Our monument won’t be a hole in the ground


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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242 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What does making sodomy a felony again actually entail IN PRACTICE?

    At the very least, it strikes me that law enforcement resources would have to be re-allocated.Report

  2. Avatar Art Deco says:

    Consensual Sodomy was (prior to 1980) a class b misdemeanor in New York, as was Prostitution. If you listen, he says there is ‘no reason’ (or, more precisely, no reason other than the judicial ukase) why it could not be considered a criminal offense. ‘Criminal offense’ is a more generic category than ‘felony’.

    Conor Friedersdorf and E.D. Kain are evidently not curious as to why my grand-parents contemporaries assessed matters differently than is common right now. Nor does it occur to them that contemporary common opinion might just weigh no more than fashion.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Let’s say that your grandparents held opinions on subject X.

      Why should I give a crap? This is a serious question.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        It is not a serious question.Report

        • The gleebs are on the fondike.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          It actually *IS* a serious question.

          I would appreciate an answer to why the opinions of your grandparents ought hold any sway on my opinions today.

          I can write an essay discussing matters of morality, matters of taste, mixing them up, the dangers thereof, and the dynamic nature of culture, if you’d like.

          I’m probably going to write the essay anyway, now that I think about it. Would you prefer to have your view quoted or would you rather I use my assumptions on what your view would probably have to be?Report

          • Avatar Art Deco says:

            I would appreciate an answer to why the opinions of your grandparents ought hold any sway on my opinions today.

            Your personalizing this too much. If you refer to the original clause which has you so bent out of shape, the phrase was “my grand-parents contemporaries”.

            And their views should concern you. I am not fifty yet, but from my own memory I might just be able to produce a periodization of how sexual deviance of this sort was understood and treated in practice, at least where I was living and working (a Rustbelt city of modest size, as it happens). Why do you suppose that is? You are all on foundations of sand.

            In more than thirty years of haphazard consumption of American journalism, I have very seldom if ever seen a discussion of a question of norms that one needed to puzzle about. I suppose philosophy students have, but in their texts, and in any case they are not particularly numerous amongst those writing about public affairs. Rank-and-file clergyman are also mostly a bust (I suspect because few of them entered the ministry with the idea of counseling people toward right conduct).

            E.D. Kain is no exception. He is not an exponent of a sophisticated understanding of the purposes of human sexuality and how that is incorporated into social relations generally, and understanding which includes the gut. I could say he is an exponent of the prejudices of time and place, but, to some extent, we generally are. We do not get up each morning and re-grind the prisms through which we view this world.

            So, yes, how societies are ordered and how they think about and feel about certain sorts of phenomena can and should instruct us, whether it is in looking at common opinion or in examining academic discourses. Seen in the light of what came before, the last 35 years do not seem particularly important.

            If you do want to personalize it, I have to say that the idea that Conor Friedersdorf might have had something to teach my father is amusing.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I got nothin’ left today. I will try to write my response to this tomorrow.Report

            • Avatar mark boggs says:

              And their views should concern you

              They do. Terribly. It is hard to fathom that people actually wanted to criminalize the private sexual behavior of two consenting individuals.

              I’m hoping I didn’t fish the html tags on that. Apologies in advance if I have.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                Is it something that they did not understand, or that you do not understand?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Dammit, you did a better job of writing my essay than I would have.

                How can you answer this question?

                How do you know where to stand?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Our grandfathers probably also thought that interracial marriage was horrifying. Is that something they didn’t understand, or something I don’t understand?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                well, I like lovecraft, and through him i can understand miscegenation, and a little bit of how it troubled him.
                seems quaint, nowadays, don’t it?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Yes. They were ignorant in ways we are not, just as we will be ignorant in ways our descendants are not.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                Yes. They were ignorant in ways we are not, just as we will be ignorant in ways our descendants are not

                Works in the other direction as well.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                That’s possible. But if you wish to assert it in the present case, you’ll need more than a logical possibility. You’ll also need evidence.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                And you and Schilling are absolved from that requirement? Your blog, I guess.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                I’ve many times made clear my moral reasoning on the issue, including evidence as I went. (On one foot: The harm principle’s not perfect ethically, but it’s pretty good, and the harms supposedly visited on others are psychic in nature, thus not properly considered. If we want to be Kantian — again not perfect, but pretty good — it does not treat the gay or lesbian individual as an end in him or herself, to make him or her serve the end of reproduction unwillingly.)

                You on the other hand are relatively new here, and I don’t honestly know which sources you’re relying on. It would help the debate tremendously if you weren’t so cagey about them.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                It does go both ways. However, in the area of realizing that race is a wholly irrational way to judge our fellow humans, our recent history has been progress.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                It almost sounds like you view this through a religious lens; one that can deduce objective right or wrong. But we don’t live in a country where your religious or moral views of right and wrong get to hold sway simply because you deem them correct, especially when it comes to issues of personal freedom and things that do no demonstrable harm to others. Oh, sure, they may *offend* you. But who gives a shit? Go read some Mill if you think your offense warrants legislation criminalizing what you consider offensive.

                As far as past generations go, they believed some wacky shit. Do you disagree? And even those generations believed differently, had evolved in their thinking from prior generations. Which snapshot in time do you think was best? The ideas and morality of medieval times? The industrial revolution? Because to pick one ignores the apparently outstanding judgments and world views of their predecessors.

                I think you can make arguments about the impropriety of sodomy or gay marriage or whatever, but to lean hard on the idea that “our grandparents didn’t see it that way” is a pretty weak retort.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Which is probably why opposition to that cause is collapsing at a historic rate in the US.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                Whether you maintain or abrogate a set of legal regulations, your act incorporates notions of right and wrong, whether or not you give specific thought to the religious or metaphysical. Friedersdorf and Kain are making an implicitly moral argument.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “What we need to do is take the two guys who are having sex in the privacy of their own home and put them in a cell where they can have sex with each other. A veritable perpetual motion machine of felonies.”Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                The mere fact that legalising/criminalising X tends to cause people to believe that the government morally approves/disapproves of X, it neither follows that X being morally permissible/impermissible is actually the reason why government is lealising/criminalising it nor does it follow that those should be considerations at all.

                Consider that many people think that some amount of charity is morally required by people or that people believe that failing to be charitable is morally indecent. It doesnt follow that the government should therefore force people to provide money to the poor.Report

            • Avatar Alan Scott says:

              Okay, let’s talk about a specific subset of your grandparent’s contemporaries: My Grandparents.

              My grandparents, when they were my age, were not okay with homosexuality. But now that they have lived a great many years and know more of the world, they’re fine with it.

