Skip to comments.Truths We Dare Not Speak. Five propositions that simply have become taboo [Victor Davis Hanson]
Posted on 01/14/2010 7:15:09 AM PST by Tolik
There are a number of things we simply no longer talk about. The silence is partly due to intellectual laziness. Or maybe it is because of political correctnessor even attributable to ignorance and the absence of curiosity.
In no particular order, I list five propositions that simply have become taboo.
1). Illegal Immigration and California.
There are dozens of recent exposés on the California mess. The I accuse themesall quite accurateare well known.
(a) The state propositions have hamstrung the legislature, and resulted in almost no free choices anymore in budgetary decision.
(b) The legislaturedue to partisan gerrymandering, the unnecessarily large number of legislators in an unnecessary bicameral system, and term-limitsis inexperienced, captive to special interests, and increasingly incompetent.
(c) State employees have taken over the state: they are paid far above the national average, not accountable, and almost impossible to fire when found to be incompetent. The state pension system is unsustainable. Pay cuts, lay-offs, or furloughs loom.
(d) The nations highest income, sales, and gas taxes have driven out the most productive residentsto the tune of 3,500 a weekto no-tax or little-tax neighboring states.
OK agreed, and I have written all that myself in various articles. But there is another problem never raised in polite company.
California, by most estimates, has somewhere between 40-50% of the nations illegal immigrants. That may mean 5-7 million residents here illegally, most without English, documentation, or high-school diplomas. This makes the practice of assimilation into the middle-class a multigenerational process over decades, rather than in the past, when immigrants came in fewer numbers and more often legally.
The state ranks 47-48th in most studies of the achievement levels of the nations schools, mostly due to millions of entering students who do not speak English well, if at all.
Of the some $50 billion in remittances that leave the U.S. each year to Latin America, perhaps $20 billion come from California residents, draining the state of capital, and ensuring that the donors will be in need of state health, education, housing and food supplements. Californias taxpayers, in essence, subsidize Oaxaca and Jaliscothat may be humanitarian, and worthy of praise, but it is costly nonetheless, and perhaps beyond the financial resources of the majority of the population.
Ill pass on increased per capita rates of crime, gangs, etc. that are considered too illiberal to mention. But if studies are correct that anyone who comes north, without English, legality, and education, over his life-cycle will have to draw somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000 more in entitlements than he contributes in various taxes, and if we were to prorate that on an annual basis, and if we were to multiply that by several million, then one can envision an annual outlay of several billion in state expenditures.
Instead, illegal immigration is never much cited as a contributor to Californias fiscal implosion. To mention all this is considered racist. Yet, to take one instance, the cost of incarcerating the states illegal aliens alone exceeds the budget of the new UC Merced, a campus intended to serve mostly minority communities of the central valley.
The solution? Allow only legal immigration. Base admittance to the U.S. mostly on skills and our own need for expertise and capital. Trust in merit, and ignore the race and origin of the would-be immigrant.
We are tired of Iraq and have Trotskyized it out of our existence, given the huge cost and 4,000 dead.
But consider: not a single America died in Iraq in December (38 murdered in Chicago during that period); three have been lost this month (24 murdered so far this month in Chicago).
Some random thoughts. The surge was a brilliant success.
The heroes are relatively ignored. They are U.S. forces who served in Iraq, of course; Gens. Odierno and Petraeus (recall what he endured from Hillary Clinton and moveon.org in his Senate inquisition); civilian analysts like Fred Kagan and retired Gen. Keane; and, of course, a demonized George Bushattacked by most of his former supporters, the majority of pundits and columnists, those Democrats who had voted to authorize the war, many of the Iraq Study Group members; and by a cadre of retired revolt of the generals officers.
Yet for some reason, very few senators (cf. the You Tube videos of the debates of October 11-12, 2002) who gave impassioned pleas, authorizing 23 writs to go to war, have ever quite explained why they flippedand what they think now of both their original support, and their subsequent opposition.
A Harry Reid (the war is lost) or Barack Obama (out of Iraq by March 2008 and the surge is not working) have never subsequently suggested that they were wrong at a time when our troops desperately were trying against all odds to save the fragile country.
Nor has anyone questioned the conventional dogma that Iraq empowered Iran, supposedly by removing the demonic Saddam. (Yet consider the liberal logic: we were wrong to remove a monster because he was a useful balance-of-power monster [ignore the genocide of the Kurds, Marsh Arabs, etc]; yet we deplore prior administrations for giving the same monster some aid in his war against Iran.)
