Monday, October 01, 2012

American Exceptionalism... versus what has made America exceptional

At their convention, the Republicans chose their theme. The coordinated message from two-thirds of their speakers would be American Exceptionalism.

Unable to gain leverage by using the economy - which is slowly but clearly recovering from their own train wreck depression - and with the GOP suffering from devastating credibility gaps on everything from the deficit to medicare to taxes to women's rights to skyrocketing wealth disparity, they decided to fall back upon...

...patriotism.  Waving the flag and hoping that the left wing of liberals would react with sneers.  (Post convention note: the dems did not fall for the trap.) 

Was this a case of using patriotism as a "last refuge"?

Let me surprise you by saying that, when it comes to many of the surface statements, I side with the Republicans!

The United States of America has been the most exceptional thing ever to happen to humanity. I say this not out of reflex triumphalism or chauvinism, but as a simple matter of outcomes appraisal. Indeed, I bet that in the grand context of time, the American Experiment will turn out to have been one of the major reasons, if we wind up succeeding as a species and even reaching for the stars.

Alas, in a supreme irony, those who most fervently push this overall viewpoint in fevered generalities have also been the same folks responsible for severely damaging the American republic, far more than any enemy has in 150 years.

== First - the case for exceptionalism ==

Most moderns have no idea how stunning the American Revolution seemed, to onlookers around the world.  Especially the example of "Cincinnatus" George Washington, who turned his back on power not once but three times.  Or Abraham Lincoln, whose legend penetrated all the way to tribes deep in the Caucuses, as told by none other than Leo Tolstoy.

If Britain and France had listened to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, and imposed a gentle peace on Germany, there would have been no Weimar Depression, no seething resentment leading to Hitler.

Later, in 1945, when America stood as the world's behemoth, men like George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower had their chance to impose structure on the world, an imperial peace or "pax," as had Rome, China, Babylon and Britain in their day.  The long (comparative) peace that ensued - Pax Americana - was deeply flawed in many ways. But compared to all other "pax" eras -- and especially to the lawless times in between -- it was the gentlest ever known.

Certainly it was beloved by those we defeated in war. Today the U.S. has no better friends than those former foes who benefited from the plan of the 20th Century's greatest man.

Marshall aimed to avoid a core mistake of every previous pax empire.  All the others - even Britain - set up mercantilist trade patterns that sucked fortune out of distant satrapies and fed gold back to the central kingdom, fostering poverty and resentment everywhere else, making inevitable a later collapse.

In contrast, the counter-mercantilist pattern imposed by Marshall's unusual Pax Americana favored transferring low level, labor intensive industries (e.g. textiles) en masse to poor regions around the globe in a cascade sequence that uplifted, successively, Germany and Japan, then Korea and Taiwan, then Malaysia and Singapore and so on, until right now this program of "foreign aid via WalMart" is raising up more than a billion people in China and India at the same time.

The core of modern development, this innovation is the number one reason that two thirds of children on this planet live in clean homes with electricity and sanitation, never hungry, and go to school every day. A program fueled in large measure by the American consumer, thanks to wise patterns enacted a lifetime ago. Patterns unique in the long and lamentable history of human empires.

(An aside: How did we manage for seventy years to pay for such a program - shipping low level jobs overseas in return for cheap products? It was financed by the rapid advance of new technologies, from jets to rockets, satellites, transistors, computers, telecom, pharmaceuticals and so on, created largely by American engineering and science. A joint effort of government, companies and individuals, that none could have accomplished alone... but that's another story.)

== Have I made you angry? ==

Do I have the liberals out there shaking their heads and the leftists seething with purple wrath, by now? Stammering with eagerness to remind us of Pax Americana's crimes?

Hey, I said I was aware of how many times this century's "empire" lapsed in its ideals, was hijacked to ill ends or just did bad things, from banana republic invasions to Vietnam to realpolitik nasties committed during the long slog to achieve another part of Marshall's plan -- "containing" the crazy Soviet empire till its fever finally broke. I never denied the flawed fallibility that emerges whenever barely-uplifted cavemen get their hands on tremendous power.

