Useful Idiocy

Here is a Quote Chain found on LyfLines via The Corner:

George Orwell:

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.

John Derbyshire:

Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy.

Thomas Friedman:

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.

To which let me point out:

The Default American PoV has become a Leftist POV.

So, how do we Americans un-do this?


12 Responses

  1. To be brutally honest….

    Friedman’s on to something — but it’s something that should have been obvious before now.

    There is a severe, severe attack on libertarianism mounting in the world, and it’s not coming from the Left so much as the Left are (usually) brainlessly channeling intimations of the attack into bleating sounds.

    Various “crunches” are coming: population growth & densities, resource scarcity, a developing New Core and a growing middle class, perhaps even geographical crunches related to climate changes.

    These crunches are going to reduce the viability of the most liberty-oriented libertarianism — for a time. I don’t know how great an overall Crunch this is going to be, or how long it will last, but I do suspect that some significant technological breakthroughs (perhaps mini-singularities) are going to be necessary before the libertarian philosophy can find itself in a new golden age.

  2. Hey Purpleslog,

    I need to issue a rare disagreement with you.

    Friedman’s factual claims are entirely right. The Chinese Communist Party is headed by a collection of serious, effective, and technocratic engineers who see no serious ideological threat to their rule or their regime, and so focus on building a better country. Because of the power of the Party, they do not have to worry about grooming careers for themselves in the private sector, and so are relatively free of the regulatory capture that American political departments are faced with.

    I’ve made similar statements on my blog. You can compare our reactions to the economic crisis. Obama led with a bail-out of banks, a bail-out of failing automobile manufacturers (and their unions), and a grab-bag of pet projects. China reacted with a massive push for “geogreen” infrastructure that cleans the skies and lessons the rate of growth in their dependence on foreign oil.

    The irony in Friedman’s partisan bite, of course, is that the Republican Party is far closer to the CCP’s philosophy than his beloved democrats. From its pro-business stance, to its Leninst characteristic of “democratic centralism” (the GOP tolerates internal dissent far less than the Democrats, which is why the Republicans can be an effective minority more easily than the Democrats can be an effective majority), the only thing the Republicans have that the Communists do not is a large religious faction.


    Well said, but be careful of the difference between democracy and liberty. With the obvious exception of the establishment of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, China is roughly as free as the United States. Of course, there are differences here are there: drugs are better tolerated in California, prostitution better tolerated in China. And while likewise “positive rights” are rare in China, it is precisely these differences that libertarians might applaud.

    China is not a democracy, however, nor anything close to it.

    Friedman is not criticizing liberty, but the rules-based (rather than results-based) political culture on this side of the Pacific. Bill Gates has made similar comments.

  3. “With the obvious exception of the establishment of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, China is roughly as free as the United States.”

    Well now those are major exceptions.

    Actually I hadn’t followed the link on Friedman but had responded to the mere quote here.

    Party-wise, the Republican Party is much more like China’s leadership than the Democratic party is, per your example to Purpleslog. Philosophy-wise, it’s hard to say, because those three big rights you would exclude, and particularly religion, present a huge gulf; whereas, the “boss” culture of the Democrat party and its large secular segment are more like the China model, right? It’s actually easier for me to see the current Obama Administration resembling a close group of rulers similar to China’s than it was for me to see the leader-oriented (rather than boss-oriented) Republican administrations we’ve had in recent memory.

    Then again, I’m not as studied in Chinese culture and politics as you are, nor probably for that matter in our own political structures. Call me 2-cent.

  4. Curtis,

    You’re definitely right that assembly, press, and religion are major rights to lose!

    The CCP and the GOP are both profoundly anti-union… the only good union either of them has met in the past 60 years have been unions that are controlled by management. The ward boss system that is familiar to the Democrats is largely absent in China. Your job security is determined by your relationship with your manager. As there is no need to rile up workers to do anything beyond work, this is handled entirely through salary and benefits.

    The major difference between the GOP and the CCP, as you note, is the “secular segment.” If you could imagine a future where the religious right is expelled from the Republican Party in a manner similar to its 1950s purges and (owing to some annus miraculus) obtains a durable one-party rule in the United States, it would govern in a way similar to the Communists.

    The major similarity between the Communists and the Democrats is the current use by both of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” In China, unlikely the United States, however, this happens in the context of cautious budgeting. [1]


  5. “establishment of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press”

    These are big deals.

    I don’t really consider the GOP to be the liberty party. The GOP elites and national office holders have shown themselves to be Big Gov/Big Business / Anti-Entrepreneur types in practice (there rhetoric is a bit different).

    Elites and and office holders in both major parties have subsribed to a Leftist PoV (Dems much more so then GOP).

    The elites and office holder of course see themselves as the privileged (“the vanguard” in old commie speak) who being more equal then others are due privileges exceptions that others don’t get. They generally think they are smarter then everybody else and need tight planning/regulation for things to go correctly (which includes their maintaining of privilege and control).

    CGW might be correct in that some te3ch breakthroughs might be needed to break this loggerjam of the elites.

    Left and Right are not usefull as labels to much anymore.

    I have been thinking about a grid with:

    X Axis Planning Preference to Market Preference

    Y Axis Stasis orientation to Dynamism orientation (in the Virgina Postel sense).

