Tuesday, September 8, 2020

America: A Propositional Nation?

That's the idea that has been popularized in the last decade or two, especially by that motley group known as Neocons. The idea is that America has no national identity beyond the belief in the proposition advanced by some dead white male that "all men were created equal." If you believe that, hey, you're an American, too! That seems to have developed into another proposition, also advanced by a white male (still alive), that we all have an equal right to define for ourselves what Justice Scalia famously called "the sweet mystery of life." What happens when differing visions of that "sweet mystery" come into conflict is what we're trying to come to terms with these days. We thought we had a constitution, but, well, it turns out that constitution may not be as helpful was we had hoped.

I was reminded of all this while reading an article this morning, Two Lawsuits That Could Kill Yale. I highly recommend it to your attention. It highlights some of the confusion at the heart of our politics, both on the Right as well as the Left.

I can't summarize the whole article, but the Yale lawsuit that was brought by AG Barr follows on a similar lawsuit against Harvard--but adds the weight of the federal government:

The second case was announced by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in August, when it notified Yale University that a two-year investigation found Yale’s affirmative action practices to be in violation of the Civil Rights Act. “Asian Americans and whites have only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials,” the DOJ wrote. Yale has until September 15 to submit a plan to change its affirmative action policy so it no longer discriminates against whites and Asians. The school has indicated that it will fight the DOJ and defend its current policies as lawful.

The author, Helen Andrews, claims that the DoJ lawsuit suffers from fuzzy thinking:

The DOJ’s ultimate goal is even harder to discern. Does it really want a Yale that is majority Asian and less than 1 percent black? A 2013 study at Harvard found that, without affirmative action, Harvard would be 43 percent Asian, 38 percent white, and 0.7 percent black. (The United States is 5.6 percent Asian.) Is that the kind of fairness the DOJ has in mind? When California voters passed a referendum banning affirmative action in 1996, university bureaucrats circumvented it by cloaking the old racial preferences in layers of subterfuge. Unlike the voters of California, the Justice Department has the power to force Yale to comply with its demands. If it wants to ban affirmative action, it can refuse to ease up, hauling Yale into court if necessary, until the school produces an outcome it is satisfied with. 
So what outcome should it be satisfied with? If Yale is allowed to keep affirmative action in any form, the DOJ will be giving its stamp of approval to racial discrimination against Asians and whites. But if affirmative action is abolished, the result will be an ethnically lopsided Ivy League and, soon, an ethnically lopsided national elite. There is no legal principle that can find a middle ground between these two undesirable outcomes. “There is no such thing as a nice form of race discrimination,” the DOJ letter says. Either that’s true under the law or it isn’t.

But, if America is a "propositional nation," what would be wrong with America becoming a nation governed by a largely Asian elite within a generation? It's not as if Chinese-Americans don't share our values or harbor any residual loyalty to the Middle Kingdom, right?

Or is it the case that our increasingly diverse nation contains significant groups with differing ideas about the fundamental purpose of life--and does that mean we're not all equally American? But how can we be sure?

It's all very disturbing, and it suggests to much of the population--if we take polling seriously--that diversity may not be all it's cracked up to be. Although I could be canceled for saying that. In other words, AG Barr, with the best of intentions, could end up damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. And it's not a problem he can solve.

So, I'll simply offer two reflections on this whole notion of a "propositional nation."

First, from The Nation Of Immigrants Myth:

We are a nation of immigrants.” It is every American politician’s incantation, usually prefatory to some shibboleth lauding “strength in our diversity.” The creed of America as nation-of-immigrants (hereafter the “NOI creed”) is now unquestioned by Americans and foreigners alike.

The NOI creed’s assertion of national rootlessness justifies official multiculturalism and mass immigration. ...