              Why should what they believed sixty years ago be more important than what they believe today?Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

              Art, I truly do appreciate your perspective on the contemporary issues. Your response to our friend, JB, was, actually, enjoyable to read, your comment,”You are all on foundations of sand,” defines/describes the psycho-pathologies that so fascinatingly abound.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I am glad i will never ever have to hear my grandparents talk about sodomy…or sex in general. Nothing sound less palatable then a bunch of little old greek or jewish people related to me talking about……you know….stuff…wink wink.Report

    • Avatar mark boggs says:

      My grandpa played the trumpet in a KKK band. My grandma was scared of black people. They assessed matters differently. To paraphrase Jaybird, “Should this still carry any weight today?”Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        Leaving aside your family history (which I assume is a contrivance), the question at hand is why you would assume contemporary opinion trumps prior opinion, and why prior opinion is of no account.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        Jesse Jackson says that when he’s walking down a lonely, dark street in the middle of the night and a man is walking toward him, he always hopes its a white dude. Just sayin’.Report

        • I know he said that, but I don’t know if he still says it. And while I’m not 100% sure of the context of when/how he said it (i.e., I’m too lazy to look it up), I believe that he didn’t and doesn’t believe that his fears are a good thing to be celebrated and elaborated on, or part of a problem that he would like society to resolve.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            Mr. Corneille, what’s your opinion of the recent social phenomenon where urban utes go play ‘knockout’ (I believe that’s what it’s called?) where a group of ’em hunt a lone white dude and try to knock him out with one punch. I’m heard of two incidents but didn’t catch where this happened. One white dude died after several of our bros litterally jumped on his face, his wife was severely beaten. The other white dude survived the attack. Unfortunately neither was carrying concealed.
            If this were white urban utes hunting lone black men do you think it’d be a msm story? Do you think the gummint would be screaming about ‘racist attacks?’ just sayin.’Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Bob, I definitely prefer the times when you wear it on your sleeve like this.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            Christopher, it’s the difference between one leading an alienated existence, and one who is aware of man’s humanity “as constituted by his tension toward the divine ground.” Truth is truth, dude, just believe. I’m here to hep.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      The fact that NYC was a muckhole on the ten years on either side of 1980 has nothing to do with gay people and the fact that it was much better in the 90’s and 00’s is in no small part due to gay people being able to be in open committed relationships.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        No, it’s because they had an incompetent mayor (am I allowed to say that?).Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        The fact that NYC was a muckhole on the ten years on either side of 1980 has nothing to do with gay people and the fact that it was much better in the 90?s and 00?s is in no small part due to gay people being able to be in open committed relationships.

        But of course.

        You are talking about something of benefit to 2.8% of the adult population, costs not calculated. Why ‘in no small part’?Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          Because families that tend toward two incomes and no kids tend to be net taxpayers (vice tax recepients) at the local level (because of how property taxes and what they’re spent on work – NYC is a special case though in this.)

          The ‘gay’ neighborhoods tended to be the vanguards of gentrification and the beachheads for reversing white flight.Report

          • Avatar Art Deco says:

            Metropolitan New York differs from most other cities outside the South in that its current municipal boundaries were fixed well outside the contemporary boundaries of settlement. A majority of the population is in its central cities (the five boroughs and a half-dozen or so other municipalities in Westchester and New Jersey). If you look at Upstate cities, the proportion in the core municipalities is more on the order of 30%.

            That aside, the homosexual population is too small to carry much demographic weight anywhere outside Greenwich Village and some other swatches in Manhattan, net taxpayers or no. The city’s revival has been a function of vigorous control of crime and other offenses against public order all over the city and toward that end the homosexual population just does not count for much.

            A historical point: the propensity of homosexuals to make a public nuisance of themselves was less pronounced in 1980 than is the case today, but it was still common enough where they were a critical mass. I do not know that the homosexual population bears any particular responsibility for the city’s decay (bar perhaps generating sex for rent slums here and there), but neither do I see why it had ‘nothing to do’ with them. They were city residents.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              you should watch Paris is Burning.
              I wonder what you would think of the aspirations of it’s residents?
              It might just cause you to wonder why the “gays” were responsible for… or even “if”Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 says:

              It’s amazing how certain kinds of people get called out as trolls and jumped upon by the esteemed commenters here, but people like Art Deco and Robert Cheeks are treated with respect by other commenters and the bloggers here no matter what nonsense they spout.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                I think Art Deco believes what he says with sincerity. The fact that he’s a reactionary social conservative doesn’t make him a troll. It just makes him deeply mistaken.

                Robert Cheeks, I believe, is a performance artist. At least, if I were a left-liberal and wanted to discredit conservatism, I’d wander around saying things like “slavery isn’t un-Biblical.”

                He’s amusing, he sings for his supper.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Jason, I owe you a debt of gratitude for ‘splaining Libertarianism to me. Thanks.
                If you could cite the Biblical passage that describes/defines slavery as immoral/sin, I’d be grateful. As I said, as far as I know I’m not aware of such a passage.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                I agree that there isn’t such a passage.

                And that’s where the agreement ends. You reason that if slavery isn’t un-Biblical, it can’t be that bad. If “reason” is quite the right word for it.

                Mainstream Christians reason that the peoples of the Bible weren’t ready to hear or understand that message yet.

                I reason that if the god of the Bible couldn’t find it in his heart to condemn slavery, then he obviously isn’t worth our worship.

                None of this has anything to do with libertarianism, however, as it’s a question of theology.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                Feel better. In recent days I have been called an ‘ass’ and a ‘penis’. Elias Isquith also inhibits me from commenting when he gets his nose out of joint.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          … because artsy folk tend to be gay. Madison Avenue tends to be gay. Also, the PR folks for the Republicans are nearly completely gay (though try getting them to admit it in public! rofl)Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          If it’s only 2.8% of the population, why are you so concerned about them?Report

          • Avatar Art Deco says:

            I do not choose the topics. Kain et al choose the topics.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              But you can’t help but talk about this topic when it comes up. Why is that? Why do you care? It’s only 2.8% of the population.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                I offer some responses, which tend to trigger…responses. So, you have exchanges like this. I would likely be less inclined to respond if you had another social conservative on the board. You have Mr. Cheeks, but his priorities are different.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                The larger question, then, is why are social conservatives so concerned about that 2.8% of the population?Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                My interests are in analyzing those folks who would take an essentially perverse act and try to morally legitimize it. It is a gnostic act, executed by derailed people, who seek to invert the meaning of God’s cosmic order, with the wisdom of the social collective.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Seriously, just once, could you provide a definition of gnostic as you’re using it here? Preferably one that doesn’t use a bunch of other words in atypical ways in order to define it?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Like I said, the way Bob uses that term, it has no meaning. It’s essentially a stand in for, “Something I don’t like,” or if we’re more charitable, “Something un-(true)Christian.”Report

              • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

                Not to speak on behalf of Bob or Art Deco, but I think that many self-described social conservatives would say that they are not so concerned with the 2.8% of the population (or whatever the number happens to be) than with changes made to institutions (marriage, legal code) that affect, at least potentially, 100% of the population. (The institutions, I mean, affect that many people; not so much the changes.)

                Now, some may want to save your soul; some may want to damn it; but I don’t so much think that opposition to gay marriage (or, apparently, the the Lawrence decision) stems from an obsession with the gay population: it’s far more about concern over institutions seen as at the core of a healthy society, and whether the changes made will be a net positive or negative (or, perhaps, neutral).Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                I’m not sure. I get the sense that these institutional qualms end up being polite cover for what they think is a disgusting and perverse act. Listen to Bob above:

                essentially perverse act…executed by derailed people

                I’m not interested in whether God thinks it’s right or wrong as those are issues I assume God will sort out when she feels ready to do it. I am interested in why people who celebrate their free country are doing their best to thwart the freedoms of derailed others performing perverse acts that in no way affect the lives of others. Other than when they think about it they go “Ick.” I don’t think that’s heavy enough to base legislation on.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Seems fair, but I’d say (gently) that so far the non-theological objections have been tall on the vague scary concerns and short on the concrete objections. Additionally as we’ve rounding the mark on a full decade of legal same sex marriage on some large population groups the doomsayers have so far been able to dredge up a quantity of empirical evidence of harm amounting to somewhere between Zippo and bupkiss.

