Thank you for writing this!

-The obvious question for Angela Davis and Derrick Bell: If you could succeed in racist America, why can’t everyone? What would they say? What’s the truth?

I address this in the chapter on Bell, showing that his own parents modeled the behavior and values that allowed for his success, which he then foolishly denounced in favor of a cynical ideology.

-I say that “systemic” is the word that makes “racism” a tautological accusation. A normal racist story about high black incarceration rates, for example, is that blacks get punished more for the same crime. “Systemic racism” is what you say when faced with ironclad evidence that higher black crime rates fully account for higher black incarceration rates. Am I being fair?

The phrase "systemic racism" is a mirage—it's unfalsifiable and unmeasurable. It's a persuasive rhetorical device that, at heart, seeks to explain group disparities in outcomes, many of which are caused by group disparities in behavior, as evidence of racism.

-Who’s the Marcuse of feminism? Of gender ideology?

Foucault. All of gender theory and queer theory finds its foundation in Foucault, who turned Nietzsche into a tool for the Left on sexuality.

-What was worse in practice: McCarthyism or DEI?

DEI, by far. McCarthyism was mild and benign by comparison.

-You’ve made a lot of right-wing enemies. Probably the most common accusation is that you want to use government to replace our left-wing monoculture with a right-wing monoculture. Is there any truth to this?

There is not. My goal is to have public institutions that reflect the values of the public. In blue states, this will be oriented to the Left. In red states, this will be oriented to the Right. I want to see more balance, which will require some political intervention. A healthy republic will have a variety of views competing in the public debate. We don't have that now. That's why I'm working to change it.

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Chris I want to thank you for all you've done. If we end up moving to Florida it will have been your work that helps educate our children. I can also say that you were instrumental in helping Youngkin win which helped a lot.

It seems to me that the difference between you and many libertarians is that you care about policy outcomes and they care about purity. As you noted, you've done more for getting actual school choice passed than a thousand CATO white papers.

This is embarrassing for those that won't get in the trenches so they have to consider you a fascist or radical, rather then just someone whose willing to get into the "impure" business of politics and mass cultural influence.

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I would argue "systemic racism" can actually be tested, statistically. Systemic racism typically implies that a policy was intentionally or subconsciously implemented to harm black people without directly discriminating against black people (a control example might be literacy tests for voting in Jim Crow South). We can get an idea of the plausibility of systemic racism as an explanation for a policy by seeing if it is associated with racial composition or racial animosity across societies and time periods.

So take drug laws, which are often said to be systemic racism because offenders are disproportionately black. We can see though that drugs outlawed in the US are pretty much universally illegal, including in countries that are ethnically homogeneous, and in countries that are overwhelmingly black. The fact that the illegality of narcotics is basically invariant to whether racism is even a plausible motive for it in a society pretty strongly suggests are drug laws would still exist in the US in fairly similar form even if no American was ever racist or even if black people were never brought to America.

IOW, to demonstrate a policy is an instance of systemic racism, one must show that the policy tends to be absent when it wouldn't serve a racist purpose, e.g., it's as common in countries or states lacking the supposedly targeted racial group, or significant racial minorities in general. Not that I expect proponents of systemic racism as an explanation for disparities will adopt this test, but it is to an extent a statistically testable claim.

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> We can see though that drugs outlawed in the US are pretty much universally illegal, including in countries that are ethnically homogeneous, and in countries that are overwhelmingly black. The fact that the illegality of narcotics is basically invariant to whether racism is even a plausible motive for it in a society pretty strongly suggests are drug laws would still exist in the US in fairly similar form even if no American was ever racist or even if black people were never brought to America.

Another interpretation is that America is so influential internationally that a lot of other countries are willing to follow its lead on drug policy.

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China outlawed opium way before the US dud. Only one data point but the outlawing of opiates certainly goes back a long way in most countries, before America’s postwar hegemony.

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"many of which are caused by group disparities in behavior, as evidence of racism. "

Interesting. Only "many?" What are two examples of disparities not caused by behavior?

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Aug 9, 2023·edited Aug 9, 2023

> The obvious question for Angela Davis and Derrick Bell: If you could succeed in racist America, why can’t everyone? What would they say? What’s the truth?

"Clearly" the truth is: if one person can achieve success, 100% of people can. It is, quite literally, "common sense".


