Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This is too funny to pass up ...

Inspired by an e-mail from a good and dear friend, this simply must be archived for posterity:
I'm going to have to brush up on my understanding of the phrase "Creative Destruction for the Greater Good." I thought it was when the good guys lost sight of what was important, even though their end was a justifiable end, and therefore ended up doing or advocating nasty things as a result. It appears just to be anytime anyone does what is wrong on their way to their particular goal, be that goal a good or evil goal.
Dave G. | 07.30.07 - 2:56 pm | #

So... you are now subscribing to the notion (advanced in the NOR) that US soldiers in Iraq are guilty of murder?

Or are you now going to do your patented shuffle off stage to the tune of "Hey, I'm not sayin' that--how could you possibly insinuate that I think that? I mean, c'mon, folks!"

Using a saint to advance an agenda... nice. Easier than rational argument, I guess.
John | 07.30.07 - 3:33 pm | #

So... you are now subscribing to the notion (advanced in the NOR) that US soldiers in Iraq are guilty of murder?

No. I'm now subscribing to the notion that when a sophist like Michael Ledeen urges us to "enter into evil" and "do things we know to be wrong" in order to achieve some good end, we should run from him just as Jagerstatter ran from the people who said, "Hey! The Nazis are fighting Bolshevism, so their rough and tumble methods are A-OK!" He's the Minister of Propaganda for Creative Destruction Thought.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 4:26 pm | #

I'm not about to go to bat for Ledeen or anything that he's said, but I'm really baffled by why Mark has seized on this whole "Creative Destruction" business. As far as I can tell, this is what happened:

Step One: An entirely forgettable conservative columnist wrote an entirely forgettable unconservative column in which he explained that war and revolution were what made western civilization, and particularly American civilization, great, and employed the phrase "creative destruction" in the process.

Step Two: Mark labels those who support the Iraq war as being in favor of "creative destruction," as if everyone who supports the war (a) supports it for the reasons that Ledeen does, and (b) agrees with Ledeen's column.

It's very weird. I don't get it. I'd really like to see a Venn diagram showing the overlap between "Creative Destruction" and "Salvation by Leviathan by Any Means Necessary," but I'm afraid I would have a stroke in the cliche-processing area of my brain.
K the C | 07.30.07 - 5:02 pm | #

Mark labels those who support the Iraq war as being in favor of "creative destruction," as if everyone who supports the war (a) supports it for the reasons that Ledeen does, and (b) agrees with Ledeen's column.

Could you document for me where I have ever said this?
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 5:15 pm | #

Here comes the shuffle!
John | 07.30.07 - 5:32 pm | #

he explained that war and revolution were what made western civilization, and particularly American civilization, great, and employed the phrase "creative destruction" in the process

And now I know. Thanks.
Dave G. | 07.30.07 - 5:37 pm | #

John:

Since you apparently aren't interested in what I think, but only in accusing me of something you prefer to believe I think, then I don't see any particular reason why you need to read what I say at all. Your mind is already made up. Why confuse you with my actual views when you are so certain about what they are?
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 5:57 pm | #


Could you document for me where I have ever said this?

Hmmm. Perhaps because you quote Ledeen more often than someone who actually admires him, and link his words to each and every new incident of horror that comes out of Iraq? And now, even out of Nazi Germany/Austria?

That might give some people the impression that "Mark labels those who support the Iraq war as being in favor of 'creative destruction,' as if everyone who supports the war (a) supports it for the reasons that Ledeen does, and (b) agrees with Ledeen's column."

I don't support the war myself, but the reasoning and from-the-hip rhetoric that you display so often (and retract almost as often) doesn't seem to be helping the debate on the war at all. And it's really wearisome when you dig into the same old bag of tricks when discussing a beatification. Wasn't it, um, you who just a short time ago castigated people for lumping every war into either the category of WWII or Vietnam? Or was that an imposter?

As far as your actual views... I confess I don't really know them. I read your blog often enough, but one day you're on one side, the next day on the other. You want to denigrate those who support the war while still fostering an impression that you respect the opinion of those who disagree with you. You go off on a rant against traditionalists, then attempt to show your even mindedness by posting links to Latin Mass sites.

