Journalists as Guardians of Democracy

With the Fourth Estate under increasing siege by the powers-that-be in America and elsewhere, the public is being entertained by journalists singing paeans to their profession; as secular prophets speaking truth to power; as “the last guardians of our democracy.” While I concur with their appeals for the unhindered right to exist, these minstrels of journalism conveniently omit some rather important verities.

If a cornerstone of the Western political heritage is the right of free expression, the underlying political theory which buttresses that right also conditions it under the rubric “with the consent of the governed.” So if the ambassadors of journalism chronically abuse that privileged right by the selective reporting of the facts and of the news stories published (a.k.a. self-censorship), with hyperbolic predictions of immediate economic disaster which fail to occur (i.e. Brexit), or unsubstantiated and baseless accusations (i.e. BuzzFeed), scandalous slanders (i.e. Rolling Stones, Washington Post), yellow journalism, outright mendacity, and all the other cheap disingenuous tricks of the rhetorician; it should not surprise if the governed, in effect, withdraw their consent, and permit would-be tyrants to trample over this fundamental tenet and bastion of free civic society. Those, who have previously discredited themselves and their moral authority, will find themselves alienated and sociopolitically isolated, as the willingness of the public to come to their defense, even at the cost of life and limb, falls by the wayside.

The moral authority of the Fourth Estate, at least in the United States, has all but collapsed; even before many of its members decided last year to surrender all pretense of journalistic objectivity and intellectual integrity and devolve into rank propagandists. Most of its members continue to fail to recognize and/or acknowledge their unethical estate, let alone change, and who blame their woes upon a civically illiterate public for not buying their sale of damaged goods.

♦                    ♦                    ♦

Many moons ago, I was struck by the ease by which 20th century tyrants and totalitarians steamrolled over real and potential islands of opposition. Be it true, for instance, that Germany had lacked a long tradition of liberal democracy, with brief and aborted attempts in the Revolution of 1848–9 and arguably in the Peasant’s War (1523–4). But it was my conclusion that the ambassadors of the various islands of societal power and influence had so discredited themselves, even prior to the Nazi takeover, they could no longer credibly serve as rallying points of defiance.

Some of the best paeans to the virtue of the Roman Republic were delivered in its last days by Cicero and Cato the Younger. However, the rhetorical flourish resonated little in the minds and hearts of their contemporaries while the optimates of the Republic nakedly pursued private aggrandizement at the expense of the commonweal and their less fortuned compatriots.

If President Trump be a potential tyrant, his inaugural speech echoed and exploits a similar state of affairs in contemporary America.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

It is a historical truism that those individuals, dynasties, sociopolitical institutions, and states who lose moral authority (Latin – auctoritas) find quick loss of power on its coattails.

♦                    ♦                    ♦

The good news, from an internal Canadian perspective, is that our Fourth Estate is largely unlike its American counterparts. I might complain about its superficial, dumb, and provincial coverage and analysis of world events at times. But the deceit and dissembling, lasciviously and shamelessly practiced by the American media and reaching pandemic levels, simply doesn’t exist here to any great extent. In the Jian Ghomeshi trial last year, one could sense some Canadian commentators chomping at the bit. But hyperbolic and irresponsible claims would be found largely in American rags, whose attention to the trial was otherwise fleeting.

Journalistic circumspection and integrity is neither innate in our blood nor a permanent fixture. If the odor of sheep manure emits from the pages and screens of many American media outlets, it is largely because truth and intellectual integrity is the first casualty of war, even if that war be of the multi-faceted cultural kind.

John Ibbitson’s depiction of a continuing Laurentian consensus in this country, of an inclusivistic political center which broadens, incorporates, and co-opts but brooks little tolerance for extremist and unsubstantiated claims, currently differentiates this country from our southern neighbours where the center has collapsed. But we are no less human than they; no more Exceptionalist than they.

Even so; if journalists be the last guardians of democracy, then journalistic and intellectual integrity is the strong fortress, high watchman’s tower, and chief weapon of their defense.

Publius

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (Re: Why This Recovery Is So Lousy – WSJ)

“Truth,” it has been said, “is the first casualty of war.” – Philip Snowden[i]

A theme, long sustained within conservative economic circles, is that FDR’s New Deal crippled the recovery and prolonged the Great Depression. Screeds, like the following by Phil Gramm, a not insignificant player in legislative assemblies past, is stereotypical of this meme.

