Free Markets, Free People


The Post-Modern Liberal Mind

David Warren, writing in the Ottawa Ciitzen, takes a look at some of the “Gorbachev/Obama” comparisons that some are doing and finds them wanting.  But, he does find one thing the two men seem to share in common.  Something he calls a characteristic of the post-modern liberal mind:

Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

Or a complete and utter disconnection from reality as it functions in this world. We tend to write that seeming disconnect off to arrogance or ignorance, or both.  But in fact, it is a belief based in the following:

Gorbachev seemed to assume, right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and then beyond it, that his Communist Party would recover from any temporary setbacks, and that the long-term effects of his glasnost and perestroika could only be to make it bigger and stronger.

There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

Ok, I admit I laughed out loud at the final emphasized statement, especially given who we have here regularly trying to do exactly what Warren points out. The difference is it has never sounded as “plausible” as our commenter might think he’s made it sound.

But I think Warren is on to something here. When you confront those who believe as our current political leadership does,  the “economic laws of gravity” have no real relevance to them. You get a blank stare and then an assurance that all will be well, just wait and see.  In their ignorance, be it practiced or real, they actually believe that “no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally” and thus continue to provide the rest of what we enjoy today.

So you can run the economy off the cliff with cap-and-trade and we’ll somehow survive and be “bigger and stronger”. Or you can use a health care model that has or is failing all over the world and because their intention is good,  it will work differently here. The cosmic laws of economics that have only worked in a certain way since the world was formed will now work differently because their “intention” is good.  Human behavior will modify itself once the people understand how wonderful the world they envision will be.

Suddenly the presentation of their version of reality, when based on the premise Warren identifies, makes a sort of cock-eyed sense, even if it has no actual basis in reality. That’s why the uninformed are susceptible to sales pitch.  That “vocabulary” that only a “fully college-educated liberal” can bring to bear soothes them into believing that competent hands are at the wheel and all the nonsense they’ve heard about the laws of gravity and economics don’t apply anymore.  The Hope and Change express sold that and the unassuming masses ate it up. It sounds wonderful.  However they soon discovered (or will discover) the roof still falls in as the pillars are knocked away.

With an incredible rapidity, America’s status as the world’s pre-eminent superpower is now passing away. This is a function both of the nearly systematic abandonment of U.S. interests and allies overseas, with metastasizing debt and bureaucracy on the home front.

Given the dithering over Afghanistan and the naive game-playing with Iran and Russia, the 9 trillion in promised debt on top of the trillions already owed and the continuing and planned takeover of more and more of the economy by government, it is hard to wave off Mr. Warren’s point or insight.

The good news? Well Warren thinks we’re big enough and strong enough to shake the effects of our first post-modern president off, although what’s left won’t be at all like it is today:

And while I think the U.S. has the structural fortitude to survive the Obama presidency, it will be a much-diminished country that emerges from the “new physics” of hope and change.

“The ‘new physics’ of hope and change” – I love that phrase, but I’m not as optimistic as Warren. Unless we can stop the new physics of post-modernism in its tracks, I believe we will be less than a “much-diminished country” when this is all over with. We might be on our way to redefining “third world country” if we’re not careful.  If the Democrats were at all competent, I’d bet on it.

No cap-and-trade. No government run health care. No Democrat majorities in 2010. Otherwise, “Katie bar the door”.

~McQ

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks

21 Responses to The Post-Modern Liberal Mind

  • The commentary is spot on here, both you and he.

    It strikes me, however, that what he suggests about the political and the economic, is also true of the cultural. To wit: How much of our cultural values can be stripped away, without causing the roof to collapse on the others? I look at areas of the country dominated by the left…. (Chicago for example) and wonder if that collapse hasn’t already begun.

  • There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

    A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

    Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

    I’d say that the belief that things will go on more or less as they always have, that things will always somehow come out right for the United States, is NOT confined to “very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes”; it is a pretty normal human belief. I’m no psychologist, but I’d guess that a deeply-held belief that the world will be much different (especially worse) in the near future would be almost unbearable. Imagine if you genuninely believed that (for example) you will develop painful, terminal cancer in the next year. Imagine if you genuninely believed that your loved ones were going to die in the next six months. How could you live life like that?

    For people who love their country, imagining a bad future for it would be similarly horrible and even debilitating.

    Indeed, the inability to genuninely believe in a bad future actually cripples the ability to avoid it. I suggest that, had the French been able to bring themselves to genuinely believe that their country WOULD be occupied by the Germans, they might have made better efforts before 1940 to avoid such an outcome. Had Jews been able to genuninely believe that Hitler and his goons really meant everything they said about getting rid of them, perhaps they might have resisted the nazis (or, at least, gotten the hell out of Europe while the getting was good). Had Americans been able to foresee the catastrophic results of the Civil War, they might have made more efforts toward reconcilliation between north and South.

