Free Markets, Free People
Ross Douthat, who I rarely quote, manages to nail it in terms of Libya and the left:
In its opening phase, at least, our war in Libya looks like the beau ideal of a liberal internationalist intervention. It was blessed by the United Nations Security Council. It was endorsed by the Arab League. It was pushed by the diplomats at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, rather than the military men at Robert Gates’s Pentagon. Its humanitarian purpose is much clearer than its connection to American national security. And it was initiated not by the U.S. Marines or the Air Force, but by the fighter jets of the French Republic.
One minor correction, there is no – none, zip, nada – connection, not even a tenuous one, to American national security and the war on Libya. There may be afterward, if Gadhafi survives and decides he needs to find a way to strike back at the US in the “long war” he’s promised to wage. But going in? Nope – none.
The quote above fought with this other Douthat quote for top QotD honors:
But there are major problems with this approach to war as well. Because liberal wars depend on constant consensus-building within the (so-called) international community, they tend to be fought by committee, at a glacial pace, and with a caution that shades into tactical incompetence. And because their connection to the national interest is often tangential at best, they’re often fought with one hand behind our back and an eye on the exits, rather than with the full commitment that victory can require.
And keep in mind that once the first Tomahawk flew, whether we call our participation limited and of short duration, we’re into it up to our hips as far as the Arab world is concerned. So whatever happens there which might turn the “Arab street” against the US yet again, any argument made by the administration that most of the mission has been conducted by others isn’t going to change a single mind.
Also keep in mind, as Douthat implies, that this “consensus war” depends on the committee who are conducting it staying together. Can’t have them deserting and then renouncing the Western powers committed to seeing this through – can we? Already the Arab League is a bity antsy.
Finally – watch for mission creep. The ostensible reason for this little foray is humanitarian. But then, so was Somalia, Kosovo and Yugoslavia.
I predict there will be boots on the ground, whether ours or others. It will become necessary if I have any read on Gadhafi at all. Why? Because he will precipitate a humanitarian crisis of some sort – on purpose.
Then what? What if he forces a “put up or shut up” moment?
Well the fair weather supporters will go home, that’s a given. And those who see a downside risk politically will go home. And I promise you the Arab members will say bye bye.
And who will that leave to deal with it?
The two quotes from Douthat are very instructive in understanding the liberal philosophy of war and why it is dangerously utopian, likely to fail and not at all in the best interests of this country, or any country, to pursue.
If you haven’t met your irony quotient for the day, here’s our present Secretary of State while a former Senator talking about the “civil war” in Iraq and how we should not take part in what is going on no matter the level of the violence:
“No one wants to sit by and see mass killing,” she added. “It’s going on every day! Thousands of people are dying every month in Iraq. Our presence there is not stopping it. And there is no potential opportunity I can imagine where it could. This is an Iraqi problem — we cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."
Of course that was then … apparently Libya is an international problem, not a Libyan problem, and we can save the Libyans from themselves, unlike the Iraqis.
Of course …
It is nanny-staters like Joe Ozersky who drive me up a wall. They represent that group of people with mindset that common Americans simply don’t have the ability and wherewithal to run their own lives or those of their families. And, as expected, they applaud government’s unrequested and unwanted intrusion in their lives to control aspects (or modify behavior) that they simply cannot fathom real Americans doing. Or at least not doing to their satisfaction.
Ozersky has decided obesity is a problem (he apparently was a fat kid who ate lots of hamburgers). Ozersky has decided that one of the main reasons for the problems is fast (processed) food and in particular McDonald’s Happy Meals. So Ozersky is just tickled to death that the intrusive board of supervisors in San Francisco has chosen to ban Happy Meals. He correctly identifies the source of such intrusion:
Last week’s elections may have seemed like a repudiation of liberalism, but the San Francisco board of supervisors appeared unfazed. The city’s governing body went ahead and fired a bunker buster into the Happy Meal, decreeing that restaurants cannot put free toys in meals that exceed set thresholds for calories, sugar or fat.
One of the reasons liberalism, or in its new incarnation, "progressivism" is in such disrepute is because of foolishness like this. Ozersky’s next line claims "libertarians are livid".
Everyone should be "livid". Since when is it up to a city board of supervisors – elected to keep the peace and make sure the garbage is picked up on time – to decide what is or isn’t appropriate to feed one’s child?