I think the main problem may just be that:

1. you don't think before you post
2. you are so thin skinned that you feel you have to somehow be perceived as fair to all Catholic views, hence the compulsive "hey--look, I'm a good guy" stuff

It seems to just lend to a schizophrenic sort of blogging that looks, at times, like one of those guys on the bus talking to himself.

Anyhow. That's my 2 cents. Maybe if you installed a program that forced a two-hour window between writing and posting, you wouldn't end up posting so many apologies for stupid reasoning.

I had a friend once offer to give me one of your books, and I jokingly asked if each chapter was a retraction of the previous one. He cringed, but said, "Yeah, he is like that sometimes, huh?"

Here's hoping you start pondering more and writing less.
John | 07.30.07 - 6:37 pm | #

Perhaps because you quote Ledeen more often than someone who actually admires him, and link his words to each and every new incident of horror that comes out of Iraq? And now, even out of Nazi Germany/Austria?

That might give some people the impression that "Mark labels those who support the Iraq war as being in favor of 'creative destruction,' as if everyone who supports the war (a) supports it for the reasons that Ledeen does, and (b) agrees with Ledeen's column."


Or it could be that Ledeen is (incredibly) a respected conservative writer whose work is highly regarded by people who ought to know better, and whose thought typifies the consequentialist thinking that dominates American discourse on subjects as diverse as abortion and torture. It could be that Jagestatter was confronted with exactly the same sort of consequentialism from the "Nazis oppose Bolshevism, so it's okay" types of his own time. In short, it could have to do with the fact that I am criticizing "ends justifies the means" chatter and am not at all saying that "everyone who supports the war (a) supports it for the reasons that Ledeen does, and (b) agrees with Ledeen's column".
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 6:56 pm | #

Perhaps because you quote Ledeen more often than someone who actually admires him, and link his words to each and every new incident of horror that comes out of Iraq?

John gets it exactly right here, Mark. Search your own blog for the phrase, and find it continuously in reports about Iraq and the war on terror.

Now, that would be fine if "creative destruction" was a phrase that actual conservatives or war supporters actually use. But if you google ("creative destruction" ledeen), all you get are anti-war links from left, right, and center. I've never encountered the phrase on any pro-war blog. More importantly, I've never heard a conservative other than Ledeen say anything positive about continual revolution. This is the exact thing that conservatism stands against! We're not in favor of revolution, from French to Russian to sexual.

And yet you employ the phrase "creative destruction" reflexively in your Bad News From Iraq posts, as if anyone other than Ledeen has actually adopted that garbage.

I'll repeat: "creative destruction" is crap, and virtually every conservative except Ledeen recognizes that.
K the C | 07.30.07 - 7:55 pm | #

Or it could be that Ledeen is (incredibly) a respected conservative writer whose work is highly regarded by people who ought to know better.

Please find for me a single conservative who has had anything positive to say about Ledeen's "creative destruction." Combox idiots don't count.
K the C | 07.30.07 - 7:59 pm | #

I wasn't aware the the editors and readers of National Review were combox idiots.

Here's the thing, you don't get published over and over if the editor thinks you are a waste of column inches. I sort of think its an indication of being a highly regarded conservative writer if the flagship publication of American Conservatism keeps publishing you and even affording a repeated forum for your crank ideas on creative destruction. And when that journal is famous for excommunicating *some* conservatives as "unpatriotic Americans" while making *sure* to keep publishing your thoughts on creative destruction, that's an even bigger indication this was not an oversight or a function of the Big Tent.

Am I missing something? I'm not aware of some sudden groundswell of revulsion on the Right for Ledeen's rhetoric. I'm just aware of the fact that a man who could advocate bayoneting the wounded and whose jabber about creative destruction is a matter of unrecanted public record is still afforded a regular--and apparently popular--pulpit at NR. Your sudden announcement of his unpopularity on the Right is the first I've heard of it.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 8:46 pm | #

John gets it exactly right here, Mark. Search your own blog for the phrase, and find it continuously in reports about Iraq and the war on terror.

