Keeping up with the FITs, 4/1
Bryan Caplan on philanthropy; Michael Lind on vicarious patriotism; Ezra Klein and Masha Gessen; Ed West on the liberal order; Matt Taibbi and Chris Hedges on the liberal order
Higher education already has piles of financial aid for the poor yet talented. So in the best-case scenario, your donation will subsidize education for the poor yet not-so-talented.
. . .ineffective altruism prevails because Social Desirability Bias continues to run amok.
The Hansonian way to put is that charity is not about helping other people. And I still think that effective altruism is socially inferior to investing for a profit.
Note: a reminder that FITs stands for Fantasy Intellectual Teams
The sudden outburst of vicarious Ukrainian patriotism on the part of many Americans—as well as people in similar North Atlantic democracies—seems like a Freudian “return of the repressed.” Taught that celebrating their own national traditions is racist and xenophobic, and deprived of opportunities to play a meaningful role in national defense, many Americans and Western Europeans have found an outlet for a lost sense of belonging by borrowing the national pride of another nation.
Ordinary people in this country are proudly loyal to America and don’t give a @#%&% about Ukraine. For the progressive elites, it’s the other way around.
Ezra Klein interviews Masha Gessen (via the Podcast Browser). Around minute 23, Gessen says that sanctions never have resulted in regime change. Around minute 39, Gessen attempts what Bob Wright would call “cognitive empathy” with Mr. Putin. About minute 60, Have a Nice Day.
Two recent posts I might put in the category of “liberal order? what liberal order?” Ed West writes,
it is empires which are multi-cultural, and plucky rebels who tend to be linked by blood — whether it was ancient Greeks fighting off a Persian army of Medes, Babylonians, Egyptians and Sumerians, or Vietnamese nationalists in combat with French, Senegalese and North African troops.
He shares Yoram Hazony’s dichotomy between nations and empires. The claim is that multi-cultural societies can only keep order under a powerful emperor.
Matt Taibbi speaks with Chris Hedges.
As Hedges points out in the wide-ranging, unnerving interview below, the speech-control one-two he’s just experienced — first herded out of the mainstream for ideological offenses into a shrinking space of “allowable” dissent, then forced to watch as that space is demonized out of existence — is part of an effective pattern. “It’s how this works,” he sighs. He points to the Intelligence Community Assessment of January 6th, 2017, ostensibly intended to make a case for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which actually spent much of its time complaining about RT, especially its coverage of real but unflattering domestic issues.
A lot of commentary these days seems to suggest: order, multi-ethnic empire, individual freedom—choose two.
Well isn’t the failure of enforced multi-ethnicity the lesson of the Tower of Babel? Multi-ethnic is by definition the World at large; the diversity of cultural, language, customs, religion, politics - elements that make a distinct, cohesive, stable society - is what has always caused tensions, conflict, wars and is what makes recognised borders and Nation so important so each feels distinct and secure in its territory.
Creating ‘multi-ethnicity’within a Country is like trying to create the World in miniature, and will lead to internal conflicts and the inevitable construction of internal borders, not physical, but identity borders, identity enclaves, struggling for supremacy. As we now see.
I don't know how the Ukraine war will end. The ultimate terms will change based on reality in the field and I'm unable to forecast whether that will improve or degrade relative to today for the combatants, or even offer an accurate take of the relative strength of the forces today. Different sources tell me different things and I don't trust any of them.
My completely uniformed opening war prediction was that Russia could probably conquer east of the Dnieper eventually if it wanted to, but might have a lot of trouble getting any further (especially holding it). This is based on no knowledge of military matters, I just looked at a map. I think the biggest risk to Ukraine is if the Donbass army gets surrounded, but if they retreat they are giving up on eastern Ukraine. It seems like the combatants have realized this is the decisive theatre of the war at this point.
Baring a catastrophe, whether Russia does well and grabs more land in the peace deal, or Ukraine does well and grabs more land in the peace deal, probably isn't going to change whether Ukraine or Russia continue to exist at this point. Again, I can't say how likely a catastrophe is on either side.
The more difficult question is what are the war aims of "the west". Specifically, what are the war aims of the neoliberal establishment, as I think the war aims of average western people are "do about what we are doing and whatever happens, happens".
In the first week or so the war aim was to turn Ukraine into Afghanistan 2.0, with a new Mujahideen slowly bleeding Russia dry over a decade. Since Kiev didn't fall the war aim now seems to be:
1) Russia must suffer a humiliating, undeniable, and total defeat. To be seen to do so by all including themselves. Going on Fukuyama this would mean the entire Russian field army being driven out of Ukraine without outside assistance (beyond what we give now), including Donbass and Crimea.
2) This should discredit Putin and hopefully lead to his overthrow.
3) This will convince Xi to submit to western authority forever.
4) Inflation will go back to 2%, parents will decree Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are why Ukraine won, all populism will be permanently discredited and Trump will have a heart attack and die, the Biden's and Romney's of the US and Europe will sweep elections.
And of course is Ukraine loses (achieves anything less than above) than the complete opposite of all those things will happen.
That may all seem like a bit much, but it really is what these people seem to be writing and feeling.
I read a tweet by a French diplomat/military guy basically saying that for certain people in the west Ukraine is the "Golden Snitch". Which is something from Harry Potter that is worth a million bazillion points and you automatically win if you get it no matter what the score from the entire rest of the game was. That seems about right for Marvel Cinematic Universe neoliberals.
I'm very skeptical about all that. Now Ukraine achieving maximal military success, whatever its relative odds, is at least a real world possibility. The rest of it though...Biden can't even get a war bump in the polls.
Simply put, I don't see how too poor kleptocratic slav countries mobilizing tiny fractions of their populations and shooting at each other would prove anything about anything based on who had controlled more shelled out dirt at the end up the slugging match.
Ultimately, we should want what's best for everyone involved. In Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of the world. That's going to take a lot of messy sausage making, and the best outcome for those directly involved probably isn't going solve any of the domestic problems with neoliberalism and that shouldn't be driving the train here.
I'm "pro Ukraine" as far as that goes. I don't think their cause deserves maximalist zeal, it isn't worth a nuclear war but its probably worth what we are doing currently. I think the best outcome for Ukraine is to end the war and survive, once that has been secured I think the remaining details are small and revisable. But being pro Ukraine means dealing with the actual Ukraine and the actual Russia and achieving an actual outcome on the ground. Not grandstanding or using these people are pawns in a proxy war between "the west" and "whatever perceived forces a certain faction in the west doesn't like."