Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The High Crusade

I recently read The High Crusade, a science-fiction novel by Poul Anderson.  Anderson was an agnostic but his story is a paean to medieval Christendom.  The novel is written in the style of a medieval chronicle and concerns a 14th Century army that becomes involved in an intergalactic war.  I don't want to spoil the story so I won't say much more about it.  I do want to quote a passage about the politics and culture of the alien Wersgorix empire.  When Anderson wrote the novel in 1960, I suspect he was thinking not only of  the Soviet Union in this critique of the egalitarian Wersgor, but also of Western democracies. 
No one was born to his place in life.  Under the law, all were equal, all free to strive as best they might for money or position.  Indeed, they had even abandoned the idea of families.  Each Wersgor lacked a surname, being identified by a number instead in a central registry.  Male and female seldom lived together more than a few years.  Children were sent at an early age to schools, where they dwelt until mature, for their parents oftener thought them an encumbrance than a blessing.

Yet this realm, in theory a republic of freemen, was in practice a worse tyranny than mankind has known, even in Nero's infamous day.

The Wesgorix had no special affection for their birthplace; they acknowledged no immediate ties of kinship or duty.  As a result, each individual had no one to stand between him and the all-powerful central government.  In England, when King John grew overweening, he clashed both with ancient law and with vested local interests; so the barons cubed him and thereby wrote another word of two of liberty for all Englishmen.  The Wersgor were a lickspittle race, unable to protest any arbitrary decree of a superior.  "Promotion according to merit" meant only "promotion according to one's usefulness to the imperial ministers."
Read the High Crusade.  Its good.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Button on Drugs

Hopefully that title got your attention.  Unfortunately for my readers, this post is not an entertaining story of drug fueled adventures like those penned by P.J. O'Rourke or Hunter S. Thompson.  It instead concerns political philosophy.

(Note: The definitions I am using for "libertarian" and "conservative" are not shared by all those who identify as libertarian or conservative but some generalizations must be made.) 

It is important for conservatives and libertarians alike to differentiate between practical and philosophical libertarianism when approaching public policy.  Drug policy is an excellent way to illustrate the distinction.

Libertarians would have the production, sale, and consumption of recreational drugs legalized.  However, is entirely possible to support the legalization or at least partial decriminalization of drugs without being a libertarian.  The difference between adopting the libertarian position and being a libertarian is a matter of how one views human freedom.

A pure libertarian would say that individuals have the right to do whatever they want so long as they do not harm anyone else.  Therefore, the state has no right to prevent the use of drugs or the free exchange of drugs between consenting parties.  The conservative position is quite different.  Conservatives believe that one does not have the right to do evil and that the recreational use of hard drugs is not only evil, but a gravely harmful evil.  The fact that the evil is done to oneself does not make it acceptable.  A person has no more right to use heroin than he has a right to hang himself.

However, despite the evils of drug use, it is entirely possible for a consistent conservative to adopt a practically libertarian position.  One may maintain that there is no right to do an evil but that the evil should be tolerated by the civil authorities for legitimate prudential reasons.  Whatever one thinks about drug policy, no one can deny that the War on Drugs has caused overcrowding in prisons, an increasingly militarized police force, and a significant amount of violent crime in both in the United States and Latin America.  Drugs are undoubtedly more difficult to get than if they were legal, but they are far from impossible to obtain.  The conscientious citizen must weigh the negative effects of drug prohibition against the decreased availability of harmful narcotics. 

Well intentioned people can disagree about how to establish a just and free society, but it essential that a common understanding of justice and freedom is maintained.  Just states may differ in the severity of sanctions against evil behavior, but people need to properly identify evil, and recognize that there is no freedom in doing wrong.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Clarence Thomas at Harvard Law School

Justice Clarence Thomas is one of my greatest heroes, and I really enjoyed this video of his recent visit to Harvard Law School.  H/T: Althouse

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Video Games for Conservatives

Video games are often mindless diversions, but some do contain stories and themes of depth.   I do not claim that the following games are "conservative" but rather that conservatives may especially appreciate them.

Freedom Force

Freedom Force and its sequel, Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich are delightfully goofy games in which the player commands a squad of superheroes in battle against the enemies of freedom and justice.  What makes these games especially appealing to conservative is the commie bashing.  Literally.  You can hit communists over the head with street lamps.  Your team of superheroes fights Soviet villains like the radioactive Nuclear Winter, and the Russian sorceress Red Oktober.  In Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich, you battle both Communists and Nazis.  When the team of superheroes go back in time to fight the Third Reich, they must prevent the Nazis from burning great books of Western Civilization, including the Summa Theologica.

Check out this video featuring the origin of Minuteman.  The audio quality in the video is not great but it should be sufficient.

Call of Duty


Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2 are First Person Shooters in which players fight in the Second World War from the Soviet, British, and American perspectives.  The Soviet portion of the games shows the brutality of Communism.  In the beginning of the first game, you play a Russian infantryman who takes part in the battle of Stalingrad.  You survive crossing the Volga and are thrust into combat with a clip of ammunition but no gun.  The commissars will shoot you if you take one step backwards, even if moving backwards is a good idea tactically.  In order to gain an advantage on the Germans, you help a comrade kill your commissar.  A political officer also makes an appearance in the second game.  He sends you off to fight the Germans while he stays behind to murder a POW and only emerges when the danger is over.  The portrayal of Communist Russia is one of the elements that make the old Call of Duty games great.

Fallout 3

Fallout 3 is an action RPG that takes place in post-apocalyptic Washington D.C.  The player wanders the wasteland completing a variety of assignments.  Two of these quests are especially relevant for conservatives.

Players can visit Tenpenny Towers, a hotel run by the elitist and not entirely sane Allistair Tenpenny.  He has a problem with nearby ghouls, ugly zombie looking people deformed by radiation.  The ghouls, led by one Roy Phillips, wish to live in the Towers but are denied admittance.  Their presence frightens the tower residents, and the chief of security commissions the player to solve the ghoul problem by any means necessary.  He suggests that you kill Roy Phillips, the leader of the ghouls.

Roy Phillips

If you speak to Roy, he will try to enlist your help in a violent takeover of Tenpenny Towers.  However, he also seems open to a peaceful solution.  The player may return to Allistair Tenpenny, who relents, telling the player that if he can convince enough Tower residents to accept the ghouls, he will allow them in.  You go about convincing the residents in the manner of a progressive, simply telling them that change is happening and that they need to accept it or leave.  After going through this process, you can report to Tenpenny that "the bigots have been taken care of."  The player  informs the ghouls and they move in to the tower.  You then go on your way, pleased with your victory of integration.

The story takes a dark turn at this point.  After you leave the Tower, Roy and his gang murder all of the humans and dump their bodies in a utility closet.  Conservatives can appreciate that complex social problems can't be solved by a simple pro-diversity mandate from on high.  Solutions must be considered in light of human (or ghoul) nature.

Another episode in the game can be appreciated by traditionalists.  After taking a riverboat ride down the Potomac, you land at Point Lookout, Maryland.  There you discover Blackhall Manor, and old plantation house and it's sole resident, the aged Obadiah Blackhall.  He asks you to retrieve a book belonging to his family that has been stolen by the mutant swamp people for some sort of ritual purpose.  As you leave, a woman named Marcella tells you that the book, called the Krivbeknih was evil and must be destroyed. ( So yeah, it's the Necronomicon.)  When I got to this part, I was supsicious of Marcella.  I though that there wouldn't be anything supernatural in a sci-fi game.  Blackhall will tell you that Marcella is a crazy religious fanatic and the book is a harmless family heirloom.

After shooting your way out of their ritual site with the book in hand, you can visit Marcella's campsite.  The player will find her camp overrun by hostile smugglers (I have no idea why smugglers exist in a world without tarriffs or laws of any kind, but whatever).  After eliminating the smugglers,  you enter Marcella's tent to find her dead on the floor.  An audio log on her computer relays Marcella's last words.  She was dying and recorded a message for the player to find, imploring him to destroy the Krivbeknih.  She then begins the standard Roman Catholic act of contrition, and dies.

