Very interesting read today by David Gordon in “Minding the Campus” (via Insty). In his piece he talks about the subject of history being at present in the best of times and in the worst of times, to mangle Dickens.
What am I talking about? Well, the blog in which Gordon’s article appears subs its title with “Reforming our Universities”.
Why is that important? We’ve talked about it in the past. It is where liberal America has set up shop for decades. And the effect is never been stronger than now. In fact, a lot of what you see as the changing attitudes in America can, I think – at least in part – be traced to academia.
Gordon notes its beginning:
This extraordinary bias began in the late 1960s with the anti-Vietnam war protests. Many participants, at least those who subsequently went into academia, have never gotten over it. Their fossilized views have made their own disciplines largely museums of dead ideologies. Another of the remarkable changes within the historical profession has been the growth of women’s history. With only a negligible representation in 1975, almost 10% of all historians today identify themselves as historians of gender and women’s affairs.
What bias is Gordon talking about? Well it’s a bias that he sees as “mangling history” to our detriment:
The evolution of the historical profession in the United States in the last fifty years provides much reason for celebration. It provides even more reason for unhappiness and dread. Never before has the profession seemed so intellectually vibrant. An unprecedented amount of scholarship and teaching is being devoted to regions outside of the traditional American concentration on itself and Europe. New subjects of enquiry — gender, race and ethnicity — have developed. Never have historians been so influenced by the methodology and contributions of other disciplines, from anthropology to sociology.
At the same time, never has the historical profession been so threatened. Political correctness has both narrowed and distorted enquiry. Traditional fields demanding intellectual rigor, such as economic and intellectual history, are in decline. Even worse, education about Western civilization and the Enlightenment, that font of American liberties, and the foundation of modern industrial, scientific and liberal world civilization, has come to be treated with increasing disdain at colleges and universities.
Now call me crazy, but you can see easily the effect of what Gordon is talking about today in the last election. Increasingly students (and that includes further down the academic chain in high schools) know less and less about our history and traditions and more and more about, well, women’s studies, gender studies, things which have little bearing on economic and intellectual history – for instance:
The problem with this is that it has helped force out many other kinds of historical enquiry. It is important to emphasize women’s role in society and in history. However, it is difficult to see how a feminist perspective could contribute very much to a purely economic history of the English industrial revolution (as opposed to its social consequences), or to a diplomatic history of Europe between the Napoleonic and the First World War. As a result, these kinds of studies are receiving ever less attention.
We all understand that women and minorities were mistreated. Got it. And we all know that was wrong, with 21st Century hindsight. But what happened back when all that bad stuff was going on, in terms of economic and intellectual history, is still critically important today.
Instead history’s “new focus” has helped bolster both the “victimization” and “entitlement” mentality:
Worst of all, women’s history has contributed to the current holy trinity of race, gender and class that dominates the historical profession. Under normal circumstances, the tight focus on victimization would soon fade. Since oppression studies explain so little, they soon become boring. But, as a part of a political chorus demanding ever-more extravagant entitlements for key voting groups, an essential part of the identity politics that is so destructive of national unity, the trinity is ensured a long life. Historians can grow tired of an intellectual movement. Politicians of a useful political tool, never.
There is also something else beyond the fanciful and fraudulent political and academic rhetoric of “equal opportunity – affirmative action.” That is jobs. Key voting groups designated as oppressed have been hired preferentially in the academy, most especially in the social sciences, including history. To justify these preferences, historians of gender and race must keep emphasizing oppression. How otherwise can their privileges be justified? Hence, the refiguring history to justify their positions in the professoriate.
We used to hear people laugh derisively when someone mentioned “political correctness”. But what you’re reading here is an example of political correctness run amok.
And it’s effect? Read James Taranto’s piece in the WSJ today. It’s an incredible example of political correctness gone nuts. I’m talking about Emily Yoffe’s answer to an obviously absurdly insensitive question addressed to her. However, her answer, among much of the left, is both appropriate and “correct”. It’s what they believe. It’s what they’ve been taught.
