I have to admit, I just do not get Tomasz Stanko. Most of the time, anyway. But I do get his rhythm section, and especially pianist Marcin Wasilewski. Here they are playing Variation 2 from Suspended Night. It's divided into two parts:
Only in the area of sexuality does the Left demonstrate a pronounced and consistent preference for individual decision-making. Why? I think it merely a matter of individual and group self-interest. Leftism as an ideology exists to provide a mechanism for advancing the economic interest and social status of articulate intellectuals. As an ideology leftism seeks to restrict the freedoms, especially the economic freedoms, of everyone who doesn’t work as an articulate intellectual, while at the same time maximizing the freedom of articulate intellectuals. Advocating sexual freedom, sometimes to the point of subsidizing irresponsibility, lets articulate intellectuals kill two birds with one stone. On a personal level it creates moral permission for individual leftists to make their own sexual decisions. For the group, it lets leftists collectively claim to be increasing personal freedom in one very powerful area (especially among the young) which disguises their destruction of individual choice in every other arena of life.
I think this is largely true, although I hesitate to sign on to an argument that this is a conspiracy—a secretive agreement among the left to empower themselves in this way. That may be true of some of them. But what is really going on is the uneasy blend of individual rights with Progressive political theory. Progressivism envisions individual rights as permissions granted to individuals by the state for the state’s own purposes. The freedom of economic exchange is really just a privilege given to people in order to create wealth that the government can then redistribute. The same is true of speech rights: Justice Breyer and Professor Cass Sunstein quite explicitly envision freedom of speech as an instrumental good, given to people by the government in order to generate new ideas and debate that is good for society. That, of course, means that the privilege of free speech can be enclosed and made to serve such functions—as they advocate in the realm of political speech (i.e., campaign finance laws and Sunstein’s “New Deal for speech”).
This purely positivistic understanding of rights obviously has no room for genuine privacy rights such as sexual freedom, which as Justice Blackmun said, belong to us because they form so central a part of the individual’s existence—rather than because they serve some social end. This is why the original Progressives were quite willing to use the law to restrict sexual freedom. Why is it, then, that the left advocates sexual freedom in old-fashioned natural rights language? It is wildly inconsistent with their basic premise, as Hadley Arkes pointed out some time ago.
The answer is: historical accident. During the 1960s, natural rights arguments were heard most powerfully from the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, who associated themselves with the left. That injected the left with a rhetorical tradition that is powerfully effective. They aren’t able or willing to let that tool go. They often employ it in the most ridiculous ways (esp. environmentalism) but in the area of sexual freedom, they’re on solid ground arguing natural rights, even though it clashes with their view on virtually everything else. Since homosexuals were, of course, an oppressed minority class, they looked to the left for support—and got it, at least some of the time. They certainly had more to hope for from the left than from the right, which from the 1960s to the present has allowed the religious right to dominate its rhetorical channels more and more and more.
And so we’re left with a weird and totally unsustainable situation: the left, which rejects the principle of individual rights in virtually every other sphere, speaks with the most morally grand tones of the fundamental human right of sexual freedom. That situation can’t last. How can it be that a business license or a building permit is a mere government privilege, but a marriage license is a basic human right? But what will bring the change? That’s impossible to say. I know what I’d like it to be: an articulate, charismatic, consistent voice for liberty. But what seems more likely is that the change will come as the left comes to reject the rhetoric of sexual liberty. We are already seeing some hints of this in the religious left movement and in President Obama’s own unwillingness to speak out on behalf of gay marriage. He says he’s opposed to it for religious reasons...which I guess is supposed to take it off of the table of political debate. Funny; that tactic was once the monopoly of the religious right.
Update: See? From today's California Supreme Court decision:
The natural-law jurisprudence reflected in passages from the few early judicial opinions relied upon by the Attorney General [in arguing for greater protection for sexual privacy rights] has been discredited for many years...
Placerville is among the oldest cities in California, and its Union Cemetery has some lovely old graves. It is still a working cemetery, too, so it includes veterans from many of America's wars. Here are some shots I took today.
This is the Cemetery's section for Civil War veterans
George Rice (sp?), Second California Cavalry, U.S. Civil War
Arthur Brownlee, veteran of the Spanish American War
Capt. Romauld de Pittard, U.S. Army, World War II
Lt. Col. Thomas McCready, USAF, World War II, Korea, Vietnam
There's an eight-part audio interview with H.L. Mencken on YouTube (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). It's the only known recording of Mencken's voice, and it was made shortly before the stroke that deprived him of much of his ability to speak and write. It's interesting how much his voice sounds like Jimmy Stewart. But note his Balmer accent.
This is hilarious. Lydia McGrew urges Christian parents not to tell their kids that Santa Claus exists because when kids realize there is no Santa Claus they might also start wondering about God. Note that McGrew gives no principled reason for believing in the existence of one but not the other; no explanation of why the arguments that apply to one would not also apply to the other--nothing but a bare assertion that God is "different. He's real." No, her point is simply that it's best not to go down that road, lest your child start...you know...thinking and all that. What a sad form of naive confession.
This month's Imprimis has an excellent article by Mark Steyn that is supposed to be about Europe and the west, but is equally fitting with regard to California itself:
Gerald Ford liked to say when trying to ingratiate himself with conservative audiences, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." And that's true. But there's an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give you everything you want isn't big enough to get you to give any of it back. That's the position European governments find themselves in. Their citizens have become hooked on unaffordable levels of social programs which in the end will put those countries out of business. Just to get the Social Security debate in perspective, projected public pension liabilities are expected to rise by 2040 to about 6.8% of GDP in the U.S. In Greece, the figure is 25%—i.e., total societal collapse. So what? shrug the voters. Not my problem. I want my benefits. The crisis isn't the lack of money, but the lack of citizens—in the meaningful sense of that word.
Every Democrat running for election tells you they want to do this or that "for the children." If America really wanted to do something "for the children," it could try not to make the same mistake as most of the rest of the Western world and avoid bequeathing the next generation a leviathan of bloated bureaucracy and unsustainable entitlements that turns the entire nation into a giant Ponzi scheme. That's the real "war on children" (to use another Democrat catchphrase)—and every time you bulk up the budget you make it less and less likely they'll win it.
Conservatives often talk about "small government," which, in a sense, is framing the issue in leftist terms: they're for big government. But small government gives you big freedoms—and big government leaves you with very little freedom. The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive. When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher—and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans face a choice: They can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea—of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest—or they can join most of the rest of the Western world in terminal decline.