View Full Version : A Stanford Liberal's Chat with a Harvard Conservative

02-26-2008, 09:48 AM

02-26-2008, 12:24 PM
How, exactly, has McCain "stuck with" his "genuine principled love of getting money out of politics" (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9048?in=00:05:18&out=00:05:54) when, as Mett Welch explained on Free Will, he's got a 527 called the "Reform Institute" to house his entourage in the off-season and launder donations from the very cable companies he himself regulates...?

02-26-2008, 12:46 PM
I really liked the last segment discussing gay marriage. In some ways, I feel vindicated. My position has been civil unions for all (except children and animals). But marriage (i.e. blessing the civil union) was not a state function.

A friend (straight, female) has accused me of being homophobic, maintaining that I am unwilling to embrace full equality for gays - civil unions for all is just a way of not recognizing gay marriages. I said gay and straight couples could still get "married" (get blessed) but they would have to do that through some social, religious or other way. So now I can point to two legal scholars from both sides of the political spectrum agreeing with me.

The local county clerk can have a standard contract that two (or more) people can enter into, with boxes that can be checked as to which, if not all, of the traditional rights of a married couple are to be included. By law, this contract on its face would be enforceable. A couple could draft their own contract - which could be subject to litigation.

In the abstract, I am approving of polygamy but there are practical issues. If A marries (I should use "unites with" or something like that) B and also marries C, what is the relationship of B and C? And with more people it becomes more complicated. If someone could sort out that mess, I have no problem with it.

In the US, we only see polygyny - one man, many wives. I have never heard of a case of one woman, many husbands . My problem with these cases (mostly fundie Mormons) is child abuse and welfare fraud.

02-26-2008, 02:46 PM
For your Tuesday irony shot Dibold Leaks 2008 Election Results (http://www.theonion.com/content/video/diebold_accidentally_leaks). Now perhaps we can do away with all the horse race BS and actually foster some discussion of the issues.

02-26-2008, 02:52 PM
It's a pity the off-camera stopwatch nanny had to intrude. I could have happily listened to this discussion for another hour, at least. Please bring this pair back soon, and ask them to pick up where they left off.

02-26-2008, 02:55 PM

Please double-check your URL. I'm getting taken to a page to email the video I think you want us to see, not the video's page itself.

02-26-2008, 02:59 PM
It's the right link, the embedded player takes some time to load. Like you I use FireFox and sometimes it is for crap with embedded players. Click on the Election 08 tab and then the dibold story and it may force the player to load.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-26-2008, 03:13 PM
That was great, pisc.! The "Clinton" campaign's reaction was the best part -- just spot on.

02-26-2008, 03:26 PM
Charles Fried was great sadly I'm not such a fan of Joshua. Besides his inability to stop stuttering I find his statements at minute 32 in reference to campaign finance reform disgusting and belittling of the American people. Beforehand at minute 30-31 josh agrees that Obama is an example of how big money is not a critical problem in elections but goes on to say that the American people need government to protect them from folks with money outside the election.

On (near as I could get, leaving out the umms) quote:

"however, I think you may have to do it, things you would prefer not to do because it may just be too optimistic of an assumption to think that the protection of modern liberty gives you all the political equality you need that seems to me to be an extremely improbable statement and hear I agree with McCain.Ē

Josh, YOU are being too optimistic in thinking that government can keep itself free of cooperate influence and that the rules you wish to create will not end up working against your goal of political equality.

Further what I think you are afraid of is a fascist government that supports big business and is capable of molding the populationís thoughts with propaganda. As Milton Friedman once noted (first episode of PBSís free to choose series) fascism of this type favors big government and regulations.

Keep things simple and uncorrupted. Hold true to the first amendment and the principles of modern liberty.

02-26-2008, 03:49 PM
How, exactly, has McCain "stuck with" his "genuine principled love of getting money out of politics" when, as Mett Welch explained on Free Will, he's got a 527 called the "Reform Institute" to house his entourage in the off-season and launder donations from the very cable companies he himself regulates...?