Will it get worse? Well, Gordon seems to think it will:
A remarkable generational change is also coming. Most of the historians in the declining fields, economic, intellectual and diplomatic history, earned their degrees more than 30 years ago. At the same time, more than 50% of the new PhDs are now trained in women and gender history, in cultural history (a watered-down version of social history), in world and African-American history. This is going to make an extraordinary difference in what kind of scholarship will continue to be undertaken, and how the past will be taught. The history profession, seemingly innovative and robust, is in fact intellectually debilitated, and sadly reduced in scope.
If you think it is bad in the history department, you’ve seen what is going on in the science department (
global warming climate change “science”).
Many have been hinting for years that the culture battle – the battle between individualism and freedom v. collectivism and entitlement- is being lost in academia. Gordon manages to put an exclamation point to the claim. One of the reasons our population knows less and less about economic and our intellectual history is because it has been waylaid and replaced with “disciplines” which stress entitlement and victimization.
Is it then a surprise when more and more of the population view themselves and this country through those lenses? And is it then any more surprising when they perceive government - more and more government – as the answer? Again, it’s what they’ve been taught.
It’s not like we haven’t seen where we’re headed before. One of the reasons for the war on individualism? Because it yields a desired result, a result, unfortunately, all to common in our history.
Auberon Herbert (via the WSJ) in "The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State", written in 1894, provides the lesson we’ve still apparently not learned:
We are fast getting rid of emperors and kings and dominant churches, as far as the mere outward form is concerned, but the soul of these men and these institutions is still living and breathing within us. We still want to exercise power, we still want to drive men our own way, and to possess the mind and body of our brothers as well as of our own selves. The only difference is that we do it in the name of a majority instead of in the name of divine right. . . .
In this case the possession of power would necessarily confer upon those who gained it such enormous privileges—if we are to speak of the miserable task of compulsion as privileges—the privileges of establishing and enforcing their own views in all matters, of treading out and suppressing the views to which they are opposed, of arranging and distributing all property, of regulating all occupations, that all those who still retained sufficient courage and energy to have views of their own would be condemned to live organized for ceaseless and bitter strife with each other.
In presence of unlimited power lodged in the hands of those who govern, in the absence of any universal acknowledgment of individual rights, the stakes for which men played would be so terribly great that they would shrink from no means to keep power out of the hands of their opponents. Not only would the scrupulous man become unscrupulous, and the pitiful man cruel, but the parties into which society divided itself would begin to perceive that to destroy or be destroyed was the one choice lying in front of them.
Sound familiar to anyone?
There’s a quote going around from Timothy Geithner that again demonstrates why he has no business heading the Treasury Department.
In it he says things which are hard to attribute to a Treasury Secretary but certainly indicative of someone who could be labeled a political hack.
"That’s the kind of balance you need," said Geithner. "Why is that the case? Because if you don’t try to generate more revenues through tax reform, if you don’t ask, you know, the most fortunate Americans to bear a slightly larger burden of the privilege of being an American, then you have to – the only way to achieve fiscal sustainability is through unacceptably deep cuts in benefits for middle class seniors, or unacceptably deep cuts in national security." [emphasis mine]
James Pethokoukis literally takes this quote apart line by line and makes the technical argument as to why it is poppycock. It’s worth the read.
However, I’m most interested in those phrases I’ve emphasized in a more cultural/political/philosophical vein.
Since when do Americans, any Americans, have to pay government for the “privilege of being an American?”
I can’t think of a quote that more starkly differentiates the philosophies of right and left than Geithner’s. At its base it points to a philosophy that puts the state and collectivism before the individual and liberty. It is the polar opposite of the philosophy on which this country was founded. It is a mindset which must constantly be exposed and rejected.
We, as Americans, don’t pay anyone for any such “privilege”, and certainly not government. But the Elizabeth Warrens, Tim Geithners and Barack Obamas of world believe otherwise.