What I ask you liberals out there to notice (the lefties are hopeless) is that your reaction -- shared by millions of fellow citizens -- is unique in the history of nations on Earth.  You grew up in a place where most people are brought up never to be satisfied with things as they are, even when the situation is far better than our ancestors ever knew. Pax Americana clearly committed a higher ratio of good deeds to crimes than any ten other top nations in the history of the world. Just look at how little-hated it is! But you focus on the mistakes, the faults... hope of improving things, eliminating errors, re-charting a course that is even better!  An imperative of which I wholly approve. I believe your willingness to criticize the nation that you love is far more sane than the reflexive, blithering "exceptionalism" that we witnessed in Tampa a few weeks ago.
Yours is the true patriotism... if only you would recognize and admit it.

== The true exeptionalism ==

Those amazing accomplishments -- creating the world's longest best peace, along with the spectacular rise of billions out of poverty, plus the driving of racism and sexism and other ancient traditional obscenities into ill repute -- these weren't accomplishments of jingoist flag-waving but of relentless, day-to-day creativity, good-natured progress and lots of self-critique by every generation of new Americans.

The true exceptionalism is that habit of self-critique! And for that reason liberals (not leftists) are far more responsible for the accomplishments of America -- and Pax Americana -- than the manipulative "Yew Ess Hay!" rants of Sean Hannity and the puppet stringery of Rupert Murdoch.

But -- oh, liberals -- you do harm when you fail to take in that context. So I ask that you go over my core point, a second time.

You are critical because your society taught you to be! It is a wholesome reflex to cry out "we could be even better!"  Criticism is the only known antidote to error and you serve your nation by zeroing in on mistakes. In so doing, you are America's truest children...

... though, like teenagers, sometimes many of you forget the context. You forget to openly avow that the thing you want to make even better was already the best thing the world has ever seen.  The nation of Lincoln and both Roosevelts, that took humanity to the moon and kept the longest, greatest peace the world has ever known, allowing a higher fraction of people to live violence free lives than any other time in the history of the race.

You forget that other societies, which you hold up as deserving tolerance and understanding, would never have said the same in reverse. They did not tolerate, or even encourage, the habit of us-criticism from their subjects, that we relish from citizens like you.

You gain credibility when you admit that context.  When you admit that yours is a nation worthy of your love.  When you accept that flaws are inevitable, but that you are part of that nation's healthy immune response against those flaws! That you are a product of that nation's upbringing, a reservoir of its hope for positive change.

A symptom of its health and youthful vigor and readiness to grow.

== Don't give fools a monopoly on patriotism ==

Their version is jingoism, a dullard thing seen in all cultures.  A kind of masturbation to the clan's tribal symbols, similar to what occurred in any and every nation across time, when the Romans or Assyrians or Pax Britons cheered their flags and called themselves "exceptional" each in their turn, and then - with their aversion to criticism - proved themselves wrong.

Can I tell you a secret? By sniffing and rolling your eyes at patriotic symbolism, you are spurning real allies. The men and women of our military, for example, who may be straitlaced and ramrod-backed... but who also happen to be the third best-educated clade in American life. The officers know that democratic presidents listen to advice when it comes time for war, and democrats keep those wars tiny, surgical and professional, like Bosnia and Libya and the hunt for bin Laden.  The generals and admirals remember - in sharp contrast - what was done to our forces by George W. Bush, who plunged us into huge, garish, endless quagmires of attrition "nation-building" in Asia, a president who many of those flag officers deem the worst in living memory.

Sure, you don't like talk of war. You strive to end it altogether. Terrific. But amid your eager looking ahead, to a much desired time without conflict, stop!  Pause. Look back across 6000 years and know that it won't happen overnight.

Realize and admit that it is impressive progress that we have changed the definition and meaning of war.  Recent struggles look more like intense SWAT team action than the indiscriminate rolling thunder of times past. And it's been proved that violence on Planet Earth has plummeted each decade in the era since 1945.  The era of Pax Americana.