                Which is what, to my mind, explains why there has been a generalized retreat in conservative circles either to concerns so vague as to be irrefutable; empty appeals to authority (God, tradition, the collective wisdom of our ancestors) and/or (most constructively) subject changing of the emphasis to valid but non-zero sum objections like religious freedom.Report

        • Avatar NoPublic says:

          Wait, weren’t you the one talking about societal impact?
          And now you’re slicing back to 2.8%?
          Methinks you’re arguing both sides of that nickel boyo.
          I’m not part of that 2.8% (And I don’t live in NY anymore) but I’m still deriving benefit from those changes (And the recent marriage law changes as well).Report

          • Avatar Art Deco says:

            If you say so. I would not say anyone benefits for very long from degrading the idea of marriage.Report

            • Avatar NoPublic says:

              I dunno, the descendants of King David seem to be doing OK. Or were you discussing something more recent?Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Marriage is an economic concept. If it is outdated, it should go the way of slavery.
              Love is a social construct, and the idea of permanent love, also such.
              I can hold both of these views at the same time. Go Me!Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              You say degrading, I say enhancing.
              (do you having a problem with the results of Loving v Virginia, too?)Report

            • Avatar mark boggs says:

              And I’m aghast at the voluminous attempts by social conservatives to outlaw divorce since the rate of marriage failure is certainly not doing much to sustain the purity and integrity of your heralded institution.

              Oh, wait…they aren’t trying to do that at all. Just perseverating on the gays.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                No, no Mark you don’t understand. When it comes to something like divorce social conservatives need to step lightly, this is a sensitive issue that is ill suited to the heavy hand of government. What is needed is leading by example through word and deed. Also social conservatives are keenly aware that if they tried to grab onto that particular issue they’d be peeling the scorched remains of their political arms off the ceiling faster than you could say third rail.

                When it comes to comparatively small groups of people like the gays who they can pound on without directly pissing in the cereal of the masses as a whole on the other hand God requires that no quarter be given.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                So, it almost sounds like you’re saying that this whole rubric over the “instituional concerns” regarding marriage between gays is really just polite cover for what is really, after all, the “ick” factor.

                That would be so cynical, North.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Cynicism is a vice of mine.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                cynical? no that ain’t cynical at all.
                Cynical is saying that half of Republicans are authoritarian bullies, and that they need SOMEONE to beat up on. Gays be convenient, just like Muslims, and that Mexican guy down the street.
                Propaganda has an orderly structure, at least from the right.
                The left’s propaganda comes from fools (/b/ anyone)?Report

              • Outlaw divorce? What you talkin bout, Willis?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I’m not good with American pop culture but isn’t it supposed to that “What’cha talkin’bout Willis?”Report

              • Yes, Mr. North, I suppose it is. I hit the google and saw many alternate spellings & punctuation: the phrase belongs to the ages now. My lazy self went with the least ornate.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                Why make things worse than they already are?

                Actually, social conservatives have promoted covenant marriage laws where they could.

                I am not sure how we get credited with the advent of no fault divorce or the legitimation of bastardy. Neither is one of our initiatives and containing and reversing them will take generations.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                I would think then that you would be champing at the bit to get started…along with all the “no gay marriage” and sodomy laws thing. Preserving the institution and all.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                I live in New York. Patience is the only option I have.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                Or you could simply let go and embrace the freedoms that come from not trying to force other people into the boxes you think they *should* fit into, especially when it comes to issues that present no demonstrable harm to anyone else other than the fact that they might have to think every once in a while about the fact that men sometimes stick their pee-pees in each other’s buttholes. Sometimes men do that to women, too. Sometimes women strap things on themselves and put those strapped on things in their girlfriends or wives, sometimes even in their *gasp* husbands or boyfriends.

                You folks do have a seemingly insurmountable task in front of you getting others to perform in all the ways you deem appropriate. Or you could just relieve yourself of that burden and realize that freedom comes hand in hand with plenty of things that you might find personally repugnant. But if we tailor freedom to fit what you think it ought to look like with all of its arbitrary restrictions on things that do no harm (other than make you uncomfortable), we can hardly call it freedom anymore, can we?Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                Bad frame to the problem.

                You are asking for people to evaluate two sorts of associations as equivalent when they are not, to construct a legal architecture to social relations when they should not, to deconstruct legal architecture around social relations when they should not, and (in particular) to evaluate some sorts of friendships between men differently than others (i.e. grant some sort of recognition to those which are inappropriately eroticized).

                This has little to do with ‘freedom’ and much to do with the distribution of recognition. Other than providing a desired bon-bon to a small and unappeasable minority, there is no purpose to it.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Do you have any friends, relatives, acquaintences or co-workers Art? I’m curious.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                Because you say they aren’t equal, Art? Is that how *we* know?

                And it is ultimately about freedom. But, I suppose it isn’t your freedom, so what do you care?Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                And didn’t Loving v Virginia deconstruct legal architecture around social relations? I’m sure giddy waiting to hear your defense of this being an affront to all good people everywhere.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                Do you have any friends, relatives, acquaintences or co-workers Art?


              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                And didn’t Loving v Virginia deconstruct legal architecture around social relations?

                Wasn’t that important.

                Also, anti-micegenation laws were a regional curio.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                So you’re saying that you think you ought to be able to determine for others how they should be able to live their lives. You think there should be actual legislation and law enforcement dedicated to keeping people from having sodomy.

                That is what you’re ultimately saying, right? You’re not simply saying that you think sodomy is a gross act and one you find distatsteful but, as an American who understands and cherishes the concept of liberty and personal freedom, you actually think this is one area where you think there is a significant enough harm perpetrated, and not just in your mind, that we must do more to stop this act up to and including law enforcement to go root out these acts and also the accompanying clog in the legal sytem prosecuting these cases.

                I thought that’s what I was getting from you.

                And to say Loving v Virginia wasn’t that important is mind-numbingly naive. Things that aren’t important don’t usually end up in front of the Supreme Court, but I realize in order for you to deflect criticism away from your original remarks, you must insist that it isn’t important.

                And correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t gay marriage laws, bot h for and against, at the state level, in other words, regional curio?Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            I think there was a claim made in either the last Civil War thread, or the one before that, that only a very small number of Southerners owned slaves. If that is so, that suggests that again, the rights of individuals which as a practical matter only a very small number would ever actually exercise, are important enough to fight a war over.Report

            • I believe Mr. Wall sourced a paper that said many [most?] Reb soldiers indirectly held slaves, as in, their family [father, etc.] did, therefore the soldiery was indeed well-invested in the “peculiar institution.”Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Film and literature and music are all as good – if not better – than ever.

    Okay, but you realize this is a pretty subjective assertion, right? I see it as an open question at any rate; but just asserting the superiority of what Americans are doing right now out of hand is probably what I’d consider to be the “exceptionalist” position.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Also, I think we really need to get past the idea that artistic preferences map to ideological discussions about the direction the country is headed. I’m not particularly worried about the health of the country at all, and my preference for the Godfather over the latest Quentin Tarantino cinematic mix tape or for Patti Smith over Ke$ha is basically non-political.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        I’m pretty sure you’re missing the forest for the trees here, Rufus. Declinists are hardly bound to just the political world; cultural declinism is probably even more common. My point is not that movies or music are necessarily better or worse now, it’s that anyone claiming that all art, fiction, music (or whatever) used to be better are wrong. Sure, it’s all about taste. That’s not an argument that the declinists are right though is it?Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          I probably am missing something here, yes. I suppose it’s the juxtaposition of one ‘declinist’ who sees sodomy laws as an area reflecting American decline with another who rails against cultural declinism in terms of the quality of art. They seem like very different things to me, even though they both might be roughly ‘cultural’. It just seems that it’s possible for someone to be a political progressive who thinks the country is headed in the right direction, while also thinking that music on average is worse now than in the past- the bar I go to has tons of people like that, in fact!

          I’m not really a declinist in art if we mean thinking it declines or improves as a whole. Actually, by that measure, I’m not a declinist in anything. But, I do think that art goes through periods in which, on average, it’s more exciting or more mediocre. The good thing is they tend to turn around with time because young people make art and they can be relied on to rebel against the older generation, which is good if the older generation made really insipid art.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      Okay, but you realize this is a pretty subjective assertion, right?

