Monday, February 16, 2004

I've long thought that we ought to be burying the Middle East in translations of the Federalist Papers and other works of classic liberal political science. An anti-war blowhard professor named Juan Cole is taking donations for that very purpose. I find myself conflicted.

On the one hand, I really ought to support this, regardless of the politics of the sponsor. Admittedly, I'm not particularly well-off, and I tapped myself out last fall on various Iraq-oriented charities. Still and all, I could probably afford a little something.

On the other hand, Cole doesn't seem to have much in the way of details on his page. I'd have to trust his word that the funds would go to translation, publishing and distribution, and not, say, via indirect means, to a MoveOn project of some sort or another. Finally, I'm not too keen on the particular work he's talking about starting with - a set of extracts from Jefferson's body of works, multicultural pabulum, and stuff about American Jews.

I'm particularly worried that the last set of proposed works would be a literary example of the old Marine tactic known as "hey-diddle-diddle, straight up the middle". The point of the democracy project would be to introduce Arabic-speakers to the logic of self-government at a fine, detailed, and well-argued level. It isn't to make them love their enemies. It's to get them to the point where their governments recognize their own self-interests, where those self-interests are aligned with the best interests of the people. I prefer the actual argumentation of the Federalist Papers, over the social-engineering ideology that Jefferson indulged in. That is, don't bury them in historically dated theorizing about citizen-farmers - get them the reasonings and politics behind the compromises and agreements that constitute the actual practice of constitutional engineering.

I'm asking you - is a quarter-loaf worth my charity dollar? I don't know that a half-loaf or full loaf is going to come along in time.

Via Jeff Jarvis.

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