Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Of Cameronism, Pragmatism and the Nudge

Ever since Rousseau posited that the State's Common Will is in perpetual tension with individual Free Will, a state of affairs justifying compulsion, the Left has sought ways and methods to make citizens comply to its collectivist ideas.

It should be well noted that this Common Will is of an entirely different nature than the Common Good; the Common Will is a precursor to Hegel's "true freedom through the State," foreshadowing the state as an organic, ethical whole of the totalitarian Collective.

Starting with lies and fallacies followed by agitation, murder and terror; after internal mass deportation to social engineering; from mental hospitals to gulags; after subversion, indoctrination and the counter-culture's sensitivity training; which was succeeded by the nasty Postmodern social pressure of petty political correctness; while spin-doctoring and re-framing were perfected by Third Way-ers Clinton and Blair - we are today subjected to the latest attempt at neotot interference with the exercise of our ethics - Free Will - this time from the field of behaviorism, the Materialist approach to psychology.

In full accordance with the collectivist tradition it is introduced to us by its Orwellian name, aimed at perceiving it in all its cuddly harmlessness: the 'Nudge,' the Real Third Way, we are promised. The true definition is of course the very opposite of a nudge, it is another blatant attempt at making people comply to collectivist principles.

The latest tool has been thought up by Messrs Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, academics of the University of Chicago, which also happens to be Obama's old stomping ground and the common factor in their involvement. The revelation does provide some answers to questions concerning Obama's voodoo approach to campaigning.

Traditionally the assault is opened by attacking the human instrument for the exploration of reality: reason. Indeed, the target of the first salvo is the rationalistic thought that man makes choices that are always and exclusively in his own self interest: that notion was part of an outdated 'narrative' in the field of economics, all the fault of the exact approach during the 40s and 50s (homo economicus). Always the same pomo logic: take a notion to extremes and when it fails to comply, denounce it as invalid.

Whereas the author of the Spectator article "Nudge, nudge: meet the Cameroons’ new guru," James Forsyth, falls hook, line and sinker for the new tool, Daniel Klein (PDF) connected to the Santa Clara University in California, who is obviously schooled in Libertarian political philosophy, sees straight through the fallacies. We'll return to the Cameron connection shortly.

The Nudgers qualify their nanny invention as "the taking of actions in which no coercion is involved with the goal of influencing the choices of affected parties in a way that will make those parties better off." At this point the narrative is infected with an ugly equivocation in the form of a rather nasty oxymoron, Libertarian paternalism, also the title of a conference paper included in the May 2003 issue of the American Economic Review.

Klein, in a commentary to the paper makes mincemeat of the preposterous notion: "If Thaler and Sunstein were to proceed with this kind of gimmick, we could anticipate the following papers: "Libertarian Socialism (...) Libertarian Communism (...) Dirigisme (...) Interventionism (...) Repression (...) Paternalism."

In the neotot book, any method that doesn't involve dungeons and gulags is considered non-coercive. Subtle distinctions are lost on them: their mind-set is entirely directed at the Rousseau dichotomy of individual will versus Common Will, which justifies the use of any kind of coercion.

Libertarians from the authoritarian period were moved by other principles: their 'nudges' were rational requirements which could be freely accepted or abandoned. The neotot Nudge on the other hand is a sly means to make people act in conformity with the collectivist ideological wishes: spin-doctoring 2.0., if you will. They don't call Nudging the Real Third Way for nothing!

Reason out of the way, the Spectator article gives further enlightenment on the nature of the Nudge. Almost in passing we are urged to think of it as something trivial ... religion for example, which is "at its best is all about nudging." How daft do these pocket potentates think people are? Atheist Collectivism over its entire history have begrudged organized religion its central role and powerful influence! Now, it is the substance of ... 'quips.'

The Nudge book is described as a "guide to how the power of nudging can best be harnessed," at which point the Pragmatist environment in present 'post-ideological' politics enters the stage.

In part III of the post "When Reason Fails: Morbid Obama Intoxication" we had a closer look at what the Pragmatist world view actually entails. It is often thought of in terms of a choice for the mere practical - but like the Nudge - under the harmless sounding epithet lurks a far more sinister creature.