Well, yes. That would be true, wouldn't it, since the phrase has been articulated by Ledeen primarily to drum up enthusiasm for our nation-building efforts in Iraq.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 8:48 pm | #

I wasn't aware the the editors and readers of National Review were combox idiots. Here's the thing, you don't get published over and over if the editor thinks you are a waste of column inches.

I wasn't aware that advocating a single unconservative idea was a mortal sin, thereby earning you eternal banishment from the pages of National Review. Apparently there can be no disagreement within the magazine, because if two people disagree, someone is wrong, and needs to be excommunicated. Ledeen may be a "highly regarded conservative," but his status doesn't prevent him from advocating goofy ideas.

Are you seriously trying to tell me that the only evidence of conservative support for Creative Destruction that you can come up with is that Ledeen hasn't been banished from the pages of NR? You mean you can't find a single conservative who says "yeah, a view of history as perpetual revolution is what conservatism is all about! If conservatism is about anything, it's about continuously overthrowing the established order. Yeah!" You can't find another conservative columnist who shares this view? You can't find a single major conservative weblog that endorses his continual revolution thesis?

You think he's got a "popular pulpit" at NR. And your evidence is... what?

You've got nothing, Mark. All you've got is Ledeen, standing alone, spinning this unconservative, fundamentally leftist view of the development of western civilization. And he gets published in National Review. Why, that must mean that Ledeen articulates the reasons that conservatives support this war!

Ledeen speaks for himself on this one. Again, I challenge you to come up with any prominent conservative who endorses this Jeffersonian view of history. Go to any conservative and ask him if he agrees with the thesis that continual revolution and upheaval has been what brought about the advancement of the west.

If you want to use every bit of bad news that comes out of Iraq as an opportunity to illustrate why Ledeen is wrong, fine. But you're really wasting your time. We all know he's wrong. We all know that Creative Destruction is garbage. What's the point of bringing it up continuously?
K the C | 07.30.07 - 9:19 pm | #

Compare and contrast:

"Democracy. Whisky. Sexy."

vs.

"Creative Destruction"

They're both erroneous conceptions about the war. But you'll find wide support for the former, especially on blogs with archives stretching back a few years. Plenty of war supporters still stand behind the idea, even though Victory Through Majority Rule, Booze, and Porn has been largely discredited.

But "Creative Destruction"? It's just you and a whole bunch of crickets chirping, Mark.
K the C | 07.30.07 - 9:47 pm | #

Come on guys! We all know that for todays conservative, war is just foreign policy by other means. Or just call it creative destruction for political-economic interests. Those who oppose the trigger-happy vigilantyism of neo-cons are treated with contempt by them for being anti-war. I doubt F. Jaggerstatter, if he were around today, would have seen the Iraq war much differently than the one he was confronted with.
Dave K | 07.30.07 - 10:06 pm | #

I doubt F. Jaggerstatter, if he were around today, would have seen the Iraq war much differently than the one he was confronted with.

That might be true. But I would like to think he would see the government that is waging the conflict in Iraq differently than he saw the government with which he was confronted.
Dave G. | 07.31.07 - 1:28 am | #

Three points should probably be made here, among them being that Ledeen's use of Creative Destruction far predates the Iraq war. He uses it in Freedom Betrayed, for instance, which I believe was written during the 1990s. Secondly, I don't think that Ledeen has ever advocated "bayoneting the wounded" and would challenge Mark to produce a citation on that front. I know the article that he would likely link to and it doesn't say what he thinks it says.

The third thing that I would say to Mark concerning his fixation with what is published in NRO while simultaneously railing against the magazine is that it resembles nothing so much as the kid in high school whose still sulking over the fact that he isn't allowed to sit at the cool kids' table. Given NRO's frequent lapses into Rudymania of late at a time when I think consistent conservatives should be doing everything in their power to challenge the man, I'm not terribly inclined to defend the publication, but Mark's frequent whining on this one is just pathetic.

11 comments:

Joe Marier said...

