Free Markets, Free People
A couple of things have been on my mind recently, and this seeme like as good a time as any to get them off my chest. So, I’ll just skip from subject to subject until I get tired. But, I might as well start off with current events.
I guess most of you saw the debate between Eddie Munster and Smirky McAngry this week. Joe Biden’s ability to sit there and lie so magisterially and with such confident assurance really is something to behold. Like when he declared that he voted against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both of which, of course, he voted for. He just boldly asserts this utter crap, and nobody ever calls him on it.
"You know, Joe, I got a copy of the Congressional Record lying around somewhere that says you did vote to approve the AUMF in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And you voted back in 98—during Operation Desert Fox—to make removing Saddam Hussein from power the policy of the United States Government. Oh, and by the way, not that it’s relevant at the moment, back in ’83, you voted to approve a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. You think you might want to backtrack on your last statement, there, Joe?"
During the debate, Joe’s smirk struck me as exactly the kind of condescending arrogance that, if it was coming at you from anyone else, you’d want to erase with an overhand right. His whole schtick was irritating. The constant interruptions, the yelling, and the condescending laughing were exactly the kinds of things that, if you pull ‘em on some guy in a bar argument, will get your ass kicked.
The Left loved it, of course. They thought Good Ol’ Joe was finally sticking it to the wingnuts. And why shouldn’t they? Anytime anyone says anything nasty about them, their vaginas get all hurty, and they start moaning about "civility". But that’s not a rule they’re all that interested in, themselves. Some Lefty dolt on twitter thought that, considering Ryan’s position on abortion, his daughter should get "f*cked and pregnant when she’s 13".
Though, really, that’s pretty tame stuff compared to what comes over the transom at Michelle Malkin or Sister Toldjah.
It’s just amazing to me that these Lefties, who see themselves as the good guys, and the oh-so-compassionate defenders of the downtrodden, have these deep wells of rage that come spewing out at the first opportunity.
Amazing, but not surprising, really, because the political divide in this country really isn’t about politics anymore. It’s a battle of Good Vs. Evil. They are the forces of cosmic justice, and if you disagree with them, then you’re "the other", and not really as fully human as they are. Your disagreement is proof of your moral deficiency.
And, hey, there are people on the Right who feel the same way about lefties. I don’t think Lefties are bad people, necessarily. I do think they tend to be dumber than a bag of hammers, though.
Which is why I really don’t see us all living together in the same country much longer.
We don’t even speak the same language anymore. For instance, take the term "fairness". To me that refers to a process that is impartial, and predictable. If the process receives input X, then output Y tends to result. To a Progressive, fairness is a result. The process is immaterial, as long as it produces equal results. If it doesn’t, the process is flawed.
Those aren’t anything like the same thing. If we don’t even share concepts, there’s no way we’ll ever be satisfied with governing each other.
By the way, who was Biden thinking would be impressed by his debate performance, other than Obama fanboys? Who was he trying to convince?
I mean, usually, when you want to persuade people to join you in a cause, you don’t try to irritate the crap out of them. You try to appeal to them through reason, good feeling, and moral persuasion. Smirky didn’t try to do much of that.
Maybe the whole point of Joe’s performance was to reassure the base that the Obama team was willing to fight hard. But if you’re four weeks out from an election and you’re still trying to motivate your base, then you’re probably in a fair amount of trouble.
The Lefties were just ecstatic that Joe was so Rude to Paul Ryan. They think that’s exactly what he deserves: rudeness, and arrogant condescension. Because, it’s not like he’s really a human being, or anything.
There were some big spikes in consumer confidence this week. Despite rising food and gas prices—the CPI rose 1.1% last month on those two items alone—and despite 20 million or so people not having jobs, folks seemed to have more confidence in the future.
The funny thing is that the consumer confidence surveys for this week were all taken after Obama got shelled by Romney in the first presidential debate. I wonder if that spike in consumer confidence popped up because people think there’s a better chance that Obama will be heading back to Chicago in January? Or, maybe even a leading indicator of that?
Baseball is designed to break your heart. I just watched the Cardinals come back from a 6-0 deficit to go ahead 9-7 in a 4-run 9th inning and beat the Nationals. Why won’t the Cardinals just die, for God’s sake?
I’ve spent my whole life hating the Cardinals. If I were to find an actual cardinal in the forest, twittering with happiness in the dappled sunlight, and I could get it to fly gently into my hand, I would squeeze it until I heard all its little bones break like tiny little twigs.
Then I would cackle with glee.
This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the totalitarian mindset of the left, and its consequences.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
Stanley Fish, writing in the New York Times today, offers a refreshingly honest view of "slutgate", moral equivalency, and double standards. It is, in fact, a bold statement of what we’ve always imagined the Progressive view is, though they have, in the past, been ever so careful not to admit it. It is, frankly, nice to see such honesty. As Mr. Fish explains:
Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?
There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance. Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.
I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.
There you have it. Conservatives are evil, progressives are good. It follows, therefore, that because progressives are good, then what they do in combating conservatives is right. Conservatives, being evil, deserve no respect and no attempts at courteous disagreement. They deserve nothing more than to be driven from the public sphere by any necessary means. Progressives are good, and if they commit what would otherwise be questionable acts, it is only the depravity of their political opponents that drives them to it.
Make no mistake: If the Stanley Fishes of this country could imprison you for holding contrary political beliefs, they’d do it in a second. After all, you are "on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy". This is, of course, justification for a tyranny of the very worst sort. As C.S. Lewis pointed out:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Progressivism, for all its puffing about equality and justice, is nothing more than totalitarianism cloaked in modern, politically-correct pieties.