(...) William James (1842-1910), who gave the concept its name (...) wrote: 'The true,' to put it very briefly, is only the expedient in the way of our thinking, just as 'the right' is only the expedient in the way of our behaving."

Pragmatism is a Romanticist version of relativism. Extrovert action and passion are valued over introvert reflexion and reason. Pragmatism is essentially amoral (... and is) governed by the principle: our goal is so ethical that even the unethical is justified in reaching it - the aim justifies the means, truth is flexible and depends on the need of the moment, an utility expedient towards realization of the goal.

(...) Pragmatism is rather dishonestly presented as the opposite of what it aims to achieve. It seemingly is the practical over theory, portends to position the individual in a central role, ostensibly respects reason and facts, while its very principle constitutes an assault on logic (everything is in flux), gives a central role to feelings and passions (subjectivism), denies reality (nothing is absolute), and reduces the individual to an atom of the collective (...)"

That the approach is not as innocent as it sounds comes to the fore when it is coupled to dogma, and subjective passions are allowed to spiral out of control. This was the winning ticket that made National Socialism such a lethal ideology: they strengthen one another.

One can see how that works: our aim justifies the means (Pragmatism) because we say so(subjective dogma). Dogmatism couples blind belief to an already brutal concept while it is fired by passion, case need through Sorelian myths. It beckons: stop thinking, follow me and I'll give you what you want so passionately! This constellation of ideas makes the Obama campaign so dangerous for unbalanced followers, of which there are regrettably many.

Returning to the involvement of Tory leader, David Cameron with Nudging and Pragmatism, some serious clashes of ideas stand out which are lost when 'logic' tolerates contradictions.

From an article on Cameronism by Richard Reeves in the New Statesman it transpires that - where the basics are concerned - Cameron, far from being a Materialist Pragmatist or a Humean Skeptic, actually thinks in terms of society as a collection of responsible individuals:

"It is this essential optimism, that individuals and communities can usually organise their lives more successfully than any government, which underpins Cameron's rhetorical commitment to move power from central to local government and give users more power over the manner in which public services are provided. (...) One of Cameron's mantras, a deliberate wedge between himself and Thatcher, is that "there is such a thing as society. It's just not the same thing as the state." (...) All the work on family breakdown, poverty, education and antisocial behaviour fits into the basic Cameron analysis: society is broken, and the state cannot put it back together again. "The big question (...) is not what will government do - but what will society do?

Central to Cameronism are Libertarian ideas, as a limited state and a belief in progress through voluntary, mutually beneficial interaction. Moreover, Cameron's choice for what is practical should not be confused with the philosophy of Pragmatism! What we have here is the curse of Postmodernism: sloppy logic - deliberate of accidental - leading to a confusion of definitions.

Another cause for concern - the "Oliver Letwin definition of Cameronism as taking 'Conservative approaches to achieving progressive goals, '" a brief perusal of this Tory document (PDF) learns that on the contrary, the shoe is on the other foot: Cameron uses progressive themes to achieve Libertarian outcomes in an effort to expunge Nasty Party rhetoric.

Prioritizing the winning of a general election is a choice for the practical, rather than the Pragmatic.

- Filed on Articles in "Big Bro's Smoke and Mirrors" -



How rational, and how free, is Man?

Lord James Bigglesworth said...

Pragmatism is a Romanticist version of relativism.

That's nice. Re the devolution of power to local level, this surely means regional level, under the control, of course, of Common Purpose and bedfellows.

Cassandra said...

Sir, indeed an oversight on my part in the case of the U.K. (and increasingly also in other regions). The closing of the net is close to fool proof, as it turns out. Have a nice holiday and my regards to Limoncello! Nolo Bastardi Carborundum ...

Wolfie said...

There are many in the party who are incensed by Cameron's practical assumption of a middle ground likely to appeal to former 3rd way voters who after a decade of emotional coercion can no longer be reached through reason. They resent the subterfuge that they associate with opposition techniques.

I hope he really is faking it but I smell a rat, like James I suspect that every kind of internationalist has infiltrated all aspects of the body politic.

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