28 December 2021

High and low-status opinions for 2022

It's an age when there are, in the words of UK economist Kristian Niemetz, "high-status" and "low-status" opinions.  The former will get you praise, open doors in circles of media, academia and even political power, the latter will get you labelled as "controversial" or worse, and may even see you ostracised by your employers and others, ultimately leading to you having zero access to media.

While high-status and low-status opinions have always existed (it was once "low-status" to think women shouldn't be given the vote), the past approach of essentially ignoring low-status opinions in the hope they would go away or be confined to tiny circulation magazines circulated within small societies is no longer valid, and the list of low-status opinions has become long, and the intensity of reaction to low-status opinions has grown.

It used to be that people on the so-called liberal left (I prefer to call the postmodernist left) had low-status opinions, but this has changed dramatically over the past few decades as the post-modern liberal (as opposed to classical liberal) philosophical positions have moved on from dominating some parts of academia and media to being dominant across most media, the education curriculum and most politicians.  Now the postmodernists define high-status opinions, and the mainstream turns their way.

Unfortunately the main reaction to high-status opinions is simple vituperative anger about this, and a postmodernist "right" has emerged which isn't a vehicle for rational countering of such opinions, but a panoply of conspiracies surrounding them. Whether it is partly a desperation to have as large a base of counter-culture (which is conservative right) or reflects the actual industry behind it surviving on attention (Infowars is absolutely a counter-culture factory of postmodernist manufactured drivel sprinkled with facts and issues that deserve attention), is unclear. However both are fundamentally irrationalists.

So within that context, I give you a bunch of opinions for the year ahead, which don't try to be high-status, but could do with some amplification in the year ahead.  

In no particular order...

Equity is an anti-concept that means equality of outcomes and is ultimately unachievable.It's an euphemism for taking money from some people (at the moment a mix of future generations through borrowing and the poor through inflation) to give to others. It's worse than the other anti-concept "redistribution" (which assumed some sentient entity distributed property already). It assumes people's wealth, health and lifestyles can be evened out through state power, that they have insufficient agency over their lives. It's telling that the most poverty inducing policies instituted by governments in recent years - around inflating housing demand and curtailing supply, and now feeding inflation, get next to zero attention, whilst people are hired on above average salaries, paid by taxpayers to do "equity analysis" of micro-economic reforms.  Run a mile from politicians who want to advance equity.

Both private cars and bicycles are incredibly liberating technologies that have given literally billions across the world unrivalled opportunities for prosperity, social life and joy, and continue to do so despite a very small fraction of their users getting killed or badly injured. Neither should be belittled, banned or treated as incompatible with life in cities or the countryside.  The offer freedom to travel when and where you wish, and limits on this are best decided by property owners deciding what space to give up to parking them, and that most roads (set aside motorways and bicycle paths, built for each to be separate) are about them sharing space. Users of both should tolerate each other, and respect the fact that nobody really knows why anyone is travelling the way they are. Cyclists should recognise that without motorists paying fuel tax and RUC, there would be much less road space and much poorer maintained road space for them, and motorists should recognise that a bike takes up little space and does zero wear on the roads.  Councils, if they have to own and run roads (I don't they do, but that's not for now), should stop pitching them against one another, and manage the relationship between them by treating them as customers, and let adjacent property owners help determine who has what space. Councils should also not forget that absolutely everything motorists and cyclists consume, gets delivered by a truck or van, and that's not going to change.

The state is no more responsible for relieving you or your family's poverty (setting aside specific cases where it caused harm by the actions of those in its institutions), that it is responsible for ensuring you wash, have a good sleep and have a social life. Poverty is a natural state, it requires your own actions more than the help of others, to get out of it and stay out of it. You own your life.  If you suffer from poverty, your own decisions matter first. If you are concerned about poverty then you own decisions matter too, because you can do far more for poverty by helping directly either financially or more crucially, with time, especially for the children of those in poverty. Mentoring and guidance is undervalued. You can do much more for child poverty than the self-styled Child Poverty Action Group, which literally does nothing but campaign for higher benefits. Do that if you like, but you're kidding yourself if you think meeting with your high-status friends for coffee to talk about how awful poverty is and how benefits should be raised does anything for anyone in need.

Criticising, insulting and shaming the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) isn't racism, as much as Beijing wants to rally Chinese people into thinking attacks on the regime are racially motivated. They aren't (NZ has enough historic anti-Chinese racism to point to). Chinese people are also not the Government of the PRC or the CPC (unless they are spokespeople officially or de-facto). Don't assume anyone you think is Chinese is an agent of Beijing, especially if you claim to give a damn about freedom in Hong Kong or Taiwan, because such an assumption IS racism.

