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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Interview with Martin van Creveld

Daniel Eness interviewed Dr. Martin van Creveld, the author of the newly published Equality: The Impossible Quest, at Castalia:
Q: Do you think that some of the contradictions regarding equality in the U.S. Constitution made the document a more stable guide for a new society, or do you see similar contradictions in Rousseau’s influence on the French Revolution?

MvC: Any attempt to institute equality, of any kind, is bound to result in restrictions on freedom. Personally I think that the U.S Constitution did a credible job in balancing between the two (and, of course, justice). Not so Rousseau who, in his quest for equality, went much too far. Not for nothing did my teacher, Jacob Talmon, see him as the father of “totalitarian democracy.” More problematic still, with him equality is the product of, and requires, constant plebiscites about everything. Given the technical means of the age—there was no Net—such a system implied a very small polity indeed. Against the fiscal-military states of the time it simply stood no chance.

Q: You argue that social equality is not a necessary outcome of economic or legal equality. Can social equality be achieved? Should it?

MvC: The only way to achieve equality is to restrict, or even do away with, liberty. Along with liberty justice and the quest for truth—namely the right to think, believe, say and write that equality is not the supreme good—will also disappear. With political correctness reigning as hard as it does, in many places that is already the case. Just try and say that women, or homosexuals, are and should not be equal in this or that way, and you will see what I mean. So I would argue that equality is a dream, and not even a beautiful one.

Q: What are the sexual and property impacts of organized equality in communal bodies?

MvC: It would differ from one type of community to the next, so let me focus on the kind of community, the Israeli kibbutzim, I know best. The kibbutzim were famous for having no private property. Everybody had his or her meals in the communal dining room and his other needs from the machsan, or magazine. Couples lived in “rooms” Children grew up not with their parents but in their own houses. A few specialists apart, people took turns at doing all kinds of jobs. Decisions were taken by the kibbutz assembly in which everybody had one vote. It elected the secretary-general and also set up special committees for such things as education, culture, etc.

For some two generations, it did not work badly at all. The fact that kibbutzniks saw themselves, and were seen by the rest of Israeli society, as an elite helped. What brought the system down was the women. First, they were unhappy with the endless routine of communal kitchen/communal laundry/communal child houses. Starting in the 1970s, they started taking on paid work outside the kibbutz. Next, they wanted their children back home with them. Families with children at home needed better houses, more appliances, and so on. Gradually the place of the communal dining room as the center of kibbutz life was taken by the home. Once that happened private property re-emerged and the kibbutzim started falling apart.
Read the rest of the interview there. And if you're interested in the book, you can find it on Amazon as well as at Castalia House.

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48 Comments:

Anonymous Stilicho March 25, 2015 4:16 PM  

Women ruin everything... even communism!

Anonymous Ain March 25, 2015 4:33 PM  

Beat me to it.

Anonymous Sam the Man March 25, 2015 4:37 PM  

The fact is that Communisim only worked in the Kibbutz as long as the founders came from poor backgrounds and had the customs of the lands they left as a counter example to their idealism. Once that generation passed power down and their children stepped up to replace them, they wanted all of the things that communism did not offer, nor could supply, but western free markets could.

Still, as I undertstand it the Kibbutz worked relatively well for about 25~35 years, which is pretty much on par with the utopian societies that sprang up in the US oF A in the mid 1800s.

It does alos bring to mind the often said phrase, that communism is a particularly Northeastern European Jewish idea, one that does not work outside of Jewish societies.

Blogger IM2L844 March 25, 2015 5:28 PM  

People that don't like their tier will always want to change things, but there will always be strata. There is no escaping it. Equalitarians don't want true equality. They want to belong to the upper tier that dictates how their vision of equality will be imposed on the lower levels while they sip mint juleps and pat each other on the back for being such stellar humanitarians.

Anonymous Daniel March 25, 2015 5:33 PM  

In fact, whatever passes for the Classical concept of equality was just that, IM2L844, an equality of elites. I believe van Creveld would argue that the concept of equality - even contained within each tier of the hierarchy - is a relatively new idea. A feudal peasant did not conceive of himself as equal to his fellow peasants, for example.

Anonymous Fran March 25, 2015 5:40 PM  

But wasn't it the women who started all that in the first place?