In fact, mass demonstrations and unrest now take place in an isolated Iran, not so much in a democratic Iraq. The latter is proving more destabilizing by its open broadcasting and word of mouth freedom to Iran than Iran is to Iraq by its savage use of terrorism. (What will happen to conventional wisdom, if there comes a day when Iran is constitutional, along with Iraq and Lebanon?)
No one has officially said they were wrong in alleging No Blood for Oil. But we got no oil from Iraq. The price rose after we invaded. The Chinese, Russians, and Europeans got the contracts in free and fair bidding.
(Contrast Saddams rigged pre-war, quid-pro-quo oil concessions to the corrupt French). There was no Halliburton conspiracy to steal resources. The left often now, mirabile dictu, accuses us of being naïve in bleeding to give others the resources that they once accused us of wishing to steal. Barack Obama still talks of Iraq as a mistake, even as he quietly ignores his own prescriptions to have gotten out by early 2008, and to have stopped the surgeand continues to follow the Petraeus/Bush plan.
3) Affirmative Action.
The concept was noble, but now antiquated and mostly absurd. It requires the logic of the Old Confederacy to determine racial purity among the intermarried citizenry. Jet-black Punjabis get no preferences. Light-skinned Mexican-Americans of the fourth-generation claim privilege. Poor whites from Tulare dont rank. The children of black dentists do. I see very little logic here.
Asians? We both claim them as minorities, and yet we discriminate against them at the University of California admissions process on the basis of their own superior achievement. (Apparently, the deplorable record of discrimination against Asians is now deemed irrelevant due to the communitys own success. Ponder the ramifications of that for a bit: should Asians have been struggling at UC, they would be considered suffering from the legacy of oppression; since they are excelling, they need to be quietly discriminated against).
As far as I can tell, here is the logic of this Byzantine system: Affirmative action in the 21st century has no logical basis in skin color, actual discrimination, poverty, class, or need. It is predicated on two archaic thoughts: previously discriminated against American minorities shall be defined as only Hispanic, Blacks, and Asians, and thus their children shall receive privilege for decades. BUT that new discrimination will not apply if such minorities on their own have prospered and are successful. (Why that would be so in some cases is again a taboo question).
So, Japanese-Americans, whose parents were put in camps, dont quite qualify any more for compensation seemingly because they are successful and are thus over-represented in the racial spoils system. But Chilean and Brazilian immigrants doif they can fraudulently piggy-back upon the Mexican-American experience by virtue of a shared language and last names.
If one is of mixed race, nomenclature trumps all. Bob Wilson, the son of a Mexican-American mother, is liable to get nothing, Roberto Martinez will get quite a lot, if the son of a Mexican-American (or any Spanish-speaking) father. A Barry Soetoro is of mere pedestrian mixed ancestry; Barack Obama is not merely black, but exotically so.
In short, the system is corrupt. In our society of intermarriage, immigration and mixed ancestry, we cannot any longer determine who is and who is not a certified minority (cf. the con of mostly white candidates claiming some sort of Native American ancestry).
Class and need are no longer connected with race. Hyphenation only creates cynicism and enhances a professional class of grievance mongers in journalism, politics, academia, and the arts (yet somehow we quietly and unofficially drop affirmative action dictates when it comes to 747 pilots, brain surgeons, or nuclear power plant engineers. [No one sues to disregard competency exams for air-traffic-controllers solely on the basis of undesirable racial results]).
So what is left of affirmative action? Cynicism. Mostly it is an easy way for elite whites and Asians to feel good about themselves by helping the otherusually at someone elses expense (cf. the lower-class white applicant from Tulare who is rejected with equal or superior qualifications, without the resources and preparations of the wealthy and connected.) It provides psychological alleviation of guilt, without the need to be tutoring in the ghetto, sending your kids to a mostly Hispanic school, or living among the lower classes. In that sense, the construction of Barack Obama, the former Barry Soetoro, and his apotheosis by elite whites, is again an unintended paradigm of the times.
For those who find the above illiberal, Im sorry, but after twenty-one years as a professor I have never quite seen any American institution so corrupt, unfair, and cynical as the practice of affirmative action.
4) The Ivy League is a Naked Emperor.
By Ivy League I do not mean just Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, but the entire concept of high-priced elite schools like a Stanford, Duke, or Columbia as well. We know a BA from such institutions does not ipso facto any longer, as it once may well have, guarantee knowledge or competence. We know the race/class/gender craze has watered down the curriculum, and ensured therapy and empathy trump recall of facts and adherence to the inductive method. And we know that ones first two years will probably mean instruction largely by graduate students and lecturers.