However, any business, institution or organisation that submits to the requests, protests or objections from any totalitarian regime (like the PRC) to police language is morally debased and should be avoided. You can trade with people you don't like without becoming an arm of their agitprop.

Individual sovereignty over your body, and private property rights are both extensions of the same thing. You can't believe in one without the other, unless you don't really believe in the one in the first place.  It's a high status opinion to debase property rights, among lefties. Some conservative righties debase individual sovereignty. 

Biculturalism is a racist concept and is almost as dismissive of the diversity of humanity as any form of monoculturalism, and it is designed to replace one form of ethno-nationalism with another. If you think Koreans, Arabs, Tongans, Croatians, Jews and Tamils should be shoehorned into a dominant identity of the "other", then you're no better than those who wanted to shoehorn Maori into assimilation. 

Colonialism resulted in grotesque acts of violence, theft and atrocities that most New Zealanders have little knowledge of, and just because it may have been worse under the French or Germans, doesn't make British colonialism morally justified. Yet to portray it as irredeemably evil and undertaken by people of unspeakable turpitude is as wrong as to portray pre-colonial Maori society as a wonder of self-determination, justice, respect for human potential and dignity coupled with sustainable environmentalism. Human history across continents, civilisations and peoples are difficult to judge by standards that were largely non-existent at the start of some lifetimes today.  Maori were people who came to this land, largely eking out an existence, and were able to thrive because they, like all other human civilisations, applied reason to their environment.  

Nobody today is carrying the virtues or vices of their ancestors, wherever they came from. If you come from a lineage of successful doers of something it literally means nothing about your capability or your moral standing, and likewise if you come from a lineage of violent psychopaths.  Your chance to be or do something is now. You can carry a sense of wonder and joy about what may have been done (or indeed dismay and sadness), but you aren't them. You are, in part, a product of your parents, and your wider family, but if you claim pride that someone of your ethnic background invented the telephone or navigated across the seas, then it's false. You might want to commemorate ancestors who achieved great things, or to apologise for their behaviour, but separate your own esteem from those who actually achieved something, so you can achieve yourself.  The emerging trend of collectivist guilt or pride around people of your race or identity is empty at best, psychopathic at worst.

Your feelings have no impact on the merits of any ideas. If your reaction to an idea is that it caused you hurt feelings, and that's all you have, then you don't have an argument and you might just contemplate whether your hurt feelings are based on reason, evidence and a point of principle. Nobody can or should care how you feel about an idea before expressing it, assuming their idea isn't just to insult you.

By and large, it doesn't really matter what youth think on almost any issue. Most have little clue about history, the concept of opportunity cost, the complexity of a modern society and economy of billions of individuals, or how easily their own minds are sponges for the philosophies and ideas expressed at school, at home or in media they consume. There is a reason regimes ranging from the Nazis to the Chinese Communist Party to Ali Soilih of the Comoros embrace elevating youth as a vanguard for political change. They are easily duped to be finger-wagging, violent enforcers of a monolithic point of view. 

Almost nobody who talks about diversity means it. Diversity is ringfenced across the intersectionality of post-modern identity group collectivism. Diversity of ideas and perspectives from individuals is undervalued, as academia and increasingly public policy practitioners talk about "ways of thinking" linked to race or sex. 

Critical theory poisons public policy.  From the absurdity of a US university treating Asian students as "white" (because they outperform other ethnic minorities), to the almost complete void of interest in the underperformance of boys in most developed country education systems (PDF), the intellectual vacuum of critical theory in explaining differences in performances by group around power-race-sex intersectionality cliche's is palpable. The absurdity of it was seen in UK statistics that reveal that every ethnic group in Britain, other than Roma/traveller, outperform white British children in education. Post-modernist critical theory categorises everyone into multiple overlapping collectives, which together determine how oppressed or oppressive you are deemed to be, and if statistics don't bear that out, then they are ignored. Like Marxism-Leninism, which played a broken record of Orwellian doctrine to justify itself, critical theory cannot cope with evidence that demonstrates that entire collectives can thrive better than the "white supremacist" society they are being oppressed by. Critical theorists brushes aside talk about cultures of value education and achievement, or the value of stable family structures.  As with anything, there is value in understanding why people have tendencies to be more comfortable hiring those from a similar background to themselves, but critical theory is poison. 