In all recoveries following all 30 economic contractions since 1870, only two have failed to have strong rebounds after deep recessions. Only two are now labeled “Great” because of the long periods of suffering they caused. And in only two recoveries did government impose economic policies radically different from the policies pursued in all the other recoveries—different than traditional policy but similar to each other— FDR’s Great Depression and Mr. Obama’s Great Recession.

From 1932-36, federal spending skyrocketed 77%, the national debt rose by over 73%, and top tax rates more than tripled, from 25% to 79%. But the tectonic shift brought about by the New Deal was the federal government’s involvement in the economy, as a tidal wave of new laws were enacted and more executive orders were issued than by all subsequent presidents combined through President Clinton . . .

. . . As government assumed greater control, private investment collapsed, averaging only 40% of the 1929 level for nine consecutive years. League of Nations data show that by 1938, in five of the six most-developed countries in the world industrial production was on average 23% above 1929 levels, but in the U.S. it was still down by 10%. Employment in five of the six major developed countries averaged 12% above the pre-Depression levels while U.S. employment was still down by 20%. Before the Great Depression, real per capita GDP in the U.S. was about 25% larger than it was in Britain. By 1938, real per capita GDP in Britain was slightly higher than in the U.S.

Considering that in the four years following FDR’s ascension, the American economy grew at 10.88, 8.88, 13.05, and 5.12 percent respectively, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); or 10.74, 8.92, 12.91, and 5.23 percent respectively, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce; I am not quite sure what would constitute a strong bounce back for these partisans. There certainly has not existed any comparable rebound since.

This revisionist representation of the Great Depression abounds in sophistries and what we, in biblical circles, would call statistical proof-texting. Why, for instance, include years 1929 to 1932/3, a period when private investment totally collapsed, in determining the impact of New Deal policies from 1933 onward? (With inordinate price and asset deflation between late 1930 and mid-1933, investing one’s money in one’s mattress or backyard garden guaranteed that “investor” a 5–10% real return tax free.)

Nor is it fruitful to compare with other industrial nations without also mentioning that except for Germany and Canada, the economic downturn in America from 1929 to 1932/3 was considerably greater. Great Britain is, in particular, an egregious ploy, considering that the Great Depression was for Britain, a Great Recession within a Long Depression which began after WW1.

The national debt may have increased 73% in nominal terms from 1932–6. But as a percentage of GDP, it only increased from 32.5% to 40% during very trying times.[ii] Even so, comparing federal revenues and expenditures from (June) 1932 instead of (June) 1933, when Republican President Herbert Hoover governed for 8 of those 12 interim months, is but more statistical gamesmanship. In the final two years of the prior Republican administration, federal spending as a percentage of GDP was 10 (1932) and 13.5 (1933) percent respectively. Prior to WW2, FDR’s administration, except for 1934 (17%), never topped the last year of Hoover’s administration.

Indeed, FDR seemed not to have been particularly sold on Keynesian economics, which dominates the current economic thinking in Obama’s White House. Indeed, while John Maynard Keynes had hitherto expressed some rudimentary musings on his thesis, his The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was only published in 1936. Deficit spending during WW2 was mandated far more from existential survival than economic theory.

Did Gramm also fail to mention that Hoover’s administration deemed it necessary to raise top income tax rates to 63% in 1932?

Considering how easily accessible the extant documentation is to refute Gramm’s assertions, articles like these constitute an incompetent form of mendacity. Does The Wall Street Journal seek to vie with Vox for the gold medal in Mendacity in American Journalism.

[i] Philip Snowden, Introduction to Truth and the War, by E. D. Morel, (London: National Labor Press Ltd., 1916), p. vii.

[ii] GDP in 1932 was $60 billion, national debt $19.5. In 1936, the figures are $85B and $33.8B respectively.

