Archive for November, 2011

Column About the Cain Fracas

What about the Cain Fracas?

Tibor R. Machan

I am not a devoted supporter of Herman Cain although I do find him an appealing person, someone who seems to be a straight shooter when it comes to discussing the issues facing candidates these days. But I have not committed to him in part because there are others among the Republican lineup whose views I consider much better, e.g., Gary Johnson and Ron Paul.

But the current problems Cain faces seem to warrant a few observations about the matter of the onus of proof when it comes to such “He said, she said” situations. Plainly put, Cain is accused of having harassed some women some years ago who, however, let the matter go for one or another reason. No charges have ever been filed, from what the news reports say. In one case someone who complained quit her job and received severance pay that appears to have been based on the organization’s wish not to deal with the situation any further than that. Over the years none of the women have pursued any grievance procedures until very recently when several have made claims of having been groped and such by Cain, claims that have not been proven true beyond any reasonable doubt beyond some friends of the woman saying they heard them before.

Given that Mr. Cain appears to me, from his various public presentations and discussions, to be a decent and bright enough individual, given that his candidacy is likely to pose a serious obstacle to Mr. Obama’s smooth reelection in 2012, and given the unprincipled conduct of many who support Mr. Obama–they proudly assert that they are pragmatists (who do not hold to any principles at all, thinking them all unfounded and unsupportable)–I admit to favoring Cain’s side in this controversy. “Show me,” as the state motto of Missouri states! Or “where is the beef?” And consider some of the dubious sources involved in the charges, nearly all of them in the Obama camp.

But aside from my own sentiments, there is the more important issue of who has the onus of proof here and what would such proof have to amount to in order for it to be compelling. Eye witnesses who can reasonably be taken to be impartial would work. Some kind of correspondence, emails or notes, telephone messages, etc. could strengthen the case against Mr. Cain but there are no such things in evidence here. It seems quite obviously no more than a case of some people who can reasonably be assumed to be opposed to Mr. Cain’s politics and candidacy making unsubstantiated claims that Mr. Cain had behaved in ways that amount to sexual harassment.

So what is one who has some interest in this matter to believe? Based on the tradition of due process in American criminal law and the common sense idea that when people come forth with damaging claims against others they need to make a good case in order to be taken seriously, the sensible attitude now is to leave Mr. Cain to his campaigning activities and ignore those who keep harassing him with unfounded accusations. Never mind public opinion, which is very largely driven by partisanship in the face of no solid evidence in sight. If such evidence were to emerge, one’s views may need to be updated. But not before then. For the time being Mr. Herman Cain ought not to be regarded as being guilty of any wrongdoing of the kind he is being accused of by the women, anonymous or not.

Is my suspicion that some of this is motivated by politics unreasonable? May there be some echoes of the Clarence Thomas hearings here as well–meaning that the prospect of an intelligent, likable black conservative political figure irritates liberal democrats so much that at least some of them, the more opportunistic, pragmatic types, would be willing to resort to dirty tricks to discredit such an individual? You bet you! But this is not very much more than speculation, an at least not uneducated guess.

Machan’s Archives: Imperialism, Left & Right

Machan’s Archives: Imperialism, Left and Right

Tibor R. Machan

No, I am not talking about foreign policy. My concern is with how both Left and Right seem to have their straight jackets into which they want everyone to be strapped, like it or not. It is disturbing in part because a high point of the American way of life has always been the ‘live and let live’ principle. And the USA, with its substantial commitment to the principle of private property rights, has managed to live up to that idea quite well.

Just consider religion–in America there are no serious religious wars because the faithful of each religion are able to conduct their affairs in peace, undisturbed by others with whom they disagree. Consider how different this is from, say, Jerusalem, where the faithful of several religions are constantly bickering about who should rule the turf. Here, in contrast, the public square is secular and the faithful are free to assemble where they will, on private property, and carry on just as their doctrine requires.

But there are some exceptions, unfortunately. Too many among the religious right have it in big time against gays now, so whenever gays get various concessions from the legal authorities, they are attacked. So long as there is a public component to being gay, gays have to contend with the political clout of the religious right. And since the state has for centuries made it its business to treat marriage as its preserve, issuing licenses and conferring rites on those who would marry, there is no peace for the unusual, unorthodox, or odd. It is a bit like interracial marriages used to be, namely, a province of state regulation, so voters could make their desires, prejudices, hates, loves felt on the topic. That is pretty much what happens whenever something that ought to be private, a matter of voluntary consent, is invaded by government. In dictatorships the big Kahuna says how it goes and in democracies it becomes an invitation to various hordes of people meddling in the affairs of others.

The environmentalist Left is, of course, no different. Just notice how quickly they get into the fray where public spheres such as roads or parks or coastal regions are concerned. For them SUVs, for example, are virtually open targets. Many feel no compunction expressing their hate for people who own SUVs and initiating legal actions of one or another kind against the vehicles, urging the government to cut them down to the size they feel they should be, never mind what the actual SUV owners wants. No live and let live here either, no way Jose. The religion here is not a traditional one but more recent, fueled from within the religion and academic discipline of ecology. And environmentalists, not unlike those from the Christian right, have acquired sacred texts of their own in terms of which what they dislike can be condemned with a tone of moral righteousness. They invoke what they refer to as ‘the Gaia hypothesis.’ According to this doctrine, which is accepted by more and more environmentalists, ‘all of life on earth can be seen as whole that is more than the sum of its parts, this whole being like a huge super-lifeform . . . (after the name for the ancient Greek goddess of the earth).’