      Apparently, he is subjectively asserting that Rap is as good – if not better – than Progressive Jazz or Baroque.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … America is in the midst of a deep recession. Music and literature and all improves when people are upset.Report

      • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

        Not necessarily: Shakespeare wrote during a fairly settled period (compared, at least, to what came immediately before and after); the work of Classical Athens, in all media, was very much a part of Athens’ economic and political flourishing.Report

  4. Avatar Katherine says:

    So, which was the progressive state that legalized homosexual relationships a decade ahead of everyone else? I’m guessing Hawaii or Massachusetts.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I’m guessing Illinois, but I really should just look it up.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

          If Illinois, shouldn’t the question have been “What is the bankrupt, progressive state…?”Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            … no sir, that’d be Iowa.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Now there’s a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy if I’ve ever seen one.Report

          • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

            If you could condense “State-in-which-being-a-governor-all-but-guarantees-you-a-prison-term” into a single adjective, this, actually, would be far more appropriate than “bankrupt.” Compared to places like California, Illinois isn’t that bad!Report

            • Avatar Art Deco says:

              IIRC, it is Illinois that has the most actuarially unsound public pension program.Report

              • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

                Yeah, you are probably right. This probably isn’t (or, let me rephrase, shouldn’t be) entirely unrelated to why the last three (or is it four? five?) governors have served jail time.

                But California is bigger, and, ergo, broker.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              also, 48 states are bankrupt right now.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                [Citation needed.]Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                personal interview of a trusted source. [yes, this is a citation. the MLA guidelines show how to cite these.]

                you may naturally feel free to discount my information on many grounds including:
                1) Kim says stupid shit.
                2) I don’t trust Kim’s judgement on other people.
                3) Kim won’t give me the name of her source (I find the last to be rather strawmanny, but that’s just me — it tends to devolve down to 1&2).Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Uh, so a person you trusted told you that 48 states in the US are currently entering into bankruptcy proceedings?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Given that bankruptcy proceedings are a matter of public record, I repeat my request for a citation.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                …sorry, using a colloquialism. (and I heard this a year ago, so it’s possible that things have either broken further by now, or gotten better)
                I mean that they do not have enough money to pay their currently outstanding debts (…this is more to say “can’t pay the interest when the piper comes round” and less to say “can’t pay their entire debt load out of income” — the second is something almost all businesses would fail, for goodness sakes!), and have not the wherewithal to borrow (due to laws).

                This is what happens when the economy tanks after a boomtime. Tax income goes down, and the gov’t either needs to borrow more, or spend less. Spending less often involves breaking compacts (wif unions and such).

                … also, this stat isn’t exactly published knowledge as people would throw a hissy fit, and stop getting munis.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                States, unlike municipalities, are formally sovereign entities. There are no provisions in bankruptcy law which would allow for reorganization of a state’s debts. Three states defaulted on their debts during the Depression, so you could look to that for precedent.

                I would be willing to wager that what Kim was told was that 48 states have public pension programs which are inadequately funded. There is public information out there to that effect. (The exceptions are New York and Wisconsin, surprisingly).Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

                When the OP fails to supply any citations (or even argument) for its claims, it seems somehow unfair to require it of commenters.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                First off, which assertions in the post require citations?

                Second, how does your statement logically hold to begin with? Now any conversation in the comments can be citation free if the post is regardless? You do realize how absurd that sounds?Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


                As I mentioned, all of your factual assertions are offered without support or citation of any kind. Being an attack on declinism—and ostensibly to my earlier post—your conclusory claim about the economy in particular is just left hanging there, begging for an explanation of some kind so that a declinist like me might be able to engage. In fact, I was less surprised to find Kim’s comment offered without support, since it was more plausible her claim was hyperbole; I do not get the sense this is the case for the OP.

                As to your second point, quite the contrary—indeed, I was surprised to find none of the comments had simply responded to your claims in the same form in which they were offered: e.g., “No, it isn’t.”Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                So you want a citation to show that our economy is still in pretty decent shape? I mean, yes we’re in a recession with bad unemployment, but we’re no worse off than any other country (we are by some metrics, but not by any that would point to our decline). We’re still fantastically rich.Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

                The context of the claim, however, is an argument against decline. Citations to authority for the claim that we are still rich, or not doing as badly as other countries, will not get much mileage in that context. As a declinist, I’d be happy to stipulate that we are rich, though I might counter something along the lines of we no longer sustain those riches by contributing labor of sufficient real value, or that a large portion of our riches are artificial, or on loan, etc. I might also be happy to stipulate that we are declining at a slower pace than other countries, but again, that would do nothing for your core argument that we are not in decline.

                But again, I get that you did not set out to make a comprehensive argument against declinism. I’m just picking at a tangent here.Report

  5. TV is better than ever. (Popular) Music is definitely, definitely not. I can’t speak to literature, because I’m a peon and I tend to read non-fiction, anyway. And film? We’re definitely not in the 1970s. I see no reason to think we can’t bounce back, however, so I don’t think I’m a cultural declinist.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Popular music may not be, but music, on the whole, is astonishing.

      Sure, I still love me some Brother Ray. Elvis is still awesome. Beethoven’s 5th is still one of my favorite works, ever.

      But you can go out today in Los Angeles and find people who can play all that, and their own stuff too, which happens to be stellar.

      You just need to go looking, instead of turning on your radio and expecting good stuff to come out of it.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Right, but that raises the question of whether or not music distribution is, on the whole, getting better or worse. I hear people complain frequently about the old major label model- and I do too, all the time!- whereby four or five major corporations had a semi-monopoly on how music was distributed that weeded out many good musicians. Now, the floodgates are open, thanks to digital downloads. But nobody seems to object to the fact that digital downloads are the near total monopoly of a single corporation, nor that bands now have to do everything that a label used to do for them, instead of being able to concentrate on their music; nor that none of them are doing nearly as well making music under the new system as even the most exploited bands did under the old. I mean, I know lots and lots of musicians, some of whom are pretty amazing. At one point, at least a few of them would have been able to make a living through touring with the help of a major. But now, it’s pretty much understood that the old model is dead and I don’t know one of them who has any expectations that they’ll be able to play music for a living. It’s just not possible anymore.Report

        • Avatar NoPublic says:

          But nobody seems to object to the fact that digital downloads are the near total monopoly of a single corporation

          Only if you’re not looking. Self-distribution and small scale operations like CDBaby are making a lot of volume in the indy markets. Lots of artists are reaching hundreds and thousands of people for very cheap.Report

          • Google Plus has already spawned a new career or three.

            Of course, it’s difficult to make money as a musician in any event. I’d make a great professional game master (indeed, I’d say it’s a waste of my aggregate talents for me to do anything else), but there isn’t exactly an overpowering market for this.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            Great. The last article I read on the industry put iTunes sales at more than 80% of all digital downloads purchased in the United States. If there had been any single label selling 80% of all the CDs sold in the US twenty years ago, we’d be complaining about their monopolistic practices. But you’re saying that the existence of other outlets makes criticizing iTunes naive? I’ll remember next time someone complains about WalMart to remind them that they must have overlooked the fact that there are other stores. But as someone who spends way too much time at shows, in record stores, and seeking out new music online, I’m not sure what it is that I’m supposed to be missing here.Report

            • Avatar NoPublic says:

              Keep in mind that those statistics don’t really capture all the downloads. Then deal with the ubiquity of the iPod/iPhone ecosystem. It’s a big hurdle to overcome but there are indies on iTunes and their policy to distribute your music is relatively open and straightforward. And there are lots of folks (like the aforementioned CDBaby) who will streamline the process for you if you’re just not savvy. I think last time I checked CDBaby charges about $50 to set up an album for digital distribution. That’s a pretty low hurdle.Report

        • Avatar NoPublic says:

          I mean, I know lots and lots of musicians, some of whom are pretty amazing. At one point, at least a few of them would have been able to make a living through touring with the help of a major. But now, it’s pretty much understood that the old model is dead and I don’t know one of them who has any expectations that they’ll be able to play music for a living. It’s just not possible anymore.