Had we national exit requirements, I am convinced those leaving a Hillsdale College or St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Johns would do better than the average Yale BA.
A motivated undergraduate student, who picks the right professors and classes, can get as good an undergraduate education at San Jose State as at Stanford. Certainly, the four years are not worth $200,000 in room, board, and tuition if education is the goal.
But wait! If, in contrast, networks, influence-accumulation, and contacts are the objectives to ensure a child remains, or enters into, the elite class, then the investment in such undergraduate schools is very much worth itbut should be considered analogous to a debutante ball, the social register, or the Grand Tour.
Does anyone believe that the present professional classes of Ivy-League certified technocrats in the administration understand the law, the economy, or the government any better, by virtue of their university educations, than a does a country trial lawyer, a military officer, a CEO, or any of the others who were educated elsewhere, or received training in the rather rougher arena of the real world?
I am fortunate for a wonderful graduate education in the PhD program at Stanford, but I learned more about the way the world works in two months of farming (which saved a wretch like me) than in four years of concentrated study.
In short, the world does not work on a nine-month schedule. It does not recognize concepts like tenure. It does not care for words without action. And brilliance is not measure by vocabulary or SAT scores. Wowing a dean, or repartee into a seminar, or clever put-downs of rivals in the faculty lounge dont translate into running a railroador running the country. One Harry Truman, or Dwight Eisenhower is worth three Bill Clintons or Barack Obamas. If that sounds reductionist, simplistic, or anti-intellectual, it is not meant tobut so be it nonetheless.
5) The Middle East is a Fraud
Why do we beat ourselves up over Israel and the Palestinians? Why not occupied Cyprus? Or the Kuriles? Or South Ossetia? Or the divided city of Nicosia? Is there a Falklands Question?
Why are not Germans blowing themselves up in Gdansk, the former East Prussia, the Alsace, or old Silesia to recover lost land?
Were there no Israeli-Arab wars before the occupation of 1967? Does anyone think that, should the West Bank simply take a 30-year break from the violence, emulate Western business and government, draw in Gulf capital, a few thousands acres here or there would then be still be relevant?
Are the far poorer people of Chad blowing themselves up? Is the world crying for those in the slums of Lima? Does want and famine drive those in rural China to capture the worlds attention by virtue of their terrorist acts? Do we send special envoys to occupied Tibet? Is there a Green Line there?
Sorrytake away three things, and the Mideast crisis is relegated to Cypriote status. If there were no oil in the Arab Middle East; if there were no Islamic terrorists; and if there was no endemic global anti-Semitism, we would be as likely to have a Mideast czar as we would an Ossetian Czar.
Let me know if you want in or out.
FR Index of his articles: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index NRO archive: http://author.nationalreview.com/?q=MjI1MQ== Pajamasmedia: http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson/ His website: http://victorhanson.com/
Just a partial list: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index:
Just a partial list. Much more at the link: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index
When Conservative Felonies Become Liberal Misdemeanors 2010: Our Year of Decision Beating the Dead Terrorist Horse. September 11 taught us many lessons. To our peril, we have forgotten them Bush Did It! And, Really, Bush Did It! And Bush Really Did It! A Humpty-Dumpty View of the World 2009 Chickens and Their 2010 Roost Our Year of Obama Where Did These Guys Come From? The Origins of Obamism The War Against the Wannabe Rich. Why attack the productive classes who want to be rich? The Long March From California to Copenhagen [Hanson on debate between capitalism and socialism] Obama and the Malleability of History. In pursuit of noble goals, Obama ignobly twists the truth. Our Flip-Flopping Wars - Iraq was never lost and Afghanistan was never quite the easy good war The Palin Wonder Obamas Wheel of Fortune. The presidents luck has changed and he doesnt seem to have noticed Why Are We Tiring of Obama? Has War Really Changed? War always involves a military solution. Change, Weakness, Disaster, Obama: Answers from Victor Davis Hanson If Iran Refuses To Cooperate, Block Its Ports Resetting the Reset Button [Victor Davis Hanson dissects 0's pathetic diplomacy] Riding the Back of the Tiger [Victor Davis Hanson on Obama not understanding What Causes Wars...] We Ain't Seen Nothing Yet Palin-Odes? What Drives the Fear and Loathing of Sarah Palin? Obamas Prissy America - Why does Obamas tolerant, apologetic America seem so very self-centered? What Bush Inherited, and What He Left Left Behind Who Are They? To Obama, they are responsible for all our troubles. Problem is, they are most of us Afghan Mythologies. We have everything we need to defeat the Taliban. The Discreet Charm of the Left-wing Plutocracy Truman and the Principles of U.S. Foreign Policy. Jimmy Carter rejected the postwar consensus. President Obama appears to be following a similar path Dr. Barack and Mr. Obama - The backlash is sharp as voters learn that Obama is not the man they thought he was Obama and "Redistributive Change". His real agenda The War Against the Producers President Palins First 100 Days. Imagine if Sarah Palin had Obamas record Thoughts About Depressed Americans Our Battered American [gets angrier - Must Read Rant]
Re: Ivy League - I will take a Service Academy graduate or a Land Grant School graduate ANY DAY over an Ivy Leaguer.