That statement tells one all they need to know about a philosophy that drives this current administration and much of the left. Americans, apparently, exist to serve government (and pay whatever cost government deems necessary) and not the other way around. The fact that they’re only attempting to use the “rich” in this case doesn’t mask the fact that they don’t limit this belief to only the “rich”. It’s just that politically, that’s all they can get away with at the moment. Make no mistake, they are elitists and collectivists and the path they want to take this country down is a path of limited liberty and no return.
As to the final emphasized phrase, note the false dichotomy. It is as fallacious as any argument you’ll ever see. The “only” way to achieve fiscal sustainability is by cutting only those two programs?
There are entire executive departments, agencies and bureaus which could be dismissed and cut before either of those other areas had to be touched. There are literally billions of dollars that could be saved by reducing government at all levels. To pretend that the only solution is to make “deep cuts” in benefits for “middle class seniors” or “national security” is the biggest crock of crap yet foisted on the American people since Al Gore invented his get rich quick scheme called global warming.
Obviously both of the areas mentioned by Geithner are areas in which cuts must and will be made. But it is pure and unadulterated sophistry to pretend that they alone will suffer if we don’t tax the ‘rich’ for the ‘privilege of being an American’.
I can’t tell you how much Geithner’s words rankle me. It is people like he, Obama and Warren that must be shown the door (or, in Warren’s case, never let in the door), politically speaking. They are a danger to liberty and freedom. The philosophy under which they operate is unacceptable and as I’ve said many times, must be defeated.
If you value your liberty at all, I suspect you feel the same way. How we got to this point, where high government officials feel comfortable saying such nonsense should bother you. It points to a tacit acceptance of their view by many. To those who love liberty, their view is unacceptable. It just makes you wonder how many of us are left that actually do value and love liberty, doesn’t it?
When I was at CPAC, I asked Santorum voters why he was their man. Almost to a person, they cited the fact that he was the most “consistent conservative”. If that’s the case, is this what “consistent conservatives” believe?
I’m someone who takes the opinion that gaming is not something that is beneficial, particularly having that access on the Internet. Just as we’ve seen from a lot of other things that are vices on the Internet, they end to grow exponentially as a result of that. It’s one thing to come to Las Vegas and do gaming and participate in the shows and that kind of thing as entertainment, it’s another thing to sit in your home and have access to that it. I think it would be dangerous to our country to have that type of access to gaming on the Internet.
Freedom’s not absolute. What rights in the Constitution are absolute? There is no right to absolute freedom. There are limitations. You might want to say the same thing about a whole variety of other things that are on the Internet — “let everybody have it, let everybody do it.” No. There are certain things that actually do cost people a lot of money, cost them their lives, cost them their fortunes that we shouldn’t have and make available, to make it that easy to do. That’s why we regulate gambling. You have a big commission here that regulates gambling, for a reason.
I opposed gaming in Pennsylvania . . . A lot of people obviously don’t responsibly gamble and lose a lot and end up in not so great economic straits as a result of that. I believe there should be limitations.
If you’re not aghast then you’re not paying attention. The question posed to Santorum concerned online gambling.
Swap “gambling” with about any freedom you can imagine and run it through that statement. You should be terrified. This is an argument almost any liberal or “progressive” would make to limit your freedoms. They consider freedom and rights to be government granted (or they don’t exist until government says they exist – and folks that’s not a “right”, that’s a privilege). They reserve the right to limit your freedom to make you conform to their idea of what is “right” or “good”.
Here’s a simple solution Mr. Santorum. If you oppose online gambling, don’t do it. But his argument here is fundamentally anti-freedom. It is his decision to limit your choice to act by claiming your action is destructive and must be “limited” by government do-gooders.
It is the very argument that I thought conservatives opposed.
How is this smaller and less intrusive government? And, more importantly, how is this not translatable as a philosophy, to just about anything you can imagine that Rick Santorum finds objectionable?
At Powerline, John Hinderaker points to an article by Janet Daley in the Daily Telegraph and ponders the question she asks – “why has the collapse of Communism had so little impact on political discourse in the West?”