Intellectual Integrity and Sociopolitical Prejudice – Part 1

Lack of intellectual integrity in this polarized and politicized era has become an enormous personal bugaboo. Recent history has confirmed the truism that the first casualty of war, cultural war (“Kulturkampf”) in this case, is truth. From science to theology, from academia to ecclesia, in economics, politics, journalism, history, neuroscience, psychiatry climatology, philosophy, sociology, law and so on and so on…; all I encounter is factual dishonesty and data selectivity, intentioned deceit, disingenuity, logical fallacies, empty arguments and sophistry on a par with St. Jerome. I have come to distrust any non-fiction book or article written past the 1960s. For, while prior to that decade, one might encounter perspectives distinctly objectionable to one’s own; one senses that there was at least some scholarly devotion to factual truth. The late U.S. Senator from New York (Daniel Patrick Moynihan) is attributed with saying “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” It is oft repeated because of its current resonance. Intellectual honesty has become so despairingly scant, that I find myself marveling at how the ol’ proverbial used salesmen seems to be amongst the most honest in the planet. (Those who have a special reputation toward particular vices, tend to pay special attention at repairing the reputation.)

Truth has stumbled in the streets,
      honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found,
They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; 1

That same chapter from Isaiah notes a corresponding lack of clarity in knowledge and understanding.

So justice is far from us,
      and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness;
      for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
Like the blind we grope along the wall,
      feeling our way like men without eyes.
At midday we stumble as if it were twilight;
      among the strong, we are like the dead.2

There exists natural relationship between intellectual dishonesty; unwillingness to ruthlessly and rigorously pursue the truth; and muddlement of mind. One becomes lost in one’s self-deceits. Like a math problem, requiring a complicated resolution, an initially skewered misunderstanding, often presuppositional prejudice, will obscure or color all later facts examined. To relate temporary results concluded from initial faulty understanding to those final facts, one will invariably construct even more skewered hypotheses. Thus, one is caught in a labyrinth of lies and errors within lies and error within lies and errors. Those who deliberately make truth servant to personal preference and agenda, self-inflict their own blindness.

The human ‘sciences’ (i.e. psychology, sociology) are particularly prone to intellectual dishonesty. For, there is inverse relationship between intellectual integrity and the importance of the research findings to self-interest and self-image. I have come to spurn almost every sociological survey which doesn’t use nationally gathered statistics. The capacity for deceit within the research methodology is too easy to fabricate and too difficult to detect.

One fluff piece of sociological ‘research’, which stands out for its prejudicial mendacity and/or incompetence must be awarded to Phil Zuckerman, Professor of Sociology, Pitzer College in Claremont, CA in his book “Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment” (2010). The thinly disguised intentions of his study is to discredit the notion, usually forwarded by the religious and social conservative, that “religion is what keeps people moral, that a society without God would be hell on earth: rampant with immorality, full of evil, and teeming with depravity”.3 He uses Denmark and Sweden as his tableau to prove that society can be both moral and happy, apart from God.

And the good professor will cite worldwide “happiness indexes” such as one by Ruut Veenhoven (Erasmus University Rotterdam) which gave godless Denmark top spot. Such indexes ought to be tossed in general; particularly when subjective perspectives contradict objective measurements. Secondly, such indices will be conditioned on the values and weightings of such values which the initiator of such surveys find most important. If a European fashions the study, be assured that cultural prejudices of that continent will influence the choice of criteria. However, that poses such a complicated argument, I dare not go there.

However, what is of particularly interest since it is difficult for ideological faction to deny importance is death and life issues. The suicide rates between relatively irreligious countries of Denmark and Sweden in comparison the United States, is one such measure.

Suicide Rates (per hundred thousand)
GECD Society at a Glance 2001, Statistical Annex Table D3

Age Group Denmark Sweden America
15 to 24 Years 9.3 9.4 13.7
25 to 34 Years 16.9 13.8 15.3
35 to 44 Years 23.9 21.0 15.3
45 to 54 Years 35.9 23.0 14.3
55 to 64 Years 32.1 20.9 13.3
65 to 74 Years 43.9 19.4 15.3
Over 75 46.3 27.0 22.0

Suicide Rates (per hundred thousand) over time
World Health Organization (1950 -2005)

Country 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
Denmark 23.3 23.3 20.3 19.3 21.5 24.1 31.6 27.9 23.9 17.7 13.6 11.6
Sweden 14.8 17.8 17.4 18.9 22.3 19.4 19.4 18.2 17.2 15.3 12.7
America 7.6 10.2 10.6 11.1 11.5 12.7 11.8 12.3 12.4 11.9 10.4 11.0

If one is postulating that the social conditions are more conducive to happiness in these liberal, godless European states and subjective opinion surveys are confirming it, these disjointed suicidal rates must be explained. It is not small potatoes. For, over the course of a lifetime, any annual rate of 20+ per 100,000 amounts to about 1.5% of people committing suicide over a life time. And even the notorious murder rate in the United States is small potatoes against the historical differentials in self-murder between the U.S. and Scandinavia.