Dr. Hanson: Fine and insightful post, as always, and please allow me to thank you for the opportunity to participate in an informed, but practical and common sense commentary community.
I see an interesting thread running through your five issues: Merit, and the liberal hatred of it. In order to buy socialism, which is above all an unshakeable belief in the necessity of equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity, one must utterly ignore individual merit, and where it cannot be ignored, it must be attacked in every possible venue. America, a capitalism democracy was actually built on individual merit, and whenever we have, as individuals, businesses, schools, institutions, a people and a government, tried to ignore it, unpleasantness has occurred.
Illegal Immigration: We cannot even call illegal immigrants illegal immigrants, but undocumented this or that. Because everyone must have the same outcomeAmerican citizenship and all its benefitsliberals cannot consider merit, even as the elite of the elite push the idea that American citizenship is absolutely nothing special. Thus an illiterate former drug runner with no marketable skills should receive the same immigration consideration as a college educated engineer. That America is reaching the point California long ago reachedthat there are no longer enough meritorious, productive citizens to provide unlimited equality of opportunity (endless entitlements) for those without meritis never considered by liberals because acknowledging it would undermine their entire belief system.
War/Heroism: Heroesand there have been many in the last decade- plus, including at last count, two women who have won the Silver Star, the only two since WWIIare the epitome of merit, but they must be studiously ignored lest the virtue of merit become obvious. As a high school teacher, Ive discovered that my students cannot name a single decorated military hero of their lifetime (something I endeavor to remedy), though most are pretty much on top of the most recent American Idol contenders. On the positive side, they dont know who John Kerry, the military, pseudo-hero poster boy of the left, is either. In the same way, Americas success in war cannot be lauded, because, again, this inescapably reveals skill and incredible martial merit, and America, as our post-American president has made clear, is just another of the many nations, without particular merit in any way. To remedy this, I tell my students of the battle of 73 Easting. Perhaps the Haitians will have a different view of the relative merit of our military in the days to come, though I doubt our president will.
Affirmative Action: This issue is all about merit, and the tacit admission by the proponents of affirmative action that those they seek to advance are not smart and capable enough to succeed on their own, and with affirmative action, they need expend no effort to become such. They will always lack that which must never be spoken. Thus has the Obama Justice Department filed suit against the New Jersey State Police because they require a written test for promotion to Sgt. on the laws they must enforce. Too many whites are being promoted, you see, so the test must, ipso facto, be discriminatory. Merit can never enter into such equations. Presumably society would like to employ police supervisors who actually know and can discourse at some length on the laws they are charged with enforcing and teaching to their subordinates, but then, that would require that merit be considered. Left to its own devices, New Jersey would prefer to do that. Our DOJ disagrees. Oh yes, lets keep in mind that many liberals absolutely hate the police in general, considering them only slightly above frozen lobster on the relative intelligence and morality scale, yet they labor to lower the level of the general police intelligence pool. Being forced to ignore human nature and merit has all kinds of interesting contradictions and consequences.
Elite Schools: The confluence of all of these issues is in our elite schools where lunatic speech codes reign supreme and political orthodoxy rather than merit is the primary, indeed, even the sole, hiring and tenure granting criteria. Liberals scorn Gov. Sarah Palin because she graduated from some little school in Idaho and actually attended several schools before graduating. As she pointed out in her book, she and her contemporaries often had to take a semester off to work to earn enough money to continue, yet did continue, and left college with a degree and without crushing debt. This is, to most Americans who are free to consider the reality of such things, meritorious, but of course, cannot be taken into account as merit does not exist in the liberal worldview, thus we end up with Cornel West, Ward Churchill, Michael Mann and similar hucksters. My undergraduate degree transcript includes credits from four separate institutions, and I too worked while attending school. I suspect this is not at all unusual in most colleges, but may well be in the Ivy League. The fact that I earned that degree in 2.5 years and made the deans list every semester would be meaningless because I did not graduate from an elite school, and anyone who did, though they majored in beer and barely passed, would be considered my superior in every way. And of course, affirmative action ensures that far too many people will attend college, people who are simply not ready and/or intellectually capable of genuine college level work, and who will quickly drop out, or worse, will eventually be granted a degree in the name of equality of outcome rather than individual merit. Society is schizophrenic in this. We dare not suggest that some are not capable of college level work, that some people are just smarter than others, but we dont bat an eyelash over the reality that only a select few will inhabit the ranks of the varsity football team. Sportswhich many liberals scornseems to be our sole exception to the practiced ignorance of merit.