> The phrase "systemic racism" is a mirage—it's unfalsifiable and unmeasurable. It's a persuasive rhetorical device...

So is that sentence.

Wow, this planet is a trip.

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A few thoughts:

- Rufo’s approach to running the Florida college seems to contradict the ideas he purports to espouse. “We only hire people who buy into the classical liberal tradition.” So, you only hire people that subscribe to a specific way of viewing the world? You avoid hiring people in entire fields of study that come to conclusions you disagree with? In my view the optimal approach if one truly believes in classical liberalism is to build an institution that is committed to intellectual freedom (and will not cancel, hound out, etc.) professors for their views. It seems to me that Rufo is just building a counterpoint institution that is firmly settled on one side of a contemporary debate, rather than one that truly protects free inquiry, vibrant / friction-heavy intellectual life. Why not take a more UofCesque approach? I suspect Caplan only accepts this silly activism because he finds its opposite worrisome.

- Caplan believes that these thinkers are “evil”, Rufo doesn’t grant this. Clearly just a difference in definition of terms. Rufo is thinking on the personal/ interpersonal level, Caplan is thinking on the consequential level. The former is more typical of how the average person defines evil, and I’m inclined to a descriptivist model.

- The idea that these thinkers are intellectually-fraudulent is too easy. They’ve convinced far more people to adopt their views than Caplan or any one of us commenters has. Why is that? Maybe they’re sophists, but what do you call a sophist who actually believes her ideas? Maybe someone who’s making a good faith, if flawed argument…and one that many people have found compelling over the past half-century!

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I think this is a deeply mistaken framing.

It's not about hounding out professors for their privately expressed views, or even their academic work. It's about only hiring people who will:

1) Teach a classically liberal syllabus - this should be uncontroversial in terms of free enquiry. Teaching is not about expressing your own views, you are acting on behalf of your employer.

2) Commit to building and maintaining the institution's classically liberal principles - again, uncontroversial in terms of free enquiry.

If the taxpayer sees little value to students in Grievance Studies, why is the university obliged to hire faculty to teach it? And if the taxpayer sees little value in new Grievance Studies research either, why can't the university close the department entirely?

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I appreciate this post, but it still raises some questions. For one, who gets to decide what a "classically liberal" syllabus is? One might personally support classical liberalism, but also support introducing students to a range of ideas and thinkers (such as the figures Rufo goes through in this book). Trying to have employer-enforced viewpoints for what to include in a syllabus is likely to backfire, especially given that the overwhelming number of academic administrators are left-wing and this seems unlikely to change anytime soon.

If the point though is to run a classroom in a "classically liberal" way--that is, encouraging free speech, free inquiry, and intellectual humility--then that's different, and seems like something to be encouraged and dovetails nicely with the second point. It's encouraging to see that some states have reaffirmed their support for free inquiry too recently and that should be supported.

That said, the final two questions can be easily reversed. What if a state legislature believes that Grievance Studies should be the only thing taught? What if all professors and students will be forced to demonstrate their "commitment" to Grievance Studies at all times and eliminate subjects that have too many "inequities" in them (say, Economics)? Half the population of this country is in Blue States; as bad as it is in those states now, it could get much, much worse very easily.

I don't trust state legislatures either to be able to competently dictate a full college curricula (though they already meddle a great deal in a number of states, including Blue States, but those just get less media coverage). I think there can be some guardrails and priorities set by the state legislature, but it's still very easy for that to backfire or just be done in an incredibly sloppy and ineffective way.

I know that there is a school of thought that Blue States should just be given up on and abandoned, but that seems like a short-sighted strategic decision. Left-wing overreach should be resisted across the country with classical liberal principles, and sunlight is often the best disinfectant (as Rufo has previously shown in a number of times).

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> who gets to decide what a "classically liberal" syllabus is?

The university authorities, and, as this is a state university, ultimately, the voters.

> Trying to have employer-enforced viewpoints for what to include in a syllabus is likely to backfire, especially given that the overwhelming number of academic administrators are left-wing and this seems unlikely to change anytime soon.

What's the backfire? That the academics will refuse, and teach warmed-over Marxist nostrums instead? That was the status quo ante. Or that they'll quit? That's what's happening, and Rufo can replace them with more congenial faculty.