    Are we in such peril as the British and French of 1940? Who can say? I know that I was dimly aware of the threat posed by islamic terrorists on 9-10-01, but there’s no WAY I would have really believed that a handful of murderers with box knives could – WOULD – have committed such an act. I know that the Iranians are working hard on getting a Bomb, and that we really can’t do much to stop a determined effort to sneak them into our cities and bring our country to its knees in an afternoon. Yet, I find it hard to believe that such a thing WILL happen.

    I think that most people are happy to go along, living their lives, not worrying too much about what the future MIGHT bring, confident that the country that survived the Civil War, World War II, the Cold War, and 9-11 will continue to go along much as it has before.

    Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

    • I’d say that the belief that things will go on more or less as they always have, that things will always somehow come out right for the United States, is NOT confined to “very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes”; it is a pretty normal human belief.

      Really? So you think it is human nature to believe that if you knock the pillars out from under a structure the roof will hover? Because that is the “belief” (i.e. premise) he’s talking about.

      • McQReally? So you think it is human nature to believe that if you knock the pillars out from under a structure the roof will hover?

        Sure. People get clobbered all the time by trouble that, in hindsight, they saw coming because they had the happy, foolish assumption that the trouble wasn’t REALLY coming or, if it was, it could be avoided or managed.

        Consider people who have gone bankrupt and / or lost their homes in the past couple of years. They took larger mortgages than they could afford and took ARM’s that they KNEW would “blow up” at some definite point. Yet, they also bought or leased expensive cars, racked up large credit card bills, didn’t save money, etc, etc. Talk about kicking out the pillars and expecting the roof to stay up!

        Rome was in decline for decades or centuries before the barbarians showed up outside the gates; in effect, Romans had been kicking out the pillars during that period, blissfully unconcerned that the roof would eventually fall down.

        I suggest that people don’t worry too much about the roof falling because:

        1. If it will fall at all, it will fall in the (perhaps distant) future. No sense in worrying about what MIGHT happen years down the road, eh?

        2. How do you know whether you’ve kicked out a pillar or merely scratched it a bit?

        3. Are you knocking out pillars or making improvements to the structure by removing useless supports? How do you know?

    • I often ponder two doomsday scenarios, and they could conceivably be combined.

      The first is the nuclear terrorist attack you alluded to. It would be horrendous. Hundreds of thousands dead, economic damage beyond reckoning, and it could lead to a wider conflict that would be unthinkable.

      But also quite possible (and possibly precipitated by a nuclear attack, though that’s by no means necessary) is an economic meltdown on a par with what happened in Germany and Hungary in the 20th century. And I don’t mean a bunch of Wall Streeters losing their jobs, and a lot of pension funds wiped out, and unemployment at a measly 25%. I mean all dollar-denominated investmests wiped out. No functioning system of exchange to get food and services where they are needed. Violence resulting from deprivation.

      The bigger the debt bomb that gets assembled by our imbecillic politicians and bureaucrats, the more damage it will do when it finally gets out of control.

      There are only three ways to maintain and service that debt that I can see:

      1. Foster enough economic growth to be able to service it through increased revenues.

      2. Attempt to gain revenues by raising taxes.

      3. Fire up the printing presses and inflate it into oblivion.

      #2 has severe limits; if you raise taxes above a certain point, you can no longer increase revenue because you start down the far end of the oversimplified-but-useful-mental-model Laffer curve. Reagan tried #1, and it gave a respite, but stupid liberal legislators just treated it as an opportunity to expand government and spending, pushing an even bigger debt bomb into the future.

      There is no realistic possibility short of a once-a-century political upheaval of seeing #1 seriously tried again in our lifetimes, because neither party has people in power who understand these simple issues. (I think they have the “unthinkable” mentality problem you described.) Democrats are utterly clueless about it, and I’ve given up on the current incarnation of the Republican Party; they’re going to have to clean house like they never have before to effectively grapple with these problems.

      That leaves #3.

      Now I’m an optimist by nature, and I would love to be open to other possibilities, or intelligent argument as to why things won’t get as bad as they look like they will. In fact, I don’t necessarily think hyper-inflation would be the bitter end. Hyperinflation wipes out the financial system, but it doesn’t wipe out the factories, resources, human capital, and other factors that actually make up our wealth. It just wipes out the symbols that represent it. So it’s possible to create a new financial system that provides the liquidity for a modern society to function and put its wealth to work.

      The problem right now is I can’t imagine the leadership arising that would know what to do, or the popular support for the very tough decisions that would need to be made. As others in this thread have noted, there is a huge group of people who have been indoctrinated into believing things that are contrary to the laws of reality. Explaining things to them won’t help; the gap between their current mental model of the world and reality is too great.