If you choose to act in accord with Marcella's instructions, you must bring the Krivbeknih to the Dunwich building (another Lovecraft reference) back in the Capitol Wasteland.  The Dunwich building is an extremely creepy office building full of feral ghouls, who seem to have been ghoulified not by radiation but by some sort of spiritual evil.  After fighting your way into the basement, you find an obelisk.  Press the Krivbeknih into the obelisk and it bursts into flames.

The reason I include the entry is the spiritual element put in a sci-fi videogame.  The fictional Fallout setting reflects our own world in a way.  It is seemingly material, but the supernatural will appear at surprising times.  I would certainly not say that only those who identify themselves as conservatives believe in the immaterial, but a belief in the supernatural is certainly not considered progressive.

Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 has a story that conservatives can definitely appreciate.  You play as Gordon Freeman, a physicist who is surprisingly skilled in the art of crowbar combat.  Freeman fights the Combine, interdemensional aliens who have invaded Earth and set up a puppet government under Dr. Breen, Gordon's former boss.

A few things stand out to the conservative gamer.  Firstly, the game mostly takes place in City 17, a decrepit Eastern European city full of drab Soviet architecture.  Its possible that I'm just a crazy Mcarthyite, but I think that this association of the Soviet bloc with tyranny is deliberate.

The worst Combine atrocity portrayed in the game isn't the suppression of free speech, or the shooting of dissidents but the sterilization of humanity.  An energy field that somehow inhibits conception has been deployed on Earth.  This reminds one of the Communist Chinese and other progressive antinatalists.  

Dr. Breen's propaganda is undeniably progressive.  He tells humanity that they need to purge themselves of "instinct" and "superstition."  Breen preaches obedience to the Combine, promising that Earth's alien overlords will lead humanity into a new era of science and reason.  He promises that the sterilization field will be turned off once humans are sufficiently enlightened.  Enlightenment and progress are always promised by modernists, but instead we get misery and tyranny.  Free men, like Freeman, must oppose the evils done in the name of progress.

Breen's Speeches:

Friday, February 15, 2013

St. Valentine is Hardcore

You remember those posts I said I was going to write?  Yeah, well they're coming.  Sometime.  Eventually.  Hopefully tomorrow.  Anyway, I hope you had a blessed St. Valentine's Day!

H/T The Crescat

Monday, February 11, 2013

Losing Our Shepherd

The BBC reports
Pope Benedict XVI is to resign at the end of this month after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church, saying he is too old to continue at the age of 85.
The unexpected development - the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years - surprised governments, Vatican-watchers and even his closest aides.
The Vatican says it expects a new Pope to be elected before Easter.
Pope Benedict XVI is a great pope and a great man.  We will miss him.  Pray that the Cardinals are receptive to the Holy Spirit and make the best possible choice.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ron Paul Disrespects Chris Kyle

I sort of supported Ron Paul in the Republican primaries because he was the only candidate who had the vaguest idea of what the constitution means.  Even so, I disagree with the Congressman on some fundamental points of political philosophy.  I ended up filling in his circle on the primary absentee ballot, but felt conflicted and didn't mail it in.  I wish I had actually voted for Paul but I have been feeling better about my indecisiveness after the Congressman issued a twitter statement in response to the death of Chris Kyle, a Marine sniper who was shot last week by a veteran suffering from PTSD.  Kyle had brought the man to the range as part of therapy.
As reported on TAC the twitter post reads:
Chris Kyle's death seems to confirm that "he who lives by the sword dies by the sword." Treating PTSD at a firing range doesn't make sense.
This comment was heartless at best and malicious at worst.  Paul dug himself deeper when he tried to justify his comments instead of simply apologizing.  Ron Paul has admirable qualities but this twitter statement is not the act of a gentleman.