[I]n spite of the official agreement that there is no other way to organise the economic life of a free society than the present one (with a few tweaks), there are an awful lot of people implicitly behaving as if there were. Several political armies seem to be running on the assumption that there is still a viable contest between capitalism and Something Else.
If this were just the hard Left within a few trade unions and a fringe collection of Socialist Workers’ Party headbangers, it would not much matter. But the truth is that a good proportion of the population harbours a vague notion that there exists a whole other way of doing things that is inherently more benign and “fair” – in which nobody is hurt or disadvantaged – available for the choosing, if only politicians had the will or the generosity to embrace it.
Why do they believe this? Because the lesson that should have been absorbed at the tumultuous end of the last century never found its way into popular thinking – or even into the canon of educated political debate. …
he fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism which followed it are hugely important to any proper understanding of the present world and of the contemporary political economy. Why is it that they have failed to be addressed with anything like their appropriate awesome significance, let alone found their place in the sixth-form curriculum?
The failure of communism should have been, after all, not just a turning point in geo-political power – the ending of the Cold War and the break-up of the Warsaw Pact – but in modern thinking about the state and its relationship to the economy, about collectivism vs individualism, and about public vs private power. Where was the discussion, the trenchant analysis, or the fundamental debate about how and why the collectivist solutions failed, which should have been so pervasive that it would have percolated down from the educated classes to the bright 18-year-olds? Fascism is so thoroughly (and, of course, rightly) repudiated that even the use of the word as a casual slur is considered slanderous, while communism, which enslaved more people for longer (and also committed mass murder), is regarded with almost sentimental condescension. …
[I]n our everyday politics, we still seem to be unable to make up our minds about the moral superiority of the free market. We are still ambivalent about the value of competition, which remains a dirty word when applied, for example, to health care. We continue to long for some utopian formula that will rule out the possibility of inequalities of wealth, or even of social advantages such as intelligence and personal confidence.
The idea that no system – not even a totalitarian one – could ensure such a total eradication of “unfairness” without eliminating the distinguishing traits of individual human beings was one of the lessons learnt by the Soviet experiment. The attempt to abolish unfairness based on class was replaced by corruption and a new hierarchy based on party status.
If the European intellectual elite had not been so compromised by its own broad acceptance of collectivist beliefs, maybe we would have had a genuine, far-reaching re-appraisal of the entire ideological framework. [Emphasis mine].
We could spend a week discussing any of those highlighted passages, but the question remains – why? In fact, if you think about it, the collapse of communism was all but shrugged off by the left. It wasn’t, as it seemed, of any consequence to their ideology. In fact, for the most part, other than a few “good riddance” quotes, it was business as usual for the left, pushing many of the same ideological principles that underpinned communism as if they were not a reason for that horrific system’s collapse.
As Daley says, its failure should have been a turning point in geo-political power and thinking about the state and its relationship to the economy. But instead there was silence while left leaning governments both here and in Europe doubled down on state intrusion into the economies of their respective states.
The key is to be found in the last emphasized sentence. Unfortunately, there has been a sea-change in much of our thinking which has indeed seen a “broad acceptance” of “collectivist beliefs”. If ObamaCare leaped to your mind immediately, what actually makes the point is Medicare Part D. That’s the “broad acceptance” necessary – compromise of principle on the right – to carry this sort of an agenda forward.
Sure ObamaCare was passed without a single GOP vote, but it was set up by many past GOP compromises. The problem is the right has allowed the left to define both the playing field and the principles of play. It has also framed what little discussion that goes on. It has decided on envy as its vehicle and class warfare as its methodology. And the right has meekly accepted those parameters. Watch the current crop of GOP candidates spend much of their time apologizing for their success instead of celebrating it and tell me the propaganda war hasn’t gone to the left.