Ozersky, however, applauds the effort but believes it is just a beginning and, in fact, needs to go further:
No, the problem with the ban is that it doesn’t go far enough. America’s tots aren’t getting supersized simply by eating Happy Meals. In a recent nutrition commentary that is making waves in food-politics circles, in part because NYU’s Marion Nestle posted excerpts of it on her blog, University of São Paulo professor Carlos Monteiro makes the case that "the rapid rise in consumption of ultra-processed food and drink products, especially since the 1980s, is the main dietary cause of the concurrent rapid rise in obesity and related diseases throughout the world." And reversing that trend will be a lot harder than making Happy Meals a little less happy.
But still, you have to start somewhere, and I understand why the San Francisco supervisors picked Happy Meals as their beachhead.
So the war, apparently is on "processed food", all of which Ozersky would prefer to see eliminated. But is processed food really the culprit behind the obesity "epidemic". Ozersky cites Nestle’s work as a definitive yes. However, a nutrition professor recently shot the claim in the head with an experiment he ran on himself:
Mark Haub, who teaches at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., told FoxNews.com he has lost 27 pounds in two months eating approximately 1,800 calories a day – and those calories came from foods like snack cakes, candy bars and even potato chips – basically anything he could get from a vending machine.
Haub said before the diet, he was eating up to 3,000 calories a day and weighed 201 pounds.
Key take away – it isn’t necessarily the type of food that makes you obese – it is the amount of that food, in calories, that does so. Always has been.
The point, of course, is obesity is caused by eating too many calories and not exercising sufficiently to burn off the excess. Banning Happy Meals won’t change that at all. As Tanya Zuckerbrot, a NY dietician noted, “it doesn’t matter if you’re eating Twinkies or Brussels sprouts – it’s all about your caloric intake.”
And unless the state plans on issuing meals and monitoring your every bite, banning a specific meal isn’t going to change the habits that have caused someone to become obese. Nor will bans on salt, sugary drinks or any other choice the nanny-staters think they can take from the public. It is a fairly simple concept to understand – “The laws of thermodynamics dictate that if you consume fewer calories than your body burns, you will create a caloric deficit resulting in weight loss.”
Yet those like Ozersky choose to ignore it in favor of government action to take choices and freedoms away from people. McDonalds is obviously – at least in progressive circles – an evil purveyor of bad “processed” food. And progressives believe it is their sworn duty to protect you from yourself and those corporations which prey on you.
Why? Because you’re brainwashed:
Again and again, efforts to promote fresh fruit and produce in low-income urban areas have failed for the simple reason that Americans have been brainwashed. We have been conditioned, starting in utero, to prefer high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar concoctions rather than their less exciting, more natural culinary cousins.
Really? I simply don’t recall that as being conditioned preference of mine. Instead, visits to places such as McDonalds were irregular and not particularly common. They were “treats” on occasion. But they were hardly conditioning me for such a diet.
Where such conditioning takes place, if anywhere, is in the home. It is there the bulk of all food is consumed and, pretty much, in the quantities desired. It is there where children (and adults) are either encouraged to be active or left to decide for themselves (play outside or do XBox) their activity level.
Banning toys in Happy Meals is simply an intrusion with no effect. It’s an exercise in power, nothing more. It has no beneficial effect and it is another in a long line of government imposed restrictions on freedom.
In his conclusion, Ozersky asks, “And why are eight people in San Francisco the only ones who seem willing to step up and do something unpopular to address such a serious issue?”
Because they’re as enamored with the power they wield as Ozersky seems to be and just as clueless. This isn’t about doing anything to address a "serious issue". This is an exercise in power cloaked in some feel good nonsense. It is about a group of people who feel they are entitled by their position to decide what is or isn’t acceptable for others and how those others should live their lives. This isn’t about doing something good, this is about stretching the envelope and seeing if they can get away with it.
If in fact they are allowed too, you can spend hours imagining what they’ll next decide you’re too stupid to realize or control and need their enlightened and progressive hand to stay you from your self-destructive ways.
Freedom is choice – and this bunch of progressives are all about limiting choice.
ASIDE: check out the comments to the Ozersky article. Heartening.
Would you like to get a crystal clear insight into the “progressive” mindset. An informative look into the hard Left’s reaction to this week’s election. Well, go no further than this diary by Tim Wise at Daily Kos. Mr. Wise is not only miffed at the election, he’s already laying out a picture of the future in which the tables are turned.
You really should read the whole thing. I’d be interested in your responses.
What made me laugh out loud was wondering who Mr. Wise is planning to tax to pay for his socialist utopia, after all the rich white people are dead.