      I hope that the result will be Dale’s “divorce” scenario. It’s not my ideal outcome, but it’s the best one I can see actually happening.

  • This is the sentence that made me go back and read it again and then ponder.

    The chief difference is between the U.S. of 2009, and the USSR of 1985; between a huge, decentralized, open economy, and the society it serves; and a much smaller, very centralized, command economy, and the society serving it.

    This has always been the essential difference of other governments-be they totalitarian or authoritarian. I fear, with the recent emphasis on serving Obama and the government we are slowly diminishing the healthy skepticism of government.

    • Mmmmpphhff.
      No.

      I rather submit that skeptical attitude was already on the wane, (Due in large part to the rhetorical ruse that is ‘compassionate conservatism’) else we’d not have Obama in the Oval office today.

      Now faced with the consequences of that lack, the polling numbers are suggesting that skeptical attitude is returning, in direct reaction to the onrushing disaster brought on by unshackled government. The question, as Bruce points out, is if we’ll be able to reverse the trend toward trust in government’ that put the Democrats in power, long enough to survive.

      And frankly I’m not convinced we can.

  • Let a Nobel Prizewinner comment, just to show how so “not new” this is…

    The Gods of the Copybook Headings

    by Rudyard Kipling

    AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
    I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
    Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

    We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
    That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
    But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
    So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

    We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
    Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
    But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
    That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

    With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
    They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
    They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
    So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

    When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
    They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
    But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

    On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
    (Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
    Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

    In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

    Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
    And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
    That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

    • LOL. Great choice.
      I love Kipling. He is underrated. I once told an English professor that I liked Kipling and he visibly winced. I knew than that my poetic sensibilities were spot on.

  • We’re not looking at something, in my opinion, that can be understood within the confines of the normative terms of American politics (i.e. democracy, faction, partisan interests, bureaucracy, elections, etc.).

    And “the Chicago narrative” only gets you so far. It is at once real and a red herring. From the Chicago base Obama appears to be working what has become the postmodern Left in America. But we can see him working that room. It is not really hidden from view. Though much of the language needed to accurately describe it has been marked out of bounds.

    I would argue that there’s another room that even most of the people in the first room can’t see. My first conjecture about that second room is that in it there is no pretense about having any interest in the United States qua the United States. It’s merely a carcass to be scavenged.

  • The Clown™ is not Gorbachev. He is Alexander Kerensky, the failed Russian leader who took over when the Czar was overthrown in 1917, and helped usher in the Communist revolution.

    The Clown™ is Jimmy Carter – a failed politician who should have never gotten his party’s nomination for President, much less being actually elected.

    No, The Clown™ is not Gorbachev. He is Woodrow Wilson, who got elected President in 1912 after two whole years as Governor of New Jersey, and then proceeded to run for re-election in 1916 by claiming he kept us out of the First World War but as soon as he was re-elected sent the (unprepared) troops into the war.

    No, The Clown™ is not Gorbachev…he is just Alexander Jimmy Woodrow Obama. Failure, failure, failure, all over.

  • “But I think Warren is on to something here. When you confront those who believe as our current political leadership does, the “economic laws of gravity” have no real relevance to them. You get a blank stare and then an assurance that all will be well, just wait and see. In their ignorance, be it practiced or real, they actually believe that “no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally” and thus continue to provide the rest of what we enjoy today.”

    That is the essence of post-modernism, whether from the left or the right. It proclaims a subjective reality and operates on whim rather than reason. Every tyranny in history whether fascism or communism has had these premises at their root, most notably Nazism and Marxism.

  • Germany has cut emissions by 20%, surpassing Kyoto targets, and has emissions trading. So the assertion that “cap and trade” will drive the economy off a cliff is absurd on its face — the EU does it, and while every economy has problems these days, they aren’t faring significantly worse than us. Modern rational analysis suggests dire warnings about cap and trade have already been proven wrong. It’s being done and it works.

    On the debt you have a point — though the GOP and conservatives have scarcely done better than liberals. Afghanistan and Iran, well, I have an old fashioned realist response: you have to be very calculating about the power you have, the political will in a democracy to sacrifice, and decide what is in the national interest. The arguments for diplomacy with Iran and against increasing presence in Afghanistan can be made from a clear realist approach (remember, arch realist Hans Morgenthau was one of the first Americans to disagree with involvement in Vietnam, which was fought for idealistic reasons).

    I guess the irony I see is how so many here seem to think America is still capable of massive interventions, shaping the global system and dominanting the world economy when clearly we have fallen a long way — and that while a conservative Republican was in charge. Suddenly Obama is a threat, while it was Bush who got us involved in debilitating wars and expanded debt and deficits with cheap credit and a false belief in the inherent inevitability of American superpower.

