mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Flood The Government With Lawsuits”: Charles Murray And The Right’s Plan To Subvert Democracy

Early last week, a watchdog website hosted by People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, reacted with alarm to a political-legal strategy outlined in a new book by the conservative social theorist Charles Murray. Normally when liberals assail Murray it’s in connection with his infamous tome The Bell Curve, which made him synonymous with race science—specifically the presumption that I.Q. differences between whites and blacks can be partially attributed to genetics.

Twenty years later, Murray has moved on to a more direct form of conservative activism, and taken a critical look at the mixed record of various expensive right-wing efforts to roll back the New Deal consensus. As you might expect from someone as deterministic as the author of The Bell Curve, Murray has concluded that the conservative movement’s shortcomings must be explained via reference to its political DNA and the political DNA of its competitors. But rather than reason much as he did two decades ago that these shortcomings reflect the intrinsic weakness of his ideology, he has concluded instead that the system is rigged against it. Appealing as populist libertarian ideas are to him and his cohort, or as they should be in the abstract, they simply can’t compete in a democratic environment with downwardly distributive progressivism. For the right to gain advantage, it will have to change terrain.

In his latest book, as PFAW explains, Murray hopes “to have one or a few anti-government billionaires kick in to create ‘The Madison Fund,’ a legal group that would flood the government with lawsuits challenging the enforcement of regulations they deem unnecessary.”

This is an apt description of Murray’s strategy, but the strategy itself happens to be the least revealing or alarming in his book. By The People is not first and foremost a book about billionaires subverting federal regulations, or beleaguered citizens seeking redress with the help of libertarian philanthropists.

It is instead about the impossible odds conservatives face if they hope to implement a libertarian agenda, and thus about the need for conservatives to think more devilishly about how to subvert democratic and quasi-democratic processes. The book’s title—By The People—has been held up for ridicule for exemplifying the emptiness of the populist appellations conservatives typically apply to the handiwork of wealthy, self-interested ideologues. But perhaps the joke’s on us, and Murray’s simply using a different form of the word “by” than Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he wrote the Gettysburg Address.

The subtext of Murray’s argument is that principled conservatives can only set back liberalism with rearguard action, and that even then, they can hope only for modest victories. Remarkably, the 100-page buildup to the strategy that has PFAW so concerned reads less like a battle cry than like a manifesto of hopelessness—or perhaps like a letter of surrender to the left. Murray tells his fans that “a restoration of limited government is not going to happen by winning presidential elections and getting the right people appointed to the Supreme Court”—asking them to accept, as a premise, that the billions of dollars conservative activists have spent trying to advance the cause through the White House have been wasted, or at least could have been better spent.

Like an adolescent Ayn Rand devotee, Murray can’t quite come to grips with the unattractiveness of his ideology. He is perfectly aware that the policies he opposes and the regulations he wants to overwhelm with litigation could theoretically be overturned by Congress and a conservative president. But to him, the unlikelihood of that outcome isn’t attributable to the normative weaknesses of his worldview but to a playing field that’s tilted against it. His ideas falter not because the people don’t support them, but because a series of ingredients, including—in his words!—the democratization of the House of Representatives, have corrupted the political system systemically. To the extent that “the people” he claims to be speaking for don’t rise up to challenge this corruption, it’s because they run up against what Murray calls “the fundamental theorem of democratic politics”—the fact that “people who receive government benefits tend to vote for people who support those benefits.”

“As of 2012,” Murray laments, “approximately half of all Americans received such benefits.” And more than one in three receive such generous benefits (either through welfare or retirement programs) that “the continued security of those programs is likely to be near the top of the recipients’ political calculations.”

Conservatism has been checkmated, not by a superior player, but by an unscrupulous one. Under the circumstances, Murray sees no choice but to move the game from the chessboard into the wild.