Yup, nothing like a new tag line, finally admitting your bias and a marketing campaign to boost your viewership. Guaranteed, by gosh:
MSNBC, once the also-ran but now the No. 2 cable news channel, has a new tagline that embraces its progressive political identity.
The tagline, “Lean Forward,” will be publicly announced Tuesday, opening a planned two-year advertising campaign intended to raise awareness of the channel among viewers, advertisers and distributors.
The tagline “defines us and defines our competition,” said Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, his implication being that the Fox News Channel, which is No. 1 in cable news and a home for conservatives, is leaning backward.
Really? That’s the best MSNBC could come up with? Is it sending tingles up Chris Matthew’s leg?
Talk about lame.
Apparently the brainiacs at MSNBC think that saying “lean forward” and advertising it will make all the difference in the world.
Research, you see, told them they were the least known of the three cable networks (I could have told them that for free). Obviously then, it’s a marketing problem, no?
Ms. [Sharon] Otterman’s [the chief marketing officer for MSNBC] lesson from that research: “All we have to do is tell our story to more people.”
She added in an interview, “It’s not that the look is changing. It’s not that the programming is changing. It’s that we’re going out and telling people about it now.”
Yesirree – because in reality:
“It’s not that the look is changing. It’s not that the programming is changing. It’s that we’re going out and telling people about it now.”
Uh, yeah. It couldn’t be the message or the programming, could it? It has to be that they’re just not getting the word out there effectively.
Lord – they sound like the Democrats.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Usually I try to keep this day as a non-partisan, non-political day in which I wish everyone of every ideological persuasion the blessings of the day (and I still do!). But as it happens, the day provided me with one of the best examples of the differences between libertarians and liberals I’ve seen in a while. Two separate postings concerning Thanksgiving. One from a liberal blogger, Ezra Klein, and one from a blogger who is a visitor at the American Enterprise Institute (Mark Perry).
Klein reprints a food section column (one assumes he does so approvingly) all about controlling behavior:
I asked Ariely how he would set up his Thanksgiving feast to limit overeating without having to exercise self-control. His answer was to construct the “architecture” of the meal beforehand. Create conditions that guide people toward good choices, or even use their irrationality to your benefit.
“Move to chopsticks!” he exclaimed, making bites smaller and harder to take. If the chopsticks are a bit extreme, smaller plates and utensils might work the same way. Study after study shows that people eat more when they have more in front of them. It’s one of our predictable irrationalities: We judge portions by how much is left rather than how full we feel. Smaller portions lead us to eat less, even if we can refill the plate.
There it is in a nutshell – the liberal propensity toward trying to control the behavior of others. The writer decides it is his or her job to make it more difficult for you to “overeat”. Instead of just deciding to put on a great feast in keeping with the day and butt out of the affairs of others, the writer approvingly decides it is incumbent upon the server to construct an “architecture” to control the eating of others. Really – “move to chopsticks”! Or put the mashed potatoes in the kitchen!
Speaking of which, Ariely suggests placing the food “far away.” In this case, serve from the kitchen rather than the table. If people have to get up to add another scoop of mashed potatoes, they’re less likely to take their fifth serving than if they simply have to reach in front of them.
Some people can just suck the joy out of an occasion, I swear. But this seems perfectly in keeping with my observations of the more liberal among us.
On the other hand, Mark Perry decided on focusing on a completely different thing for the day – a celebration of a miracle that occurs daily all over the world that is rarely acknowledged. Thanksgiving provides the perfect day to note it:
Like in previous years, you probably didn’t call your local supermarket ahead of time and order your Thanksgiving turkey this year. Why not? Because you automatically assumed that a turkey would be there when you showed up, and it probably was there when you showed up “unannounced” at the grocery store to select your bird.
The reason your Thanksgiving turkey was waiting for you without an advance order? Because of “spontaneous order,” “self-interest,” and the “invisible hand” of the free market – “the mysterious power that leads innumerable people, each working for his own gain, to promote ends that benefit many.” And even if your turkey appeared in your local grocery stores only because of the “selfishness” or “corporate greed” of thousands of turkey farmers, truckers, and supermarket owners who are complete strangers to you and your family, it’s still part of the miracle of the marketplace where “individually selfish decisions lead to collectively efficient outcomes.”
Thanksgiving is epitomized by the process Perry describes. Our holiday is indeed as much a miracle of the market as anything. It enables everyone who wants too to have what they need or desire for that day – and every day. It is truly something to celebrate.
Free markets. Free people.
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”.