          Tell that to Jonathan Coulton.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            Fine. There’s one dude in 10,000, which does not mean that music is a thriving industry. The next time I talk to another incredible musician who’s quit playing music because it was interfering with their shitty day job (which should actually be tonight) I will tell them that they should be playing more lame joke songs for IT guys.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              If, before, there was one dude in 25,000 who was making it…Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Sure, but it wasn’t like that. That’s my point. I lived in plenty of towns where it was only something like 1 in 50 bands that “made it”, and we all bitched about how terrible it was that some jerk at a major label could determine what 1 in 50 bands made it. So the claim with the Internet was that it was going to break down the monopolies and everyone was going to have a chance to make it at last. So, it was not inconceivable to expect that everyone with talent would be able to reach the “millions of fans online” and make a good living for themselves. By now, you’d imagine that every town would have its own supply of really great bands supporting themselves with their music.

                But, it’s not like that at all. And, just like so many of the promises about the Internet that people were making 20 years ago, now everyone’s lowered their expectations greatly without actually acknowledging all of the previous hype that they bought into.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Thwarted entitlement, then?Report

              • Avatar NoPublic says:

                So, it was not inconceivable to expect that everyone with talent would be able to reach the “millions of fans online” and make a good living for themselves.

                I think the unwritten part of that is “Without working at it”. Because putting up a myspace page and then bitching because you’re not rich isn’t trying to make it in the music world. Touring dive bars in a broken down van has been replaced with a different kind of slogging and dues paying. And realistically you still have to play out to generate buzz. The Internet’s not freaking magic.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Here’s how the conversation usually goes:

                Other person: The Internet has made it so much easier for bands to get their music out to many more people and make a living playing music than it was before.

                Me: Really? Most of the musicians I know say it’s made it much harder to do that because the market is totally flooded and it’s so easy to listen to that music for free online.

                Other person: They must be lazy. If they weren’t lazy, they’d find it’s much easier now than before.Report

              • Avatar NoPublic says:

                The myth of the band that plays the local tavern, gets discovered, and goes triple platinum is probably dead. In point of fact it probably was never alive in the first place.

                It’s been replaced by a lot more availability but with that comes a lot more need to differentiate yourself. That requires work and thought and planning. It’s not “you’re lazy” it’s “This is a new world and the game is different. It has to be played differently to make it work for you.”

                Some of the bands I know who are making money off their art are loss-leading their music and making it up on merch (Shirts, sitckers, etc). Or they’re doing radical things like subscription based albums and ninja gigs with flash crowds to drive buzz.

                The downside of global visibility is you’re now competing with a garage band in Japan for your dosh.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                but you as an english speaker have an insta-advantage: most of the net speaks english.
                … how many people want to listen to music in languages that they don’t understand? figure it’s probably less than those who want to understand the lyrics.Report

              • Avatar NoPublic says:

                I listen to a lot of music in foreign languages. Have since the 80’s. But I’m probably an outlier, I admit.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Here’s an interesting quotation:

              “There was a window in the 120 years of the record business where performers made loads and loads of money out of records,” Jagger says. “But it was a very small window — say, 15 years between 1975 and 1990.”

              How accurate is Mick here?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Jay, the question is whether distribution via the internet has made it easier or harder to bands to make any money playing music than the old major label model. Are you really interested in that question?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I don’t have statistics, but that sounds about right. That’s the height of megaacts touring in stadiums around the country making massive amounts of money all while also making money off CD/albums sales.

                However, after 1990, you had the rise of alternative rock, boy bands, and such. I might quibble on the exact years, but it sounds ‘right.’Report

            • Avatar NoPublic says:

              Howsabout telling them that they need to find their market and figure out how to reach it. You know, like a businessman. That’s all that Coulton did.

              But I’ll point out another one I’m familiar with:


              She’s crowd-sourcing albums and a concert tour.

              Making art is hard. Making a living at it is harder. Nobody is disputing that. I’m just saying that there are in fact people doing it.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … or that guy that started NerdCore movement?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Okay, you’re right. It can be done. And there will be plenty of musicians who can do all of the work of a label for themselves and make it work. Of course, there always were those people- Ian MacKaye comes to mind.

                All I’m saying is that we were promised that, with the advent of digital distribution, the old walls would be broken down and it would be much easier for people to support themselves by playing music; and, in fact, what’s happened has been just the opposite- it’s much, much harder than it ever was to support yourself with music.Report

              • Avatar NoPublic says:

                it’s much, much harder than it ever was to support yourself with music.

                You keep asserting this but I don’t see much data.
                The plural of anecdote and all but I know a lot of small bands and single performers that are making a fair bit of scratch (if not yet being self-supporting) with their art these days. Apparently you don’t. Perhaps it’s a genre thing?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                What can I say here? I visit record stores at least five days a week, go to shows at least four nights a week, book shows, play with local musicians, and obsess way too much about music. I hear plenty of people online talking about how wonderful the current situation is for music because, even if you’re a band in the middle of nowhere, tens of thousands of people online can hear your songs (for free). But I don’t know anyone actually playing music right now who sees this as a golden age for being a musician. Yes, I have no data for that and am just asserting it, but you keep implying that their problem is they’re just not working hard enough without having any real evidence of that either. It sounds a bit like a pyramid scheme- one guys makes it and 10,000 just didn’t work hard enough.

                Honestly, all I want to do here is push back against the sort of internet triumphalism that is never in short supply at the LOOG and which promised us that the new distribution model would make things much easier for musicians, writers, artists, and everyone else to make money playing music. Maybe you know plenty of musicians who would say it has. I just don’t know any.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                It’s always been really hard for musicians to make it and it still is. The difference is that at least now a lot of people can hear their work, whereas before only the lucky few were promoted up high enough by record companies to get their stuff out there. The rock-star era is over in many ways, but the visibility of smaller outfits is much greater than before. Perhaps it’s a give-and-take situation. But I like the availability of music I have now, and I’m glad to see the record companies take a beating.Report

              • I don’t think the Internet has made anything easier for people to make money off of music.

                In fact, I’ll agree; a large chunk of potential revenue (distribution control) is basically gonzo, and this has indeedy had a negative impact on the total economic power devoted to supporting music.

                I’ll agree this sucks in many ways, too.

                On the other hand, making money off of artificial scarcity is a crappy way to make money, so the old model was still crappy, even if it did give us Elvis.

                In the greater sense, this is a problem with the way our economic engine rewards endeavor, generally. We don’t typically pay people to do those things that they would find to be most rewarding and which they are uniquely talented at doing.

                We pay people to be cogs in machines.Report

              • Silverberg had a story where an artist was brought to a farm planet. Turned out they just wanted an audience for their [estimable] artistic skills after they got done working.

                It was mass production and mass media that created the rock star and screen star. In the olden days, artists were [properly] considered the lowest form of life: they had to travel to & fro, sing for their supper. Lock up your daughters and try to keep them asleep in the barn until they do their show and get the hell out of town.