The creed is a half-truth but useful to social engineers transforming this country in ways alien to our history and heritage. Immigrants in the millions have come to the United States, most in waves beginning in the 1840s. Many immigrants and their descendants have contributed mightily to America. Others have contributed to the crime statistics. Some tried America, then went home.
Nevertheless, the NOI creed is literally false: Despite thirty-plus years of mass immigration set off by the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, the vast majority of Americans are still American-born children of American-born parents. It is also historically false: Scores of millions of Americans are neither immigrants nor descendants of immigrants.

As for the Statue of Liberty, it is a gift from France to honor the centennial of American independence. Emma Lazarus’ “Give me your tired…”—a cri-de-coeur against Russian pogroms—is a later add-on. E pluribus unum explicitly commemorates the union of thirteen British colonies into one nation. The statue and the motto do not celebrate immigration; they salute the achievement of the settlers who founded those colonies and, in time, won independence from their Mother Country. It was the settlers’ nation, not empty wilderness, that later gave immigrants a new home.

To test the truth of the NOI creed, ask what a true nation of immigrants would be. Absent a founding group or majority, it would be no nation at all, but a random gathering of people of assorted races, religions, and nationalities, united only by their presence in the same land. With no native culture to provide national unity, the population would tend to fragment on racial and ethnic lines, ensuring division and strife as groups pursue their interests at each other’s expense. That may be our multicultural future. It is not the American past.

If that makes you uneasy, consider this:  A propositional nation is a recipe for authoritarianism:

So what is this propositional nation I now find myself in? A nation built on propositions not heritage or identity. What propositions? Something to do with equality and freedom and voting, at least in the abstract, but in the concrete, it always ends up having to do with open borders, demographic change, international business, dumbing down sexual morals, and ramping up government bureaucracy. 
But a large number of people don’t accept those propositions–especially the tangible ends they always seem to lead to–and that number includes a lot of people whose identity with the nation goes back long before those things were proposed. And a lot of the newer citizens don’t seem all that committed to those propositions either (other than the one for ramping up government bureaucracy). What gives? 
A propositional nation is a recipe for authoritarianism. There’s nothing organic holding your nation together, so you fall back on government control. If you’re going to base your identity on a political proposition, that’s the most likely direction you’re headed. Forget about America circa 2017. Consider America circa 1620. 
For American schoolchildren, the Pilgrims were seekers of religious freedom. The story is different if you’re British. Puritans were revolutionaries who not only wanted to overthrow the Church of England but wanted to overthrow the English monarchy as well. In fact, they did overthrow it, a mere 29 years too late for the Pilgrims. The Puritan Oliver Cromwell et al. signed the king’s death warrant and ended up ruling Britain as a republic while doing his best to exterminate Catholics. His compatriots in the Massachusetts colony were doing their part to maintain a propositional nation of their own in the New World, complete with banning Christmas and hanging Quakers and Jesuits and witches.

For the Left it seems to boil down to: My proposition, not yours. Or else. And they never seem to consider the consequences down the road. So the answer is authoritarianism. Ideas really do have consequences.


  1. Good thoughts, Mark. Very troubling. One question occurs to me-- what set of non sectarian values could a multi ethnic nation adopt that would best assure a peaceful, non authoritarian society? Isn't that about the best we can hope for, that the individual is free to obey his conscience without coercion or attack while allowing his fellow citizens to do likewise? I don't advocate outright libertarianism here. Just searching for the set of values 90% of us can share that do not lead to tyranny or bloodshed.

  2. I long ago stopped hoping for Barr/Durham to enforce the law. (Clinesmith is a fig leaf, not impressive). But then I saw the DoJ actually (maybe) enforcing the law against the Democrat plantation named Yale. And it occurred to me the Civil Rights Division didn't do this on their own initiative. Barr must have forced it. So Barr isn't as impotent against the partisan DoJ bureaucracy as I thought. So what does this mean for the Barr/Durham thing? I refuse to believe it means anything.

    1. It's strongly rumored that he'll be filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google. It's hard to overestimate how much he has on his plate.