No problem, Joel. He's like a vegetarian who eats meat.

02-26-2008, 03:56 PM

Thanks. As it happens, I use the Flashblock plugin, and the appearance of the embedded video looked like an ad -- it showed as a skinny column until I clicked on it. (Usually, Flashblock shows the proper dimensions of embedded Flash content.)

Pretty funny stuff. Thanks again.

Simon Willard
02-26-2008, 06:52 PM
Is this a polite way to call someone disingenuous?


02-26-2008, 07:15 PM
For over a week now, I can see both participants when I'm choosing which discussion to listen to, but when I activate it, I only see the speaker on the left and only a partial frame at that.

Anyone else experiencing this problem?

Simon Willard
02-26-2008, 10:31 PM
I agree this was a wonderful conversation. Joshua was very much the gentleman, allowing Charles whatever time he wanted to flesh out his points. I find Charles' arguments very compelling, yet I actually wanted Joshua to be a bit more combative, simply to throw the issues into stronger relief.

Simon Willard
02-26-2008, 10:56 PM
Watch Charles answer Joshua silently, with a smile.

02-26-2008, 11:25 PM
I agree this was a wonderful conversation. Joshua was very much the gentleman, allowing Charles whatever time he wanted to flesh out his points. I find Charles' arguments very compelling, yet I actually wanted Joshua to be a bit more combative, simply to throw the issues into stronger relief.It seemed tome it was more like the deference that a pupil would show to a respected mentor than an unwillingness to challenge. Professor Cohen challenged Professor Fried but not in a combative manner.

02-27-2008, 01:20 AM
Perhaps it would be nice if the state were out of the marriage business altogether, and only issued civil union licenses without regard to sexual orientation. But that ship has sailed, and is too far gone -- marriage is social institution. That insurmountable fact is what imbues your essentially egalatarian idea with a vague sense of uncomfortableness with same-sex marriages, and probably what raised the eyebrows of your friend. And, in this sense, the larger stumbling block to your proposal is not selling the heterosexual community on accepting civil unions for homosexuals, but for themselves.

The most persuasive--and simple--arguments for same-sex marriage are the most conservative arguments. A "civil unions for all" stance at first glance appears quite libertarian and anti-statist, but actually serves to undermine and water-down our most important social institutions in the left-liberal/societal-tinkering way that led "liberal" to become a political epithet.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-27-2008, 09:48 AM
As someone who's been (I hope constructively) critical of Josh's diavlogging presentation in the past, let me say (about halfway into this diavlog) that Josh is pretty terrific here. Either he's learned from the past, or he's better when matched against thoughtful ideological opponents, or both. The discussion of Ancient vs. Modern liberty was really good -- he did a nice job of illuminating the issue with one particular example (campaign finance reform).
I must say that the particular example is actually one where I have come pretty much to agree with Fried, though on the broader issue that ancient liberty is still something we have to bring into the balance, I agree with Josh. Even in the days before the internet and blogs, I felt the best approach was to require free media time for candidates and set up some truth-squadding system, rather than limiting people's speech. The solution to the problems that arise through free speech is almost always more speech. Still, I was initially inclined to take McCain-Feingold as some kind of second- or third-best solution. But as time goes on, it becomes clear that the law would probably never have done any good, and anyway, and now with the internet, anyone who feels passionately about an issue (and especially anyone willing to dig for information about candidates and the effect of laws) can get a hearing. It can be very hard to get the relevant information, but I agree with Fried that we should focus on forcing the government to disclose information to the public so that bloggers can start digging. The legislative process and even more, the regulatory process that implements the laws, are the places where what sound like good democratic reforms often get blunted by the power of money. The more all this gets opened up to the inspection of journalists and bloggers, and the less we depend on media corporations for the news, the more we neutralize the power of money.