If we are stuck having some war for a while longer, be proud of the nation that tries, each generation, to do it with incrementally more care. A little more like rough cops -- more closely watched, each generation -- and less like barbarian hordes. Go ahead and nag for that progression to move faster; that's your job!  But also shudder over what the world would be like, if anybody else had the power that we've wielded with a (relatively/comparably) light hand.

Liberals, you must learn to do jiu jitsu. Don't spurn American Exceptionalism, and thus leave the scoundrels with their last refuge unchallenged.  Challenge them even over patriotism!

They whose warped version of a once proud conservative movement has harmed this country - more than any enemy has in 150 years - should not be left with that refuge, the refuge of a flag they relentlessly harm.

Like Washington and Lincoln and both Roosevelts and Ike, who saved the experiment and made it a beacon to the world... wear the blue of our revolution.  Wear it proudly.


See also: Four Reflections on Patriotism


Acacia H. said...

Well said, Dr. Brin. And it's nice to see you challenging the Liberals to actually stop being so willing to cast out allies and stop trying to take the "moral high road" and in doing so giving the Neocon movement one last bastion of viable power. Fortunately, Democratic politicians tend to be pragmatists these days. There are a few idiots among them... but many are willing to see the writing on the wall and embrace those elements that will ensure they remain in power.

Which may be a cynical way of looking at politics, but ultimately it's what politics is all about.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

I think it has been our unique libertarian streak that has brought us here. That is the magic in the bottle. The parties are mere institutional packaging of various visions that each run in a particular direction, often for the benefit of a specific, well-defined, and well organized "interest". They create the shadows for the Plato Cave. We dance and scream and hoot at the shadows while outsid ethe cave the action happens.

Mel Baker said...

Thanks for the great article David. As a liberal I have watched my great nation improve over my lifetime, As a gay man I watched the world change dramatically and for the better - because my fellow liberals fought for and demanded to be treated as fellow humans, worthy of respect. We used the horror of the AIDS epidemic to bring home our humanity and the world for young gay kids is so much better!

As an anti-nuclear war activist in the 80s I was part of a movement that helped change public opinion and even shifted the debate enough that Reagan (we start bombing in 15 minutes!) was able to embrace a reformer like Gorbachev and take the threat of world wide nuclear world death of the table.

Change does happen and I always look for allies instead of enemies.

David Brin said...

Thanks Mel. Over at my facebook page there are several screechers demanding that any sign of admission there's been progress means you do not WANT any progress!

Alfred Differ said...

I'm reminded of something you wrote a while back trying to convince us to thank others so they can't so easily conclude that we are all screechers. 8)

Unknown said...

Good essay, Dr. Brin! I'd say excellent, except you seem to be unable to avoid using terms like "lefties" and "leftists." I really think those terms are needlessly argumentative and pejorative in nature, and only serve to undermine your point.
(1) Those terms are typically used as a means to disparage liberals, even though you took great pains to distinguish between liberals and "leftists."
(2) Like Bill Maher, I am hard pressed to find any "lefties" in American politics... or any real liberals whatsoever, for that matter. Aside from the professional protestor brigade, most of the members of the Democratic party decried as "liberals" by American conservatives are in fact moderates by anyone else's metric.

I certainly wouldn't consider most (any?) Democrats in public office to be liberals.

Aside from that, I certainly agreed with the actual substance of your argument. I specifically agree with what you had to say about the Marshall Plan (including in the separate essay at which you linked here). I'd like to share a little something in this regard, if you don't mind.

When I was in high school, I took German for all 4 years. I happened to have a neighbor couple from Germany who had lived through World War II, so sometimes I would get help on my essays from them. In between listening to records of German sea shanties and learning the difference between Speise and Lebensmittel, I would hear stories about wartime Germany, or afterward.

