Saturday, January 12, 2008

Some interesting reads, and a comment about crime and ideology

Here are some interesting reads:

An article about his Hindu family and Hindus in India react to the rise of Bobby Jindal, the Catholic convert from Hinduism who is now the Republican Governor of Louisiana. (HT: the Corner.) The accent is on Hindu tolerance, but there's traces of an almost submerged story as well. His parents did not attend his baptism, but they did attend the baptism of his wife (another convert from Hinduism). That to me sounds like Bobby Jindal's parents took longer to accept their son's conversion than the article implies.

And another theme that pops up in quotations Hindus only to disappear is the idea that conversion to Christianity is OK for Bobby because Christianity is the American national religion, and so a Christian church is where one would expect to "find God" in a Christian nation:

"She doesn't mind if Bobby adopts the culture of that country, because he is living there," a translator quoted [Jindal's aunt, still living in Punjab] Bansal as saying. "He should and he must adopt the culture of that country. She is delighted that he is more loyal to that country, that land where he lives."

Interesting that she simply assumes the link of Christianity and American culture, which so many American Christians regard as an obvious and elementary category error.

And finally of course, there's the simple fact of fame -- it's so much easier to forgive the faults of your relatives and co-ethnics, when they're famous.

Anyway, although I am "supposed" to criticize this tolerance from the point of view of there being only one truth, law of non-contradiction, etc., I was happy to see the positive feelings these Hindus have for a Christian convert. There are much worse ways to respond to that.

Second, here's a highly amusing survey of campaign non-biographies from the '08 campaign. (HT to a Power Line reading of McCain's campaign book here and here).

Thirdly, a nice review of the Eric Clapton autobiography.

OK, what's that point about crime and ideology? It's this: that ignoring a crime wave is a classic sign of ideological politics. To normal people, that deterring and punishing murder, armed robbery, rape, and so on is an essential role of the state. If the state does this badly, it is doing a bad job. But sometimes you get people saying: well, even if a particular regime is helpless in the face of crime, it is still indefeasibly legitimate, because it is based on correct philosophical principles. In two cases I've seen in my life, crime waves (of varying magnitudes) have been dismissed as unimportant and anyone complaining about them denounced as simply partisans of an philosophically unjust system. Controlling crime was (from this point of view) simply an illegitimate measure of the state's effectiveness. In each case, the voters eventually disagreed, ignored the philosophers, and put in power new leaders who reversed some of the change that had led to supposedly uncontrollable crime.

The two examples are the judicial philosophy espoused by the American New Left in the 1960s and the transition to democracy in the break up of the Soviet Union. Both liberalized to some degree a previously more controlled system, and each one led to a crime wave that was serious in the case of the US (murders more than doubled, from 4.6 per in 100,000 in 1963 to 10.2 in 1980), and grotesque in the Soviet Union (from 9.6 in 1988 to 30.6 in 1993). (Invaluable Wikipedia graphs here.) And in each case, noticing this fact was considered to be the height of bad faith. And in the two cases, the crime wave played a major role in discrediting the party or leader thought responsible for the liberalization: Democrats in the US and Boris Yeltsin in the Soviet Union, and in both cases voters responded by making the other side very popular: Ronald Reagan and Vladimir Putin.

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