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Elitism v. Populism
Posted by: Dale Franks on Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Arnold Kling writes that he perceives that there is widening gulf between the opinions of political elites, and popular opinion among Westerners in general.
I suspect that the popular frustration is widespread. My guess is that popular sentiment is turning against elite opinions like these:

* The world's Muslims share our desire for peace and democracy.
* Equal-opportunity passenger screening at airports is a better policy than profiling.
* The United Nations is the world's conscience and policeman.
* The "international community" will deal with Iran's quest for nuclear weapons.
* It is possible for the United States to bring about a constructive transformation of Middle East politics, either through diplomatic or military initiatives.
He believes that popular opinion is turning towards two main theses.

My sense is that popular opinion is likely to gravitate toward one of two positions.

1. The Middle East is a hopeless cauldron of hatred. We should focus on homeland security, stay out of the Middle East, and have as little interaction with the Muslim world as possible; or
2. A major war is inevitable, so that we need to get ready for it. Nothing else will stop Iranian aggression, and nothing else will stifle the funding, sponsoring, and glorification of terrorists.

In 2008, I believe that either a Republican running on (1) as a platform or a Democrat running on (2) as a platform could win broad bipartisan support. However, my guess is that the Democrats are likely to come closer to representing (1) in 2008, and as of now my sense is that (1) is more popular than (2).
This seems pretty reasonable. A lot of the conventional pieties that comes from political elites are failing the common sense test. Where the divergence comes in is how to respond to the Islamist threat. I suspect that most people would like to at least try a more isolationist policy, to see if the hatred of the Islamists can be diverted into concerns closer to home.

If that works, then, great. I'm not sure that it will, over the long run. It'd be nice if the Islamists had a live and let live attitude, but that doesn't seem like the main characteristic they display.

But, the thing is, if the Islamists don't leave us alone after we pursue policy 1, public opinion would probably shift to policy 2 pretty quickly.
 
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I’m sure we can extend Kling’s list:

- The press is an objective, impartial observer of world events

- The European Union will be an economic boon that makes Europe grow as fast as the US

- Israel bears the lion’s share of the blame for most of their problems with their neighbors

In my lifetime, the elites have always been out of touch. I remember reading in Samuelson’s economics textbox (the mostly widely printed economics book in the world, I believe) that the Soviet Union was going to catch the US on GDP by 1990 because of their superior efficiencies. Japan was going to crush us economically in the 1990s. The Sandinistas were the good guys. In the late 1960s, people were going to be starving by the billions by the 1980s. Welfare reform was going to throw millions out on the street. And, of course, we’ve on the very edge of running out of oil and natural resources my whole life.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Bare with me here, I’m on third shift and my writing will be a bit unchecked spelling wise.

The first possible popular opinion is mine of choice, however if that is the action taken can we secure our borders properly and in a timely mannor to make the difference? I’m talking about being able to protect ourselves properly. This leads towards immigration. It also means we need a strong missle defence, and deterence plan. I would say it goes as far as convincing 75% of America, or more, that we should all be carying hand guns. At the same time as we would take this political stand overseas, we would also have to tighten up our criminal justice system, making it more strict. And things like what Phyllis Schlafly writes about here, http://www.townhall.com/columnists/PhyllisSchlafly/2006/08/21/globalisms_toll_mounting_for_us_citizens , will work against us greatly in that effort.

IF, big "IF" here, we get a man strong enough to lead a movement, similar to the one that won the cold war, in favor of immigration reform and homeland security while at the same time convincing us deterence is the way to go instead of appeasement, THEN we may be able to step out of the Middle East. There are many, many things to consider. We are fighting a different type of enemy than the Soviet Union, and we have a different culture with different people than we did during WW2 and the cold war. But make no mistake about it, if we prove we are willing to use a rediculous amount of eccessive force against the countries and states that supply and fund terrorism, then we are in business. Fighting Hezbollah, and other rogue terrorist states is like knocking off the top of a growing pyramid when the base is where the real problems are. We should either attack both in the same, or we should prove to the terrorist supporters that we are willing to destroy them first and cry about the loss of life later.
 