Frankly, the afterward part seemed far scarier than the wartime part. Sure, Kurt would tell me how he was drafted into the army — he was grabbed by a passing truck on a dirt road. (Prior to that, he'd been working at an optics factory, which seemed kind of cool to me.) But the story about him riding through town on a bicycle to try and obtain bread and some spare tires for his bike makes me cringe to this day... probably because there were shady characters willing to kill for a crust of bread or a bicycle inner-tube.

It was at this point that my German mentor's voice would catch, and he would talk about the Marshall plan, and how smart Gen. George Marshall was, what a good thing he did for Germany and Austria after the war. The raw emotion was so intense, even I couldn't miss it. There was a reverence there that surprised me; why more Americans don't speak of Marshall in a similarly reverent tone is a mystery to me. Kurt wasn't saying that he and his wife Inge had it easy; he was saying, rather, that they were treated fairly and honorably. That, and he was grateful.

Hans said...

Thanks for mentioning your facebook page. Though I generally only use mine to support a youth group I work with, I'll certainly take a look at yours to see wot's up with the "screechers"

On a separate note, I've always felt the constitution is one of our best patriotic symbols. When I took my oath when joining the military, I did so seriously. And I also believe the best way to show your patriotism is unwavering support of the first amendment, which clearly supports public criticism of bad ideas.


David Brin said...

Robert Poole, the distinction between liberals and lefties is an extremely real one which I had to experience all day today. The lefties came out in force, absolutely bent on denying that there has been any progress in improving civilization or the plight of women or the poor... and any that did happen certainly had nothing to do with the USA. Liberals, in contrast, are vastly moire numerous, control the democratic party, are pragmatists and their eagerness for progress is BASED upon the confident and proud knowledge that much progress has already occurred.

If you are being pedantic with me about the word "liberal' and insisting that it stand for "liberal economics" as laid out by Adam Smith, then I respond that today's "liberals" are by far the closest acolytes of Adam Smith. Unlike leftists and the oligarchy-loving right, today's liberal democrats want capitalism and markets to work and continue generating vast wealth. They are the ones eager to invest in whatever it takes to do Smith's will... to maximize the number of youths who grow up with the health, education and confidence to compete well in a lively and fun and productive market.

Hans, my favorite patriotic symbol is the diamond shaped social structure, with few at the top or bottom. (Though success is encouraged and failure is possible.) With CHURN so that you do not automatically inherit your parents' status. That diamond defies the traditional pyramid of privilege and it should be our flag.

rewinn said...

1. I'm proud of my country.

2. I'm also embarrassed and/or ashamed of some of the things we've done.

#1 and #2 are not contradictions; most parents can say the same of their kids. But it can't hurt to talk up #1 as often as possible, while dealing with #2 as necessary.

I am reminded of my
my favorite image at I F'ing Love Science:
If you don't make mistakes, you're doing it wrong.
If you don't correct those mistakes, you're doing it really wrong.
If you can't accept that you're mistaken, you're not doing it at all."

This might be true of democracy as well.

Anonymous said...

Any tips on how to convince a jingoist that idiocy like "My Country, right or wrong!" and "USA, Love it or leave it!" and the like is, in fact, idiocy?

David Brin said...

Tell him his sanctimony is cheating. The biggest flag wavers in America in the 1850s were in the South... just before they committed mass treason.

Tony Fisk said...

Nothing idiotic about 'My country, right or wrong' so long as you're willing to recognise when it's right or wrong.

Scott Hedrick said...

What makes American self-criticism exceptional is the tendency to not only discuss the elephant in the room, but to go up to that elephant and kick it in the nuts. Unfortunately, speech codes, political correctness and other restrictions on speech are building a wall around that elephant. I give you Larry Summers, then head of Harvard, who suggested that perhaps the reason that more women aren't in science is that part of the pool of women who might be scientists preferred to be homemakers or non-scientists. I read his actual statement, and I had no problem with it. It was well reasoned and in no way condescending. He made it clear that women were just as capable as men in science, and they should be free to choose their career path. But because he dared to suggest some women might choose to do something that uberfeminists opposed, he was drummed out of Harvard. One comment I read said that he shouldn't be allowed to make such comments. Another made it clear how "evil" he was for such "hate speech". I suspect that latter commenter had not read what Summers actually said, but only a headline on Yahoo. This is how we are losing our exceptionalism: by limiting free speech, by declaring anything we don't like to be "hate speech", by punishing thought through the use of "hate crimes", by the creation of "speech codes" in what are supposed to be the bastions of free discourse.