In the purely electoral context, Fried mentions Obama's ability to raise vast sums from small donations now. He might also have mentioned Mitt Romney as the other side of the coin. Romney spent millions on his candidacy, and he was really quite a plausible candidate (he was not a millionaire version of Kucinich, he was even far more plausible than Ross Perot), and yet he completely failed to buy the election for himself. Still, Obama, with a net worth of only a million or so, is the more hopeful sign -- not only is it hard for riches alone to buy an election, but maybe, just maybe, you don't even have to be all that rich to become a candidate.

That said, there certainly are people who undervalue Ancient Liberty -- this is essentially the libertarian position. Look at Brian Caplan (http://www.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/261), who seems to have a pretty complete contempt for democracy. Of course, his argument is partly that, due to the rational irrationality of voters, Ancient Liberty is essentially unattainable. The best we can do is focus on the individual's right to control his own life and leave aside questions beyond that of how individuals can collectively decide on what kind of community they want to live in. But, as I tried to argue in the comments on that diavlog, he seems to have a blind spot even for the desirability of Ancient liberty. He doesn't really see the realm of community and the need for individuals within the society, to have a say in that realm. For him, there's the individual, free asssociations of individuals and the market (which coordinates individual decisions) and nothing else. (Dan Ariely's discussion how we live in two realms simultaneously -- the realm of market norms and the realm of social norms -- on the latest _Free Will_ is relevant here. So, I think (without having read the book) is McCloskey's _Bourgeois Virtues -- markets are themselves dependent on social norms, and are a kind of institutional discovery rather than the Lockean State of Nature).

Anyway, excellent diavlog so far -- and Kudos to Josh for his part of it, and for his vast improvement in diavlogging!

Bloggin' Noggin
02-27-2008, 09:52 AM
I have had that problem intermittently. But only when I try to restart a diavlog I've paused. I don't experience it when I first get into a diavlog.
The flash player still seems to have way too many bugs.

02-27-2008, 10:44 AM

I'm with you in coming around to the realization that recent efforts at campaign finance reform appear to have failed to achieve their intent. I have also long had at least some sympathy with people who argue from a free speech basis that contributions should not be limited. Finally, I do think a lot of good could be done merely by insisting on rapid and complete publication of contributions, especially those in excess of some threshold amount.

Still, though, I continue to worry that money buys access, and I continue to believe there is something wrong with allowing rich people to set the agenda. I agree with you that Internet fund-raising works for some candidates, but this seems mostly to be limited to high-profile candidates for the presidency and the occasional targeted darling of, say, MoveOn. Down in the trenches, it's awfully hard for most candidates for Congress to get this same attention, which means that a small group with one interest can effectively buy the votes on any issue that matters to that small group, or even insert pieces of legislation into bills at the eleventh hour.

So, what I'm asking is, do you think we should stop trying to come up with a system to cut down the influence of well-heeled contributors, even if we so far haven't succeeded?

Bloggin' Noggin
02-27-2008, 12:38 PM

So, what I'm asking is, do you think we should stop trying to come up with a system to cut down the influence of well-heeled contributors, even if we so far haven't succeeded?

I certainly wouldn't make that argument. I agree with both diavloggers that we have to guard against the danger of oligarchy in some way. But there seem to be two ways to "reduce the influence of well-heeled contributors" -- one is to try to limit the absolute contributions of those contributors, the approach that leads to conflicts with the first amendment and to lots of unintended consequences. The other attempts to reduce the relative influence of these large contributions by providing more information about what's going on and by lowering the entry bar for candidates with a compelling message. I think this approach involves less conflict of values and is more likely to have good consequences. Bloggers and internet based groups have begun to focus at a level below the presidency -- perhaps they can do this without any effort on the part of the government. But if not, I'd still be in favor of forcing the media to provide free airtime for candidates. And the government should be required to be more open about what it's doing -- the influence of money is much greater in the back room than out in the open.
Perhaps none of this will be enough, in which case, it makes sense to reopen the question of directly limiting contributions. If that's necessary, I hope there's some way to make the rules extremely simple and easily verified -- a very basic hard-money cap on the candidate along with the explicit ad approval of McCain-Feingold, but leave outside groups free to say what they want -- don't try to close the 527 loophole. But I'd prefer to have the issue of who is contributing to the campaign itself be just another campaign issue -- let the voters decide who is most in the pocket of "special interests". But maybe it would be better simply to put a cap on broadcast airtime devoted to commercials paid for by each candidate, so as to even out the playing field? Or instead of a cap, just insure that when one campaign buys a significantly larger amount of airtime, broadcasters have to give opponents free time to even things out?

My argument was never that we should just give up on this question of money in politics, but that it may (especially at this point in history) be short-sighted and wrong-headed to focus on limiting certain contributors rather than on opening the system up to more competition and making that competition fairer through fuller disclosure

I certainly would like to see our legislators spend less time having to seek contributions, and therefore I'd love to see some way of reducing the "arms race" aspect of political advertising -- where one candidate can do better by hugely outspending his opponent. But it seems that our current systems --e.g., public financing -- are outdated. (See this Marc Ambinder post (http://marcambinder.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/02/heres_your_public_financing_mc.php)on the ironies of Obama's pledge to accept public financing.)

02-27-2008, 01:09 PM

Good points. I especially like the idea about providing free air time.

At first thought, I would be against limiting the number of TV ads a candidate could buy. Assuming the money is raised in a fair way, this seems especially contrary to the First Amendment.

Same instinctive reaction to limiting 527s, despite the depths to which they sometimes sink.

Nice post by Ambinder. Thanks for the link. I have the same reaction: Obama's many small pledges seem the epitome of democratic fund-raising. I wish he hadn't made that sort-of pledge way back when, but in an amoral political sense, I think he can and should get out of it. It's not like McCain has been Mr. Clean with his gaming the public financing system, after all.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-27-2008, 04:32 PM
I think Fried is onto SOMETHING in saying that in addition to a contract between individuals, marriage is also a "blessing" from the community, though I'm not sure that that's the best way to put it. I'd prefer to say that marriages are "recognized" by the community.
Ordinary contracts are between individuals, and though society or the state may enforce (some of) the promises made by these individuals, the contract between the two (or more) individuals doesn't normally impose obligations on other individuals -- it's private. In some way, those outside the marriage relationship are supposed to be bound by the contract too -- not to love honor and obey -- but to respect the relationship in certain ways. Primarily, outsiders are not supposed to tempt one partner away from the other, and others are supposed to recognize it as the closest of family bonds. Somehow A's contract with B makes A closer to B than to his mother or siblings, and mother and siblings are supposed to recognize this.
Very little of this actually has to do with the state -- the long arm of the law doesn't descend on the interfering mother-in-law or even on the "other man". The state mainly enters as an aribiter for society of who is married and of what the standard rights and duties will be -- at least insofar as the state is concerned.
So I think Fried is right that marriage is not solely an individual right, and it might well be pretty high-handed for a court to tell society what relationships to recognize. At the same time, if certain limitations placed on the recognition involved in marriage were solely the result of prejudice (as in the case of interracial marriage), then there's also something troubling about leaving the majority just to re-impose its prejudice, and it does seem to leave certain people without the ability to extend their families in the way they would desire.
Marriage is like adoption -- once I've adopted a child, other people are supposed to respect my decisions regarding that child (within certain limits).
Are civil unions just private contracts? In that case, they don't give gay people the same ability to extend (what is recognized as) their family in accordance with their actual desires to do so.
Are they in fact the equivalent of adoption or marriage -- a recognition by society that this person is now part of your family? If so, I'm not clear how they differ from marriage. The "blessing" (or, as I prefer, "recognition") is included.
My take is that the Mass Supreme Judicial Court may have gone a bit beyond the law -- they assumed that there could not be any rational basis for the discrimination between same-sex and different-sex couples. There conceivably could be. I think though that they were actually right that those conceivable reasons were not really operative. And i think the decision was pragmatically a pretty good one. The legislature had been sitting on bills for gay marriage for a long time, I gather. And now that Mass voters have gotten past the initial hurdle, my impression is that a majority now supports recognizing same sex marriages. Maybe no other state court should be quite as high handed now that Mass has broken the taboo. I think other courts should probably take the more careful line that I think PA took: tell the legislature that the distinction in marriage rights could well be the result of unreasonable discrimination, ask them to consider this and change the law as they see fit after such consideration.

02-27-2008, 05:14 PM
thanks...I am working at it, and (very honestly) appreciate the criticisms.

uncle ebeneezer
02-27-2008, 05:33 PM
Happens all the time for me. Very annoying. Especially when the person on the right hand side is someone I want to see. Like Garrance, Rosa, Meghan...Mickey??

Seriously though, some vloggers are very visually expressive and not being able to see them definitely decreases the overall enjoyment.

03-01-2008, 12:35 AM
Wonderful exchange, one of the best ever, especially the last two topics, that bears re-listening to and time to think about the is being said.

A question while am doing that re-listening, if anyone will oblige me: Fried's comment that he hates the idea of "culture" escaped me; I did not understand what he meant, the context of his comment, his notion of culture, nor the reasoning behind that hatred. If someone could enlighten me, I'd be obliged.

03-01-2008, 10:29 AM
A question while am doing that re-listening, if anyone will oblige me: Fried's comment that he hates the idea of "culture" escaped me; I did not understand what he meant, the context of his comment, his notion of culture, nor the reasoning behind that hatred. If someone could enlighten me, I'd be obliged.

I vaguely remember that, too, but all I can remember is seeing what he was saying at the time. Got a dingalink or approximate time?

03-01-2008, 12:18 PM
Thanks. As the official luddite here, I'll need to scuffle around some to try to pin point the time. But if you give me about 24 hours I'll do it.

03-01-2008, 12:34 PM
Thanks. As the official luddite here, I'll need to scuffle around some to try to pin point the time. But if you give me about 24 hours I'll do it.

Ahhh, don't call yourself a Luddite for being unwilling to supply a dingalink. A simple typed-in time approximation is fine.

03-01-2008, 12:39 PM
what's a dinga link?

03-01-2008, 01:22 PM
A dingalink is a URL that points to a segment of a diavlog. It features the id number of the diavlog, a starting ("in") time, and optionally, an ending ("out") time. For example:


which when allowed to linkify becomes:


(Automatic truncation of any URL seems to be a "feature" of the vBulletin forum software.)

The term comes from the guy who first implemented the push-button technology for creating one: BH.tv's Greg Dingle. Note the "create dingalink" button below any video, and the question mark right next to it.

I have never found the button to be of much use. In the early days, use of the button was not well-supported for those of us who prefer Firefox to Internet Explorer. It may have changed since then, but I still prefer to type my dingalinks in by hand.

Which, when you think about it, kind of makes me a Luddite, too.

03-01-2008, 03:04 PM
For on interesting follow-up to this discussion, especially regarding the Web aspects, check out the segment with Clay Shirky (http://onthemedia.org/transcripts/2008/02/29/04) on this week's On The Media.

(Audio available now, transcript in a few days.)

03-01-2008, 05:49 PM

last topic from about 8:10 to 10:00

03-02-2008, 01:42 PM

Thanks for the time reference. Now, back to your original question:

A question while am doing that re-listening, if anyone will oblige me: Fried's comment that he hates the idea of "culture" escaped me; I did not understand what he meant, the context of his comment, his notion of culture, nor the reasoning behind that hatred. If someone could enlighten me, I'd be obliged.