Blogger Viisaus March 25, 2015 5:40 PM  

The most successful communist system in history were probably the medieval monasteries, pioneers of civilization in wilderness. And they specifically excluded women.

Blogger Viisaus March 25, 2015 5:43 PM  

Still today, even female animals are not allowed to enter the Eastern Orthodox monastery-complex on Mt. Athos.

Blogger Viisaus March 25, 2015 5:53 PM  

The ascetic systems in both West and East often saw the female sexuality as one of their main enemies.

Buddha had some celibate Alpha Game: even though he badmouthed women, they rushed to support him:

http://www.trimondi.de/SDLE/Part-1-01.htm

"Shakyamuni thus without scruple abandons his family, his wife Yasodhara and his son Rahula, and at the age of 29 becomes “homeless”. The final trigger for this radical decision to give up his royal life was an orgiastic night in the arms of his many concubines. When he sees the “decaying and revolting” faces of the still-sleeping women the next morning, he turns his back on his palace forever.
...

During his lifetime, the historical Buddha was plagued by a chronic misogyny; of this, in the face of numerous documents, there can not be slightest doubt. His woman-scorning sayings are disrespectful, caustic and wounding. “One would sooner chat with demons and murderers with drawn swords, sooner touch poisonous snakes even when their bite is deadly, than chat with a woman alone” (quoted by Bellinger, 1993, p. 246), he preached to his disciples, or even more aggressively, “It were better, simpleton, that your sex enter the mouth of a poisonous snake than that it enter a woman. It were better, simpleton, that your sex enter an oven than that it enter a woman” (quoted by Faure, 1994, p. 72).
...

This disparaging attitude toward everything female is all the more astounding in that the historical Buddha was helped by women at decisive moments along his spiritual journey: following an almost fatal ascetic exercise his life was saved by a girl with a saucer of milk, who taught him through this gesture that the middle way between abstinence and joie de vivre was the right path to enlightenment, not the dead end of asceticism as preached by the Indian yogis. And again it was women, rich lay women, who supported his religious order (sangha) with generous donations, thereby making possible the rapid spread of his teachings."

Anonymous Mike M. March 25, 2015 6:19 PM  

I think there's a strong case that Rousseau was the greatest troublemaker in history. Just about every problem of the West can be traced to the idea of the Noble Proletarian Savage.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan March 25, 2015 6:33 PM  

Think of the inequality, jews in the kibbutz and then their oligarchs living the "Eyes Wide Shut" lifestyle, you can only wonder how that was glossed over in the internal propaganda.

Anonymous Apollo March 25, 2015 6:54 PM  

Vox, one of the questions (and a partial response) in the interview was as follows:

Q: How does the concept of equality relate to race, and how does its relationship tend to silence discussion?

To say that different human races exist is not racism. That is or should be obvious to everyone. Racism means the belief, a. that people differ not only in their physical qualities, such as the color of their skin, but in their mental attributes, such as I.Q; b. that such qualities are heritable; and c. that people of some races are superior to others.


I was wondering if you would provide your take on this? Specifically, do you agree with any of a, b or c, or more generally regarding anything else you would like to offer on this issue.

As a post perhaps, if you don't think you can go into sufficient detail in a comment, because the answer may involve some nuance e.g. judgments over "superiority" will depend on what metric is being used.

Blogger Thordaddy March 25, 2015 7:07 PM  

But even saying "equality" is an ode to political correctness.

Equality = anti-Supremacy...

Equality in Anglosphere = anti-white Supremacy...

This is the politically incorrect truth.

Anonymous scoobius dubious March 25, 2015 7:11 PM  

This guy is obviously a very smart dude, and I wouldn't presume to plunge into the depth of all his thought. But I think on one issue he seems like he's failing to make a key historical distinction. The American doctrine of equality (the original one, not the later insane post-MLK one) was Lockean in nature, and it was actually pretty simple and not too universalistic: the basic idea was just that people had the right to determine their own fates, and there was no such thing as a nobility or an aristocracy who had a magical right to lord it over them, and that people who asserted such imaginary rights were de facto illegitimate. It's not such a crazy idea, esp if you can maintain something like racial homogeneity, or a reasonable resemblance, in the face of it. Rousseau's idea was somewhat different: more abstract, more universalist, and therefore more easily prone to become insane.