In truth, there’s nothing particularly novel or disquieting about the scheme Murray’s drawn up, except insofar as the procedural extremism conservatives have deployed in the Obama era is alarming in general. From the moment conservatives lost the White House six and a half years ago, they’ve been asking judges to do on their behalf what they’ve been unable to accomplish in the democratic branches. A few weeks from now, the Supreme Court will issue a ruling in a case that was devised as part of an explicit strategy to hobble the Affordable Care Act through the judiciary, knowing that the legislature wouldn’t be able to do it for them.

This strategy has been intermittently successful, but has also run aground when its objectives—such as paralyzing the administrative state by flooding the courts with litigation—are unsupportable or too nakedly political. Notwithstanding Murray’s continued influence over conservative thinking, including favorable mentions just this month by GOP presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, his latest big idea will run into a feasibility problem: even if it were attempted, it wouldn’t work particularly well.

What’s refreshing about By The People is that it blows right past the typical pretense that conservatives are, humbly and alone, defending the constitution and the rule of law, except to the extent that he believes the country went off the constitutional rails in systemic fashion several decades ago. He happily admits that his means here are subversive, undemocratic and of questionable legality. His substantive aims are not so different from those of, for instance, National Review writers Reihan Salam and Ramesh Ponnuru, who have outlined an agenda for the GOP Congress that includes unwinding the cooperative federalist models, responsible for so much of the regulatory and redistributive status quo Murray detests, and subjecting the regulatory regime in the crosshairs of his litigation strategy to legislative approval. But what Murray sees that others don’t, or won’t admit, is that these goals can be achieved only by short-circuiting the normal policy-making process.

It’s a shame in a way, because notwithstanding his Romney-esque conception of the political economy of modern welfare states, Murray’s overall critique of the American political system has a lot of merit to it. Were Murray’s central purpose to make Congress and the executive branch more responsive to the public, irrespective of the public’s political disposition, he’d find a lot of support in unexpected places. But that’s not his central purpose, and for good reason. As infuriating and frustrating as the U.S. government’s many corruptions are, they do not explain why conservatives have failed to upend enforcement of environmental, anti-discrimination and workplace-safety regulations. That’s why his preferred instrument of reform isn’t the ballot box, but the court system, and that in turn gives away the game. The former helps ensure that policy reforms have public sanction. The latter makes it possible to sneak ones that don’t By The People.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, May 18, 2015

May 24, 2015 Posted by | Charles Murray, Conservatives, Democracy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tramp Stamps, Racism And ‘Icky’ Pronouns: 8 New Life Tips From “Bell Curve” Author Charles Murray

Weeks after Rep. Paul Ryan was slammed for citing his writing,The Bell Curve” author Charles Murray is out today with a new book: “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don’t of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life.”

Murray, whom Ryan cited as a source demonstrating “this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular,” and the Southern Poverty Law Center labels a “White Nationalist,” addresses his new book to readers who are “in or near your twenties,” “intelligent,” “ambitious,” and “want to become excellent at something.”

He is most famous for co-authoring “The Bell Curve,” a 1994 book (in the author’s’ words) “about differences in intellectual capacity among people and groups and what those differences mean for America’s future.” Describing what they called “the cognitive differences between races,” Murray and co-author Richard Hernstein wrote that “It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences.” They also claimed, “There is some evidence that blacks and Latinos are experiencing even more severe dysgenic pressures than whites, which could lead to further divergence between whites and other groups in future generations.” (They describe “a dysgenic effect” as “a downward shift in the ability distribution.”)

Murray was supposed to conduct an interview with Salon (having agreed to it last week), but abruptly dropped out hours beforehand. In the interview’s place, here are some of his new book’s eight most memorable life tips:

On Tattoos: “As for tattoos, it does no good to remind curmudgeons that tattoos have been around for millennia. Yes, we will agree, tattoos have been common – first among savage tribes and then, more recently, among the lowest classes of Western societies. In America, tattoos have until the last few decades been the unambiguous badge of the proletariat or worse – an association still acknowledged in the phrase tramp stamp.”

