Author Archives: Dan Knox

On Latin

By The Rhetor

An article in The Spectator discusses the benefits of learning Latin for those training their minds.  I of course agree with its thesis. Many will ask why learn Latin, why not a more relevant language i.e. Mandarin (and this example is given in the article). The wonderful thing about Latin – from a Western, and specifically Anglophone, viewpoint – is the way in which it is  as similar as it is foreign to our own linguistic experience. Further more the english speaker can relate more readily with the ideas expressed by the Latin. Latin then, forces you to construe familiar ideas in unfamiliar ways. Mandarin in contrast is a language which expresses a wholly different cultural experience and indeed presents a whole group of different challenges for the learner. I am not suggesting that one should not learn Mandarin, it is an incredibly useful language to learn, however we should not be so willing to proclaim Latin dead.

Chinese stealth fighter: a show of strength.

by The Rhetor

The Washington Post reports the first test flight of China’s new J-20 fighter. As reported this coincided with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ meeting with Chinese president Hu Jintao. Both men have reason’s to be concerned.

Gates may need to go back to the drawing board and revisit the halt on production of the F-22 to expand the USAF’s fleet of 187 of the air craft. One of the main reasons for curtailing the government’s order was the perceived technological gap between the U.S. and its main rivals China and Russia (though one flight test doth not a development programme make).

Hu is due to step down and this test was as much a sign to China’s politicians as it was to the U.S. Defence Department. China’s military is demonstrating its importance to the oligarchs who control the country’s government.

Clearly America cannot afford to become complacent in regard to its technological edge nor the apparent stability of the Chinese regime.

Modernity and Religion

by The Rhetor

I thought I would start off the new year with a quote from Mortimer J. Adler, an American philosopher and author of “how to read a book” (which I will be reviewing in the coming week). This passage bears a resemblance to David Hume’s Natural History of Religion, though Hume saw the transition of superstition to pure religion as a cycle where as pure forms of religion became popular the mass of people attached their superstitions to it. In a time when religious fundamentalism seems to be on the rise this is food for thought.

“I suggest that the men and women who have given up religion because of the impact on their minds of modern science and philosophy were never truly religious in the first place, but only superstitious. The prevalence and predominance of science in our culture has cured a great many of the superstitious beliefs that constituted their false religiosity. The increase of secularism and irreligion in our society does not reflect a decrease in the number of persons who are truly religious, but a decrease in the number of those who are falsely religious; that is, merely superstitious. There is no question but that science is the cure for superstition, and, if given half the chance with education, it will reduce the amount that exists. The truths of religion must be compatible with the truths of science and the truths of philosophy. As scientific knowledge advances, and as philosophical analysis improves, religion is progressively purified of the superstitions that accidentally attach themselves to it as parasites. That being so, it is easier in fact to be more truly religious today than ever before, precisely because of the advances that have been made in science and philosophy. That is to say, it is easier for those who will make the effort to think clearly in and about religion, not for those whose addiction to religion is nothing more than a slavish adherence to inherited superstition. Throughout the whole of the past, only a small number of men were ever truly religious. The vast majority who gave their epochs and their societies the appearance of being religious were primarily and essentially superstitious.”

P.A. says no to hater imams

by The Rhetor

The Washington Post reports on the Palestinian Authority’s clamp down on sermons in West Bank mosques. The Authority’s Minister for Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habbash closely monitors and provides guidance on the content of the sermons given by the imams under the Authority’s jurisdiction. The Fattah regime can only be seen by those under its control as a Vichy government and the West must be cautious in its dealings with this group of strong-men.

In order to secure peace in the Levant  Western  governments must avoid politically convenient solutions involving armed political factions and seek to establish functioning democracies that maintain a separation of church and state, promote individual freedoms and political pluralism.

More University Riots

by The Rhetor

English students have joined their European comrades in denouncing legislation enabling English universities to raise fees up to nine thousand pounds. Clearly David Cameron is far less afraid of spending political capital then his New Zealand Counterpart. The U.K. has been facing an educational crisis for some time, with demand for university places outstripping their availability. It remains to be seen whether confronting students with a more of the true cost of their education will help to bring demand closer to equilibrium.

Upcoming will be a closer look at the problems facing universities world-wide in these trying times.

A link to end the week

by The Rhetor

It’s Friday and I am stuck for ideas, so instead of reinventing the wheel here is a link to a series on rhetoric at the Art of Manliness. AOM is one of my favourite sites and has a good range of articles on all things Manly.

Taxes and Democracy

by The Rhetor

I was trawling the internet last night searching for a blog post when I came across this gem. This statement really stood out for me: “I believe that a Democracy has a duty to prevent the formation of dynasties“. Jealous much? Behind this article seems to be a belief that the aim of a democracy is to create equality in society. It isn’t. The aim of a democracy is to protect the political rights of individual citizens against the oppression of tyrannical forces (monarchs, dictators, the proletariat, etc.). This is achieved by placing the competing elements of society at odds with each other in government, human behaviour then ensures that no one group maintains a strangle hold on power.

But let’s see how the evil dynasts would be dealt with under our authors system:

“We should incrementally increase taxes on estate values over $20 million. There’s no reason a family needs or deserves to retain full ownership of assets over $20 million or $50 million. Tax estate assets over $25 million at 80% , over $50 million at 90%. Tax estate assets over $100 million at 95% and tax estate assets over $500 million at 98%.”
Ok I will concede that 2% of 500 million dollars is still a hell of a lot of money but such a system would have some fairly huge flow on effects for the economy. Remember that the über wealthy aren’t actually like Scrooge McDuck, they don’t have huge vaults filled with money which they can swim in (with a few notable exceptions in Epsom) any tax bills would have to be funded out of asset sales. This will already be the case with existing estate taxes however could the economy handle the kind of fire-sales demanded by 98% taxes?
Furthermore is it right to tax the rich more solely out of envy? While I am not trying to suggest that we can all stand to benefit from a trickle down economy, crumbs are still crumbs no matter whose table they come from, there is a fine line between asking some one to pay their fair share and robbing Peter to pay Paul. Particularly when the only justification seems to be “They have it and we don’t”.
This is not a new problem. Wealth redistribution was at the heart of many ancient social conflicts, notably the reforms of the Gracchi in Republican Rome. It will likely continue to be a major sticking point between societies well into the future. It won’t be solved by marely moving wealth from one group to another.