October 23, 2004

TOO NEW (via Danny Postel):

Yesterday's men, and tomorrow's: Is the neo-conservative moment over? (Lexington, Sep 16th 2004, The Economist)

The invasion of Iraq has a reasonable claim to be regarded as the
neo-conservative moment in American foreign policy. But is that moment now
over? Are the neo-conservatives destined to be sidelined even if Mr Bush is
re-elected in November? [...]

The neo-cons have three things going for them. The most important is Mr
Bush's unwavering support for the war. The Republican convention had one
over-arching message: that the war in Iraq was part of the wider war on
terror. John McCain argued that the sanctions regime in Iraq had been
failing. Dick Cheney asserted that war against Iraq had persuaded Libya to
abandon its nuclear-weapons programme. And Mr Bush reiterated the idealistic
case for spreading democracy in the Middle East. Such idealism hardly seems
to be justified by the daily news from Iraq, but so far John Kerry has made
a hash of both criticising the policy and advancing an alternative strategy
of his own.

The neo-cons also remain rich in intellectual creativity. At home, they have
taken the lead in everything from designing "big-government conservatism" to
opposing unbridled biotechnological research: witness the rather eloquent
report from the President's Council on Bioethics, "Beyond Therapy:
Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Human Happiness". An aspiring Republican is
still likely to get ideas out of the Weekly Standard, as opposed to merely
discovering that abortion is a bad thing yet again in the National Review.

Lastly, when it comes to conservative influence-peddling, the neo-cons still
have no rivals. The paleo-conservative dream of the world's only superpower
retreating within its own borders has not won over Mr Bush. Libertarians are
anathema to the religious right. Old-fashioned Rockefeller Republicans are
losing their political base in the north-east. Most other pressure groups
focus on a narrow range of issues, such as reducing taxes or protecting gun

Their move into the bio-tech question actually reflects the neocons greatest weakness, which is they aren't sufficiently social conservative to keep up with the theoconservative movement that the President leads. You'll note they got involved after their candidate, John McCain, went down in flames over social issues. Unfortunately for them, because they argue from reason their case is terribly weak. To have a long term influence in the GOP they'll need to return to faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 23, 2004 2:19 PM

Mr. Judd;

The neo-cons may as well surrender on that issue. We're going to have unbridled biotech research regardless, so why fight against the Canutes?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 23, 2004 2:23 PM

Just like alcohol, cigarettes, gay marriage, abortion, cloning, etc. are inevitable and unlimitable?

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2004 2:26 PM

Biotech research is completely portable. If the US doesn't do it because the bead-twiddlers, snake charmers, rain dancers, incense burners and other superstitious nitwits don't let us, the techies will simply pack up their stuff and move to some place that will. There's always New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, etc.

Posted by: Bart at October 23, 2004 2:46 PM


Yes, that's all the more reason not to defile our society.

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2004 3:00 PM


What happens when other nations leave us in the economic dust because they don't share our superstitions? It happened before in the 5th-13th centuries. There is no permanence to Western ascendancy.

Posted by: Bart at October 23, 2004 3:03 PM

The 5th to 13th centuries were a period of Western ascendancy.

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2004 3:07 PM

Bill Kristol notwithstanding, I never got the sense that McCain was the neocon candidate.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 23, 2004 3:18 PM

Brooks, Podhoretz, all of them but Barnes at the Standard.

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2004 3:23 PM

OJ, the 'Dark Ages?' Are you kidding me? Western knowledge virtually disappeared. The quality of life for individuals was far behind what it had been under the Romans. The Muslims took the Holy Land, the Vikings were freely engaged in predations. The notion that the 5th to the 13th centuries were in any sense anything other than a disaster for the West, when it nearly got run over by other more powerful civilizations of the time, or even by temporary phenomena like Genghis Khan is absolutely ahistorical and fatuous.

Posted by: Bart at October 23, 2004 3:34 PM

That's nonsense, of course, knowledge was expanded and preserved within the Church while Christianity conquered the entire West and the nation state arose. Christendom was created--a process which the Crusades were key to. It was the necessary prelude to everything that followed.

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2004 3:41 PM

Knowledge was expanded? We still don't know many of the discoveries of the Ancient World. The early Christians who burned the library of Alexandria saw to that.