Paul451 said...

Re: Second image

Sad astronaut is sad?

Paul451 said...

I see that California has banned gay "cures" (ie, pray-the-gay-away.)

I'm torn between supporting freedom and hating intolerance, and hating intolerance and supporting freedom.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

David, is there any actual evidence that our leaders consciously and directly said to the American people that we are doing the world a favor by hollowing out our manufacturing base, degrading the lives of millions of American workers and their families, and ensuring that most of the profits from trade went to the top 10%, as the Federal Reserve studies over the past decade have shown?

Your argument makes me want to say that restoring the top 2%'s income tax rates to Clinton era is not enough. There seems to have been a horribly unequal sacrifice from the workers who were forced to compete with slave level wages around the globe, but not us professionals, with our protections through testing and licensing in each state and nation.

I also wonder whether the people in Central and South America would be as sanguine about American leaders' efforts, and whether there is reason to suggest that the violence was concentrated in areas that would reveal at least a level of cruel indifference and callousness on the part of our leaders.

Finally, I think it would have been far better for the US to embrace a strong tariff policy vis a vis foreign imports and promoted regions around the world where there was equal level of development to trade with and build up each other. Chinese workers would certainly have had more gains had the business leaders there found America's markets limited or closed, as Chinese business leaders would have had to follow Henry Ford's $5 a day promotion of 1905. And again American workers would not have had to bear the brunt of the world's "development."

Larry C. Lyons said...

As a Canadian living in the US for the last 20 years I like to think that I have a good perspective on American Exceptionalism. Frankly most non-American's opinion on it is nowhere as good as Americans believe. Actually its generally pretty negative. And for very good reasons. All too often its been used as an excuse for conquest, military or economic. Its been used as an excuse for some pretty odious actions by American corporations or governments.

Robert said...

Kudos for the Marshall essay! Magnificent. Hardly surprising that Joe McCarthy thought he was a Communist, I guess.

As Robert Poole has already said, they still remember Marshall in Germany. They certainly did when I lived there as a kid, at the time the Berlin Wall went up. Together with Churchill, he was the wartime figure West Germans universally admired. When the wall finally went down, a lot of essays about him appeared in German newspapers.

I am saddened by the low quality of the Left today compared with a century ago - at least around 1905 they had first-rate thinkers and writers, and were worth arguing with. And, in America, they were both optimistic and patriotic.

I think the one thing it is right - occasionally - to be nostalgic about is the tremendous energy and sense of progress that existed before World War I.

sociotard said...

I've said it before: neither candidate strikes me as especially worse than the other. I don't think either will bring more peace or more prosperity.

Now read this:
Only the rich are benefiting from America’s recovery
Washington doesn’t want to talk about this lopsided recovery. The Obama administration would rather focus on the recovery without mentioning whose it is. Perhaps it’s because almost all Democratic and independent voters are in the bottom 90 per cent.

Republicans would rather not talk about the lopsidedness of this recovery either because they’d rather not bring up the subject of inequality to begin with. Their reverse-Robin Hood budget plans cut taxes on the rich and slash public services everyone else depends on.

Oh my, this must come out of some uber-leftist rag, except, what's this, it came from the Financial Times.

David Brin said...

PAU451: "Isee that California has banned gay "cures" (ie, pray-the-gay-away.)"