And on the left? Why has the result of communism’s collapse been essentially ignored? For two reasons. John Hideraker’s take on the left for one:
I think a very partial answer to the question Ms. Daley poses is that leftism has never been based on idealism. It has always been based, for the most part, on hate and envy. So when Communism was conclusively proved to be a failure, leftists (including not only leftists in politics, but more important, leftists in the media and in academia) didn’t change their minds or admit their mistake. For in their eyes, while there may have been disappointment, there was no mistake. Their resentments and hatreds remained. They merely sought other vehicles, other terminologies, other tactics to bring down the West and the free enterprise system and democratic institutions that define it. Yesterday’s socialists are today’s progressives. They barely missed a beat.
I think there is a lot of truth to that analysis, although I’d quibble somewhat on the dismissal of idealism. I’ve always said the left never viewed communism as a systemic failure but more of a failure based on the fact that the wrong people were executing the idea poorly. There’s never really been an acknowledgement on the left that communism itself was “wrong”, “bad” or even totalitarian. Just that some of those who got into power under that system were (if they’ll admit even that).
And it is hard to look at the left of today, view their ideology and conclude they’ve learned a thing by its collapse. While they’ve certainly learned that it is unwise to use certain words or phrases when pushing their agenda (you won’t see “proletariat” or “bourgeoisie” tossed around by today’s lefty, but “middle class” and “[pick your favorite class to denigrate] elite” work along with “Big this” and “Big that”.
The truth in Daley’s point is to be found in reviewing how we’ve gotten to where we are today since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. We’re much less free economically and politically. The left continues to define the debate and the right continues to accept the framing. How can you have a real discussion about the failures of communism specifically and collectivism in general when you continue to allow the collectivists to frame the discussion? Naturally they’re going to pretend that nothing untoward happened with the demise of the USSR and Warsaw pact. Why would they?
I mean think of the irony – over 20 years after its collapse, the principles of socialism and its offspring communism continue to touted as “the answer” while the system that sharply defined the West until then and made it more successful by orders of magnitude – capitalism (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) – is under constant and sustained assault.
Talk about a world upside down.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is frightening to read the words by this President and it is hard not be appalled by the apparent economic ignorance they contain. We’ve remarked on it several times. In particular this statement is stunning in that regard:
Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 100—or 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100 employees, so layoffs too often became permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. And these changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs and the Internet.
Richard Epstein of the Hoover Institution noticed it too. And in very blunt language, points the very same thing we’ve been talking about:
To anyone schooled in economics, these statements reveal a breathtaking ignorance about the sources of national prosperity. It is a good thing when plants can achieve the same output with less labor. Do we really want an America in which thousands of people work in dangerous occupations to turn molten lava into steel bars? Far better it is that fewer workers are doing those jobs. The jobs lost in that industry will be in part replaced by newer jobs created in the firms that build the equipment that make it possible to run steel mills at a lower cost and far lower risk of personal injury. The former workers can seek jobs in newer industries that will only expand by competing for labor.
And what about those ATM machines? Does the president really want people to have to queue up in banks to make deposits or withdraw cash in order to make a boom market for human tellers? Perhaps we should return to the days before automation, when phone calls were all connected by human operators. And why blast the Internet, which has created far more useful jobs than it has ever destroyed?
The painful ignorance that is revealed in these remarks augurs ill for the long-term recovery of America. With the president firmly determined to set himself against the tides of progress, innovation will be harder to come by. The levels of unemployment will continue to be high as the president works overtime to impose additional restrictions on the labor markets and more taxes at the top of the income distribution—both backhanded ways to reward innovation and growth.
The problem, therefore, with the president’s speech is not that it is demagogic in tone. The problem is that it is intellectually incoherent. As a matter of high principle, the president announces his fealty to markets. As a matter of practical politics, he denigrates and undermines them at every step. It is a frightening prospect to have a president who lives in a time warp that lets him believe that the failed policies of 1935 can lead this nation back from the brink. His chosen constituency, the middle class, should tremble at the prospect that his agenda might well set the course for the United States for the next four years.
Well said, but frightening. Take the time to read the rest of Epstein’s piece. It’s worth the read.
Read this lead sentence and weep for this country:
At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America.