It must be granted that secular ethics will not be so encumbered by taboos against suicide. However, in that so many self-inflict death in the prime of their lives (ages 35-65), where terminal disease is not as likely to be a significant factor, it would seem to indicate that the official happiness indices are somewhat misleading. The objective and the subjective do not jive. The social and economic environmental factors that promoters of these “happiness index” choose do not necessarily promote actual happiness.

Even if it is true that modern Western humanity thinks little about existential and eternal questions in their Vanity Fair of ever extreme and deviant distractions; over a period of decades, the pall of meaningless, implied in a non-theistic universe must nevertheless cast some despair upon the human psyche.

However, what puts the bee up my butt is the deceit or incompetence concerning Zuckerman’s crime assertions. According to the good professor:

Although they may have relatively high rates of petty crime and burglary, and although these crime rates have been on the rise in recent decades, their overall rates of violent crime – including murder aggravated assault, and rape – are among the lowest on earth.3

It is a disingenuous assertion. For, while it is true that if one were to consider the whole earth, including developing nations, Denmark and Sweden is among the lowest. However, the thrust of his thesis is intentioned against a comparable wealthy nation, such as the United States, with religiousity. However, except for murder, religious American has per capita crime rates considerably lower then Sweden and violent crimes comparable to Denmark. Petty crime is endemic throughout Scandinavia.

Various Summary Crime Statistics

Per 100,000 (2007)

Age Group Denmark4 Sweden5 United States6
Total # of Crimes 9,616 14,465 3,730
Murder 2.86 5.61
Sexual Offenses 49 192 29
Violence against the person 358 961 432

And while the United States has experienced an enormous reversal in crime since the early 1990s, which has returned crime rates (per capita) back to early 1960s levels, Sweden’s crime wave from 1960 (and even earlier) has just kept on going and going.

Crime Rate per 100,000 population7

Sweden United States
Total #  Crimes  Violent Crime  Death  SexualOffenses Total #   Crimes Violent Crime Death