> What if a state legislature believes that Grievance Studies should be the only thing taught? What if all professors and students will be forced to demonstrate their "commitment" to Grievance Studies at all times and eliminate subjects that have too many "inequities" in them (say, Economics)?

Some version of this is already happening. See the controversy over faculty being deplatformed and administratively harassed for not making DEI statements etc. History as entirely (Marxist) cultural history, elimination of military history, etc. What if Rufo provokes the Left... into doing things they're already doing?

> I know that there is a school of thought that Blue States should just be given up on and abandoned, but that seems like a short-sighted strategic decision

Where is the evidence that Florida having better universities will make the California system even more unfair? How is it giving up on Blue states to provide a beacon of excellence in a Red one?

As far as I can see, the Left has been trying to enforce ideological conformity in universities for years, and now Rufo is fighting back, people are concern-trolling him suggesting that he should give up and let the Left win, otherwise the Left might win. It's ridiculous. Libertarianism is good as a principled check on conservatism. It is awful and evil when used as a pose to avoid fighting for those principles.

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Objections to my original comment include:

(1) Certain fields (described as “Grievance Studies”) do not have a place in a modern university because they do not practice the sort of academic rigor that merits such a place (in the same way that e.g., Calvinist Studies are not supported)

(2) These are public institutions and if voters do not want to spend taxpayer dollars supporting the study of X then X ought not to be offered by the university

(3) If professors do not affirm liberal values then they ought not to be hired by institutions that support such values. These values are taken to include: Promoting free enquiry and Using arguments rather than “institutional maneuvering” to get their points across


(1) I’ve never taken a quote-unquote Grievance Studies course. Are professors studying e.g., Women’s Studies or African American Studies really eliding critical interrogation of the world, and examinations of philosophy, history, social science etc. in the same way that a Calvinist does when propounding upon Calvinism? Or are they merely studying subjects that you find to be of limited utility and coming to conclusions that you disagree with? It’s not obvious to me what the answer is here, in part because I’ve not delved into these subjects. I also suspect that a lot of academic work in most fields would appear navely-gazey and scholastic to us regardless of discipline, and that questions of utility would implicate most research in the humanities (including subjects that Rufo would like to protect, e.g., Classics).

(2) This raises the question of whether public funding ought to be used to support these areas of study–areas that may not position students to be “productive citizens” narrowly defined, and promote the sort of public good that is generally appealed to when advocating for public funding of higher education. I think that this is probably the most compelling argument in favor of trimming down areas of study at public universities. I’m broadly in favor of the humanities, but could believe that most voters question their value. Maybe the voters of Florida would like their taxpayer dollars to be allocated exclusively to pre-professional and technical programs. I’m still not sure why we need to adopt such a shrill, red-under-the-bed tone. This could just as easily have been a practical argument about what’s good for Floridians, not a clash of ideologies. I suspect that these ends could be better accomplished guided by pragmatic leaders than by ideological activists with an ax to grind.

(3) The third argument is not compelling to me. Institutional leadership can promote a culture of free inquiry, in which “institutional maneuvering” gets one nowhere regardless of faculty makeup. In many cases, spineless leadership has been coopted by a handful of activist students and professors, but–importantly–this was a failure of leadership. Again, University of Chicago is an interesting case. They continue to employ members of the faculty who have varying views on where the line ought to be drawn re: free speech / inquiry. So long as institutional leadership remains vocally supportive of free inquiry, and refuses to bow to the demands of a handful of cranks, there is value in a broad swathe of competing ideas covering complex subjects. I find it hard to believe that this marketplace of ideas will be especially bustling under Rufo’s activist leadership.

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“We only hire people who buy into the classical liberal tradition” doesn’t necessarily mean “You avoid hiring people in entire fields of study that come to conclusions you disagree with.” If the classical liberal tradition here means the tradition of using persuasive arguments instead of institutional maneuvers to advance your cause, then it would be possible in principle to hire people that have argued for any sort of conclusion. I am not sure that is what Ruffo had in mind, or not.

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“So, you only hire people that subscribe to a specific way of viewing the world?”

