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Monday, May 5. 2014
I replied "But is that Washington's proper role, given our inheritance of supposedly limited central government? "
He said "All that really matters is what is effective."
I said "All that really matters is our dopey neighbors. In America, we're all somebody's dopey neighbor - and the dopiest end up in politics."
Anyway, I dropped the topic, but felt like I was not conversing with an American. I do like the guy otherwise. Yes, he is a Progressive.
Tracked: May 05, 13:10
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I have a brother-in-law like that. I'm wondering how many more dinners with him are going to be possible.
Why wouldn't he want to make the decision himself?
And don't those dopey neighbors vote on who's elected in Washington?
Your friend made no sense at any level.
That sounds more like a conversation between brands (progressive v conservative) over generalities (effective v constitutionally limited) using labels and tropes ("dopey neighbors" and "dopey neighbors go to Washington").
There are some things the fed does extremely well and is mandated to do. I don't want to cherry pick pro and con examples, which would be a deflection.
So why aren't you more worried about the state legislature, which, unlike the federal government, is not limited by specific grants of power but has general powers (meaning it doesn't have to implausibly stretch the commerce clause to regulate your hiring practices)? If health and education were in the hands of the state legislatures, what, really would be different? Are they any less incompetent or criminal than their cousins in DC?
Let me suggest this instead: you're asking this question the way one of the human ray-o-vacs living in the Matrix would. You ask me to assume that it makes a difference whether or not the fed should run health care, leaving only the limited answers, yes or no. I'm suggesting that the people and institutions who control and profit from health care don't care whether its the fed, the state or my cat who runs the show, and the fact that this debate is ongoing means that its of no consequence what the outcome is.
He knows nothing about value if he thinks Washington can 'be effective'.
The whole basis of value is determined by choice and scarcity, the ability to make trade-offs and purchases when necessary (otherwise known as substitutes and/or complements in economics).
Adam Smith would've gone to town on this guy. The basis of "The Wealth of Nations" as well as the "Theory of Moral Sentiments" is that aggregated behaviors even out.
That is, not all my neighbors are dopey - some are actually quite intelligent (except the guy across the street who wants to put up the Italian villa on his property, but hey, it's his land and if he wants to look like an idiot, so be it). Indeed, most neighbors are more intelligent than we give them credit for. The idea one man's trash is another man's treasure should be applied (I really hate that Italian villa, but he loves it).
As a result, the entire system of purchases and needs, across our community, tends to balance out over time. This is a key point. Washington waves a wand and says "X must be priced at Y and only Z can purchase at any given time" and that's how it is in perpetuity or until the law/rule is changed.
But economics doesn't work that way. Economics dictates that price and productivity levels vary with the level of transaction/creation. Prices rise as something becomes scarce, motivating producers to create more, until prices rise to the point of lowered relative purchase trends and the creation process leads to too much supply and prices fall, leading to more purchases, and the cycle repeats.
Most cycles are not so cut-and-dried, and some are more linear than up and down or cyclical. But this is important, because regardless of how their cycle works, the concept of a central 'efficient' solution has failed every time it has ever been tried. Amtrak, Post Office, Bureau of Land Management, Drug Enforcement Agency, etc. Hell, Prohibition is really the only example you need to know just how ineffective government is at setting and enforcing rules in an efficient and meaningful way.
Ultimately, that process always leads to the Orwellian "some animals are more equal than others" outcome where politics dictate the distribution, rather than need, desire, or capability to pay.
By the way, I don't see the discussion as "American" or "UnAmerican". It's just a discussion of philosophy regarding efficiency.
I have yet to hear a Progressive tell me something the government does efficiently (though land management is often something they like to claim, even if you give that to them, you have to admit government has a poor track record) or well. I also ask them "do you trust government?" to which I always receive a resounding "NO".
Once I get those responses, I tend to point out that if government doesn't do much well, and you don't trust it, then why do you want to give it more power?
Usually the standard response is "we just have the wrong people in there - if we get the right people, it will get fixed."
To which I reply "So you know who the right people are? That's amazing. Because I have yet to make a consistently perfect hire even in my job. I've had a few good/great ones. But I've had clunkers, too. Given my own track record in hiring, I hesitate to assume I could even know who is right for a role of such power you assume is necessary or desirable. The very idea frightens me."
It won't change their mind. As my aunt once said "you're just an asshole." I replied that perhaps I am, but we all suffer, as humans, from the same problem. We tend to think linearly, we tend to assume things are solved from a central location, like the brain operates for humans. But neither is true. Few things in life occur in a linear fashion, and the brain isn't the only thing which solves problems faced by the body. We need to think bigger, sometimes, but we're afraid to or just don't know enough to.
So no, it's not an American or not thing. It just is.
Why are you assuming that a government should be held or limited by a standard of efficiency? The armed forces are the best in the world but aren't economically efficient the way a CPA would use that term; the federal courts are not "efficient' in that way either, but, you know, first amendment, second amendment, due process, equal protection, 14th amendment.
Sorry about your pal. I'm still waiting for someone to come along who can make Amtrak run on time.
I have a cousin that also believes that local politicians are not to be trusted, but the ones in Washington can. It defies logic to not understand where the Washington politicians come from.
To me the next question in that conversation would be if he really believes that there's a class of people who are smarter, wiser, less corruptible, and mre engaged than the mass of men, and that it is their right (or duty) to rule over his "dopey neighbors". Follow that with does he believe that he is one of them.
to me this is where the heart of the technocratic conceit comes from - there is a class who are here to rule, and a class who are here to be ruled. Whether you call that ruling class "The master race", "the vanguard of the proletariat", or "God's lieutennants" doesn't matter, with one notable exception.
In the earlier formulations, which class you were a part of was based on heredity or racial stock. Where the Marxist view seems to differ from this, and what I believe makes the ideas so popular among academics, is that members of this ruling elite are uniquely capable of self-identifying themselves as such, and once they have self-identified, are due the rights and privileges that are accrued to this ruling class.
I don't think this guy is as worried about his neighbors as he is lacking in any confidence in his own prowess. The neighbors are the excuse. He is the problem.
"I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power, as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and liberals at bay. And the nation free."
Buckley/ Up From Liberalism
At dinner with friends last weekend, a pal said to me "When it comes to important things like health and education, I'd rather have Washington make the decisions than my dopey neighbors."
Slow Joe Biden has spent the last 40 years starring in the situation comedy, "My Dopey Neighbor Goes to Washington."
I don't buy any of that blather. Buck lived in NY, the state legislature at Albany had general powers over his life, more than the fed's limited authority. The rest of that's just rhetoric, what, exactly, could he have ceded to GM or a trade union?
He wouldn't cede power because he had none to cede. He should have thanked God that the people in Albany and D.C. paid just enough lip service to both constitutions for him to have made a decent life for himself. The fact that he could raise these issues and debate them in public means they weren't important.
Hmm, considering most liberals deny the existence of God. That would make him smarter than... Nothing :)
Ah, the argument for efficiency. The same view that makes the Thomas Friedmans of the world drool over the shiny new airports and trains in China. If we could just force people to see there is a better way. I believe the President once expressed a similar sentiment.
I can't quite remember it, there's something at the far reaches of my memory about trains and running on time. Or was it some dupe claiming to have seen the future and it working despite the stench of rotting corpses?
I have family and a couple friends like this. I've decided a while back to try hard to not argue/debate politics with progressives because there is no end to it. "How does one compromise with drinking poison?"
In discussions with more than one person it has ended with them saying "sometimes you just have to make people do things," as in make people save money or buy health insurance, I presume. That's when I said to myself I have to change the subject before my good opinion of this person changes.
"You're just an asshole." That's funny. It's a civilized way to let a progressive lose an argument, yet still save face.
I don't trust politicians. The system is designed to encourage those who seek power over others to seek office. I doubt that even 5% of politicians at all levels are in it for altruistic reasons and if they were honest about themselves they couldn't get elected. So as a result the American political system attracts power hungry dishonest people. I really don't want them making any decisions for me.
Sorry to say it but that "pal" needs a punch in the face to snap him out of whatever cessdream his mind has dropped into.
Show those people a mountain of corpses and they'll still not see that that has any connection with having power to force people to do things. They think politicians will relent when their kind natures tell them that criminal acts are required to carry out their benevolent plans.
It is curious that this delusional need for control is still around after the discovery of chaos theory and emerging order. Is it that the non-computer literate still dream that computers will make possible complete control over humans? Or are these folks really solipsists, unable to imagine that any real person could disagree with their conclusions?