Do yourself a favor and read Gibbon sometime before you spout nonsense.

Posted by: Bart at October 23, 2004 4:07 PM

Gibbon disliked Christianity because he had a fetish for the Roman Empire. He failed to see that the Dark Ages made the English Empire greater than the Roman.

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2004 4:10 PM

Bart: Do yourself a favor and use google next time before you spout such nonsense (about the Alexandria Library).

Posted by: brian at October 23, 2004 4:28 PM

Yeah, Christians had nothing to do with burning Alexandria.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at October 23, 2004 4:42 PM

No, but there love of learning was so great the Spanish expelled the most learned of their society, the Jews, then proceeded to ban everything not loaded with Catholic superstition and dogma.

Similarly, Galileo would not have been particularly likely to attest to that love of learning.

Arguing from reason is arguing from what works. America's economy isn't particularly Christian compared to Europe's, but it works a heck of a lot better.

Guess which one OJ backs.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 23, 2004 7:09 PM


And Spain became great.

America's economy works because of our Judeo-Christianity and the trust that allows.

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2004 9:34 PM

Charles Murray's, "Human Accomplishment": Check Mate! His is the definitive book on who was great and why. An agnostic libertarian, he found basically that Pre-reformation Catholicism and Early Protestant Europe (and only part of Europe) produced the most geniuses per capita and innovations in arts, sciences, etc.
Other tidbits:
* Spain was great, but was ruined by getting too wealthy too quickly and too easily at the time it ruled and was never able to recover.
* He went in with a bias for Ancient Greece and the Orient and was wholly surprised.
* The New York Times gave him an extremely flattering review. They expected to dismiss his book because of the conclusions, but it was so rock solid. They especially seemed to believe that his honor roll of the great Oriental geniuses was unrivaled.

Posted by: Emily at October 23, 2004 10:31 PM

Jeff - Galileo was a devout Catholic and, citing Aquinas and Augustine, he made the point that Christianity is the religion of scientific discovery.

Posted by: pj at October 23, 2004 10:36 PM

Wasn't the cell discovered in 1660 by a monk named Gregor Mendel?

Posted by: Vince at October 23, 2004 11:04 PM

Vince -

No, I think Mendel was heredity (dominant and recessive traits, etc). It was somewhat later that the Englishman Hooke, if I remember correctly, identified the first cells with his microscopes.

Posted by: mike earl at October 24, 2004 1:29 AM

Alcohol, cigarettes, gay marriage, abortion, cloning, marijuana, etc. are neither inevitable nor unlimitable, but they are desired or allowed by large segments of the population, are part of the American culture, and all are either currently legal, or will be within twenty years, in at least a few states.


Other nations won't leave the US in the dust over biotech. While some research won't be conducted in the US, all of the therapies or benefits flowing from such research will be allowed in America.
The Baby Boomers will see to that.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 24, 2004 2:42 AM


Until the very moment when scientific discovery clashes with religious dogma, that is.


"America's economy works because of our Judeo-Christianity and the trust that allows."

Re-read what I wrote. You missed the point by a mile.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 24, 2004 8:01 AM


Maybe so, but the money will be flowing out of America, which is not a good thing. America's dominance in the world is to a great extent the product of our dominance in the sciences. Should we lose that dominant position in biotech, how long will it take for us to lose our dominant position in the other sciences particularly when we allow the scientifically illiterate and the professional Luddite community to make those decisions for us? And if we lose our dominant position in the other sciences, don't we then lose our dominant position everywhere else, as we were doing before the high-tech revolution?

Posted by: Bart at October 24, 2004 8:04 AM


The money comes back because as they destroy their societies even further our stock and bonds are even more attractive.

Posted by: oj at October 24, 2004 9:36 AM


But bthe majority has been quite successful limiting such things.

Posted by: oj at October 24, 2004 9:50 AM


With the rise of conservatism, the opposite is most likely true since we are already seeing a huge backlash against gay marriage, cloning, marijuana, etc.

Posted by: Vince at October 25, 2004 7:36 PM


You constantly confuse your friends with all of America.

Try exposing yourself to wider horizons, you'll be a bit wiser.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 26, 2004 12:20 PM