An attempt at a comprehensive version of Auster’s law

Jon W.. writes:

You have presented many variations on Auster’s law of majority-minority relations in liberal society (ALMMR), including:

  • The worse a designated minority group behaves, the more we must blame ourselves for it.

  • The worse any designated minority or alien group behaves in a liberal society, the bigger become the lies of Political Correctness in covering up for that group.

  • The more egregiously any non-Western or non-white group behaves, the more evil whites are made to appear for noticing and drawing rational conclusions about that group’s bad behavior.

I’m wondering if it’s possible to generalize to a single overarching statement of the law. The thought was inspired by the final passage (which I’ve bolded) in this excerpt from Robert James Bidinotto’s article, “Moral Musings on Capitalism’s Precipice”:

Now, what’s Congress’s answer to all of this?

To nationalize the bad loans—thus formalizing the taxpayers’ obligation to underwrite the rampant irresponsibility that led to this mess in the first place.

The welfare state established the basic moral principle we now see in all its ugliness: that responsible taxpayers are to be sacrificial servants of the irresponsible—that they are to buffer the irresponsible from the destructive consequences of their actions, by absorbing that damage themselves.

But now, we are adding the following amendment to this premise of moral cannibalism: that the greater and more destructive the irrationality caused by others, the more immediate and pressing is the taxpayers’ moral duty to absorb the harm onto themselves.

Do you see Bidinotto’s statement as an instance of your law? How would you join your law and Bidinotto’s amendment? How would you or where have you generalized ALMMR?

LA replies:

The parallel between them is obvious, of course. And the parallel makes complete sense, as both statements are derived from the same inverted morality of liberalism. Liberalism says that inequality is the fault of society, and that society must make people equal. If that’s the case, then the more incapable, improvident, or misbehaved a person is, thus making him less equal, the more guilty society is for this and the more society has to do for him to make him equal.

Now your question is, is there a “meta” version of the law that would encompass Bidinotto’s version and my versions, and cover all possible instances? That’s tough, but maybe it’s doable.

First, we’d have to eliminate the “minority-majority” wording of ALMMR, because that doesn’t apply in all instances of inequality. We’re talking here not just about cultural inequality, which is the main focus of ALMMR, but economic inequality and misfortune as well, as in Bidinotto’s version.

Further, to cover all instances in a single standalone statement, the statement must, unfortunately, be much longer.

Here’s a stab:

Draft Comprehensive Version of Law of the Relations
between the Better-off and the Worse-off in Liberal Society

According to leftism and left-liberalism, all human beings by nature are equal in their worth, and deserve equal outcomes—“equality as a fact and as a result,” in Lyndon Johnson’s famous phrase. Therefore human inequality of all types and degrees is not due to any flaws, limitations, or distinctions of any kind in the intelligence, the moral character, the behavior, or the cultural beliefs and habits of the less successful, the less affluent, the less happy, or the less included parties, but is the fault of society. It is therefore society’s duty to make the worse-off parties equal to those who are better off, so that everyone will be equal.

Furthermore, since according to liberalism all differences in outcome are unnatural and due to society, it follows that the more incapable, improvident, misbehaved, alien, unassimilable, hostile, dangerous, or threatening a group or individual (hereinafter “the victims”) happen to be, leading them to be more unsuccessful, impoverished, disliked, excluded, feared, negatively judged, or in any other way less well off than the average members of the society, the more the victims’ responsibility for their circumstances must be denied; the more their victimhood must be seen as society’s fault; the more mean and supremacist the better-off or just average people are for noticing the victims’ characteristics and behavior and attributing the differences in outcome to them; the more the better-off or just average people must be despised and degraded so as to make them more equal with the victims; the more the society must attack its own standards for having caused the inequality; the more the society must eliminate its negative judgments on the victims in order to help end the inequality; and the more the society must do to raise the victims up, until complete equality in income, wealth, political power, cultural influence, moral worth, and all other material, social, and spiritual values is reached—as a fact and as a result.

—end of initial entry—

LA writes:

Readers are invited to submit their own attempts at a comprehensive version of the First Law, which will, I hope be much shorter than mine.

Ran M. writes:

Liberalism, in the name of equality, and owing to the fact that real human differences often preclude raising the performance of individuals to meet the expectations of society, requires that a society’s standards and expectations be attacked and destroyed with urgency and vehemence proportional to the degree that any members, or would-be members, of that society fail to meet those standards.

Glenn H. writes:

The worse anyone’s behavior or condition, the more it must be the fault of those who are better, or better off.

LA replies:

You can’t get it shorter than that. That might even encompass all possibilities.

Peter G. writes:

Hello Larry, wait a second—wasn’t that a TV show—and a bad one at that… Trying to keep a sense of humour in trying times. The absurdity of the day seems to warrant it. Anyway, here’s a kick at the can summarizing your postulation:

Minority accountability is inversely proportional to majority responsibility.

Robert Bidinotto writes:

I agree with most aspects of your statement. I simply think the “majority/minority” frame of reference is a diversion from the essence of the issue.

I see this as primarily a war against individual responsibility: a war against the strictures of natural causality on human action, whereby consequences for actions are attributed to the actions of individuals.