Middle East: Merit applies here again, for the Israelis have done something that no people who live in that part of the world (with the very limited possible exceptions of the Lebanese and the Jordanians) have done: Made the desert bloom. Not only that, theyve established a modern, thriving, technologically advanced society that rivals any in a region that is, for the most part, still living in the 7th century. Note the contortions, the blatant lies that must be advanced to ignore the merit of Israel and her citizens. So caught up is the world, and these days, our government, that America seems willing to allow a second Holocaust rather than admit that merit matters, that Israel has it, and that her enemies are essentially 7th century barbarians with modern weapons who would be only to happy to murder us when theyre done with the Jews. People who produce nothing, who build nothing, who live only to destroy, are lauded by the elite, the intellectual, the nuanced, when the Israelis, who seek only to live in peace, and failing that, preserve their lives, are scorned.
There are hopeful signs, however. Having been exposed to Obama and his functionaries, more and more Americans are coming home to the idea that merit matters and that not everyone, for example, should live in their own home because they just cant afford it. Most Americans understand that this is why we have apartments and do not look down on those who live in them. Still, in the understanding and acceptance of the importance of merit, lies at least part of our salvation. Now if only the congressional Republicans would believe it and act on it rather than behaving like slightly more civilized versions of liberals
Wow! One of VDH’s most incisive and all-encompassing essays ever.
An obvious candidate for beneficial cognitive diversity./s
How about a graduate from the Cornell Univ School of Agriculture (an original Land Grant College)?
6) Global Warming is unproven
7) Social Security is a dinosaur that needs to be retired
8) Obama has not yet proven his eligibility
Oh isn’t he wonderful?
The political problem with Iraq is it became toxic from 2005-2007 when things were going bad and Bush kept on saying they were going good. Sure, Bush finally under a democrat controlled congress employed the surge and fixed what looked to be a coming disaster. But by that point the popular conventional political wisdom was “Bush lied to get us into war. He lied to us and lied to democrats”. (Not saying this was the case.)
The fact is it was Bush, Cheney and Condi out on national TV every day promoting the need for the invasion(Mushroom clouds, WMDs, Iraq pay for it's reconstruction, greeted as liberators, ...) . And they alone made the decision.
There was no amount of explaining or playing of CSPAN tapes on talk radio that could remove those images of Bush responsible.
He means "hamstringed."
Umm...because Germans usually blow other people up when taking back lost lands...they're really good at that, but it's been a problem for them...
One Freeper even put forth a reasonable argument that these two were among the poorer presidents and certainly the worst of their era.
I also find Hanson's following statement amusing: cf. the con of mostly white candidates claiming some sort of Native American ancestry . . .
The actual probability of a white person being able to claim some Native American ancestry is quite high if they can trace their ancestry in this country back to the 18th century. It becomes even higher (close to 75%) if they can trace it back to the 17th century. The reason is simple math-- the number of direct ancestors doubles every generation and the pool of available people shrinks.
Yeah, I know, we're talking 1/32nd or, in the more common cases, 1/64th or even 1/128th (or less) Native American blood. But it is based on facts, however small. And it is a trend likely to continue as long as special rights are conferred on certain minorities.
Excellent piece....and I agree those are five things that need to be discussed, but is too PC (even for the going-liberal Fox News).
One more to add.....
The Failure of Free Trade, and how so-called conservatives agree with George Soros, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, and other far-lefties....agree on Free Trade....and the refusal to discuss its outright failure
I think Hanson is wrong here. It is quite conceivable that any given student going to St. John's instead of Yale would come out with a better education than if he had chosen the Ivy, but the talent pool that Yale gets to pick from "did better" on average in high school and they are likely to continue doing so after they get their four year degree.
Actually, he means hamstrung. It is the correct word.
Unfortunately my maxim about Service Academy graduates doesn’t hold true for presidents. Carter and Grant were graduates of Annapolis and West Point respectively. Grant was a brilliant general but a poor president.
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