I believe that Bill Kristol talked about "creative destruction" when it came to the candidacy of John McCain in 2000, the idea being that, yeah, it would hurt the party in the short term, but we would recover by election time. It's a Straussian term.

Flambeaux said...

Mark's been sore at NR for a few years. I recall him once explaining that he felt they stiffed him for a column.

Regarding creative destruction, I'm not familiar with it's history in the arena of political philosophy, but it is, IIRC, an essential component to the economic theories of Joseph Schumpeter, where it is a term of art that is limited to the ongoing "revolution" of successful companies becoming idle and being over-taken by young, new, innovative companies, who become successful, etc.

It's critical to his arguments against state intervention to preserve failing businesses and state-sponsored central planning.

The first few times I ran across it in the political philosophy context (courtesy Mark Shea's ranting) I got very confused.

Anyone here know where it actually originates?

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder Says:

"Creative destruction" is a technical term from economics, first coined by Joseph Schumpeter.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_destruction

What happened, apparently, is that Ledeen used the term in some of his writings in this technical sense, but some people reading it (and being unaware of the term's true meaning) thought he was talking about gleefully bombing people, or some such thing. Thus the "neocons support creative destruction in Iraq" meme was born.

Flambeaux said...

Blackadder, thanks for the clarification. I was never sure where Mark got his "understanding" of the term from.

Anonymous said...

Schumpeter may have coined the phrase; he certainly made it famous, and it is to Schumpeter that writers who use the phrase nowadays are alluding. Chapter 7 of his best known work in English (Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy) is entitled 'The Process of Creative Destruction. Here is how the phrase first arises in his text (he comes back to it repeatedly):

". . . the history of the productive apparatus of a typical farm, from the beginnings of the rationalization of crop rotation, plowing and fattening to the mechanized thing of today--linking up with elevators and railroads--is a history of revolutions. So is the history of the productive apparatus of the iron and steel industry from the charcoal furnace to our own type of furnace, or the history of the apparatus of power production from the overshot water wheel to the modern power plant, or the history of transportation from the mail-coach to the airplane. The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation--if I may use that biological term--that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in."
(Joseph A. Schumpeter, "Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy," 1942)

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Hey! The Nazis are fighting Bolshevism, so their rough and tumble methods are A-OK!

Uh, Mark, have you ever heard of the Reich Concordat of 1933 between the Vatican and the Nazi state? One of the rationales behind that treaty, from the Vatican's point of view, was that Hitler could be a useful counterpoint to Communism.

So, Mark, according to your "logic," I guess that means that Eugenio Pacelli, the Vatican's secretary of state at the time (and the future Pope Pius XII, whose cause for canonization is being advanced) and Pope Pius XI, who has the ultimate responsibility for the treaty as the head of the Holy See, entered into evil and advocated creative destruction for the greater good of impeding atheist Communism, right?

Right?

Art Deco said...

Do you have a citation for that? It has been my understanding that the Holy See had been seeking a concordat with the Weimar Republic for some years prior to 1933 and was concerned to have formal concessions codified in a diplomatic instrument to buttress the institutional autonomy of the Church. (And that the Nazi Government ignored diplomatic protests lodged in accordance with the terms of the concordat).

Donald R. McClarey said...

The Concordat had nothing to do with building opposition to the Soviet Union. It had everything to do with attempting to protect the Church in Germany from the Nazis. Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pius XII, had no illusions about the Nazis and regarded them as a deadly threat to the Church.

Here is an English translation of a letter he wrote to Cardianl Gaspari on November 14, 1923 following Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch.

"The facts about the nationalist uprising, which in recent days has disturbed the city of Munich (see dispatches No. 443, 444 and 445) are already known to your most reverend eminence from the Italian press; I therefore do not need to repeat them in this respectful report. Still, upon one point, which I alluded to already in dispatch No. 444, I believe it opportune to communicate to Your Eminence some further details, that is, regarding the demonstrations of an anti-Catholic character which accompanied the uprising itself, but which have not surprised those who have followed the publications of the papers of the right-wing radicals, like the Volkischer Beobachter (Folkish Observer) and Heimatland (Homeland).

This character was revealed above all in the systematic attacks on the Catholic clergy with which the followers of Hitler and Ludendorff, especially in street speeches, stirred up the population, thus exposing the ecclesiastics to insults and abuse.

The attacks were especially focused on this learned and zealous Cardinal Archbishop, who, in a sermon he gave in the Duomo on the 4th of this month and in a letter of his to the Chancellor of the Reich published by the Wolff Agency on the 7th, had denounced the persecutions against the Jews.

To this was added the unfounded and absurd rumor in the city, probably spread intentionally, that accused the cardinal of having changed von Kahr’s mind, who, as is known, while at the beginning in the B├╝rgerbraukeller (beer hall) had apparently, to avoid violence, adhered to the Hitler-Ludendorff coup d’etat, later came out against it.

Thus is was that, during the confusing events of last Saturday, a numerous group of demonstrators gathered in front of the front door of the bishop’s residence, shouting "Down with the Cardinal!" ("Nieder mit dem Kardinal!")

His Eminence was by good fortune absent from Munich, having left that day to consecrate a new church in a town near M├╝ldorf; but, when he returned in his car the following evening, he was greeted by a similar hostile demonstration. These anti-Catholic sentiments also manifested themselves in chaotic student gatherings, the day before yesterday, in the University, which were attended by people who did not attend the university (and were not even from Bavaria) obliging the Rector in the end to close the university until further notice. Also in the university, object recently of repeated acts of the charitable solicitude and generosity of the Holy Father on behalf of the students, there were denunciations of the Pope, of the Archbishop, of the Catholic Church, of the clergy, of von Kahr, who, even though he is a Protestant, was characterized by one of the orators as an honorary member of the Society of Jesus (Ehrenmitglied der Jesuiten)."

The Concordat was an attempt to buy time against a regime that Cardinal Pacelli knew would be bitterly anti-Catholic.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Art Deco and Donald McCleary, you are both right about the Vatican's fundamental motivations regarding the Reich Concordat of 1933. However, one cannot ignore the Holy See's view of Communism during that time. Remember that the Vatican made concordats not only with Germany but also with Italy and Eastern European countries (like Romania and Hungary). Safeguarding the rights of the Church in those nations included and involved forging relationships with authoritarian governments that were hostile to Communism.

Pacelli might not have had any illusions about the Nazis. Then again, Churchill had no illusions about the Communists during WWII. Nevertheless, that did not stop Churchill from forming a convenient alliance with Stalin against Hitler. Why should we assume that Pacelli thought a treaty with Nazi Germany would not benefit the Vatican's opposition to Communism?

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

If you're looking for citations, here are some from Guenther Lewy's book, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany.

from page 70: "The Holy Father, Papen writes in his memoirs, 'remarked how pleased he was that the German Government now had at its head a man uncompromisingly opposed to Communism and Russian nihilism in all its forms.'"

The Holy Father was Pius XI. Papen was Franz von Papen, former German chancellor before Hitler and a conservative Catholic.

fron page 74: "Even if we assume that this summary of the Pope's motives includes some embellishment by Papen, it essentially coincides with what we know about the great anxiety felt by Pius XI about the threat of atheistic Communism."

From page 91: "It was hoped that this state would become just another authoritarian regime, one which would protect the church against the threat of Communism, and create more-or-less acceptable conditions for its pastroal functions. If these conditions could be secured, other matters counted but little. (emphasis mine)

You want more? Get the book.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"You want more? Get the book."

Have the book Joe. It's out of date. Mr. Lewy was writing over four decades ago and didn't have access to the avalanche of documents released in the intervening years as to relations between the Vatican and Nazi Germany in the intervening years. As to Von Papen, he was engaging in wishful thinking. He viewed Hitler as a bulwark against Bolshevism. Pius xi and Cardinal Pacelli, ardent foes of Communism, were under no such illusions. They viewed Nazism to be just as dangerous to the Faith as Communism. A good book on this subject is the Vatican and Communism in World War II: What Really Happened by Father Robert Graham.