I am of the impression that what Charles meant here was that he dislikes the way some people will invoke "culture" as a sort of ultimate trump card that is meant immediately and absolutely to silence anyone who might disagree with some tenet of whatever the term "culture" is meant to include. I think he views it as a club that some people use upon those who dissent.

He clarifies this a little later, when he makes a distinction (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9048?in=01:00:36&out=01:00:57) between legal acknowledgment of rights and judges saying everyone in society "has to salute something." As I understand him from the rest of the diavlog, he would like gay people to be able to form contractual arrangements that pretty much offer to the participants the same things as heterosexual marriage does, without requiring that society in general be "forced" to call such arrangements "marriage."

I don't agree with Charles's views on gay marriage, and I certainly don't view advocating the rights of gay people to marry is as extreme a stance as he seems to see it, but I guess his expression "I hate culture" made sense to me, at least as I interpreted it. It reminded me of the apologetics I often hear, especially from some liberals, regarding many countries where a twisted interpretation of Islam is invoked by the government to justify mistreatment of women: "it's just their culture." This strikes me both as an asinine thing to say, and worse, an attempt to shush any expression of distaste at the backwardness of such official policies.

Dunno if that enlightened you, but that was my take.

03-02-2008, 05:28 PM
The comments on listening to them again are fairly cryptic so that construing their meaning is like reading tea leaves. But to try and put them in the context of Fried's argument: his defence of liberty starts with his notion of each person's individuality, his or her ultimate responsibility for his or her own beliefs, judgments, and choices. His argument is that liberty, our liberties, precede creation by the stateóinalienable rights, if you like. They are natural, part of what it means to be human, a universal natural state. So put in that context his antipathy to a certain idea of culture, I tend to think, is his recoiling at the notion of culture as something formative of people as opposed to emanating from choices individuals make starting from the existential fact of themselves. The state is a protector of liberty rather than a provider of it.

(It follows from these views that he, as you note, favours judges who apply the law rather than make the law. And in fact he strongly championed Roberts and supported Alito.)

My view of his view includes your view of his rejection of the rationalization of unacceptable behaviour by resort to explanations from culture.

I have to admit I got a little lost in his marriage arguments as they relate to his overall argument. He argues that the state should get out of the marriage business and the marriage as blessing business. The state should recognize civil unions, and, outside of that recognition, people are free to celebrate and have blessed any forms of union they desireóI can *marry* my Acura.

Iím not certain how that move helps, because what is left unanswered is who is and who is not entitled to a civil union, particularly considering children are entailed by them. By what criteria will he/the state make such decisions? For myself, and I think for Cohen, marriage need not be seen as a sacrament and as such the state need not get out of the marriage business, and as such there seems no good argument against gay marriage.

I am, as I say, a little lost in Friedís argument on marriage. But Iíll take my own views a step further given your comment on his objection to the Massachusetts Supreme Court telling the citizenry what marriage is. I have no principled objection to the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that prohibiting gay marriage is illegalóI think in violation of the stateís constitution. I analogize between black white discrimination and straight and gay discrimination. Fried said Dredd Scott displayed moral obtuseness. How does he distinguish between racially separate but equal as pernicious , but discriminating against gay marriage insofar as the institution of marriage exists, I wonder?

03-02-2008, 05:55 PM

As far as I understood where Charles was coming from, I agree with your summation of his point of view. I particularly liked this phrase:

... his antipathy to a certain idea of culture, I tend to think, is his recoiling at the notion of culture as something formative of people as opposed to emanating from choices individuals make ...

Moving on ...

I have to admit I got a little lost in his marriage arguments as they relate to his overall argument.