Anonymous Abie Gefiltefish March 25, 2015 7:38 PM  

They also stopped doing scut work and started importing peasants from Eastern Europe to do field work and other scut work.

Anonymous VD March 25, 2015 7:48 PM  

But I think on one issue he seems like he's failing to make a key historical distinction.

He didn't fail to make the distinction. You obviously haven't read the book. There is an entire chapter dedicated to Liberal Equality and the difference between the French and American forms of it.

As strange as it may seem, the interview does not cover all the material contained in a 300-page book.

Anonymous VD March 25, 2015 7:51 PM  

I was wondering if you would provide your take on this? Specifically, do you agree with any of a, b or c, or more generally regarding anything else you would like to offer on this issue.

I'll address it later, but first I will point out that some people are obviously misreading it. He is not saying racism is A or B or C, but that it is A+B+C.

Anonymous PhillipGeorge(c)2015 March 25, 2015 8:10 PM  

Monasteries and Convents were exceptions to the rules because 'god'.

Whether is kibbutz, caliphs, convents, or money less Federation Starship Enterprise under Captain James Kirk, Fuzzy Logic words like equality or liberty can work if people are convinced 'god' is on their side.

The yawning reality gap is discovering when god isn't. God, for example, can't bless America in the absence of absolute right, and having locked Jesus out, as the Mobi song Extreme Ways puts it "then it fell apart, like it always does".

God is the logical beginning and end of every argument, the basis for everything, including the much vaunted dialectic.

[with so many secret wars and much manoeuvring going down right now I thought I put this in bluntly. WWIII might be an actual accident, the net could be here today gone tomorrow - we'll see]

Anonymous Apollo March 25, 2015 8:42 PM  

I'll address it later, but first I will point out that some people are obviously misreading it. He is not saying racism is A or B or C, but that it is A+B+C.

Thanks. You've made reference to some of these things in the blog before, but I've been interested in seeing a more in depth post on this matter from you for a while.

It seems clear to me that van Creveld was saying that racism was a combination of those factors rather than any of those factors individually (he used the word "and", not "or"), so it follows that if any of a, b or c are inapplicable then the label "racist" as defined cannot be correctly applied.

The other definitions of racism I have seen don't seem to make some of the same specific distinctions as van Creveled did, for example that a belief in heritability of particular mental traits is a relevant and necessary factor, so if you use a different definition that would be interesting to know as well.

To me it seems as though the van Creveld definition is focused on the particular issue of the Bell Curve/HBD claims about intelligence differences between races. Is "racism" wider in scope than this?

Anonymous zen0 March 25, 2015 8:47 PM  

I'll address it later, but first I will point out that some people are obviously misreading it. He is not saying racism is A or B or C, but that it is A+B+C.

van Creveld has anticipated well the points of attack that will be used.

I guess being a military historian/strategist helps in that regard.

Anonymous zen0 March 25, 2015 8:52 PM  

> Is "racism" wider in scope than this?

Well, their is the myth from my parent's generation that if you kick a black in the shins he will be disabled. I thought that was .b.s. til I saw Anderson Silva break his shin in half in an MMA match with an attempted kick that was blocked.

Anonymous zen0 2015 March 25, 2015 8:58 PM  

@ PhillipGeorge(c)2015

God is the logical beginning and end of every argument, the basis for everything, including the much vaunted dialectic.

Yah, but it really does not help anything to say so. The Jews have a concept that explains God had to retreat from a part of His manifestation in order for Creation to take place. Following the same logic, the appeal to God does not help his creatures differentiate between phenomenon.

Makes sense to me.

Anonymous scooby dooby doo March 25, 2015 9:15 PM  

"He didn't fail to make the distinction. You obviously haven't read the book."

No, of course I haven't read the book, having said many times that I am sadly incapable of reading e-books.

"As strange as it may seem, the interview does not cover all the material contained in a 300-page book."

Certainly a fair point, I'm just playing Yogi Berra here. It's a lack on my behalf, but sometimes whatcha gonna do. My point is that his conceptual understanding might be very well laid out in his original text, but not everybody is going to read his original text, (I'm not going to) and yet he may have useful points to make that would be important for people to understand, who can't or aren't ever going to read the whole book. There might be other ways for him to convey all this, to get his meaning out to a broader audience.