Written By: Ike
URL: http://
In my lifetime, the elites have always been out of touch. I remember reading in Samuelson’s economics textbox (the mostly widely printed economics book in the world, I believe) that the Soviet Union was going to catch the US on GDP by 1990 because of their superior efficiencies.

They got rich enough for capitalism to sound appealing.

Japan was going to crush us economically in the 1990s.

They have. Simply by purchasing our debt. Them, and China. Common domestic example - if I buy your mortgage, who owns your *ss, me or the company I bought it from?

The Sandinistas were the good guys.

I never understood that situation, so I won’t comment on it.

In the late 1960s, people were going to be starving by the billions by the 1980s.

They would have done, without the invention of genetically engineered foods. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug

Welfare reform was going to throw millions out on the street.

Might have done, had it happened.

And, of course, we’ve on the very edge of running out of oil and natural resources my whole life.

In the 40s and 50s, we used domestic oil almost exclusively. Into the 60s and 70s we saw increasing levels of foreign imports. Since then the numbers have climbed steadily with the exception of the Reagan years, pretty much in line with population growth (see below), and its corollary increase in demand.

Currently, we face two driving factors: A) Political impracticality when it comes to continuing our "import the extra" oil plan; and, B) Increased world demand as previously pedestrian countries go gearhead, including China and India, and our now capitalistic former members of the USSR, to name just a few. It’s worth noting that over the course of your lifetime the world population has increased by somewhere between 133 and 200% depending on when you were born.

The crises have been real, and in most cases, so have the solutions. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t cause to worry. It means that concern creates an incentive to fix the problem. For our current crisis, we may want to ask ourselves, as a nation, why we are funding both sides of the war on terror?

-Gil

 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
Gil had a nice piece replying to Hollis’s doctrinaire cant. Adding that China is eating our lunch and on a faster pace to own us than Japan. And that the "don’t worry they’ll always find more cheap, abundant oil and gas" crowd (because the Holy Prophets Smith and Freidman and Hayek say so) are in the middle of one very rude awakening.
My sense is that popular opinion is likely to gravitate toward one of two positions.

1. The Middle East is a hopeless cauldron of hatred. We should focus on homeland security, stay out of the Middle East, and have as little interaction with the Muslim world as possible; or
2. A major war is inevitable, so that we need to get ready for it. Nothing else will stop Iranian aggression, and nothing else will stifle the funding, sponsoring, and glorification of terrorists.
I take exceptions to the highlighted sections.
We have too many targets, too many of them nearly impossible to protect even if guarded - if the enemy is free to plot and gather together abroad to nail all aspects of the attack before they have "tip of the spear" Jihadis come here and execute it - to even consider having "Homeland Security" be our only line of defense.
Short of War, we have possibilities of trade embargos, fomenting internal disorder within Iran that stop short of war. Not saying it would work because Iran has what all advanced nations need and must have - oil - but it is another step short of all out major ME War. (If you believe a major war is required and advocate for it, just don’t whine that tax cuts for the wealthy and the reinstating the Draft are absolutely off the table along with any other sacrifice...because you won’t be taken seriously.)

I would add a 3rd item on the list. Ending Muslim presence in the West.
Right now, most Westerners and Muslims believe that permanent existence of Islamics in the West is a done, immutable deal no matter what the Muslims do. They they have citizenship, full Constitutional rights, refugee rights that connot be taken away. But they can. When E Europe decided it was incompatible to have ethnic Germans there after WWII, all those "rights" were brushed off for existential need. Many were killed before they were even given the choice of leaving or dying. Lawyers knew to shut up. 5 million ethnic Germans were killed or cleansed, and on a common level, it is defended to this day. In Spain, it was decided that the reunified Spain could not afford an enemy within - which was the remnant Muslim population and the Jewish collaborators to the Moors...whose ardent overtures to be the Christian kings "new best friends" was widely distrusted and rejected. So Jews and Moors were offered the choice of conversion to Christianity (with the Inquisition to weed out the false converts) - and bagging it back to Africa.