Sexual

Offenses

1960 3,982.07 131.32 0.98 54.07 1,887.18 160.86 5.08 9.59
1961 4,108.42 131.38 0.89 52.75 1,906.09 158.14 4.78 9.41
1962 4,262.56 128.74 0.85 48.60 2,019.80 162.30 4.59 9.45
1963 4,466.24 132.39 1.33 49.30 2,180.29 168.17 4.58 9.36
1964 4,798.79 137.24 1.02 50.77 2,388.09 190.55 4.90 11.21
1965 5,800.79 167.20 2.60 50.87 2,448.97 200.17 5.15 12.10
1966 6,063.19 184.05 2.51 47.53 2,670.82 219.96 5.64 13.20
1967 6,421.50 188.81 2.02 49.19 2,989.73 253.18 6.20 13.99
1968 7,167.16 228.11 1.26 46.98 3,370.23 298.40 6.92 15.88
1969 7,671.84 240.99 1.46 41.86 3,679.95 328.66 7.33 18.46
1970 8,157.03 247.19 1.24 41.29 3,984.54 363.53 7.87 18.69
1971 8,814.60 237.91 1.44 38.16 4,164.74 395.95 8.62 20.49
1972 8,509.19 241.54 1.40 31.95 3,961.39 400.95 8.97 22.50
1973 8,054.58 233.50 1.32 33.40 4,154.43 417.40 9.36 24.49
1974 8,274.89 261.20 1.53 40.60 4,850.43 461.10 9.80 26.21
1975 9,220.63 281.80 1.49 33.42 5,298.52 487.84 9.62 26.32
1976 9,720.25 278.85 1.56 28.91 5,287.32 467.82 8.75 26.59
1977 10,232.64 306.01 1.59 32.61 5,077.65 475.93 8.84 29.35
1978 9,706.35 297.07 1.50 34.46 5,140.33 497.82 8.97 31.01
1979 9,840.07 301.46 2.05 45.60 5,565.46 548.86 9.75 34.71
1980 11,169.97 319.63 1.62 47.90 5,950.01 596.64 10.22 36.83
1981 11,247.24 315.28 1.75 48.74 5,850.02 593.47 9.81 35.95
1982 11,816.55 363.42 1.50 58.20 5,600.51 570.82 9.07 34.00
1983 11,515.47 377.93 1.45 54.17 5,179.22 538.12 8.26 33.76
1984 11,793.48 396.38 1.39 58.07 5,038.40 539.93 7.93 35.72
1985 12,195.25 410.81 1.51 61.47 5,224.95 558.06 7.98 36.85
1986 13,086.99 417.94 1.76 61.87 5,501.90 620.14 8.58 38.09
1987 13,020.31 440.94 1.60 68.07 5,575.45 612.49 8.29 37.60
1988 12,875.20 476.62 1.73 78.24 5,694.54 640.58 8.46 37.83
1989 13,479.50 496.92 1.77 82.78 5,774.02 666.90 8.71 38.29
1990 14,240.59 504.18 1.41 77.77 5,802.67 729.61 9.40 41.11
1991 13,914.99 496.89 1.64 80.79 5,898.36 758.18 9.80 42.27
1992 13,788.06 549.48 2.01 100.76 5,661.38 757.67 9.32 42.76
1993 13,663.45 614.06 1.98 118.23 5,487.10 747.15 9.51 41.13
1994 12,669.93 640.79 1.81 108.09 5,373.82 713.59 8.96 39.26
1995 12,982.37 647.42 2.03 107.26 5,274.93 684.46 8.22 37.09
1996 13,294.19 639.91 2.25 102.35 5,087.64 636.64 7.41 36.29
1997 13,520.88 653.85 1.77 106.12 4,927.33 610.98 6.80 35.91
1998 13,343.80 674.38 2.09 115.93 4,616.36 567.58 6.28 34.47
1999 13,481.46 712.74 2.12 126.27 4,266.51 522.95 5.69 32.79
2000 13,694.25 696.43 1.97 121.26 4,124.79 506.53 5.54 32.04
2001 13,370.05 701.26 1.88 126.42 4,162.61 504.52 5.62 31.85
2002 13,835.20 726.84 2.45 134.12 3,885.04 494.38 5.64 33.07
2003 14,013.63 769.73 2.11 141.85 3,845.62 475.84 5.68 32.29
2004 13,884.93 786.78 2.32 145.10 3,803.06 463.16 5.50 32.38
2005 13,795.54 848.45 2.64 172.17 3,900.58 469.04 5.65 31.82
2006 13,585.59 895.33 2.66 181.39 3,808.14 473.63 5.69 30.98
2007 14,464.75 960.77 2.86 191.69 3,730.45 466.92 5.61 29.98
2008 15,232.67 985.53 2.31 218.76 3,666.71 457.54 5.40 29.73
2009 15,515.23 1,006.76 2.54 238.75 3,505.77 431.88 5.02 29.07
2010 15,102.39 1,025.23 3.63 254.87 3,345.52 403.65 4.78 27.46

Indeed, unbeknownst to all including self, when I found myself having to defend my neighbours to the south from European opprobrium thirty years ago, (so good has been European propaganda); Swedish crime rates have generally exceeded the American all throughout the last 50 years (and beyond). However, violent crime rates perked up in the United States at the start of the LBJ administration (mid 1960s) and did not level off until the Bush Sr./Clinton years and then went into deep reverse since. Private murder rates in America have always exceeded any European state. This is to some extent a function of greater anti-authoritarian sentiment in the U.S. and more liberal guns laws (people may kill people, but more effective weaponry enables people to kill more efficiently).8

Intellectual integrity repudiates any effort to make any automatic and simple-minded declaration of ideological victory for the religious faction. Definitions of crime, violent crime (and particularly sexual offenses) vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction depending on the laws of the land, strictness of enforcement (deterrence, longer sentences keeping criminals off streets, judicial leniency in reducing crime definition), rate of victim reportage, etc. Thus, although we might not be comparing apples with oranges, we are comparing Macintoshes with Granny Smiths.