                [I say this as an erstwhile actor and still-underpaid musician.]Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                I agree E.D. that it’s easier to be a music fan than ever before. But you have to understand that I first got into music that was not my parents’ music through punk rock and that was a genre that largely embraced the DIY (do it yourself) methods of distribution, playing, etc. and explicitly rejected major labels. So all of the labels I was buying from were independent labels like SST, Dischord, Alternative Tentacles- ones that were quite often operated by bands who were also music fans. When people talk about how, before, you’d never hear this stuff, I think, but I did hear this stuff. I read the magazines like Maximumrocknroll that had reviews and scoured the independent record stores and bought tons of 45s from bands I’d never even heard before because, hey, why not give the band $3.50 to hear a few of their songs. So, the fact that I can now hear five songs on Myspace and give them $0.00 is great for me. Maybe it’s better for them too. But now they’d better be the best of the best before I give them my hard earned $0.99Report

              • Again, Rufus, the discussion narrows to music made by white boys for white boys. There’s a lot more money to be made in the underserved sectors, i.e., most of the rest of the world.Report

              • In case anybody missed it, Tom just called himself the lowest form of life.

                I love that about you, T-bone. You’re willing to call a spade a spade even when you’re the spade.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … one could have an interesting conversation about bards, actors, actresses, and the ways only female sexuality is normalized.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Kim, that sounds like a fascinating conversation. Please start it though because I’m not sure what you’re referring to and we’ve probably exhausted this topic anyway.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Support yourself *HOW*?

                You mean make as much money as you could flipping burgers?

                Yeah, you could probably do that if you busted your ass online and, assuming $9.99 per cd, moved 1500 cds a year.

                Make as much money as you could rebooting unix servers?Report

              • I missed all of this until now and there’s not really a clear opening for me to step into so here goes:

                My father has worked in the music business for essentially his entire professional life. The advent of digital technology has been a disaster for the industry, full stop. Around 1/2 of his friends have been laid off or forced into early retirement (overwhelmingly the former); and artists on the whole, while being able to reach an audience much quicker and more directly than before, are not looking at nearly as much financial pay-off as before.

                It’s never been a better time to be a music consumer, but the music industry has been utterly devastated by the past 15 years. C’est la vie and all that; but I just wanted to push-back against some of the comments I’ve seen here trying to argue that the economic consequences have been neutral or even positive for most involved. They haven’t.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I imagine that there would be less need for editors or producers (let alone the support staff for them) with the advent of the digital age… is this regressing to the mean (back 200 years ago, for example, you needed a patron to have a job as a musician… or you had to tour 100% of the time)?

                Looking at history, artists have pretty much always been starving. The exception is when they weren’t.

                To quote Warhol, “An artist is someone who makes things that people don’t need to have.”

                If things were really awesome for a small window, should we assume that that small window should be the floor?

                What if it’s the ceiling?Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

      I think there have been a few exceptional contemporary writers and films but the ‘arts’ appear in significant decline, while the culture is rather perverse and continues captured by the derailed ‘moi.’ Today’s sundry Leftist/librul philosophies reflect the disorders of the modern mind and are simply incapable of recapturing the truth of the soul/cosmos. In immanentizing human existence, or as Voegelin says, “…the Christian eschaton,” we bear witness to a powerful gnostic movement that reveals itself in part, in a derailed “scientism” and a new revealed “morality” that is inclusive and tolerant. It is disappointing, I think, to read so many intelligent folks who have allowed themselves, for various reasons, to be captured by this derailed, gnostic movement. It is, however, delightful to read the responses of our friend Art Decco who reject this false reality, understand the structure of reality, and very clearly and patiently points out the derailed thinking of his interlocutors.Report

      • Avatar mark boggs says:

        And it’s sad to see other intelligent folks so sold on their own infallibility because they’ve read Voeglin seem to think that misanthropic yearning for past times is where it’s at.

        Bob, there are countries where they have all sorts of legislation based on arbitrary morality, why do you insist on staying in one that continues to, in this instance, (hopefully) work towards greater liberty for the individual?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Try to see homosexuality as more like African chattel slavery.

        Sure, maybe it’s wrong.

        That doesn’t mean that we have the right to try to stop other people from engaging in it willingly.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          Declared by the righteous citizens of South Carolina, in explaining their need to leave the Union:


          The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

          Which leads to the obvious conclusion that even those of us who live in states where same-sex marriage is forbidden are required to observe and enforce its obligations.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            The people of the great state of South Carolina had the constitutional right to leave the “union” for any reason they saw fit.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              Even “light and transient Causes”?

              Because the founders didn’t agree on that one, and there’s an obvious a fortiori case against secession for an evil cause.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                You and I may disagree about the reasons for secession, but the South acted. I’ve always thought that if they waited a couple of years, established a few more foundries, armories, etc, moved Braxton Bragg to the general officer responsible for assembling the supplies of war, made Pat Cleburne an army commander from the gitgo, and managed to scrap up one more corps for Bobby Lee, they’d have won their Southern republic.
                I thought Libertarians were opposed to the idea of a powerful general gummint? You support a general gummint that is required to invade (make war on) a state/states that do not concur with the moral perspectives of said general gummint. Where do we draw that line, Mr. Libertarian? Obviously that form of gummint isn’t a republic, it has to be a very highly centralized state, which I thought stood opposed to your thinking? Perhaps I’m wrong.
                BTW, Mr. Lincoln did not invade the South in order to free the slaves, rather to force the Southern states back into the ‘union.’Report

              • > Where do we draw that line, Mr. Libertarian?

                I think Jason’s already drawn the line at chattel slavery before. Maybe that was Erik.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Patrick, we don’t know that. Since Jason approves of the general gummint’s war on states over slavery, should we assume he might not support the general gummint should it, say, invade some state whose right wing controlled legislature voted against homosexual marriage?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                a one world government will surely fix all our problems! [sarcasm. and joking at teh black helicopter crowd]Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                I definitely agree with this, whether or not I said it first. Chattel slavery is an abuse that obviously calls for a government response.

                Individual liberties are what matter to me most politically, not the size of the government.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Jason, I wasn’t referencing the ‘size’ of gummint, rather the power of the central state. How long do you expect to maintain ‘individual’ liberties in a highly centralized gummint…until the next regime? However, I’m beginning to understand the Libertarian problem.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Fine, swap “size” for “power.” I’d still agree with it.

                Give me a government strong enough to prohibit slavery. Please.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                “Chattel slavery is an abuse that obviously calls for a government response.”
                Again, Lincoln never mentioned freeing the slaves as a reason of invasion, rather he spoke of the necessity of the general gummint to collect imposts and duties. Just sayin’.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                And he also looked forward to the gradual abolition of slavery, which at the time was the most he thought politically feasible.

                Just sayin’.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                We probably don’t want to go into Lincoln’s thoughts on African Americans, this being a family site and all..just sayin.’

                BTW, I do have a new appreciation for your position on the central gummint. I do have to admit to thinking you were agin’ ‘big’ gummint. I’m assuming you think ‘good’ libruls are always going to run things…which is truly utopian of you.Report

              • Was the Civil War “worth it?” I’ve had little luck getting a straight answer from certain quarters on that one.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Ask the people who started shooting first.Report

              • Avatar Katherine says:

                Tom: Hell yeah.

                The lives of 600,000, many of them complicit in one of the most evil institutions to exist, in exchange for the freedom of 4 million? Absolutely.

                I’m with TNC on this one. The Civil War wasn’t a tragedy. It was a victory. It was the defeat of terrible enemy that had waged a war against many Americans that was not of five years’ duration, but 450 years’.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Wow, thx for the straight answer on the Civil War being “worth it,” Katherine. First time ever, iirc, in all my days on the internet.

                Liberals and conservatives might agree on this, leftists and libertarians not so much.