    Simply, the mindset Warren describes fits neo-conservatives and the far right far better than it fits Obama and his supporters.

    • Germany has most decidedly NOT cut emissions as such (20%), and what they have cut is due to their economy being in the dumper.

      Pull the other one.

    • Your narrative is too clever by half, Scott.

      For instance, I would love to have a good look at the base year (1990) for the German carbon scenario. What exactly was happening with the industrial base in the former East Germany, for instance. You spout the numbers but undoubtably have no clue as to how they were achieved. My guess is that by simply systematically shutting down East German industrial facilities, which were likely decades out of date, the unified Germany could have been happily gliding toward its “Kyoto goals” before they were even set. In the U.S., on the other hand, 1990 comes at the end of an era of vast upticks in energy efficiency spurred in the 1970s by oil price shocks.

      That’s just a guess about how this “remarkable achievment” came about in Germany.

      In either case, the whole carbon frenzy is itself out of date nonsense, like the “global warming” hysteria that inspired it, and American legislators should pass cap and trade only if they want the U.S. economy to be hobbled and at a disadvantage, something many on the Left actually do want.

      Your scenario on the wars is ridiculous. The U.S. government’s fiscal house is in disarray because of domestic spending. The country is also besieged with consumer debt, which in a recession necessarily keeps the customer away from stores. Our comparatively modest spending on the military and military action is one of the predicates for the success of the global economy, which supplies us with a vast array of products at very reasonable prices, by keeping the world in a relative state of peace. Stabilizing the Middle East was key to that, which is why it was a good thing to remove the most destabilizing regime in the world’s most unstable region, on which much of the global economy depends.

      Iraq was not Vietnam. Wasn’t over the same or even a similar question. And by any real historical standard (not the standard of pre-war best-case scenarios, but by any real historical standard, including Vietnam) Iraq was a remarkable piece of work under remarkably hazardous conditions. Over six years, even with silly Leftists, high like Harry Reid and low like you, taking every conceivable opportunity to egg on the car bombers, we took about the number of KIAs we did in the first days at Normandy. We came nothing close to the casualties that we faced on Okinawa in two months, nothing close.

      Your unexamined Leftist propaganda, Scott, has nothing to do with honest scholarship. Lying all day every day is not very attractive.

      • Your unexamined Leftist propaganda, Scott, has nothing to do with honest scholarship. Lying all day every day is not very attractive.

        To state the obvious, honest scholarship concerns Professor Erb not. What is truly sad is that he takes his lying to young minds seriously, a badge of honor in fact if he can enlist more useful idiots.

        And I’d bet he complains about the state of American education…

    • Germany has cut emissions by 20%

      Yeah, I guess when you get to shut down all the Soviet-era coal fired plants in East Germany, your emissions improve. Germany is STILL one of the top carbon emitters in the world (about #6 depending on the group assessing the data).

      Now that Germany is getting ready to shut down nuclear plants and build 26 new coal plants, we’ll see in which direction their emissions go.

    • Germany has “gone green” in a big way, at a tremendous cost to their taxpayers. In fact most of the green initiative has come to a halt because of a lot of problems, not least is cost. Here is a quote from an environmental blog. http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/energy/policy/germanys-green-energy-gap

      {{The dearth of offshore wind turbines is just one of several signs of a slowdown in the country’s two-decade-old transition to renewable energy. Germany’s balkanized power grid, split between east and west when the country was divided and not yet fully knit back together, remains ill adapted to the variable flows from renewable energy. And Germany is readying a new generation of coal-fired power plants—including three proposed for Brunsbüttel.

      The story of how Germany lost the lead in the transition to greener sources of energy contains a complex blend of backlash, environmental conflict, and competing commercial interests. It is a cautionary tale, showing in particular that public consensus about the urgency of combating climate change is just a first step in delivering a renewable-energy system.}}

      As usual Erb, your information about the socialist utopias of Europe is one sided and behind the times. You always look at the policy and government propaganda and praise it, and never look at how well the policy is really working, or the cost.

    • “Germany has cut emissions by 20%,”

      Sure. Got cites?

      I didn’t think so.

      • Tim, I’m sorry you have not had the chance to be educated in the magnificence of post-modernism, or you would understand why I don’t need cites. See, post-modernism says there are multiple truths that are equally valid, so to support my viewpoint, it’s only necessary for me to make up a new one. It need not have any support – it’s just my truth.

        In fact, I find it hilarious that you dense righties keep running around trying to convince me that I’m wrong, with all your links that took you so long to find and that I never read. You waste enormous amounts of time, but no matter what you put up, I can come back and type a few sentences that basically communicate the idea that “I decree it” and it completely blows away all that silly research you do.

michael kors outlet michael kors handbags outlet michael kors factory outlet