Nevertheless, Europe had lost its religious vitality by the First World War. Liberal Danish theologian/philosophy Kierkegaard (1813-1855) complained vociferously about the formalism and coldness of the established churchmen in his country in the latter years of his life. Preachers Spurgeon and Ryle posted similar complaints in late Victorian Britain. Lutheran theologians in Germany (i.e. Bonhoeffer, Barth) spoke against cultural and corrupted Christianity in the Weimar Republic and Hitler’s Germany. America, in comparison, has been seen to be “a nation with the soul of a church” (British G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936).

In the United States, there was a religious/spiritual revival in the 1970s which showed up on the sociopolitical radar in the early 1980s (Moral Majority / Reagan Revolution). And there is always a lapsed delay between revolutions of mind and heart and their practicable reverberations, for good or for ill; an idea that the late Christopher Hitchens would not have debated (ideas precede and influence events). Rousseau preceded the French Revolution; Second Great Awakening preceded the Social Gospel, anti-slavery and Prohibition; Darwin preceded eugenics and euthanasia of the mental and physically disabled and insane (275,000 killed in late 1930s / early 1940s Germany). A spiritual revival would show its manifestations later not only in the moral reformation of those converted and those in close proximity (copy cat admiration) but in the political advocacy for harsher “Biblical” justice, which tends to prevail in religious societies.

The historical data would seem to bear that out. While the U.S. has engaged in a far more rigid and severe justice system (i.e. prison population, much longer sentences), Europe, especially Sweden, has spearheaded in liberalizing their laws and penal system. Sweden was among the first to ban corporal punishment against parents outright (1979).

Thus while America has experienced a reversal in crime rates since 1992 (decline of 41% overall, 47% in violent crime, 49% in murder, 36% in sexual offenses), the Swedish crime rate has been an EverReady bunny (increase of 10% overall, 87% in violent crime, 26% in murder (2009 because 2010 is an anomaly), 153% in sexual offenses). The incidence of crime per capita in Sweden exceeds the U.S. by over a multiple of 4x overall and 2.5x in violent crime. Isolating out criminality from the Muslim population, (which if one does, the same principle should apply to whatever special group one chooses in the U.S.), does not sufficiently account for the increases or much higher rates.

These two measures, even the liberal secularist would not deign to discredit and disregard.

It has become clearly evident that stable marriages produce better material benefits, longer lifespans, less mental health distresses and antisocial behaviour. Yet Sweden peaks the earth with 30% of all relationships being less stable cohabitations, while the U.S. is nearing 10% (In 2000, according to Statistics Canada (2002), the U.S. is at 8.2%). Consistent with the lapsed ramifications of spiritual revival; the divorce rate per 1,000 has dropped from 5.2 (1980) to 3.6 (2009). In the marriage/cohabitation paradigm, some care must be taken as to solidity of such statistics. What does constitute a marriage and a cohabitation, if as I believe, the essence of marriage, like religious conversion, is of the heart and not of forms.

Swedish social policy offloads the care of children to the state from the age of 2. Bans on corporal punishment have extended to non-corporal discipline. Consequently, local Swedish papers are complaining that parents have the lost the ability to parent. Consequently, youth crime is exploding. As I had anticipated in the early 1970s, reading from Roman history; birth rates in secularized societies would plummet. “No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children” and the French policy of paying parents to have children has its historical precedent in the Augustinian “Family Values” laws in 18 B.C. / 9 A.D.. As Germaine Greer noted in comparing developed and developing countries, the ethic of the West has become selfish and narcissistic whereas parents of the developed put their hopes in the future of their children.

In the prejudicial and capricious nature of these “happiness indices”, these measures will not be included or will be underweighted. What will also not show up on these indices is the level of bureaucratic bullying and soft/hard social totalitarianism tyranny; or the lack of civic courage to face potential foes within and without. The full weight and resources of effete Europe could not put down a second rate Serbian tyrant. The Yanks had to be called in.

Implied in a non-theistic universe is, at its rational and logical center, both a loss of raison d’être and principled foundation for ethical conduct. A person might seek to live ethically, (or at least, boast that they do); but they do so in the face of no rational basis to do so; (other than to remain part of the crowd perhaps). In the lack of a universal, unified and principled foundation for ethical conduct, the ensuing subjectivism leads to ethical nihilism. Those who fail to see this nevertheless will encounter others, whose subjective code of conduct and attitude differs from their own.