A “painful era of self-reliance”? Self-reliance is a negative thing? Well yes if your ideal is a social welfare state. The trait that helped build this country into a great nation is now a negative according to Barack Obama:
“The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008, then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own,’” Obama told a crowd of 200 donors over lunch at the W Hotel.
Oh, man … that would just be terrible.
You mean I’d have to take care of myself? I’d have to do what is necessary to ensure I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in the pantry?
You mean I wouldn’t have to put up with intrusive regulation and government involvement and control in every aspect of my life?
Please, say it ain’t so.
Would I be treated to a government that took less of my money in taxes because it was smaller, less intrusive and costs less?
Whatever happened to American pride in self-reliance for heaven sake? Whatever happened to those who sought this place out because it was peopled with the self-reliant? Now the possibility of having to be self reliant is to be feared? Now only government can “save” you from having to be “on your own”?
What a pitiful mess this place has become.
Earlier today, New York Times columnist Nick Kristoff opined on Twitter about cuts in government services. It’s not every day that you see such stupidity displayed so confidently…except from the Left:
Imagine John Boehner home in OH, seeing an escaped tiger–and getting a msg that help is unavailable due to govt cutbacks.
Well, I don’t know about John Boehner. But I do know that if I received such a message, it’d be because I was trying to call up a government flunky to haul a tiger carcass away. And if I did get such a message, my very next call would be to a good taxidermist.
It’s an interesting glimpse into the worldview though. The unspoken assumption is that, without government tiger hunters, we’re all doomed to be mauled by wild beasts. Presumably, this is because we are all tiny, little children, utterly incapable of solving our problems without the intervention of our benevolent government overlords. It’s a worldview that operates on the assumption that the government is the only adult in the room.
Note especially the all-or-nothing mindset: Either we pay for massive government services, or we’re completely unprotected. There are no other conceivable options in Mr. Kristoff’s worldview. It’s as if the very concepts of self-help or mutual aid are inconceivable to him.
And I don’t get the feeling that Mr. Kristoff regards this as a bad thing. It’s just the way it is. We have to keep ponying up money to the government to provide services, or society will collapse. Apparently, we’re just too stupid to be trusted to take care of ourselves.
It’s always interesting how the same people who are so keen on "democracy" tend to believe that the electorate is too stupid to care for themselves, but wise enough to vote on policies that directly affect their lives.
One of those things cannot be true.
Of course, spending much of his time in Manhattan, perhaps Mr. Kristoff is merely speaking from personal experience. After, they have created a city in which it is practically impossible for a law-abiding citizen to defend himself, so calling NYPD is about the only option when trouble arises. And I’m sure NYPD responds as quickly as they can, though, sadly, it probably won’t be before your wife gets a good raping. I’m certain they’ll investigate the hell out of it, though. After the fact.
You see, once you cede the power to defend yourself to others, you’re always a potential victim. This, however, is something about which Mr. Kristoff seems blissfully unaware.
What a sad, artificially constrained view of life.
I’m amazed at times by what I read in major daily newspapers. OK, not as much now as I would have been say 10 or 15 years ago. Maybe it’s just awareness on my part now, but as I get older I am confronted by what I see as half-baked opinion on the pages of such rags than I ever remember before.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m the one that’s gotten sharper over the years and am able to spot nonsense more easily than before. Take for instance, Nina Power of the Guardian. Power is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University, so she can be forgiven for being somewhat removed from reality. In her opinion, which the Guardian gladly publishes, the problem of the riots in London and elsewhere can be laid at the feet of government and austerity policies. Why? Well let her explain:
Since the coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital (preceded by clashes with Bristol police in Stokes Croft earlier in the year). Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. The government knows very well that it is taking a gamble, and that its policies run the risk of sparking mass unrest on a scale we haven’t seen since the early 1980s. With people taking to the streets of Tottenham, Edmonton, Brixton and elsewhere over the past few nights, we could be about to see the government enter a sustained and serious losing streak.
It’s the “brutal cuts” and the “enforced austerity measures”. Note she admits that “each of these events was sparked by a different cause”, however she then rejects that admission and claims that in reality they all come back to government cut backs.