                Funny, huh?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Tom, you saw that Jason was the first to chime in with a “yes”, right? He’s the libertarian in this section of the thread.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                PatC, if Mr. Kuznicki thought the Civil war was “worth it,” he’d have said it was worth it.

                The gentleman holds his cards far closer to the vest than that. Anyone who thinks he knows what the gentleman thinks is reading in, not out.

                Should Jason want to disabuse me of my close-reading and just say the Civil War was “worth it” [or not], that would introduce additional “if, then” complications and so, we should not expect such a declaration.

                I do not read into things that which I would like to hear, as much as I’m tempted. It’s the


                thing. Mr. Kuznicki is a master of this kind of writing, and I do not say this uncomplimentarily.

                I read him quite clearly, which is what pisses him off about me, I suspect. He did not, and likely will never say, that the Civil War was “worth it.”

                Unless I misread him, of course. But he could say it plainly. It’s a simple question.

                I’m rather with Katherine, my new liberal friend, quite plainly. Half of those who died in the Civil War were guilty of perpetuating slavery; the other half died in furtherance of its extinction. Mileage varied, of course.

                I would like to think I’d have the guts to fight and mebbe die for the liberty and human dignity of another man, the black man in this case, my fellow human being. And endure the moral hazard of killing a Reb.

                I don’t know how brave my comfortable 21st century ass would be, faced with all that. Would it be worth it?

                I’m as high-minded as the next fellow, and with the same feet of clay. Perhaps there’s something to be said for the passions of youth afterall. It’s they who do the fighting, and the dying.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                So many threads, so little time.

                Okay, here you go, Tom: The Civil War was worth it.

                “Worth it” in what sense?

                It was legally justified, because secession isn’t permitted under the Constitution.

                It was morally justified, because the secession in this case was to preserve slavery, and that can never be a just cause. The Confederates also changed not only their own government, but the slaves’ government, too, and we can’t possibly presume that the slaves liked going from an ambiguous constitution that danced around slavery — to a constitution that explicitly protected their masters’ interests. They can’t possibly have approved, and so returning the slaves to the Union was altogether proper as well.

                Lastly, the war was worth the blood and treasure, because no one had any way of knowing whether slavery or the Confederacy would continue or end in the future. Arguing about possible future developments — what if slavery could have been abolished peacefully by 1875? — is like faulting Civil War doctors for not using penicillin. It’s ahistorical. And to place all your bets on a counterfactual is to betray a naive trust in your own predictive powers, which are likely to be as bad as everyone else’s.

                So: The Civil War was worth it, worth it, worth it. And I hadn’t realized, Tom, you’d be so dense as to require all that. As Pat said, above, I have already called the war “justified.” The hair to be split between them is so fine that I can’t even see it.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                I am continually amazed by my blood-thirsty librul/libertarian palsys here. Go ahead slaughter 600,000 Americans, rapine and plunder at will, destroy everything, loose the dogs of war and why…because the South chooses not to associate with such people. And, given their sanguine attitude, who can blame them.
                As many of our interlocutors have pointed out, slavery was dying. Already by 1861 a half million former slaves were now freedmen, many owning their own slaves. The machines, ironically from Yankeeland were being invented, almost every civilized nation on earth had abandoned slavery without war, civil or otherwise, but we couldn’t?
                No, no dear friends, the ACW was about severing the union and eleven states who would no longer contribute to the federal coffers, “Where would we get our money,” Honest Abe once commented about why he chose to invade the South. And, it was about the low, low tariff of the New Confederacy where foreign goods would pour into New Orleans, Charleston, etc and where the English plows and harrows et al, bought much cheaper, would eventually make their way up the Mississippi River to Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa and undercut the New England manufacturers and upset the pernicious New York bankers.
                When it comes to war it’s always wise to look at the economic situation, the gnostic/ideological wars came later. Hell, even Lincoln never mentioned freeing the slaves as a cause of war.Report

              • @ Tom’s #195

                > I’m rather with Katherine,
                > my new liberal friend, quite
                > plainly. Half of those who
                > died in the Civil War were
                > guilty of perpetuating slavery;
                > the other half died in
                > furtherance of its extinction.
                > Mileage varied, of course.

                I’ll agree with this.

                > I would like to think I’d have
                > the guts to fight and mebbe
                > die for the liberty and human
                > dignity of another man, the
                > black man in this case, my
                > fellow human being. And
                > endure the moral hazard of
                > killing a Reb.

                Yeah, I’ll agree with this, too.

                > I don’t know how brave my
                > comfortable 21st century
                > ass would be, faced with all
                > that.

                Me either. I readily admit I’m naturally inclined to avoid conflict but when I get the blood up, it’s nasty. I don’t like the idea of war primarily because I’m pretty sure I’d be monstrous at it.

                > Would it be worth it?

                I think we had a disconnect elsewhere on this thread.

                I don’t answer this directly because my answer is “I don’t know how to measure worth, here”.

                But “Was it worth it?” and “Would you have done it?” are two different questions.

                The second one I’d answer with a yes. The first one is irrelevant to the second, in this case.

                Even knowing that I’d do it, I’d be hard pressed to evaluate what I was doing as “moral”. I’d be entirely too convinced that I’d be rationalizing what I was doing.

                Sometimes I can look at something and say, “That is evil” (slavery, war). I don’t have a problem with that. Sometimes the two of them butt up against each other, and you have to decide which you’re going to throw your weight behind.

                Convincing yourself of the rightness of your actions is nice, if you want to sleep well at night. But if you believe in the Almighty, it’s probably best to let Him make the call; do the best you can and prep your defense for when you get to the gates – convincing yourself you know His Will prior isn’t going to do you any much good at providing an effective defense of yourself.

                And if you don’t believe in the Almighty, odds are pretty good you’re a bad one to assess rightness in anything that is that close to you… whether you’re a moral relativist postmodern or utilitarian or what, it’s going to take some distance for someone to figure out if it’s worth it or not.

                So yeah, I’d go to war. But I’m serious when I say it would likely damn me to drink and an early death. Because I wouldn’t claim to know if it was worth it, even while I was doing it.

                The human condition is like that, sometimes.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Jason, thx for the straight-up answer that the Civil War was “worth it.”

                “Dense” is a criticism and insult I have never received before and I thank you for it, but it sounds sort of pissy.

                Now that you’re on record, we shall see where “if, then” leads per yr ideological sentiments.

                Again, thx for yr reply.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                If it had been the northeast that had successfully rebelled, you wouldn’t be writing this. Hell, if where I’m sitting now had successfully rebelled, you wouldn’t be writing this.

                Such is the value of propaganda.

                I’ma get me some whiskey, and go have a drink.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Kim, that hurt. Actually, I’m a paleo, a republican and support republican causes where and when I can. I would love it if the Northeast seceded. Actually, I think we need about five, maybe six, representative-republican countries on the continent.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                allow me to elaborate: the south was a hierarchy of families, the ancestors of todays corporations in terms of power (Missouri was at the bottom, fwiw). They couldn’t have held together if you paid them. South Carolina’s hotheads only acted because if they didn’t, it would never have happened. Lee went north because the ruling coalition was disintegrating.

                … still waiting for your proof on how I can measure good and evil. Absolutely, naturally. Lil’ ol’ empiricist me is quite interested. Is good a property of matter, or is it more akin to a force?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                if you don’t want it to hurt so bad, bring up the Whiskey rebellion more and the Southern Secession less.Report

              • Full point to Kim and the Whiskey Rebellion. Try also “federalism” rather than “states’ rights,” which permanently besmirched itself c. 1964.

                And 2 good ones above from Mr. Schilling, although I was hoping for an answer from the pacifist quarter about whether the Civil War was worth it.