Well sure. That’s why you won’t find many public universities with departments of Calvinist studies. Probably aren’t that many public universities that would be open to a department dedicated to intelligent design. They mostly demand an adherence to (for want of a better phrase) naturalistic objectifying inquiry - view rooted in enlightenment ideals. Intellectual freedom necessarily has boundaries. Different institutions may draw them differently (indeed I think this diversity is a good thing), but they have to be drawn. A university run by a church will draw them differently from an independent private institution and a public institution. The public institution is funded by the public, and I see no problem with the public deciding what they will pay for. Of course the public isn’t monolithic, so there is going to be debate. I think that’s healthy.

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"You avoid hiring people in entire fields of study that come to conclusions you disagree with?"

If the people of Florida believe that a field of study does not serve the interests of the people of Florida, why should taxpayer dollars be used to fund it?

Libertarians are constantly telling me that government is full of useless make-work jobs, but attach the "professor" title to it and its sacrosanct.

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Aug 8, 2023·edited Aug 8, 2023

All of this is very well said. I would add--because you're too nice to--that Rufo's boasting of all he has done for libertarians and accusations that they are all ungrateful and jealous of his enormous success were cringe-inducing. This is the insufferable, pompous guy you try to get away from as quickly as possible at the office party.

I didn't expect this. I have been impressed by his victories and was ready to buy his book.

But by my stage in life (late middle age), I have come to instinctively distrust people who lack humility. Their story invariably gets worse from there.

I'm not a doctrinaire libertarian, but a big part of what appeals to me is the humility: the recognition of the limits of what we can know or plan, the respect for the knowledge dispersed widely among ordinary people doing the world's work, the commitment to let each pursue happiness his or her own way.

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As I have aged my positions have changed to I have no idea more and more.

While I believe that the minimum wage is a terrible idea I still read academic literature that seeks to explain it isn’t a bad idea.

One can be comfortable with positions that heavily criticise democracy but don’t necessarily have a solution. Again if people ask for the alternative it is acceptable to say that you don’t have one.

Humility is a great virtue and letting one’s actions speak for you is probably better than you doing it yourself.

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If I criticise a given government program to a statist person you quickly get the what is the alternative question. Then you say I don’t know. But I trust people to make informed decisions on their own behalf far more than an organisation particularly a government one.

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I agree with you 80% on your dismissal of critical theory.

The other 20% is: Marcuse does not represent the Frankfurt School. Adorno is horrible to read. Horkheimer is a much clearer writer. Both were chiefly AGAINST the left-wing student protests and their aims - Adorno famously called the police on a student raid at one of his lectures.

One Frankfurt Schooler, Karl A. Wittfogel, became a fierce anti-communist who wrote of a struggle of Western civilization against "oriental despotism" represented in Stalin & Mao.

"I understand where Chris is coming from: He’s clearly read a giant stack of critical theory, and frowns on his ignorant allies who dismiss thinkers they’ve never read."

I think Rufo has a point here.

It's too easy to dismiss wrong ideas as malicious neglect vs. honest intellectual mistake.

Example: the labor theory of value was core to Marx' economics and its failure modes. Whom did he take the LTV from? It was Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

Marx was trying to show to readers who are convinced by traditional British economics that if you take their premises to their logical conclusions, you end up with problems.

He was quite steeped in the Anglo-Saxon approach.

Maybe not worth spending too much time understanding these nuances, because it's correct the Left had no new ideas since 1968 and I don't see much worth taking seriously after that.

But let's not be too self-assured about the superiority of our own ideas to judge into so much hindsight - we weren't alive then. Few people knew about Hayek.

Just one takeaway: You might find Karl A. Wittfogel interesting: a dissident, Marxist anti-communist. His writing is really clear and good, his method is quite empirical (e.g. Oriental Despotism).

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Regarding the question "Probably the most common accusation is that you want to use government to replace our left-wing monoculture with a right-wing monoculture. Is there any truth to this?" I would recommend readers listen to a debate Chris had with Yascha Mounk hosted by Open to Debate. https://youtu.be/NgU0DNV6D_8

Chris did an excellent job against an opponent who was more interested in personal character attacks and an obsession with criticizing Chris's philosophy instead of actually addressing the question, but there was one criticism that managed to stick for me: Chris lionized localism and freedom several times in the debate, stating that "if Berkeley parents wanted to indoctrinate their kids with woke ideology, that was their prerogative". But he sidestepped the question when Yascha asked about blue communities in red states given most of Chris's legislative proposals are state-level policies that allow for little local control in these matters.

It would be helpful for Chris to clarify his position on, when push comes to shove, whether localism or state-level uniformity should win out.