  6. Purpleslog,

    I think you’re really onto something with the conclusion of your comment.,

    The CCP and the KMT are both authoritarian-right countries, which would make them cluster closer to big business GOP than, say, the ACLU Democrats.

    But your two-axis method makes sense, with Y being political stasis or dynamism

    So, PRC:
    X: Market Preference
    Y: Political Stasis

    X: Market Preference
    Y: Somewhat dynamic

    “Big Business” GOP
    X: Market preference
    Y: More dynamic still


  7. Don’t have much time right now, but I think the Big Business Big GOV instincts of the GOP elites is not that market oriented.

    Most republicans might be, but the elites and elected national officials seem are much more friendly to a planning preference.

    Maybe not as skewed as the American Left to planning, but the Pro-BigGov/BigBiz GOP elite is not market focused in practice.

  8. “Don’t have much time right now, but I think the Big Business Big GOV instincts of the GOP elites is not that market oriented.”

    I see what you mean.

    It was Adam Smith who wrote about there has never been a meeting of tradesmen or businessman, without an anti-competitive conspiracy forming.

    Ultimately this is the difference between natural liberty (Adam Smith’s ideal) and Capitalism (the GOP-CCP) model.

  9. I should have also said the Big Business Big GOV instincts of the GOP elites are not entrepreneurship originated either. The instinct is to protect existing big businesses from creative destruction pressures. That’s great for the existing BigBiz and their cronies, but everybody else is worse off.

    Published: September 12, 2009

    FOR years now, many businesses and individuals in the United States have been relying on the power of government, rather than competition in the marketplace, to increase their wealth. This is politicization of the economy. It made the financial crisis much worse, and the trend is accelerating.

    Well before the financial crisis erupted, policy makers treated homeowners as a protected political class and gave mortgage-backed securities privileged regulatory treatment. Furthermore, they allowed and encouraged high leverage and the expectation of bailouts for creditors, which had been practiced numerous times, including the precedent of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998. Without these mistakes, the economy would not have been so invested in leverage and real estate and the financial crisis would have been much milder.

    But we are now injecting politics ever more deeply into the American economy, whether it be in finance or in sectors like health care. Not only have we failed to learn from our mistakes, but also we’re repeating them on an ever-larger scale.

    Lately the surviving major banks have reported brisk profits, yet in large part this reflects astute politicking and lobbying rather than commercial skill. Much of the competition was cleaned out by bank failures and consolidation, so giants like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan had an easier time getting back to profits. The Federal Reserve has been lending to banks at near-zero interest rates while paying higher interest on the reserves the banks hold at the Fed. “Too big to fail” policies mean that the large banks can raise money more cheaply because everyone knows they are safe counterparties.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the birth of a military-industrial complex. Today we have a financial-regulatory complex, and it has meant a consolidation of power and privilege. We’ve created a class of politically protected “too big to fail” institutions, and the current proposals for regulatory reform further cement this notion. Even more worrying, with so many explicit and implicit financial guarantees, we are courting a bigger financial crisis the next time something major goes wrong.

    We should stop using political favors as a means of managing an economic sector. Unfortunately, though, recent experience with health care reform shows we are moving in the opposite direction and not heeding the basic lessons of the financial crisis. Finance and health care are two separate issues, of course, but in both cases we’re making the common mistake of digging in durable political protections for special interest groups.

    One disturbing portent came over the summer when it was reported that the Obama administration had promised deals to doctors and to pharmaceutical companies under the condition that they publicly support health care reform. That’s another example of creating favored beneficiaries through politics.

    If these initial deals are falling apart, it is only because reform met with unexpected resistance. Even after Mr. Obama’s speech Wednesday night, we’re still at the point where the medical sector is enshrined as “too big to take a pay cut,” which is not so far removed from the banking motto of “too big to fail.” In finance and health care, a common political dynamic has created similar trends, namely, out-of-control costs, weak accountability, and the use of immediate revenue patches to postpone dealing with fundamental problems.

    Even worse, these political deals threaten open discourse. The dealmaking may be inhibiting some people in health care from speaking out in opposition to the administration’s proposals. Robert Reich, who served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, deserves credit for complaining about this arrangement, but not enough people are asking where such dealmaking might stop.

    The banking sector has been facing similar constraints; if bankers criticize the Treasury or the Fed, they risk losing their gilded cages and could get a bad deal when the next bailout comes. When major economic sectors can be influenced in this way, are we really very far from the nightmare depicted by Ayn Rand in “Atlas Shrugged”?

    So if we’re looking for a major lesson from our banking mess, it is undoubtedly this: We have made a grave mistake in politicizing the economy so deeply, and should back away now. In health care, the Obama administration should drop its medical sector deals and try to sell a reform plan — in whatever form Mr. Obama chooses — on its own merits. That’s not only good for health care, but also good for the American polity. And in the longer run, that will be good for banking, too. If nothing else, without controlling health care costs, the American government will not stay solvent — and that will be the biggest financial crisis of them all.

    In short, we should return both the financial and medical sectors and, indeed, our entire economy to greater market discipline. We should move away from the general attitude of “too big to take a pay cut,” especially when the taxpayer is on the hook for the bill. If such changes sound daunting, it is a sign of how deep we have dug ourselves in. We haven’t yet learned from the banking crisis, and we’re still moving in the wrong direction pretty much across the board.

    Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

  11. Thanks for the links Edgewise. I had not see them.

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