If we decide that Islam is incompatible and a deadly menace, no Constitution, no CAIR, no lawsuit-happy crusading liberal will stop it. They will go. Or convert. Or die. We are not there by a long shot. But if we get there, Constitutions are temporarily just scraps of paper in the way of what has to be done...and it is unlikely that we would clear out America while Canada is allowed to become 1/3rd Islamic. Or that Muslims would be cleaned from France and Benelux and Germany, but allowed to remain in Belgium...any cleansing would have to be a geneneral thing throughout the West. Let’s hope the Islamists never force us to go there. Because we will if we have to.
 
Written By: C. Ford
URL: http://
C. Ford, “ending Muslim presence in the West” is part of Kling’s position 1, ”have as little interaction with the Muslim world as possible”. As I pointed out in my post yesterday, Plan C, Kling’s two populist positions are the venerable American foreign policy postures Jeffersonianism and Jacksonianism, respectively, the two that haven’t already been tried.
 
Written By: Dave Schuler
URL: http://www.theglitteringeye.com
Oh, man... C.Ford agrees with me. Now I know I said something dumb.

-Gil
 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
You left out the most important step. The only long-term final solution that will solve the problem: Once all the muslims [which unfortunately includes the peace loving muslims] are concentrated in one geographical area, we issue the ultimatim: Cast out [kill] the jihadists or die with them. Allow a reasonable time for the separation to occur, then....
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
"But, the thing is, if the Islamists don’t leave us alone after we pursue policy 1, public opinion would probably shift to policy 2 pretty quickly."
Careful. According to the Poet Omar, we must never acknowledge the plausibility of #2.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
They got rich enough for capitalism to sound appealing.
I’m still trying to figure out how that relates to my point.
They have. Simply by purchasing our debt.
Which no doubt accounts for why Japan’s economy was in the dumper for the whole decade of the nineties and is still lagging behind ours.
They would have done, without...
That’s my very point, that the elites never seem to take innovation and dynamic adaptation into account.
Welfare reform was going to throw millions out on the street.


Might have done, had it happened.

Uhh, so there was no welfare reform? I seem to remember it. It was in all the papers.

Now it might not have been reformed to your satisfaction (or mine), but there were signficant changes made.

So I’m still trying to figure out why you posted this whole response. Half your points were non-sequiturs, and most of the rest didn’t really refute anything. Were you just trying to get to this in a roundabout way?
For our current crisis, we may want to ask ourselves, as a nation, why we are funding both sides of the war on terror?
If so, I agree. But what does that have to do with the elites being out of touch?
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
My point was that when you play the prediction game, your conclusions are as valid as the current data set. Invariably that data set changes in unpredictable ways, either by the introduction of new technology, or by manifesting in unexpected ways. I suppose that attempting to illustrate the impossibility of drawing a straight line from A to B does invite nonsequiter.

However, the underlying point is this: Elites are no more capable nor incapable of predicting the future outcome of current events than non-elites - because the future is unpredictable.

The second point is that the unpredictability of the future is no reason to be unconcerned - in that it is often the concern which creates the solution.

What my statement about funding both sides of the war on terror has to do with the elites being out of touch? Right now the elites are telling us that a dollar which relies on ME oil for its value is not a cause for concern. I think it is, in that we are tying our economic health to people who hate us. Could be I’ve just been reading Ron Paul, though. I’m gullible that way.

-Gil

 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
However, the underlying point is this: Elites are no more capable nor incapable of predicting the future outcome of current events than non-elites - because the future is unpredictable.
Well, the elites seem to assume that they are in a special position to prognosticate. At least, they are constantly expecting us to pass legislation or carry out a policy or something that assumes their predictions are valid. So, if we granted them their special status as "elites", their record ought to better, but it isn’t.

