is to treat the world as a resource and turn the social order into a kind of machine for giving people whatever they happen to want, as long as what they want fits the smooth working of the machine. 
That understanding is the present-day liberal understanding. The correctness of liberalism, including inclusiveness, is thus demonstrable given the present view of reason. Those who accept scientism and reject liberalism are either nihilists, Nazis who reject the equal intrinsic value of some people and their purposes, or eccentrics who hold views that suffer from severe internal conflicts. The fact actual science is at odds with many egalitarian claims doesn’t matter, since actual science is not scientism and the latter must satisfy needs actual science can ignore. 
Its apparent unique rationality gives liberalism an insuperable advantage in political and moral discussion. If you reject it there is something wrong with you. You’re irrational, nihilistic, or Nazi. Most likely, you’re all three. - James Kalb
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