  3. "Something to do with equality and freedom and voting."
    It's becoming ever more clear, that those few bromides aren't close to being enough, to hold together a multi-ethnic nation.

    I lean toward Derb's view, that such a nation needs at least some orientation, from some ethnic traditions getting some priority over others.
    He holds that Ice Peoples are much more compatible w/ each other, than w/ Sun Peoples.
    I suspect that this is, in its way, shown by the extent to which Ice People cultures have a stronger track record of maintaining their identities.
    The (esp. Ashkenazi) Jews, the (esp. Han) Chinese, & most/ all European peoples have many hundreds (if not thousands) of years of maintaining their internal cohesion.

    Whereas, Sun People "countries" were rarely able to form, much less maintain, "national" cohesion, w/o turning on each other in ferocious fashion, unless they were spurred by a relatively draconian (e.g. foreign) occupation (e.g. a "lasting" India being formed, only after the span of the British Raj).
    The only Sun People civilization to manage to produce such cohesion was the Moslem, and then only via mostly *stifling* conformity, in a series of Caliphates which kept secular innovation mostly under the boot of the clerics.

    1. Evolution depends on climate.

      Humans in cold climates needed to evolve more intelligence in order to cope with winter conditions for half the year. Think of Swiss watchmakers or British engine makers.

      Humans in hot countries had plentiful food growing all around.

    2. Sounds right.
      Another aspect of climate's impact involves the shape of land-masses.
      The Eurasian land-mass stretched horizontally, such that farmers/ merchants in, say, Japan could guess, what the climate-effected schedules of farmers/ meat producers/ consumers near similar longitudes (e.g. Tehran & Athens, and London, Brest, & Madrid) would be like, esp. regarding their planting & harvest plans.
      Such farmers could thus easily calculate which months would likely be lean ones in these (even very distant) markets.
      Such conditions incentivized the building of the Silk Road (much of this by Wu the Filial, a contemporary of Sulla), over 1700 years before the Incas reached their height (but they still lacked the wheel or written language).

      The Incas' conquests were mostly of tribes, at a "level" hardly above that of the Chalcolithic.
      There were no places worth getting a Silk Road to stretch to, so the Eurasian-type incentives for the development of culture were minimal.
      The bennies of *distant* N-S trade were so much harder to effectively calculate, because the climate of S. Chile is so very different from that of Bolivia, let alone Ecuador.

    3. Tho parts of S. Chile are quite oceanic, like the UK.

  4. I am surprised by how much AG Barr is doing.

    1. Make DOJ non Political - Removing Deep state Resistance (Jessie Liu, Geofrey Berman, etc.).
    2. Defend against House Attacks / smears
    3. Antifa / Riots - Operation Legend
    4. Racial Discrimination Lawsuits Yale / Harvard
    5. Google? Wow.
    6. Durham Investigation - Figuring out the Trump Coup and getting criminal charges
    7. Flynn SNAFU / Fight
    8. Election Mail Fraud
    9. Kidnapped Children - Operation Homecoming
    10. Reduce Crime - Operation Relentless Pursuit

    1. Conservatives naturally tend to focus on the POTUS and the plot against him. Barr has been a DC insider and observer for a long time, and also a serious thinker. He was famous for writing long missives to office holders giving them his free advice. He didn't take the AG gig simply to be a one trick pony.

  5. There is a LOT of anger in the Asian Community on the discrimination against them in college admissions.

    You and your child work really hard, sacrifice a huge amount, and your child is denied admission because they are Asian?

    Except somehow in the race matrix, Asians have become White?

    And then their is the mismatch challenge. Where kids are put into situations through admissions to colleges beyond their ability, where they will fail, or go into a -studies major. It would be better if they went to a college where they could excel.

    My theory is my daughter due to her race did not get accepted into UC San Diego, UC Davis, and UC Irvine. Possibly also into UCLA. California supposedly has Prop 209, but colleges have found ways around it. Life Experience is a great way around it.