It’s nice to see a progressive honestly admit it.
The thing is, it is not possible to have a sustainable, self-governing polity when a substantial portion of the electorate denies the fundamental morality or legitimacy of their opponents. The ultimate outcome of such a belief in a society has historically been an inevitable slide to civil unrest, resulting in either totalitarian repression, civil war, or dissolution into competing states.
I am increasingly beginning to wonder which of those three outcomes is most likely in our case.
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the possibilities of Revolution, Secession, and Constitutional conventions.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
As most of you know, I served on active duty as a USAF Security Policeman from 1984-1993. Three of those years were spent in Brunssum, The Netherlands, working on the International Military Police force at Headquarters, Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT, now known as AFNORTH). I noticed an interesting phenomenon while I was there. As any policeman know, sometimes, you have some unpleasant interactions with members of the community you serve. In general, those actions end up with you forcing that person to do something the really do not want to do.
In my experience, this type of unpleasantness usually occurred when dealing with a German, or an American. But there was something interesting about the outcome. When you forced a German to do something, every time they saw you after that, they would approach with a smile, “Hello, my friend! How are you?” It was almost as if they’d discovered during the confrontation where they stood in the pecking order related to you, and henceforth treated you with respect and friendliness.
Americans, on the other hand, didn’t react that way. Once a confrontation had gone against them, then every time they saw you after that, they’d shoot angry glares at you. Maybe they’d remark to a friend, “See that MP over there? He’s a dick.” Once you’d had that confrontation with an American, you were never going to be friends.
Frankly, Americans resent authority. We accept some measure of it as a necessary evil most times, but there are limits. We can be pushed, often quite far, but when we reach a certain tipping point, enmity quickly flares. We can have quite heated arguments as equals, then knock off and have a drink. But once we have a heated argument, then are forced to do something we don’t want to do…well, we don’t like it.
That piece of our national character is being tried this month.
Over the past couple of days, we’ve seen arguments about national health care erupt into incidents of local violence. Yes, we yelled at each other bit back in 2005 or so, when Social Security reform was on the table. But now we’re seeing thugs in SEIU T-shirts showing up and throwing punches at people who are gathered to demonstrate against the current version of health care reform. We’ve seen a local Democratic Party apparatchik shove a demonstrator in the face. Billy Beck has often said it, and now he’s saying it again: “You have always heard it here first: All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war.”
At this rate, I’m afraid that it’s going to become painfully obvious that a large number of people in this country are not going to politely doff their caps to the local SEIU grandees, once they’ve learned their lessons like good Germans. Quite the reverse, in fact.
I’ve also said before–and every time I do, people like Oliver Willis call me crazy for saying it–we’re preparing this country to split apart. There are two political camps in this country: collectivists, and and indvidualists. (Forget party labels. The parties are, at best, loose approximations of those two camps.) It’s a fairly even split between the two camps. And the fundamental philosophies of those two camps have become irreconcilable, for a number of reasons, but primarily as a result of centralization of power in Washington.
Of course, the two philosophies have always been incompatible, but in a more federated America, the incompatibility didn’t matter as much. People in Wisconsin could be as progressive as possible, and no one in New Mexico cared much. And if people in Wisconsin or New Mexico didn’t like the local political climate, they could just move to somewhere whe the climate was more to their liking. But with the arrogation of so much power by Washington, that’s no longer an option. In a federal system, nobody in Texas much cares if some yankees in a state far away set up The People’s Autonomous Oblast of Massachussets. But if Bostonians think that some Alabama ‘seed in Washington is gonna force them to dance while handling snakes and speaking in tongues…well, you can’t square that circle.
Unfortunately, if the solons in Washington declare we must do X, there’s no way to escape the consequences of that decision. And so, every political decision is now fraught with national, rather than local consequences. As a result, the incompatibility between collectivists and individualists is reaching a boiling point. The centralization of power in Washington, and the nationalization of practically every domestic issue, has done nothing but poison our politics, and degraded our political discourse.
This has happened once before in American history. Between the founding of the country and the 1850s, Slavery moved from an issue of local sovereignty to a national moral issue. And as abolitionists gained power in both the house–and especially the Senate–it became clear to the Southern states that the abolition of slavery by Congress was inevitable. Once that happened, given the temper of the times, secession was inevitable as well.
Whether the Civil War was inevitable is a matter of debate. I tend to think that the peculiar character of Lincoln made it so. Given a different president, we might have two very different nations–and probably more, in what is now the United States.
By the same token, I don’t believe we are in for a shooting war between the Red and Blue states. Quite apart from the fact that people in the red states tend to be the people with all the guns, there seems to be a declining interest in both Red and Blue states to live under the same political regime. Blue staters are increasingly uninterested in delaying their march to Utopia by having to make concessions to Bible-thumping, gay-hating hayseeds, and Red staters are not willing to live in a Peasants’ and Workers’ Paradise run by Godless, unborn-baby-killing Commies.
We’re already struggling with the nearly impossible political task of how to reconcile two irreconcilable philosophies under a powerful central government. Having union thugs show up and deliver beatings and intimidation is only going to raise the anger level among Americans who feel they are being forced to do something they don’t want to do, increase their resentment, and push the country closer to dissolution.
And this won’t be a case like 1860, where 70% of the country successfully forced their will on the remaining 30%. We’ve got a nearly even 50-50 split between those two philosophies now. We’re too evenly divided to make force an easy, or even viable option. If things keep going in this direction, then I think we’re on the way to divorce court, where we’ll be citing “irreconcilable differences”.