Consequently, there will be social alienation between the two because of the conflicting ethos. In large numbers, it produces separate solitudes, in which neighbours do not come to the aid of those of separate communities. It produces the loss of social cohesion and unifying strength of society; entropy. Western civilization has been here before in the religious pluralism of the Roman Empire. The pluralism enervated over time the innate moral strength and fortitude of its subjects. They might be willing to live in peaceful conformity to the rapacious autocracy that was Rome. But lacking a unified vision to believe in, the Roman Empire lacked the type of civic courage and dedication that brought it to its apex in the first place. From citizen-soldier, it was protected, in the end, by mercenaries, bribed from the very barbarian tribes it was fighting. Lack of conviction creates a flotsam of cowardice. It was in understanding this, that Emperor Constantine turned his back on the Pantheon and sought unified strength through unified belief. (However, coercive belief and ethics is no panacea neither.)

This is not to suggest the superiority of the American Way of Life. The atomism (excessive individualism) at the expense of the common good depredates quality of life, in such things as economic inequality which will overflow into social and political/legal inequality. However, pre-tax Gini Co-Efficients are rising in tandem in Scandinavian countries and the distributive efforts of governments to ameliorate the problem is near the limit of tax policy. (Further tax increases would probably invoke loss of capital flows, incentive to earn etc). And the sociopolitical and economic schisms that threaten social cohesion, civil conflagration and inability to co-operate for the common good, is at dangerous levels in the U.S.

However, the point being demonstrated here is not whose society and the underlying ideas/values that undergird them are superior. Rather, this good professor, who has been given considerable exposure and good press, engages in blatant factual dishonesty and deceit. He is one to whom the hand of the corpse of that most excellent Democrat Senator Moynihan points. The partiality, which produces this propaganda, is very evident in his assertions, which incontrovertible data disputes. The empirical evidence is in. Irreligion, over time, produces anti-social behaviour and a pall of despair.

Mendacity discredits an already discredited discipline. It demonstrates that science as an epistemological method is no less vulnerable to human mendacity and methodological and conceptual sophistry than any other epistemology. Sociology has some value in giving superficial snapshots of a society at points in time. However, in that change in ideology and cultural values and virtues require decades to roll out their material and sociopolitical ramifications, the discipline of history and historical trends have a superior validity. However, in this day, history is discredited by the scientistic as mere opinion and anecdote. Disciplined and honest historical literacy is nowhere to be found.

All intellectual disciplines and endeavours are diseased with dishonesty and sophistry; regardless of ideological bent. I am particular incensed with the mendacity, which I find amongst colleagues of my own ideological sentiments. I expect and demand better. I observe such levels of fallacious arguments and disingenuity in every field; theology, philosophy, soft and hard sciences, history, medicine and psychology/psychiatry, political theory, education. The level of thought is too incompetent to be mere incompetence; especially since these opinion makers claim such high credentials and positions.

There is no love or esteem for the truth or truthfulness.

It is little wonder that the life of the mind is so discredited. Or that Postmodernism finds its footings in this mendacity, which abets the nihilistic Nothingness. Most people have not the time to untangle the spaghetti code within the methodologies of individual research; especially when the scientists themselves refuse to commit to a standard. Did not Michael Polanyi say “Science is what scientists do”? And even if the scientific demur from that frank statement; investigation demonstrates that a large number live by it. As Climategate emails demonstrate, the supposed safeguards of peer review are embankments of straw against the tidal pressure of internal politics within organizations and disciplines and against the partiality of dogmatism, confirmation bias, human cowardice and just plain dishonesty.

As the spirit moves me, I hope to show in harder sciences and other disciplines the pervading mendacity of our times.

APPENDUM

I do not subscribe to the simple-minded thesis that happiness and morality, at least of the external variety, requires religion. Many ancient gods; the lusty and capricious Hellenist gods of Homer and Hesiod, for instance, were found wanting by Ionian Physiologists and later classical materials, atheists, skeptics and other philosophers. Religious affiliation usually does but not necessarily suffice for ethical behaviour. Many ancient Hebrews, late 19th Century Europeans and present day Americans subscribe to belief in the God of the Bible. But their lack of knowledge, understanding, wisdom and virtuous behaviour and attitude betrays real belief.