Why is this a Left wing movement? Because it preaches, as does Socialism, that human beings are part of a large organism ‘ in their own words, ‘that the earth is alive and that we are part of it.’ Socialism confines this collectivism to people, either in some nation (for the national socialists) or the globe (for international socialists). We might call environmentalists geological socialists. They argue that ‘Living systems have a tendency to keep themselves in balance but also to adapt and evolve over time.’ They go on to claim that ‘scientists have found that the earth also has these tendencies, with feedback mechanisms to ‘keep in balance’ the temperature and oxygen levels of the atmosphere, just as our bodies maintain the temperature and oxygen levels in our arteries.’

Once you have elected yourself as the spokesperson for such a viewpoint, where you speak for Earth, just as when you speak for God, the move toward the missionary–indeed, the holy warrior–role is a very easy one to make. After all, the rest of us are by these doctrines deemed to be anything but sovereign citizens. We are all parts of and thus must owe allegiance to the Whole! Anything you do or I do immediately comes under the supervision of the protectors of the holy–or this time scientific–mission.

It’s a ruse, that’s what it is, of course. Environmentalists are no better positioned to know what amounts to the proper harmony of all of nature, including what kind of cars other people should purchase and drive, than are those of the Christian Right qualified to tell how reality should be ordered, including who should or should not be married. In any case, it’s none of their business. Even if there is some insight or wisdom to be imparted on the various topics from these groups, there is certainly no justification for imposing such wisdom–after all, all those speaking on the topic are just parts of the whole, even from their own perspective, as are you and I.

I suggest that we be very, very careful about letting folks get away with claiming to be the authoritative representatives of either God or Nature. They are too often up to something invasive, intrusive, and aggressive when they see themselves in that light.

Machan’s Archives: Equality or Diversity–a Leftist Conundrum

Machan’s Archives: Equality or diversity? Which one do Leftists want? You can’t have both

by Tibor R. Machan

For the last couple or so decades the universities and colleges where I have taught–and by all accounts, most of them in the USA–have had two mutually exclusive social objectives. (Yes, Virginia, higher education is now mostly embarked upon pursuing social policies, not so much educating students.) These two are equality and diversity.

On the one hand there is a big push toward eliminating any kind of inequality in the way students are being regarded and treated. Everyone is equal, just as Barrack Obama’s Vice President Joseph Biden insisted in one of his rallying cries. As he put it in the course of a moving eulogy for his mother (according to the Associated Press), “My mother’s creed is the American creed: No one is better than you,” he said. “Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you. My parents taught us to live our faith, and to treasure our families. We learned the dignity of work, and we were told that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough.”

Of course Mr. Biden didn’t mean we are all equal today or will be tomorrow. What he meant is that in a rightly ordered world, one ruled by him and his associates, there would be total equality among human beings, on the model of, say, ants in their colony (excepting the chief ant, of course, just as this would be and has been the case with any large scale egalitarian experiment). I am not exaggerating. Just go and read Vice President Biden’s comment in full (here) and check out the many very prominently published books on the issue denouncing such dastardly inequalities, among others, as being more beautiful than someone else. Take, for example, Naomi Wolff’s The Beauty Myth from the 1980s and the recently published work of Deborah L. Rhode, The Beauty Bias (2010).

But at the same time that the push for full equality among people is carried out with official support, we also find widespread academic support for the idea of diversity –an idea that assumes, of course, that people aren’t the same at all but quite different–so our various prominent institutions must be inclusive of widely different people.

The differences at issue tend, of course, to be controversial. Some support ideological or philosophical or religious differences, so that those with different ideas, faiths, convictions and the like need all to be included. Some focus upon diversity in racial or ethnic or gender membership. Some stress differences in socio-economic status.

Whatever is the sort of diversity being considered, it is evident beyond any reasonable doubt that people are not equal by a long shot and their unequal status needs to be taken account of in how the relevant institutions–universities, high schools, clubs, corporations, etc.–are being managed, administered or governed. This is not merely a fact of life but a celebrated fact of life, given how so much of educational policy and administration is devoted to doing it justice.

One need but take account of the demographics of the United States of America, let alone the globe, in order to apprehend the underlying basis of this fact. People are not only of the same species, homo sapiens, but are at the same time individuals and members of innumerable special groups, most of them entirely legitimate (unlike, say, membership in the Ku Klux Klan or the Mafia). As a favorite social philosopher of mine, Steve Martin the very inventive and funny actor and writer, put it in the novel, The Pleasure of My Company, “People, I thought. These are people. Their general uniformity was interrupted only by their individual variety.”

So, on the one hand the objective is supposed to be, as VP Biden suggests, to erase all differences and render everyone equal in all important respects. On the other hand, as much of educational administrative policy suggests, diversity is to be celebrated, and the homogeneity that would be part and parcel of an egalitarian world, is to be rejected.

So then which will it be? An acknowledgment of benign human diversity or an insistence of homogenization so as to fulfill the egalitarian dream? There is no doubt about it for me: diversity is not just a fact of human life but a highly welcome one at that.