Really? It couldn’t be good old technology aided criminality could it? Or something else completely? Or a combination of other things altogether?
For instance, in the next paragraph, she says:
The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan last Thursday, where it appears, contrary to initial accounts, that only police bullets were fired, is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police’s treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment.
One journalist wrote that he was surprised how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the IPCC, but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.
Oh, so it could be all about police harassment then and nothing to do with “brutal cuts” or austerity? It could be that the spark that lit this fire had to do with police treatment of minorities? It certainly seems that is what she’s saying. And of course the riots elsewhere could simply be copy-cat. Criminal gangs who learned the methods used in Tottenham and deploying them elsewhere to loot and avoid the police?
Well, yes, it could be. In fact, it could really have nothing at all to do with the “entitled and dispossessed”.
Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear.
They do? What’s clear is she’s bound and determined to link them, that’s for sure. But clarity … yeah, not so much.
But that is necessary, even if not true, to conclude the following:
Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.
As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as "social problems" (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.
All of that from a riot against police that one could conclude was a long time fermenting. Recall the LA riots – was that because of “brutal cuts” and “enforced austerity measures”? Was the looting that took place then a result of “decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness” or mobs taking advantage of the lawlessness the riots brought to loot what they wanted?
And even if she’s half right – what’s the solution she’d desire? Well “equality” of course. She’d rather trample the rights of those who’ve won “life’s lottery” (even though they worked their rear ends off to do so) and redistribute it to the poor and disenfranchised than ask the poor and disenfranchised to do what is necessary to give themselves a chance in life and quit demanding others do it for them.
Collectivism, although she never comes out and says it, is her answer. And we’ve seen how well those equal societies did, didn’t we? Well at least those of us who had been born before the collapse of the USSR and objectively observed the outcome.
Yes, friends, a whole new generation of collectivists begin to rear their heads, some having never seen what the collectivism of the last century brought in terms of “equality” - Equality of misery, equality of oppression and equality of hopelessness.
The problem in the UK isn’t austerity, it’s the results of collectivism and the fact that the inevitable outcome has begun. It isn’t individualism that’s the fault. It’s a massive state which robs people of incentive through it’s supposed benign acts of state sponsored charity. Why strive if you will be taken care of whether you do or not? Why seek food if you’re not hungry or don’t care what you eat? Why take care of yourself if the state will do it for you? And if you start running out of money, tax the rich bastards who want better.
Uncle Jimbo, at Blackfive, puts the exclamation mark on the real reason London is burning:
Liberal social policies have brought western civilization to the breaking point. They had the best of intentions, just ask them. But they, and sadly we, are getting a heaping dose of the law of unintended consequences. If you train an entire cohort of society to believe that the government doesn’t just offer a safety net but a way of life, well you get this- gangs of scum who will take what they want if the free lunch stops showing up. The chattering class is doing their level best to paint this as a legitimate reaction to dire economic times, and for once I agree with them. This is what happens when you run out of other people’s money.
By the way, this isn’t just a one-off bit of nonsense from Ms. Power. She’s been quite active in the Guardian pages denouncing all sorts of things with titles such as “Don’t Assume the Police Are On Our Side”, which makes me wonder what “our side” might be, and “Happiness has been Consumed by Capitalism” which clarifies the sides.
For all those on the progressive side expecting a miracle to take place on Nov. 2nd and sweep the polling places clear of those pesky right-wing nut-jobs, I hate to disappoint you. Instead, you need to concentrate on the size of the sweep that will take place – will it be a ripple? A wave? Or a tsunami?
Frankly, it’s beginning to look a bit like a tsunami is possible. In 1994, in what is popularly considered a “blow out” in political circles, the GOP took 54 House seats back in the mid-term elections.
Take a look at these comparisons (which obviously include “committed” independents in the “lean” categories). Compare 1994 and 2010. Note two things – 1) there’s a 6+ point difference between then and now favoring the Republicans. 2) Among independents, all but a few (and much fewer than in 1994) are not already committed (meaning there isn’t likely to be a sudden “surge” of indies going left in the remaining few days to swing the elections over to the Dems).