However, the discipline of sociology is condemned to the studying by forms. Departure from formal categorization and externally delineated forms lends to the potential and accusations of partiality and intellectual chicanery. However, is the definition of marriage about pomp (religious consecration) and paper (license), if the participants lack marital levels of commitment and fidelity? Sociology relies too much on subjective criteria and response, which are often contradicted by accompanying objective artifact. Most sociologists have little and only superficial understanding of the innards of religion, particularly self-declared sociologists of religion. Therefore, how would they be able differentiate nominal belief from genuine?

What I have found is that belief itself, whether in God, or gods, persons, objects, goals or other worthy ideals, encourages virtue; although not necessarily happiness. The morality of Roman Republicans around the Second Punic War was of austere and disciplined nature. There were very rare cases of divorce prior to that war. Chastity and duty was held in high esteem. The common good, to which all benefited, retained strong resonance and appeal and kept the society courageous, cohesive and strong, if harsh and brutal. A conquered Greek Polybius in his Histories (Book 6) recognized that the defeat of the Greeks was due to that cohesiveness that could endure even Cathage’s Hannibal rampaging up and down the Italian peninsula.

Although pagan Rome had their gods, they were largely the gods of the Greeks; the same ones which were found repugnant to later Greeks. There was ancestral worship. However, that practice had more to do with promotion of the family lineage than in religion. They sought their immortality in that family lineage. They believed in the state and its eternality; because when they surveyed the neighbouring polities, they sensed the superiority of their ethic and politic. The sociopolitical structure was conditioned to align personal promotion within that state with promotion of the civic polity.

When a Greek Skeptic, Carneades, in 155 B.C. sought to inferentially discredit the virtue of truth and justice, Cato the Elder led the mission to exile him and others. For contained in Hellenist thought were the seeds of disbelief in the Roman ideal and polity. Cato wrote his son prophesying that in the appeal of Hellenist literature and art etc, laid the seeds of the destruction of the Roman ideal and free civil constitution. The eventual degradation in Roman morality to that, which is commonly associated with the Romans, correlates (and is caused) with loss of belief in the Republican ideal. The ideal proved insufficient and too demanding.

A genuine belief in any worthy cause can, at least for a time, lead to moral virtue. Ultimately, if that entity of belief is found to not warrant such high regard, moral virtue will fade away with the belief; just as patron gods fade away with the destruction of the patron city. The idol will be determined to be mute or unworthy. It is also valid argument that the demands of that worthy object of reverence may be just too high and demanding for the people to abide. The Hellenist influence was welcomed by generations of Romans in the 2nd and 1st Century B.C. mostly because the ethical code of Republican Rome was seen as unnecessarily severe, harsh and unaesthetic after the Second Punic War.

Ultimately, belief in a worthy entity is the only security for the continued survival and prosperity of a society. But courage and fortitude of conviction must be met with a conviction that its object has objective merit. However, there is no guarantee that the justified and right convictions of one generation will pass on to succeeding ones.

For me, it is quite evident that the only one worthy is the great “I Am”.

Endnotes:

  1. Isaiah 59: 14-15, 4
  2. Isaiah 59:9-10
  3. Phil Zuckerman, The Virtues of Godlessness: The least religious nations are also the most healthy and successful, Psychology of Religion, 2009, http://www.psywww.com/psyrelig/zuckerman.htm
  4. Based on Statistical Yearkbook 2007,  Statistics Denmark, March 2008, http://efus.eu/en/category/policies/national/denmark/ (2,700 Sexual Offenses, 19,600 Violent Offenses, 425,000 Reported Crimes in a Population estimated at 5,475,791)
  5. Based on Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention
  6. Based on FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports
  7. Population estimates for Sweden until 2004 provided by Rodney Edvinsson, Stockholm University, “Growth, Accumulation, Crisis”, 2005 and by the CIA World Factbook thereafter. Criminal estimates for Sweden provided by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.  Criminal estimates for the United States provided by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.
  8. I do not want to enter a gun control debate here, especially since of far greater complexity than stupid mottos would have it. One of the civic functions of the right to bear arms is to provide deterrence from would be tyrannical regimes, which are generally far more efficient killers, having the systematized organs of the state at beck and call. Higher private and anarchic rates of violence are a price to bear for that deterrence. On the other, excessive murder rates have a tendency to push a population to seek strong arm law and order regimes and tyrants.