Freedom of speech is always fragile when a culture of neo-authoritarian philosophical uniformity pervades the transmitters of education and power of universities, media and politics. Well intentioned endeavours to address threats and abuse towards people for whatever reason have now become opportunities to treat some opinions, some culture and some language as "unsafe". Like Chairman Mao's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the policing of language has become de riguer and expected. The debate about science and matauranga which resulted in the authors of the Listener listener being accused of racism was one example, as are the calls by trans-activists to de-platform those who reject their views.  Although the debate over so-called "hate speech" laws is an explicit example of how the state is seeking to ring fence speech, it is a culture of intolerance and lack of resilience about words that is infecting education and media across the Anglosphere.  It is important to stand up for the right to express views that many or most regard as distasteful, and for young people in particular, to be exposed to contrary opinions so they can be debated without being dragged into pejoratives or shut down because someone's words hurt their feelings. 

Socialism is still morally bankrupt and practically destructive, and capitalism is still the most moral and efficient social system discovered by humanity. Capitalism really is the unknown ideal.

Abortion isn't just a medical procedure it's a procedure to terminate a potential life and it is a debate about where the line is drawn between the foetus having rights as an individual or not. As someone who would almost certainly not exist had the laws been different when I was being born, it's actually worthy of a debate that it seems neither side interested in it is really that willing to have. That's why debate about its so fraught. It seems reasonable to treat abortions in the first trimester as being up to the mother, but in the last trimester to take into account the potential viability of the foetus, and somewhere in between is a point of debate. Unfortunately most on both sides of this debate take fundamentalist positions, ranging from treating a fertilised egg as a human life that overrides the mother, through to treating a foetus that would be viable outside the womb as being a rare case that isn't worth debating or acknowledging as having rights (for fear it brings down the entire debate).  

Anthropomorphic climate change is real, consequences are likely to be more negative than positive, but it isn't a catastrophe that needs every local authority to act.  It is New Zealand's nuclear free moment in the sense that, like the nuclear-free policy, whatever New Zealand does has zero effect on the issue. None, it doesn't matter.  What matters is being seen to be following along with New Zealand's trading partners, by embracing technology and markets to get out of the way of people transitioning away from fossil fuels where it is efficient to do so. New Zealand already has the tools to do this, it's just that the enviro-catastrophe movement isn't interested in actual reductions of emission, it's really a group of neo-puritans who want to ban, tax and subsidise their way to a much more controlled and centrally planned future.

Religious and political fundamentalism is dangerous and the still most dangerous fundamentalisms as seen in Islamism and in nationalism.  

Debates about trans-genderism are debates mostly about women and girls. When girls or women decide they wish to identify as men, that threatens no men, but when boys or men decided they wish to identify as women it has consequences, because of the gendered nature of violence against women and girls, and the reasons why certain property and activities have been protected from girls and women. There are other debates to be had about allowing children (those not yet adults) to permanently terminate their fertility, with medically unnecessary procedures and interventions, but the big issues are around where trans-women fit in spaces for women.  I have no skin in the debate, but given the vituperative reaction to those debating it, it's worth defending the right to the debate.

and finally

Neo-puritanism is growing as an ideological trend. Traditional puritanism sneered at drinking alcohol, (women) dressing provocatively, erotic material, gambling and other activities seen as contrary to good Christian living. Today, neo-puritanism is seen in health and environmental finger-waggers. The health finger waggers want less sugar, less fat, less salt, less taste or to finger-wag over eating animals or animal products.  The environmental puritans damn driving, flying, shopping, using plastic.  Most recently is the NZ Government's announcement that it is going to ban anyone who is 14 from 2023 onwards from buying tobacco products. However, they come together in the Green Party which finger wags over gambling, alcohol, "unhealthy" food and "unsustainable" living. The paradox being the party's advocacy for legalising cannabis, albeit to put it under the highly micro-managed regulatory environment wanted for alcohol. While there is nothing wrong in people getting messages about living healthily and especially to target communities with self-destructive practices, the tiresome winsome neo-fascism of modern day neo-puritans deserves to get a pushback, especially since in the age of Covid 19, health neo-puritanism has had its greatest (and all going well temporary) push.  

Unfortunately neo-puritanism is now about policing language (if it "causes harm").  To all neo-puritanism the right response is "fuck off and leave me alone" or a simple "this is none of your business".

PS: This is my 3000th post, albeit I have posted haphazardly in recent years whilst I have been earning a living, so thank you to all who have read and not complained about the evolution of my writing style.

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