I share your mixed feelings, Paul. Mostly I am resigned that this outrageous over-reach of state power is unavoidable and even voicing this paragraph about it would be dangerous. Mind you, 99% of such centers are charlatans vampiring off the hope/obstinacy of desperately unhappy parents, manifesting grossly stupid prejudice combined with an absolute failure to show effectiveness or outcomes. The kids brought to such centers suffer... but honestly, mostly roll their eyes and wait it out. Having said that, let me add that the left is almost as monomaniacally crazy, insisting that gayness is an absolutely predetermined on-off switch, determined genetically before birth and completely un-modifiable. (1) There is no such power in attitudinal switches in humans, (2) it is an absolute reversal from standard leftist doctrine that human morals and behavior etc are matters of choice and have no basis in genetics or evolution. Their inability to detect this blatant swerve, or the accompanying irony, is proof of dogmatic monomania. And really rather sad.

Mind you, I side with gay rights! But I refuse to turn off all scientific critique for political purposes. This notion of an on-off switch is NOT applied to the female side, where a spectrum of bi-sexuality is blithely accepted. But on the male side the rule is "you are defined by what attracts you, and that definition is permanent. And if it ever was a gay attraction, then that dominates and defines you forever." That dogma may have caused as much misery as the "pray-it-away" idiots have. Sorry. I hope the bill allowed exceptions for bona fide research, because this is a realm that merits unbiased and curiosity-driven study, not dogma of either left or right.

Mitchell, I never said that counter-mercantilism was publicly declared by the US elites, back in the late 1940s. Indeed, while liberals saw it as a way to help the world, conservatives saw it as a way to break labor unions. Did you ever see the movie IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT? It was about the first stage of textile movement from the north to the non-union south. Then NORMA RAE told of the unionizing of those southern plants. After which they closed and moved to Asia in exactly the sequence I described. Those workers then found jobs in Johnson's "industrialization of the South."

I disagree about tariffs. "Uplifting the world via WalMart" isAmerica's 2nd greatest accomplishment, after simply maintaining peace and curing the communist fever. What we need is to stay rich enough to pay for it all! Till 2001 we were doing that with science and innovation. and ending that was Bush's greatest crime.

Robert, the intellectual level of today's left is appalling. None of those I know, even professors, has studied or analyzed Marx or his critics, nor Adam Smith. The only people dopier as the "intellects" of the right.

Sociotard, you know that Obama might have been able to do more if Congress did not block him every day. In fact, he briefly did a lot, despite filibusters, in 2009-2010. We can hope.

Rob said...

@Robert -- The energy died in part because the Progressives overreached. They got into eugenics and breaking up families and began suppressing speech in the service of safety for democracy. The people got tired of frenetic top-down reform and created the 1920's. :-)

sociotard said...

BTW,on the subject of Jon Stewart having the guts to have conservative pundits on his show, have you all seen this clip of him on Fox News? Because it was a first for me.

Robert said...

Rob - You're absolutely right about Progressive overreach. As a good Southerner, Wilson was all for eugenics, and rigorously excluded blacks from White House functions (TR made a point of inviting them). And there was Palmer's reign of terror - which went well beyond what either McCarthy or Cheney could inflict. And as for Wilson's Messiah complex, neither of the Roosevelts, with Messiah complexes of their own, could come close.

The two big events which did in the Left were the outbreak of World War I (which also destroyed the myth of automatic progress - we now know progress requires hard work and nothing is guaranteed) and the rise of the Soviet Union, which led to relentless attacks on the more decent part of the Left by the Communists themselves, and also provided a horrible example. The Sixties simply nailed the coffin shut.

And the Right managed the same slide in 20 years. Of course the Foxburo has decided that real conservative intellectuals are doubleplusungood unpersons and locked them out. They're not all gone - check out Andrew Sullivan's blog or The American Conservative.

The California law is overreach, definitely. For the state to try to anything about bad parents outside of gross abuse is stupid.
Ironically, the law (rightly) doesn't touch unlicensed counsellors - about 90 percent of the cases. So why bother. Another irony - the really bad "therapists" could and should be arrested under existing law for simple abuse.

By the way, I think there is some evidence that male sexuality is more determined than female. But, unlike the lefties, I put a high value on biology and genetics before the big switch. And the really bonkers lefties still think it's all culturally determined and needs to be deconstructed.