In fact, there are cases where has been demonstrated to be consistently worse.

Economist magazine did a series in the late eighties and early nineties. They surveyed a bunch of government economists and other "elites" in Britain about predicted economic conditions one year hence - what the rate of inflation, unemployment, growth, etc would be. Then they surveyed the same number of garbagemen.

For several years running, the garbagemen beat the elites by consistently coming closer to the actual numbers a year later. And this is on something relatively well defined, over a rather short time period.

It’s not that the elites are wrong that bothers me. Human beings make mistakes, and as you pointed out, the future is unpredictable. It’s that they seem to be no better than random in their predictive power, but they still expect the rest of us to take them seriously.

 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
It’s not that the elites are wrong that bothers me. Human beings make mistakes, and as you pointed out, the future is unpredictable. It’s that they seem to be no better than random in their predictive power, but they still expect the rest of us to take them seriously.

Yeah, that bothers me too.

-Gil
 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
Gil had a nice piece replying to Hollis’s doctrinaire cant. Adding that China is eating our lunch and on a faster pace to own us than Japan. And that the "don’t worry they’ll always find more cheap, abundant oil and gas" crowd (because the Holy Prophets Smith and Freidman and Hayek say so) are in the middle of one very rude awakening.
I’m thinking the initial in your sig stands for "curmudgeon".

My own opinions overlap with curmudgeons enough that I don’t usually worry about it. But you’re jumping to some conclusions here that are definitely not warranted.

First, I claimed that the folks in the 80s who howled about Japan taking over the world economically were wrong. Well, they were. Japan’s economy has been sick to a greater or lesser extent for most of that time. One bank crisis after another during the nineties.

I didn’t mention China (that was Gil), so any tirades you have about that should be directed elsewhere. But just to bring in some real data:
Japanese investors account for 12% of foreign direct investment in the U.S., and rank second to the UK. The Netherlands, followed closely by Germany and then France, hold the next biggest positions.
You might notice a conspicuous absence from that list. A hint - no country on the list begins with the letter "C".

The last part of your rant is a mischaracterization. Those who rely on the guidance of Friedman, et. al., don’t necessarily expect to see indefinite cheap, abundant resources. What we do believe is that market mechanisms will address any shortages that do occur better than any government planning or other alternatives. Whether that’s conservation, finding replacements, or whatever is up to the market.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s the link to the Treasury Ledger

I’d be happy if someone with an economics background would interpret it, but it looks to me like China’s buying a lot of government bonds. But you know, 34 trillion means different things to different people.

-Gil
 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
You might want to take another look at that sheet. It "34,854" millions, which means $34.854 billion, not trillion.

For comparison, Microsoft’s revenue for fiscal 2005 was just under $40 billion. Their net worth is estimated to be several times that amount.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Whoops! Math was never my strong suit. Of course - that still leaves the question of whether 34 billion is an appropriate amount of money to pay to a nation which purchases Iranian oil. Versus $0.00. Nonetheless, I stand corrected - Japan, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, and France are indeed purchasing us faster than China.

-Gil
 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
Oh, and you might want to have another look at that sheet as well - because it’s 34 billion per quarter, not per year.

-Gil
 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
*sigh* Ever have one of those days when you looked in a mirror and said to yourself "Who is that idiot?" - Sorry, Billy, I see now that you were just being polite enough not to call me on my first mistake. Ignore that "take another look at that sheet" crack.

-Gil
 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
I can ignore any mistake somebody makes if they own up to it.

I make more than I’d like myself. One of the byproducts of being a software developer is learning how fallible you are because the computer has no desire to protect your feelings, and will make ruthlessly point out mistakes.

If mk had been a programmer instead of a lawyer... we’d all be missing a lot of fun.

 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://

 
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