                [Or from the libertarian quarter, from their slightly different angle; I would think libertarianism has some sympathy either for self-determination/secession or federalism, but the libertarian scorecard is somewhat confusing hereabouts.]Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                > I was hoping for an answer
                > from the pacifist quarter
                > about whether the Civil
                > War was worth it.

                Historical re-engineering is difficult to call.

                I would hazard a guess that with the advent of the steam tractor in 1868, slavery would have dropped out of common usage by 1900.

                “Worth it or not” depends upon your point of view, I guess.Report

              • I would hazard a guess that with the advent of the steam tractor in 1868, slavery would have dropped out of common usage by 1900.

                “Worth it or not” depends upon your point of view, I guess.

                Well, sure, Mr. C. All things must pass. If not by 1900, certainly 1950 or 2000, right?

                This doesn’t address the question in the least, though, unless is the answer is a Gandhian “no.”

                Not that I expected a straight answer or even a reply from those quarters. I just float the question now & then, unrequited-like, just to hear the crickets chirp.


              • Avatar North says:

                Tom, my own opinion (though I’m a civil war neophyte).
                Was the civil war worth it? From a black perspective definitely yes. From a white perspective, definitely no. From a moral standpoint, I’d give it a wobbly yes. From a utilitarian or historic perspective I’d give another very wobbly yes.

                Is that straight enuff for ya?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Oh, I would have gone through with it myself, Tom, back then.

                And probably dammed myself to drink and an early death.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                You and I may disagree about the reasons for secession

                Because I take the South Carolinians at their word, rather than inventing rationalizations for them. Seriously. Find one contemporary source that justifies secession without mentioning slavery.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              … which would have been a great thing, if the people had any say in the matter.
              The South couldn’t have won. It would have fallen apart on its own.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            Mike, checkout Georgia’s secession document.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

          “Try to see homosexuality as more like African chattel slavery.”
          I’ll see my pal Alonzo tomorrow night at ye olde football game and I’ll ask him what he thinks of the comparison. Actually, he’s a good librul.
          I think ArtD said it best in his foundation of ‘sand’ comment. Moral relativism may make us feel all warm and gooey expressed at ‘tolerance, inclusivity, and any other popular/political catch word, but it’s meaningless in our radically immanentized and consequently deformed present.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Bob, please understand my confusion:

            You are saying that you want the government to pour blood and treasure into such things as making sure that men are not sharing beds.

            This strikes me as so foundationally absurd that I cannot comprehend it. In response, you start talking about gnosticism which is all well and good but I’m still stuck on how you want one of the jobs of the government to be making sure that people aren’t sharing beds.

            Then, imagine this: You have argued that the government should not have forcibly put a stop to African Chattel Slavery.

            I cannot comprehend this. I do not see how a government large enough to put a stop to bed-sharing would not also be able to put a stop to one man owning another.

            This breaks my brain. It is tea and no tea.Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

              “You are saying that you want the government to pour blood and treasure into such things as making sure that men are not sharing beds.”
              Dude, that’s about the unkindest cut you’ve laid on me. If I even inferred I want cops breaking down doors to get at h-sexuals, I had to be drunk. Can you cite where I said, even hinted at that. Frankly, I don’t care what two dudes do to each other or how many times, as long as it consensual, etc. just don’t tell me it’s fishing NORMAL, and don’t fishing teach it to my g-kids that it’s fishing NORMAL. H-sexuaslity is a psychopathology and/or a pneumopathology and frankly, it’s just one of a myriad of pathologies mankind eagerly, happily, and voraciously participates in. As I said before the Great Beyond is not going to be suffering a housing shortage anytime soon.

              Re: the ACS thing and in YOUR comparison of H-sexuality thing, I am looking at ACS from the perspective of 1861, not 2011!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course, I don’t approve of slavery, of an race/person for any reason. I’ve mentioned that E.D.’s muslim pals are continuing to enslave African Christians in Sudan and none of my interlocutors here at Commie-Central seem the least fishing bit concerned because it’s outside their lubrul mold. Sometimes the hypocracy is amazing!
              I’d thought better of you JB.
              Again, I don’t want anyone to bother two consenting adults, no cops, no money allocated to watching Hp-sexuals, no lists, no nothing…just don’t tell me I have to accept the behavior as normal, either morally or culturally.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Whew! I am pleased to have misread your support of Art Deco’s rejection of my false reality.

                Now when you say “I am looking at ACS from the perspective of 1861, not 2011!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”, you raise an interesting point.

                What if I look at homosexuality from the perspective of 2011 and not 1861? Or, let’s be less charitable to my position and say that my perspective is the perspective of 2026.

                Why shouldn’t I take the perspective of 2026 on homosexuality? Why is doing so one iota more or less wrong than going out of one’s way to take the 1861 position on African Chattel Slavery?

                It seems to me that your position states that slavery is a temporal wrong… one that is very, very wrong in 2011 but differently wrong 1861. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is similar to God insofar as it is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

                Does this come down to how you get your knowledge from God and my knowledge is perverted by gnosis?Report

              • Is there a corollary to Godwin’s Law for slavery?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                A tad late to be pulling that card out now.Report

              • Notatall, JB. If one can get away with comparing something to slavery [or Nazism], he wins, regardless of the aptness of the comparison.

                It’s never too late to point out a rhetorical fast one.


              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Whenever people go on about the Good Old Days, someone will remind them of why they weren’t so good. That goes without saying.

                (And, on being told this, they will get irate. Also goes without saying.)Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Actually, I was just jabbing you, a little, with the ArtD remark.
                However, you bring up a very good question re: slavery. There’s nothing Biblically that condemns slavery, other than somebody says how slaves are to be treated. and if you don’t treat ’em good, you’re bad. But ACS and Biblical slavery are two very different birds or are they? The Africans were transported here simply to labor, the slaves in Bible times were oft from the battlefield and were taken in conquest…..to labor. Maybe, there’s not so much difference after all.
                Slavery, even ACS is cultural but is it immoral? Modern man says ‘yes’ because he is enlightened and the African or whoever is a “man” and has “God (remember Him?) given rights” and also because we have machines now that do the same work for less cost and we don’t need slavery, except for Muslims and a few other primitives.
                As you know slavery and h-sexuality are two different things. For example one is voluntary the other involuntary.
                “Does this come down to how you get your knowledge from God and my knowledge is perverted by gnosis?”
                Pretty much though we haven’t discussed you lately. And, “your knowledge” would be derailed by the Stoic concept of “apostrophe” or your egophanic insistence, predicated on pride, of turning away from the divine ground, which is an elemental disorder in human existence.
                However, I have every reason to believe that that Evangelical experience in your past will percolate to the top again.
                Now I must return to “Das Kapital”, for the children.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                > Slavery, even ACS is cultural but
                > is it immoral? Modern man says
                > ‘yes’

                You don’t finish the other half of that thought, Bob. You don’t consider yourself a modern, after all.

                What does Bob say?Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Pat, I’m almost convinced you’re ready to challenge modernity. No, I’m not a modern.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                There’s nothing Biblically that condemns slavery

                And you stare down from your pretentious high-horse (to borrow your words) telling everybody else how wrong they are with God while worshipping a God who authored that book?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Truly, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        show me where there is an absolute good, show me where there is an absolute evil. Quantify it, and show me that when I cut it in half, there are two things, still absolute good, or still absolute evil.

        If I cut Cersei in half, I have a dead person. Who is no longer absolute good nor absolute evil.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Sometimes, Bob, the way you use the word “gnosticism” leaves it with no meaning whatsoever. I wish you understood the things you say.Report

  6. Avatar Hyena says:

    I think our moral fabric is getting stronger, at least with respect to most people.Report

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