I think part of the reason that he might have sounded a little muddled when discussing the issue of gay marriage was something he spoke to directly: since his book came out, some of the reaction he's gotten has made him less sure of the views he apparently put forth in the book. This was something I found admirable -- it's not every tenured professor and highly accomplished legal theorist who can display such flexibility, especially when you add in how much of life he has already lived. Most people a third of his age would do well to be as receptive to new perspectives as he is.

I tend to think, not so much from anything he said, but just knowing how people are, that the remaining problems he has with gay marriage (compared to civil unions) is just that it's hard for people to let go of symbols. Marriage to Charles probably means something considerably more mystical (profound?) than it does to me. Don't forget that it's considered one of the "holy sacraments" of Catholicism, for example, and that Catholicism was likely dominant wherever he grew up. His expressed distaste for "culture" notwithstanding, it's pretty hard to let go of the fundamental "truths" with which one is raised. This is just speculation about Charles in particular, of course, but that's the attitude I see in people of my parents' generation and beyond -- many of them have come around to being able to go along with everything civil and legal about two men or two women getting married, except for calling it "marriage."

Bloggin' Noggin
03-02-2008, 05:57 PM
If I can jump in, I get the impression he's siding with Locke's individualism against a more Hegelian view according to which some collective entity, theWorld Spirit or less grandiosely, Culture is primary and individuals are of secondary importance.
Brendan's example is relevant. What comes to my mind is the insistance that we must maintain a culture even at the expense of individuals. A possible case in point, though a controversial one, would be the opposition of Deaf culture enthusiasts to cochlear implants. Of course, the technology may be inadequate to make a fully hearing person out of a deaf child, and one might well wonder whether hearing parents will make the best determination for their deaf child. But suppose the implants were perfect. If everyone used them,that would mean the death of Deaf culture and the amazing achievement of Sign would be relegated pretty much to the dustbin of history. That would be a pity, but should the continuation of Deaf Culture be allowed to trump the good of the individual to such a degree that we would keep children deaf who could hear -- hear not only language, but the car barrelling at them in the street?
I'm not quite sure how he connects it to gay marriage. My guess is that he's rejecting the arguments based on "our traditions" of (what some would call) heterosexism -- the argument of Warren Burger in the Bowers decision.

03-02-2008, 07:08 PM
Good example, BN. And one needn't even go that far. In some deaf circles, even learning to speak or to read and write English is discouraged.

And think about the phenomenon noted by John McWhorter, among many others, of black kids in some situations been shunned by their peers for "speaking white" or even doing well in school. And consider (straight) marriage outside one's religion or ethnic background -- still a problem for many.

The more I think about it, the more I hate culture, in Charles's sense, too.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-02-2008, 08:02 PM
I wouldn't go too far in hating "culture." If you follow that all the way, you wind up with a fairly extreme libertarian view-- there are just individuals and the market to coordinate. Think of Dan Ariely's point that market norms can drive out more altruistic social norms -- or the point that Will raises in that diavlog that even the market is dependent upon certain norms/customs/traditions/"virtues." These norms are "culture" -- mutual understandings that can coordinate the actions of individuals, and which can't reside entirely in this or that individual.
On this subject of "culture", I'd highly recommend two books by Kwame Anthony Appiah: _The Ethics of Identity_ and _Cosmopolitanism_.
Appiah shares a good deal of Fried's individualism: he thinks that the only reason to regret the loss of a culture is if it serves individuals. Thomas Nagel (himself a big liberal), in a review of one of the books in TNR, disagrees with him, pointing out the quasi-aesthetic value of cultures. Even he, though, would presumably side with individuals who just didn't want to live according to some (possibly very beautiful) dying culture any more. (I can't find the review right now, or I'd link to it.)

03-02-2008, 08:16 PM
Yeah, good call out. I was exaggerating in my last, but I deserved to be slapped.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-02-2008, 08:44 PM
Slapped? Good heavens! I was going for more of an intellectual tickle.

03-02-2008, 09:20 PM
You say that like there's some sort of meaningful difference.