    It's interesting a lot of the Black Slots at Elite Colleges get taken up by non native Blacks.

  6. Helen Andrews concludes her article by saying that the DOJ approach, if taken to its logical conclusion will destroy higher ed. She says a 'third way' must be found.

    I have modestly suggested (including here I believe) that the third way is for elite institutions to give up federal funding and exempt themselves from Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits recipients of federal funding—including private colleges and universities—from, at a minimum, discriminating against students and applicants in a manner that would violate the Equal Protection Clause.

    If Harvard and Yale and all the others like them would give up federal funding they would be free to construct their admitted classes however they wish. If that means more or less Blacks, Asians, Whites, Catholics, Jews, Atheists, Athletes, Women, Legacies, Donors, Musicians, Actors and be it. If as a result, smart kids decide they would prefer to attend public Berkeley or Caltech which emphasize grades and be it. Employers and graduate and professional schools would be free to pick and choose (consistent with non-discrimination laws) among graduates of Yale and Berkeley and several thousand other colleges.

    This doesn't solve the problem how Berkeley and other public universities conduct admissions but it would allow the private colleges and universities to determine their own admissions policies using the same kind of non-quantitative factors they say they use today.

    1. I've often wondered how any university that accepts students who receive government loans of one sort or another could get out from under the regulatory thumb of the administrative state. The same would go for research money. There's no solution to this short of recognizing a national identity with some specificity. Too late in the day for that. We're on a slippery slope and don't know what's at the bottom. All those who are aware of the predicament can do is attempt to organize with the like minded and make provisions as best they can.

    2. Yes, government loans are a theoretical problem, as is the tax exemption for endowment income (probably an even greater problem). But I don't think government loans currently invoke Title VI.

      I believe Hillsdale College (which does not take federal funds) is exempt from Title VI and thus from DoJ intervention in the admissions process.

    3. Mark is right, taking students with federal loans has in fact been deemed enough to invoke federal control. Hillsdale confronted this some years ago and withdrew from all federal loan assistance programs. My impression is that this exempted the school from federal affirmative action requirements.

      I'm not sure where Hillsdale currently stands but my impression is that it remains exempt.

      Here's an interesting link to the story (written in 1989) of Hillsdale's courageous opposition to federal control.

  7. Title VII.

    How can anyone legally discriminate on race?

  8. "If the aim is merely to survive this “revolution” and win elections, then we have only delayed the cycle a little while longer. To break the cycle, the engine of intrigue must be destroyed."


    This is why I advocate against the the notion that any institution is too big, or important, to be burned to the ground if the Global Socialist Party (Glosoc) louse infestation requires more than mild remediation. To do otherwise guarantees submission, if for no other reason than inevitable generational exhaustion.

    1. Case in point:

      As an example of what must be done. Every Republican in Congress, House and Senate, and every state legislature should get behind this as a positive a step, albeit a baby step. Any that will not should be shown the door at their very next primary. This is vastly more significant as a litmus test for those who would destroy, “…the engine of intrigue…,” and return sovereignty to the citizens of the States, than opposing on-demand abortion, as morally imperative as that is.

    2. Yes. This was one of the "progressive" amendments that had far reaching effects but was approved in a moment of national unconsciousness.

    3. "more significant as a litmus test... , than opposing on-demand abortion."
      Yeah, if Roe v. Wade was going to be fatal to Const. governance, it figured to be a centuries-long process.
      Whereas, making it easy, for foreign (e.g. Chinese) cash to buy Senators, could bastardize Const. governance in rather short order.
      Had Hitler launched Barbarossa a month earlier, or ran a more consistent campaign vs. the RAF, his successors could've started buying Senators decades before the ChiComs were able to do so.

  9. If you want propositional America, please refer back to Rome where that was played out.

    - TexasDude