Last, but not least, look at the self-identified categories at the bottom. In all categories but “moderate” there has been growth. Most would argue this demonstrates the polarization of our polity. I’d agree. Moderates have lost 16 points since 1994. Liberals have gained 8, as have conservatives. However, the conservatives hold a decided edge over liberals. What that means is liberals need moderates much more than conservatives do. And it is the moderates and independents who are right now rejecting the liberals in Congress.
The point conservatives should take away from this is – at least as this poll demonstrates – that their ideas are winning. And to me, that says they have the backing to aggressively pursue their agenda. Note I said “aggressively”, not stupidly, or arrogantly or, well choose your own modifier and count on them to find a way to screw it up. Wisely may be a better way of saying it.
What do I mean by that? Here’s another survey to consider from Harris Interactive. It is the “right direction/wrong direction” poll for the country you see from various polling firms. To me it best indicates what is and has been going on within the polity for quite some time. What it also indicates is this anger and frustration isn’t new nor is it necessarily aimed at the current President or Congress. Instead it is something which has been existent for a long time and is finally coming to a head, driven most likely by the economic conditions, government overreach and fiscal profligacy:
|YEAR||Right Dir %||Wrong Dir %|
Note that 1994 was the big wave GOP takeover of the House during the Clinton years. And during the lead up, you saw the percentage dissatisfaction with the direction of the country as high as 81% – only exceeded by the 83% during the Bush era in October of 2008 – a month before the national presidential election.
Some may write this off to a cynical public, two-thirds of whom always see the glass as half-empty. But I think it goes much deeper than that to a public that has become increasingly aware that the premise on which this country was founded is being systematically betrayed by those engaged in governance. And, as the chart demonstrates, that belief isn’t held exclusively to one party. When the GOP was seen as betraying their principles, they too were seen as putting the country on the wrong track.
You may look at the chart and say, “ wait a minute, how do you conclude that – the public seems equally disenchanted with both sides given the numbers.” I’d point back to the other chart showing “conservatives” with 48% and rising and say there hasn’t been much in the way of “conservative” governance in the last 20 years. That’s why, for the most part, the “wrong track” remains consistent through both GOP and Democrat administrations. Democrats thought it was because of a disenchantment with the GOP. The GOP thought it was because the Democrats over reached. In fact, it was both of these and the fact that neither the GOP or the Democrats (particularly the Democrats) were conservative enough.
What you see now, driven by obvious unfettered and unacceptable deficit spending, government intrusion and takeovers is that anger and frustration finally boiling over. It is, of course, enabled by out technology today, but it is truly grass-roots (despite the best efforts of the left to characterize it as otherwise). And that’s what both mystifies and terrifies politicians. A finger in the wind doesn’t work so well right now. Despite incredible attempts to demonize them, ordinary people are standing up in town hall meetings and demanding answers to questions that politicians would prefer to avoid. There’s heckling at “debates”. Even violence (on both sides – as the left goes batsh*t crazy over the “head stomping”, let’s not forget the older gentleman at the Tea Party rally who had his finger bitten off by an SEIU thug).
It points to a restive populace tired of the same old promises, same old problems and same old “fixes”. An interesting phenomenon is occurring that has many political observers on both the left and the right scratching their heads as they try to understand it. We’re seeing the creation of spontaneous order at a grass-roots level of citizens who’ve had enough of business as usual. It scares the establishment to death. And that, folks, is healthy. The citizenry needs to keep our politicians in that state constantly.
Then – perhaps – they might figure out what it is the citizens of this country really want out of their government. And unless I’ve read it wrong, it isn’t the bloated, intrusive, hugely expensive and profligate mess they’ve created. Mr. Obama needs to learn that the country doesn’t think “government is cool” – only necessary. And that necessity needs to be tempered and quickly. Until it is, he and all politicians can count on continuing to see exactly what they see today in direction of the country polls and outspoken voter discontent – no matter which party they represent.