Clinton became president not because he is a deft man of principle, but because he is a deft pragmatist, one who skillfully monitors (and manipulates) public opinion, and alters his “principles” accordingly.
Pragmatism, the philosophy dominating modern politics, involves eschewing principles in the name of “doing what will work.” The classic example of a pragmatist was Britain’s then Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, who abandoned principles to appease Hitler’s power lust by giving him Czechoslovakia, all in the name of peace. The result was war. Without principles, one cannot identify what will and won’t work.
Pragmatism eschews valid moral principles, such as honesty, integrity and justice, which leads to a policy of “doing whatever I can get away with.” If elections can be won by making promises one knows one can’t keep, or deliberately generating false hope about disastrous and wasteful schemes like Medicare and Social Security, or accepting financial contributions from Chinese dictators, or lying about adulterous affairs (such as with Gennifer Flowers), then do it. Clinton’s latest big lie was his claim in his recent State of the Union speech that “We have the smallest government in 35 years.”
How does one know if one will get away with lying or adultery? Ultimately, by feelings. Pragmatism sinks to: “Do I feel that I will get away with it this time?” If one is impulsively driven by strong adulterous urges and gets away with satisfying them once, that builds “confidence” to try again. “Success” at fooling others breeds recklessness, and a perverted feeling of triumph over others and over reality. According to Gennifer Flowers, Clinton once asked her to have sex in a bathroom at the Arkansas’ governor’s mansion while his wife and 50 guests were outside on the lawn. (CNN — Larry King Live, Jan. 23, 1998.) Imagine the “triumphant” feeling of getting away with that!
….Elan Journo explains the essential nature of the conflict, and what has fueled it for so long. What justice demands, he shows, is that we evaluate both adversaries—and America’s approach to the conflict—according to a universal moral ideal: individual liberty.
From that secular moral framework, the book analyzes the conflict, examines major Palestinian grievances and Israel’s character as a nation, and explains what’s at stake for everyone who values human life, freedom, and progress.
What Justice Demands shows us why America should be strongly supportive of freedom and freedom-seekers—but, in this conflict and across the Middle East, it hasn’t been, much to our detriment.
Enlightenment Now is just what the world needs right now. It is a defense of the ideas and values that have created the modern world, and a defense of that world itself. I don’t agree with every word of it, but I agree with its theme and essence. The weakest aspect of the book, to me, is its morality. “Humanism” is a great start, because it sets the right standard: human life and everything that helps people thrive and prosper. But Pinker largely ignores issues of individualism vs. collectivism, and egoism vs. altruism, that I see as core to the ideological struggles of the modern world. And closely related, Pinker falls short of painting a truly inspiring, motivating picture, a heroic ideal to strive for. He himself indicates this in the final pages of the book, when he writes: “The case for Enlightenment Now is not just a matter of debunking fallacies or disseminating data. It may be cast as a stirring narrative, and I hope that people with more artistic flair and rhetorical power than I can tell it better and spread it farther.” I hope they do, as well. But overall, this is a great book, full of profound truths, meticulously researched, lucidly argued, and entertainingly written. Everyone who cares about the big issues of human life, society, politics and culture should read it. [Enlightenment Now: A summary]
Another problem with Pinker’s book, according to energy expert Alex Epstein — author of the Moral Case For Fossil Fuels, is his analysis of climate and energy. Writes Epstein: