Still playing catchup, with a pile of accumulated items to post. This time, the political lamp is lit.
I am a member of a Philanthropy Round Table Discussion group that tends to have a bit of a Republican tilt. Nothing wrong with that. It only goes to show that there are still a great many very decent conservatives. Yes, there tends to be a rather frantic tone, nowadays. Even those who admit that something has gone wrong with the right, find it terribly hard (human nature) to admit just HOW far wrong things have gone... or how much needs to be done, in order for a decent conservatism to save its soul from having allied with monsters.
One thing you see nowadays (discussed under commentary, beneath the previous posting) is the way many decent conservatives rationalize that "liberals" aren't much better than the neoconservative monsters. There then ensues a slist of "liberal" traits that are caricatures, at best. Or else clear examples of conflating "liberal" with "leftists."
One of my chief projects is to encourage people to distinguish clearly between these two terms! While the "left" may be statists, and nosy and politically correct and somewhat socialist/pinko, it is worth noting that these dogmatists are NOT in command of a political party or any major levers of power in the USA. The Democratic Party, led by modernist-pragmatist-liberals like Nancy Pelosi and (yes) the Clintons, is not some Janus twin to the neocon-dominated GOP. The difference betwen the two is not left-right, but rather future vs past.
Yes, many people who visit this blog have heard me say this before... even ad nauseum. But I believe that it is terribly important to keep hammering it home. If the dogmatic left could be exiled to the margins by the fall of Communism, then decent conservatives need to be shown that it is their duty to do the same thing to the "right". A right-wing that has metastacized, turned cancerous, and gone completely mad.
Here is a riff that may sound a bit familiar to some of you, that I shared on the roundtable today.
Those who portray government as somehow an intrinsic enemy of market productivity/creativity/fecundity tend to be people who know (or let themselves see) human history.
The romantic-libertarian notion that "market laws are natural laws" simply flies in the face of the way 99% of humansocieties organized themselves. In those cultures, elites of both power and mysticism colluded to ensure that free markets would NOT happen. Following simple darwinian logic -- seen in all species on Earth -- they applied both force and culture to ensure themselves reporoductive advantage (wealth, power, access to mates) at the expense of other people.
This predatory scenario especially manifested whenever a society got both metals and agriculture, where big guys with metal implements quickly took other mens' women and wheat... and nerds in spangled cloaks then hopped around singing fables and incantations, telling the poor how GOOD the social order was! Ah, Joseph Campbell.
Still, humanity did make glacial progress and a tipping point was reached with the Enlightenment. Several factors: American democracy, Adam Smith's persuasive theories of commerce, rising education and the productive leverage of machinery began having multiplier effects, making social mobility a desideratum that pushed back against the age-old driver of natural human predation.
It was difficult. Markets were not, are not and never were "natural". EVERY generation featured attempted aristocratic or kleptocratic coups. It took ferocious intervention - often on the part of governments - to regaulate markets to a point where elites could not easily do WHAT THEY OTHERWISE WILL ALWAYS DO... act to cheat, manipulate market rules and forces in secret, steal and stifle the ability of others to compete.
Markets are not natural, but they do seem to have many traits of what we in complexity theory call "emergent properties"... they have a capability of "taking off" spectacularly, leveraging knowledge and capital in ways that Marx only began to grasp, but that Hayek seemed to understand quite well.
Alas, libertarians of the romantic wing are able to hypnotize themselves to ignore the myriad blatant ways that the trait of cheating-by-elites is inherent and inevitable to human nature, or the ways in which a well-run and democratically supervised, open and transparent government can vitally counterbalance this human trend... though again, with the proviso (difficult) that government must be used right. It is simply psychotic that so many market-mystics disparage universal public education, for example, in having vastly stimulated the creation of a vast modern middle class. Yes, that public education system is now creaking at the seams, unable to respond to new demands/circumstances. But to ignore its role in reifying markets in the past is simply loopy.
Likewise, the effects of the GI Bill which, after WWII, utterly transformed the socio-political landscape, at least in white America, creating the "diamond-shaped" social order and the flattest wealth distribution in the history of the world, in which for the first time, a majority of millionaires actually made their fortunes through the method of providing innovative goods and services, instead of cheating or inheritance.
All you have to do is imagine what the "first liberal" would say, if he were here today. Adam Smith would look around at today's increasingly warped markets, today's rising wealth-disparities and "re-pyramidalization" of the social order, the rise in secrecy and secret influence, in kleptocratic handshake insider deals and so on... and he would recognize the old enemy, in the flesh.
He would denounce it.
Adam Smith knew the fundamental truth that we have forgotten (having grown up worried about communism)... a fundamental fact that the bigtime aristos of the Right do not want us to remember. That free markets have always had one paramount class of enemy, across 6,000 years. These enemies were not "levellers" or socialists. Rather, in 99% of cultures, free and fecund markets were ruined by "cronies of the king." Precisely the same cheaters who Smith railed against in Wealth of Nations".
There can be no question that today Adam Smith would be a democrat.
The only question is whether the democrats - hypnotized by their own cliches - would have the good sense to welcome him and recognize the "first liberal" as one of their own.
Clearing the political backlog: here are a few more itms of possible interest.
A riff from Russ Daggatt:
“[This impending escalation brings to mind a software engineering principle called Brooks' Law: "Adding manpower to a late project makes it later."]
“The policy has never really been in doubt for students of George Bush. “Winning” in Iraq for Bush means “running out the clock” and handing the problem off to his successor. Then he, and his right-wing apologists, can forever argue that Bush was Churchillian in his stoic determination for “victory” in Iraq , but that it was only the weakness of his successor’s resolve that led to our “defeat”. If Bush pulls out now, the historical verdict will be clear and indisputable – his war was a miserable failure. As with everything else, it is all about Bush.”
And he gets scarier: ”With the crash of Rove's game plan for using his presidency as an instrument to leverage a permanent Republican majority, Bush is abandoning the role of political leader. He can't disengage militarily from Iraq because that would abolish his identity as a military leader, his default identity and now his only one. Unlike the political leader, the commander in chief doesn't require persuasion; he rules through orders, deference and the obedience of those beneath him. By discarding the ISG report, Bush has rejected doubt, introspection, ambivalence and responsibility. By embracing the AEI manifesto, he asserts the warrior virtues of will, perseverance and resolve.”
Cogent and insightful... and yet again dependent upon the assumption that these people are ONLY stupid, dogmatic, greedy and crazy. But I must suggest (again) that there are other possible explanations. A bit more far-out, but no less plausible or consistent with the (outrageous) facts.)
Cheney goes from Halliburton to the White House. Gale Norton goes from Secretary of the Interior to Shell Oil. Condi Rice goes from the board of Chevron to National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. The chief of staff of the White House council on environment quality leaves and goes to ExxonMobil (after watering down reports on Global Warming). Imagine if a fraction of what we are spending in Iraq was spent on re-tooling Detroit ? Not only could we wean ourselves off gasoline in a hurry, but we would make our auto industry vastly more competitive in the process. But clearly that is the very thing to oppose.
We need to get our hands on the report, just released by the PNNL (Battelle), claiming that, if all Americans owned Plugin Hybrid Vehicles today, our current electrical grid could provide 84% of the energy necessary for car transport.This needs attention and wide distribution.
And yes, now we see some major corporations and even some evangelical Christians breaking ranks with the troglodytes over global climate change. Even the Bush Admin is starting to make perfunctory noises about "needing to do something."
After mahlf a genration playing total obstruction. On the wrong side of yet another major issue. Do they honestly think we will let them pretend - as they now do with pictures of Martin Luther King on their walls - that they were "on the right side all along"?