On Pronouns: “The feminist revolution has tied writers into knots when it comes to the third-person singular pronoun. Using the masculine pronoun as the default has been proscribed. Some male writers get around this problem by defaulting to the feminine singular pronoun, which I think is icky.” Instead, “Unless there is an obvious reason not to, use the gender of the author or, in a cowritten text, the gender of the principal author. It’s the perfect solution.”

On jobs: “Here’s the secret you should remember whenever you hear someone lamenting how tough it is to get ahead in the postindustrial global economy: Few people work nearly as hard as they could.”

On subordination: “But in all cases when you have problems in your interactions with your boss, there’s one more question you have to ask yourself: To what extent is your boss at fault, and to what extent are you a neophyte about supervisor-subordinate relationships? … What you see as arbitrary, insensitive, or hostile behavior on the part of your boss may be nothing more than the way in which supervisors have been treating subordinates from time immemorial.”

On “problematic”: “For example it is appropriate to say that a proposed voter ID bill is problematic because it risks disenfranchising more eligible voters than it prevents fraudulent votes, but not to say that it is problematic because it is racist and offensive. That may be your sincere opinion, but people on the other side can be just as sincerely convinced that it is not racist and offensive and neither side can prove the other wrong.”

On “flaccid nonjudgmental nonsense”: “If he says instead, ‘Marriage works for some people, not for others; it’s no big deal what people choose,’ then my point about artistic merit is unchanged, except more emphatic: You mustn’t indulge yourself in that kind of flaccid nonjudgemental nonsense … To say something like, ‘Marriage works for some people, not others; it’s no big deal what people choose,’ is as idiotic as saying that it’s a matter of opinion whether a Titian painting is superior to artistic dreck, except that in this instance there is a moral dimension to your obligation to think through your judgments that doesn’t burden your judgments about art.”

On marriage: “For ninety-five percent of the population, showing up for family means making oneself available for marriage.”

On manners: “The two who have embodied great manners for me have been William F. Buckley, Jr., the late conservative writer, and his brother James, a former senator and retired judge.”

(William Buckley wrote, and as late as 1989 defended, the National Review’s 1957 editorial citing the “cultural superiority of white over Negro.”)

Murray also argued in 2000 that while one “cannot imagine” a presidential candidate saying “a lot of poor people are born lazy,” in fact “It is almost certainly true” that “the population below the poverty line in the United States has a configuration of the relevant genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line.”

In a much-cited 1994 review in the New Yorker, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould accused Murray and Hernstein of “pervasive disingenuousness,” “blatant errors” and “violation of all statistical norms that I’ve ever learned,” in the service of “anachronistic social Darwinism.” (Responding to criticism from Paul Krugman last month, Murray wrote that “Our sin was to openly discuss the issue, not to advocate a position,” and that those making “allegations of racism” never accompanied them with “direct quotes of what I’ve actually said.”)

Six days after a publicist for Murray’s new book scheduled an interview with Salon, a spokesperson for the American Enterprise Institute, where Murray is a fellow, notified us Monday that Murray “is not willing to do the interview this afternoon and will not be rescheduling.” The spokesperson wrote that “Given Salon’s body of work he doesn’t think he’s going to receive a fair shake.”

He also shared a blog post from Murray objecting to a recent Huffington Post story quoting him stating that “No woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions” and that “Social restrictions undoubtedly damped down women’s contributions in all of the arts, but the pattern of accomplishment that did break through is strikingly consistent with what we know about the respective strengths of male and female cognitive repertoires.” Murray criticized reporter Laura Bassett for not quoting from that essay’s subsequent passages, which he noted said that “Women have their own cognitive advantages over men, many of them involving verbal fluency and interpersonal skills,” and also that “women are more attracted to children than are men, respond to them more intensely on an emotional level, and get more and different kinds of satisfactions from nurturing them.”

 

By: Josh Eidelson, Salon, April 8, 2014

 

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Charles Murray, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: