Irving Kristol on Desmond Tutu

by Andrew Gelman on December 28, 2012 · 4 comments

in Foreign Policy,Media

In the same article from 1986 that I quoted from yesterday, Irving Kristol wrote:

I do not share the widespread admiration for Archbishop Tutu of South Africa, because I am reasonably certain that if and when the African National Congress comes to power, he will be a vocal apologist for its tyranny and brutality.

According to Wikipedia:

Since his retirement, Tutu has worked to critique the new South African government. Tutu has been vocal in condemnation of corruption, the ineffectiveness of the ANC-led government to deal with poverty, and the recent outbreaks of xenophobic violence in some townships in South Africa.

After a decade of freedom for South Africa, Tutu was honoured with the invitation to deliver the annual Nelson Mandela Foundation Lecture. On 23 November 2004, Tutu gave an address entitled “Look to the Rock from Which You Were Hewn”. This lecture, critical of the ANC-controlled government, stirred a pot of controversy between Tutu and Thabo Mbeki, calling into question “the right to criticise”. . . .

Tutu made a stinging attack on South Africa’s political élite, saying the country was “sitting on a powder keg” because of its failure to alleviate poverty a decade after apartheid’s end. Tutu also said that attempts to boost black economic ownership were benefiting only an elite minority, while political “kowtowing” within the ruling ANC was hampering democracy. Tutu asked, “What is black empowerment when it seems to benefit not the vast majority but an elite that tends to be recycled?” . . . Tutu warned of corruption shortly after the re-election of the African National Congress government of South Africa, saying that they “stopped the gravy train just long enough to get on themselves.”

So it looks like Kristol was wrong on that one.

P.S. Yes, it’s easy to find silly statements from liberals as well, for example this Paul Samuelson prediction that the Soviet Union was on track to overtake the United States economically. My point here is not to slam Kristol but just to remind ourselves that certainty doesn’t count for much. As we say in the philosophy of science: Saying it don’t make it so.

{ 4 comments }

Andreas Moser December 28, 2012 at 10:48 am

Desmond Tutu is the rare example of a guy who can simply be admired and respected. I am an atheist, but the church does bring out some good people and some heroes.

Scott Monje December 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm

“. . . just to remind ourselves that certainty doesn’t count for much.”

Yes, I’m always struck by people who contend that George Bush saved the country from numerous terrorist attacks and use as their proof the unfounded assertions made in the excitement after 9/11 that many more such attacks were in the offing.

Jay Livingston December 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I’ve never forgotten Kristol’s dismissal of social science and his defense of drawing firm conclusions on the basis of no evidence. As he wrote in a PI piece, “we don’t really need social science to confirm what common sense and common observations tell us to be the case.” (I blogged it here.) There’s also his WSJ essay, “Life Without Father,” where he sketches his own father as distant, barely a presence in the house because of his work schedule, and emotionally constipated. Yet Kristol holds him up as a paragon. It’s sort of touching.

NickMatzke January 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm

“As we say in the philosophy of science: Saying it don’t make it so.”

I believe these words are also common when parents are talking to 5 year olds.

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