My opinion: I think state-level policy is reasonable. Especially in the 21st century, concerns about creating a monoculture for students in a given state if anti-woke policy is uniform across that state are overblown. In my ideal world school choice would allow parents to use voucher money with a large degree of freedom. If I can use voucher money to aid in raising a child that can quote Cicero, take the derivative of an algebraic equation, and defend Judeo-Christian values, liberal parents should be afforded the same resources to mold their kids into bitter intersectional feminist queer theorists. But there's nothing wrong with government policy regulating government-run schools. It reminds me of David French's constant refrain: the answer to the education wars really is school choice.

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Completely agree. While I am speaking from ignorance in Australia it seems that you can open parochial schools quite easily.

So you can have a Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Hare Krishna schools in Sydney. They can discriminate based upon their religious beliefs.

We don’t have vouchers but is a school meets a certain set of criteria then it gets standard funding.

I am completely sympathetic to parents who don’t have freedom of choice and so their children are taught things they are not supportive of.

As you say if the government funds schools they can mandate what is taught. But people need the ability to not send their children to those schools if they don’t agree with the syllabus.

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Very, very interesting response! I really like this analysis of Rufo - the bogeyman of the left, and a bit of an untouchable on the right in some circles. But he's so effective, I wish he were more admired as you do - not blindly, but thoughtfully.

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Aug 8, 2023·edited Aug 8, 2023

I'll repeat that it seems unfortunate that Bryan didn't ask Rufo about his actual anti-libertarian stances raised in the comments here: https://betonit.substack.com/p/what-should-i-ask-chris-rufo/comment/21049013 and https://betonit.substack.com/p/what-should-i-ask-chris-rufo/comment/21046479, and his anti-immigration comments quoted there, even though Bryan specifically solicited them.

In fact, it seems that hardly any reader proposed questions were asked to Rufo.

In general, it feels like Bryan doesn't really read the comments, even when he solicits them.

Personally, I'd appreciate Bryan engaging with the comments more, even if it meant producing fewer posts.

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I seem to recall not long ago Bryan saying that he typically doesn't even read the comments on his posts. I can believe that -- how could he write daily while also reading and thinking about all the comments?

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Although I agree Bryan doesn’t respond to comments much, the one time I got a wild hair to fire him an email about a recent post he shot me back a very quick response (albeit that he thought my idea was overcomplicated, and too incremental for his taste). I think he’s just more interested in engaging on levels that have a higher barrier to entry, which I understand.

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"The obvious question for Angela Davis and Derrick Bell: If you could succeed in racist America, why can’t everyone? What would they say? What’s the truth?"

A related question that I would like asked of the likes of say Barack Obama or Lebron James when they have made statements about racist America, "What additional things do you believe you could have accomplished if you had not been held back by racism?" One would have to have a pretty high self-regard to be a twice elected president or the country's most beloved current athlete and simultaneously believe they accomplished this in the midst of stifling racism.

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Aug 8, 2023·edited Aug 8, 2023

That one's easy. "I'm so awesome that I overcame all of that. But it is unreasonable to expect others to be as indescribably awesome as I am."

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A large part of Continental philosophy is a desperate rearguard attempt to defend the worthless theories of Karl Marx, which had become a kind of pathetic substitute for religious faith for large swaths of the European intelligentsia, against its own incoherence, inconsistency with the evidence, and catastrophic practical consequences. Often this developed into attacks on thought as such. Don't believe Marx? That just shows how blinded you are by bourgeois ideology!

If you purge Continental philosophy of the dishonest Marxist apologetics, is the residuum worth more than Bryan gives it credit for. I think there might be some merit in a thinker like Habermas. But yes, the whole business is a viper's nest of fallacies. sophistries, dead ends, and obfuscations, which often masked nothing nobler than a snobbish dislike of capitalism, its success, and the people, including ordinary working-class people, who benefited from capitalism, while insulting Marxist high culture by not having heard of it and getting along just fine without it.

Educated civilization can cut all that stuff loose without much loss.

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What about Nietzsche? An archetypally continental philosopher, well worth reading, and certainly not an apologist for Marx.

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Oh my goodness! Nietzsche! He's worth reading, in the sense that it might be worth taking small doses of poison in order to immunize yourself against it. True, he's not an apologist for Marx. He even stumbles onto truth in some very odd, backhanded ways. I like to use his parable of the madman as devotional reading on Good Friday, the one day of the year when it's true that God is dead. His writing is a kind of pornography for intellectual pride. Some writers whom I admire, such as David Bentley Hart and Alasdair MacIntyre, admire Nietzsche, but their admiration for him is a weakness of theirs, and a symptom of their snobbery. Nietzsche doesn't reason. He is a master of sneering, and he is persuasive to those who would rather be on the side of the sneerer than of the sneered-at. But he is to the mind as the wave is to the sandcastle: he builds nothing of value, and the only merit of reading him is the glory of withstanding him, of keeping one's sanity in the face of his madness.

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For maybe the past 150 yrs so many French (but mostly Parisian) writers, artists and pseudothinkers have been positively obsessed with NOT seeming or appearing to be in any way bourgeois. Anti-bourgeoisism is really their version of "cool" and all the cool kids (esp once we get to the 1960s) spent every waking hour denouncing the bourgeois and preening as its opposite (of course this was also bc so many of them had bourgeois origins).

It really is the black leather jacket of academia, a way to seem edgy and radical. Parisian onanism was absolutely preposterous, most esp in its guise as radical Marxism, as if any of these posers gave a shit (or even knew any) working people!

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I think you're too unfair to continental philosophy. For example, the Vienna Circle basically invented logical postivism, one of the great philosophical accomplishments of modern, rational ('real') philosophy.

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You’re being too literal, aren’t you? The logical positivists, although based in Vienna, were analytic philosophers. Similarly, Popper was from Vienna, but was analytic. The distinction is in the method and style, not the literal location. Was Descartes continental? Leibniz?

It's harder to think of a continental philosopher that wasn’t located there, though they have plenty of acolytes in America. Maybe Rorty? He also claimed the pragmatists as influences, I’m not sure whether that disqualifies him or super-qualifies him.

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My interpretation is that Chris wants to give the authors of CRT as fair a hearing as possible to try to peel away some of their support. I’m not sure that anyone he could peel away would read his book but that was my take of what he’s doing. I see Chris as not an intellectual but rather as a savvy political operator and a very effective polemist and not just in straight on arguments with interviewers or on social media. He does tell stories to help persuade the viewer/reader, etc. He started as a film maker afterall.

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If he really did the deep dive into his opponent's writings that he claimed, he deserves the title of intellectual, though perhaps that is not his primary aim.

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The most interesting part of the interview was when you were trying to get Rufo to say that Marcuse etc were evil and dishonest (your 3-6 here), and he was just granting all your points but disagreeing with your conclusions. You were getting visibly frustrated!

I understand Rufo as agreeing with you entirely that lacking the courage of your convictions, not being willing to try to convince your critics, appealing solely to emotion, being wilfully blind to evidence, etc, are big mistakes that will lead to intellectual disaster. The big difference is that you conclude that this makes them bad thinkers and moral monsters, but Rufo regards these as all-too-human flaws that we are all guilty of to some degree - he even used the word "tragic." Obviously both perspectives have some merit.

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It is tragic but it’s also hard to empathize with people who would kill you if they could. I have a friend who met Marcuse in the early 70s and he point blank said that people like my friend would be killed after the revolution.

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Aug 13, 2023·edited Aug 13, 2023

This is a good point, and Marcuse was obviously an authoritarian misanthrope pretending to be the opposite, but I also want to add that often you can tell more about a person through simple actions than through their words and ideas.

The Marxist aristocrats of the Frankfurt School were rescued by America from certain death at the hands of the Nazis, were given sanctuary and allowed to live very safe and prosperous lives (for themselves and their families), and yet instead of expressing gratitude they immediately denounced the country for its intolerance and set about trying to unravel it.

I haven't read all of Marcuse (I wouldn't want to punish myself), so I could be wrong and am happy to be corrected. But judging from their most-known writing and public statements and actions, Marcuse and the Frankfurters have to be history's least grateful refugees.

Never trust the words or follow the lead of people who display such radical ingratitude.

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I guess it depends on your worldview. I don't find something like that a barrier to empathising with people, although perhaps I should! But I just don't see the contradiction between empathising with someone, and thinking they are awful, and need to be utterly and ruthlessly defeated.