Anonymous scooby riddle me this March 25, 2015 9:22 PM  

And read some frigging Chuang-Tzu and some original Elzie Segar Popeye comix, it'll help you develop a much-needed sense of looseness, and Lawd help us, maybe you'll even get a sense of humor.

Anonymous Mobutu March 25, 2015 9:49 PM  

"Well, their is the myth from my parent's generation that if you kick a black in the shins he will be disabled. I thought that was .b.s. til I saw Anderson Silva break his shin in half in an MMA match with an attempted kick that was blocked."

Try not to come into physical contact with negroes...

Anonymous VD March 25, 2015 9:59 PM  

I'm just playing Yogi Berra here. It's a lack on my behalf, but sometimes whatcha gonna do.

What I will do is make you stop it. Stop posturing and trying to act like you're some sort of expert when you quite clearly don't know what you're talking about. You striking poses is not "having a good conversation". It's just annoying. It is not necessary to try to prove that you've read a book every single time you comment on anything.

Blogger Student in Blue March 25, 2015 10:40 PM  

Literally, striking a pose is just showing yourself off.

I guess I can't help myself, but...

@Thordaddy
But even saying "equality" is an ode to political correctness.

Egalitarianism has been percolating for a couple hundred years. Political Correctness, 20.

That's like saying Thordaddy's great grandpappy is an ode to Thordaddy.

Learn your history.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus March 25, 2015 11:29 PM  

IM2L844: "People that don't like their tier will always want to change things, but there will always be strata. There is no escaping it."

OK, but these strata can be more or less unequal, and the conflicts between them can be more or less vicious. It is not inherently irrational to say, "less, please."

IM2L844: "Equalitarians don't want true equality. They want to belong to the upper tier that dictates how their vision of equality will be imposed on the lower levels while they sip mint juleps and pat each other on the back for being such stellar humanitarians."

No. For example, the self-consciously egalitarian ethos of the "diggers" (Australian soldiers) was not about sipping mint juleps, it was about solidarity, self-respect, and making it as dangerous as possible (in career terms) to be an incompetent officer.

Blogger Thordaddy March 26, 2015 1:38 AM  

Student in Blue...

To say "equality" is to use the enemy's term.

To say "racist" is to use the enemy's term.

To use the enemy's terms is to submit to PC.

Let me spell this out for you carefully...

IF one screams out that you are a "racist" and this society is in need of "equality" THEN one is calling you a "white supremacist" and telling you that "white supremacy" must be destroyed.

Can you really not comprehend this most straightforward translation of liberal-speak?

Anonymous Sensei March 26, 2015 1:52 AM  

No. For example, the self-consciously egalitarian ethos of the "diggers" (Australian soldiers) was not about sipping mint juleps...

To borrow a turn of phrase from Taleb, the diggers had skin in the game (as did the early kibbutzniks). The mint julep sipping "egalitarianism for thou" crowd don't have any skin in the game, I think that's where the dangerous difference comes in. And I agree with Taleb that proper civilizations seek to eliminate these kinds of subversive positions versus fostering them.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus March 26, 2015 2:43 AM  

Sensei: "To borrow a turn of phrase from Taleb, the diggers had skin in the game (as did the early kibbutzniks)."

That's true. All the examples I had in mind of benevolent egalitarianism involved men with skin in the game, one way or another.

Sensei: "The mint julep sipping "egalitarianism for thou" crowd don't have any skin in the game, I think that's where the dangerous difference comes in."

Interesting idea. Thanks, Sensei.

I don't want to hear about equality from people living the Eyes Wide Shut lifestyle.

Anonymous Stilicho March 26, 2015 3:42 AM  

Liberte, egalite, fraternite...pick any two.

Anonymous Heaviside March 26, 2015 4:10 AM  

Equality is a wonderful idea. Liberals should be made equal on the scaffold.

Anonymous George of the Jungle March 26, 2015 4:36 AM  

Scoobius whatever repeatedly proves himself to be an irritating twit. Whenever called out on his various logical and/or factual errors, he inevitably responds with some flimsy, specious rationalization, and then smugly proclaims it to be the acme of reasoned discourse.