Many people—majority and “minority”—want an automatically guaranteed, successful existence, filled with “entitlements” to whatever makes them happy. Just as we have lower-class “entitlements,” we also have a vast array of “middle-class entitlements,” “corporate welfare” (e.g., these various “bailout bills”), and the like. What’s common to all these people is that they wish to sever the connection between actors and the consequences their actions—for good or ill. They want to deprive some people of the rewards that they have earned through productive, positive acts, and simultaneously to shield other people from the harms or losses that they have caused through destructive, negative acts (or simple inaction). Severing the chain of responsibility that connects actors to consequences allows individuals to (a) claim shares of whatever others produce while (b) deflecting the harmful consequences of their own actions (or inaction) onto others.

In a state of nature, no individual would be able to get away with thumbing his nose at causality. Only in society can anyone try to evade responsibility by either gaining or evading something at the expense of others.

So, I think the “majority/minority” framework for your argument is simply misguided. The war on personal responsibility afflicts all classes, races, nationalities, and other demographic groups. It is the chief motive underlying collectivism of all forms and varieties. So, I’d replace “Auster’s Law” with “Bidinotto’s Law of Responsibility”:

To deny any given individual’s personal responsibility for the consequences of his own actions implies unlimited responsibility by everyone else for the consequences any given individual’s actions.

LA replies:

Thanks for writing.

Though you disagree with a core aspect of my “law,” having to do with the dynamics of group relations, I see a lot of explanatory value in the core aspect of yours. That was why I tried to write a more comprehensive version of my “law” that would join together the areas covered by each of our laws. At the same time, while I think there is a lot of overlap between our two explanations, there are also significant areas covered by my explanation that I don’t think yours touches. In certain phenomena, particularly those dealing with inter-group relations, much more is involved that wanting unearned entitlements.

As an illustration, take one of the typical experiences that led to the formulation of Auster’s law in the first place.

After the 9/11 attack and the phenomenon of Muslims all over the world cheering it, one would have thought that Muslims would have been looked at more askance in America, that the immigration of Muslims into America would have been seriously examined and perhaps halted, that the permission to keep building mosques in America would have been questioned, and so on. Of course, the exact opposite happened. Instead of being looked at suspiciously, Islam became vastly more celebrated at every level of American society than it ever had been before, while America was attacked for its “anti-Muslim hate.” What explains this? Under liberalism, it is assumed that all groups are like us and equally good, and that all groups can get along, and therefore it is forbidden to speak negative truths about minority or non-Western groups. So if a non-Western group does something really objectionable, like the 9/11 attack and the cheering of the 9/11 attack, we, instead of noticing this and drawing conclusions about Islam from it, do the exact opposite. The entire propaganda machinery of our society, from the President to public television, starts relentlessly celebrating Islam and telling us it’s a religion of peace, and that we are the ones at fault for distrusting or discriminating against Muslims, though in fact we’re not discriminating against them at all but letting them into our society and empowering them. Moreover, we are told that the only reason the Muslims are doing these things is that they are angry at something we have done to them, such as “leaving them behind” 300 years ago, which made them very bitter (Bernard Lewis’s explanation), or not doing enough for Muslim poverty (a standard liberal explanation), or not doing enough to assimilate them (Francis Fukuyama’s explanation), or supporting the existence of Israel (the explanation of anti-Israelites on the right and left), or supporting despotic Muslim regimes (one of GW Bush’s explanations). The list goes on and on. Each ideological faction has its own explanation of why Muslims hate us, and virtually all the reasons have to do with something we are doing or failing to do to Muslims. None of the explanations has to do with the nature and doctrines of Islam itself, namely its sacred program of jihad against non-Muslims.

Thus the worse the Muslims behave, the more we believe that we are at fault for making them behave that way. This is not just a matter, as you would have it, of the Muslims seeking entitlements and denying their responsibility for their actions, though it could be looked at that way, since clearly Muslims do deny their own responsibility, big time. But why do they deny their responsibility? Not simply because they are moochers (though they are moochers and have been so from the start, living off the booty stolen from non-Muslims, a tradition started by Muhammad), but because their god tells them that their mission is to conquer and be served by non-Muslims, who are their inferiors. So on the deepest level, it is a matter of (1) Islam having the jihadist program to conquer and subdue the unbeliever that it has had since its founding 1,400 years ago, and (2) Western liberals (i.e., virtually all modern Westerners) believing that everyone in the world is basically just like us and therefore we must never judge or discriminate against anyone. As a result, the worse our actual enemy behaves, the more we must do to cover up the negative truth about him. The more hostile he becomes, the more we praise him and blame ourselves.

By contrast, if the West were to drop its liberalism, meaning its belief in the equality and ultimate sameness of all groups, it would be able to stand up for its own defense and existence, speak the truth about its enemy, and take whatever measures were needed to defend itself from its enemy.

So, again, while there are parallels and overlaps between our two explanations (e.g., Muslims want to appropriate our values, ultimately our very civilization, and we are eager to hand our values, ultimately our very civilization, over to them), I don’t believe that the group dynamics of Islam/West relations can be adequately explained by the mentality of entitlement and non-responsibility. So I’ll keep Auster’s law, while trying to supplement it with Bidinotto’s law, which I find of value.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 05, 2008 09:45 AM | Send

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