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We can empathize with their ideals I suppose but this would depend on whether their ideals are worthy. For example, can you empathize with Hitler’s ideals?

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How do you empathise with an ideal? Empathy is about people, putting yourself in their shoes. That's vital to understand anyone, including Hitler.

Obviously I have no sympathy for his ideals.

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I think "evil" to Rufo means more *direct* evil. Like "I'm going to rape that woman because she's hot" or "I'm going to steal from the orphans trust fund to buy a yacht". The kind of stuff nobody is mistaken about or rationalizes, the people doing it know its evil and don't care.

"I think I'm doing good but it turns out I'm not" is a sin, and the more negligent the ignorance is the worse the sin. Should it be called "evil" at some level of negligence? I guess it depends what the word means to you.

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That might be part of it, but he definitely regards them as having done evil, either intentionally or effectively so. He just doesn't jump from evil actions to the person being evil.


He's religious, and I wager he'd say the line between good and evil runs through every human heart, and only God can judge a person in their entirety, or similar.

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My wife is constantly correcting our small children when they call *people* evil and say that merely their *actions* are evil.

In any event, I think there is some definitional talking past one another.

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Angela Davis was pretty evil in terms of her actions. She loved revolutionary violence.

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Chris tried to point out that even revolutionary violence can sometimes be justified. Of course sometimes usually means "rarely" and "less than trigger happy people would like".

Unlike Caplan I think the revolutionary war was a good thing, while simultaneously recognizing the the colonists demands were in a lot of ways unreasonable.

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Why do you say “was”? She is still alive and has not recanted.

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Right. I was thinking that she has probably stopped trying to smuggle guns into courthouses and focuses on teaching/writing/speaking.

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Aug 8, 2023·edited Aug 8, 2023

Well, that comes down to one of Bryan's late questions, are Nazism and communism morally equivalent? In terms of body count and human suffering, they certainly have similar track records.

Is it all-too-human and tragic to be a Nazi sympathizer after evidence of the Holocaust is available to everyone? Because that's the situation of these thinkers in the postwar era, particularly after Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov, etc. Remember, as Bryan so pointedly showed--Marcuse couldn't even say that the US was better than the Soviet Union.

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Does it? Rufo said repeatedly that Marcuse etc have done huge damage to the modern world. Presumably much more than any neo-Nazi. And he also said they were culpable for their missteps, at best willfully blind to overwhelming evidence, etc.

I can't speak for Rufo, but I definitely think a neo-Nazi must have gone tragically wrong somewhere.

I don't see what rides on which ideology is "worse" overall. Rufo agreed they were both very bad, but was kinda noncommittal. I think Communism is probably worse, but they're both so awful it's splitting hairs. But I also wouldn't hold Marcuse personally responsible for all the evils of Communism.

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Caplan over here dropping truth bombs about Continental Philosophy. I share the sentiment. Is there some place you've written a lengthier critique?

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Would be interested in seeing a Caplan style anti-Continental philosophy. Danish philosophy departments are filled with this stuff, there's basically no actual thinking left, just weird leftist verbiage. At least, this was my experience at Aarhus University, so I changed to linguistics (then learned some actually useful skills in my spare time and started working in the private sector).

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If Rufo says he hates libertarians like you, but (in your opinion) his in-practice policy proposals are good, then why would you publicly support and affiliate with him?

It would make much more sense to *quietly* help him in some way.

Publicly supporting someone who won't support you back is bad for your social position and reputation. It announces to the world, "You can talk about me as horribly as you please, and I'll never do anything about it."

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Bryan is plainly being the bigger person. But I agree that doesn't always work out well.

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Rufo hates libertarians in general, but not necessarily Caplan, who doesn't seem to share the big libertarian talking points leveled against Rufo.

Caplan for instance has no problem with politics shaping K-12 curriculum in the manner Rufo proposes, which many other libertarians seem (bizarrely) averse to.

Generally, I think Rufo has a real dislike for do nothing intellectuals that criticize without impacting the world.

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Bryan wants to know why Chris respects the Critical Theorists who are SO WRONG AND DANGEROUS

Maybe, because non-libertarians care first about people (the Good and the Beautiful) and second about Truth

Yes, peoples' understandings of their lives and proposed solutions might not be COMPLETELY true

But, they deserve to be listened to and treated with dignity

And, then we can help them, gently, with the sword of Truth

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