Please do us all a favor, just get off the blog and stay off.

Blogger frigger611 March 26, 2015 5:56 AM  

It's a very fine interview, and van Creveld is most insightful, but one typo I think in the response to the first question -

fighting women have now been popular for over twenty-five hundred centuries that we know of

Should be twenty five hundred years or twenty five centuries, I think.

Also, I'm more used to seeing complaints about the Declaration's problems and contradictions regarding equality, especially the "all men are created equal" phrase. I've not heard much about the US Constitution's contradictions regarding equality of individuals as it is more of a document for the framework and procedures for the federal government - and then the Bill of Rights protects our civil liberties from federal abuse (ostensibly).

Other than phrases "equal protection of the laws" like in the 14th amendment, there's not much I've found, though I'm certainly not a constitutional scholar.

I read the excerpt at Castalia - do you know if more light is shed on the matter in the book?

Anonymous Nah March 26, 2015 7:15 AM  

Liberte, egalite, fraternite...pick any two.

Doesn't work. Liberte is totally incompatible with egalite.

Anonymous Sensei March 26, 2015 7:36 AM  

Interesting idea.

I wish I could say it was my own, but if you haven't read Nassim Taleb's Antifragile I highly recommend it.

Anonymous Stilicho March 26, 2015 7:41 AM  

@nah, it can work, but only in a highly segregated fashion... hence fraternite must be ruthlessly excluded. It is the equality of peers that can coexist with liberty, not the equality of result so loved by the french.

Anonymous Stilicho March 26, 2015 9:25 AM  


Doesn't work. Liberte is totally incompatible with egalite.


That was my initial thought as well, but if you examine it further, it is evident that they can work together if fraternite is ruthlessly excluded and extreme segregation is enforced. It is the equality of peers, though, not the equality of result that the left professes to love.

Anonymous Stilicho March 26, 2015 9:48 AM  

From a practical perspective though, I should probably revise it to: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite... pick one.

Anonymous Alexander March 26, 2015 10:14 AM  

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite: pick one or we'll pick one for you.

Anonymous Stilicho March 26, 2015 10:26 AM  

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite: pick one or we'll pick one for you.

Ha! Good one.

Anonymous BigGaySteve March 26, 2015 11:53 AM  

The founders equality was meant as the law affects rich/poor the same if they are smart enough to understand it, in other words no free passes for noble blood. Current equality means "no one is better than I am"

"He is not saying racism is A or B or C, but that it is A+B+C."

So if I believe A&B but for C I believe that Asians are better at math/rote while blacks are better at short distance runs/ resisting malaria without medication via sickle cell , am I racist by this definition?

Anonymous Stilicho March 26, 2015 12:20 PM  

am I racist by this definition?

No, the applicable adjective would be "observant"

Blogger bruce March 26, 2015 2:33 PM  

>'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity- pick any one or we'll pick it for you'

Pick any two or we'll pick one for you?

Anonymous Stilicho March 26, 2015 2:47 PM  

Of course, they never pick liberte for you, do they? Curious...

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus March 26, 2015 5:17 PM  

False fraternity is even more to be feared than false liberty.

The grand army of wolves and sheep, all equal brothers compelled to mingle and take no precautions against each other, has a poor future.

Anonymous Remnant March 26, 2015 11:59 PM  

I will state upfront that I am only one chapter into the book, but the following quotes from the interview really surprised me:

"Personally I do not believe that people of different races or stages of development differ in their IQ."

"Racism means the belief, a. that people differ not only in their physical qualities, such as the color of their skin, but in their mental attributes, such as I.Q; b. that such qualities are heritable; and c. that people of some races are superior to others. Personally I think that these beliefs are false and that any attempt to base society on them is reprehensible in the extreme."

Then he also says the following, which contradicts the above: "I think that designer babies will make, indeed are making, society even less equal than it already is."

I know I need to make it through the entire book, but I know enough to be surprised that he does not believe in IQ differences. Is he saying this as a _racial_ matter rather than on an _individual_ basis? Even that makes no sense because the races' IQs will be the average of the constituent individuals' IQs.

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