Thanks for a great thread.

Bob Pfeiffer.

David Brin said...

Thanks for sharing the Stewart thing on Fox.

What a pity. Stewart is very very smart and I am glad he's out there. But I get SOOOO frustrated that he misses the key points.

He should have said:

1) "Chris note what you just did. You did not even try to refute what I said about Fox News! You did not try to refute a single word that I said. Your only response boils down to 'everybody else does it too!' Really? THAT is your defense of Fox?"

2) "I may do comedy. But I have more top opposing guests on my show than all of Fox combined."

David Brin said...

Posting more frequently during the political season...


Bland Allison said...

Your feelings about "gay" being an absolute seems analogous to "blackness" as it has been defined over the centuries: Any black blood = black. The thing that both have (or have had) in common is societal stigma.

The all or nothing judgement is a result of the stigma. I'm sure you can imagine a world where sexual persuasions are not an issue. Would anybody care to argue gay vs. not gay or nature vs. nurture in such a society? I think it just wouldn't matter.

David Brin said...

Bland, while nearly all of the heat would go out of the discussions... and all the persecution would vanish... there would be residual issues. e.g. the fact that pure-hetero guys like me are mystified why anybody (including women!) would find a hairy, smelly gross human male attractive.

We just don't see it. Cannot envision it. It's not even logical. We are GLAD that women can selectively accomplish that miracle upon chosen male husbands/lovers! And gay guys have a perfect right!

But please. Don't ask us to find the concept appealing.



Larry C. Lyons said...

Dr Brin,

You said "I share your mixed feelings, Paul. Mostly I am resigned that this outrageous over-reach of state power is unavoidable and even voicing this paragraph about it would be dangerous. "

I previously researched this issue using a meta-analysis approach ( a set of statistical methods designed to accumulate independent study results that address a related set of questions). I went through all the scientific literature and queried the membership lists of NARTH and various groups such as Exodus International. The end result was that the methodological quality of the literature was so bad that very little could be concluded. When I eliminated the uncontrolled case studies, those studies that had some methodological adequacy showed no treatment effect. In other words Reparative Therapies do not work. However followup was so bad that no long term conclusions could be reached. The data from NARTH and the religious groups were even worse.

Frankly I think its about time that this sort of fake therapy should be banned. We have already banned many bogus treatments (Orgone Therapy for instance) why not this one. It is potentially very damaging to the individual, and only serves to transfer money from the victim to the conmen who call themselves therapists specializing in this therapy. In the end its merely part of regulating the clinical psychology profession - just like the medical profession is regulated.

Andrew S. Taylor said...

This post (on Wal-Mart, leftism, and patriotism) seems to me to attack a series of stereotypical (and, I would suggest, somewhat imaginary) targets -- evil republicans, anti-patriotic leftists, all wrapped up in a series of easy ironies.

I'm often called a leftist. I don't think of myself that way. I've been known to harshly criticize American foreign policy, and because of this some people think I "hate America" and that I am somehow driven by resentment and secret self-loathing, even though I, like most of the lefties I know, have never professed any such hatred. Much more frequently, it seems that people on the center or the right just assume that people on the left "hate America," for reasons I've never been entirely clear on.

I would really like to know why being a "leftist" should have to put me or anyone on the defensive about loving/expression patriotism for an entire country. A country is too huge to love. I love New York City. There are patriots in Alabama who love Alabama and hate New York City every bit as much as North Korea, if not more. Every American has a different concept of America, and they love something unique. No one loves the country en masse. People fight for the part that they love. To do so, they often must fight their fellow countryman.

As for "spurning real allies"....Dr. Brin, you are late to the party here! Paleocons and Greens and Lefties have been talking at length for quite some time now. That's why you see Andrew Bacevich (a conservative former career officer) routinely published on lefty websites, and Tom Engelhart, a "Nation Fellow" linked to on the website of American Conservative. This phenomenon is also in view in the Tea Party and OWS movements, not to mention the cross-spectrum support received by Ron Paul.