April 29, 2014

What I Learned in Peloponnese...

Whoa. David Brooks is right. I was readying the stopped-clock gags, but the NYTimes's political-trouser-pressing critic has a superb column which introduces a topic I wanted to discuss. Spoiler alert -- I want to share the end but recommend the entire piece:

The liberal pluralistic system is not a spontaneous natural thing. Preserving that hard-earned ecosystem requires an ever-advancing fabric of alliances, clear lines about what behavior is unacceptably system-disrupting, and the credible threat of political, financial and hard power enforcement.

Deepak Lal -- call your office. But the point I hoped to make was the comparison of anarcho-capitalism and socialism. A great friend of this blog riffs that the proponents of both build their premises on prelapsarian man. "If men were Angels..." James Madison intoned.

My contribution, besides sharing the awesome word, prelapsarian, with you, is this. The Rule of jk:

Neither liberty nor prosperity is a natural state.

We, of the liberty ilk, chide the left for their half. They see the land of milk of honey, with happy people hunting plentiful buffalo and enjoying organic carrots -- until the mean old corporations and greedy Wall Street bankers ruined everything. Deirdre McCloskey is turned on her head to my lefty friends.

But I appeal to my righty friends to eschew not only anarcho-capitalism, but also isolationism. Surely Rep. Ron Paul isolationism -- we'll negotiate with Paul the Younger. These Righty Facebook Friends (RFFs) are increasingly contemptuous of "consent of the governed." Even accepting the Constitution, one can make a perfect case for Ron Paulism -- more easily than for the Deepak Lal side.

I learned on these very pages that Thomas Hobbes translated Thucydides to English. Now we know where he "got his mellow harshed." Just as the natural economic state is poverty and privation, digging for roots with a stick to try and ingest enough calories -- the natural political state is for some person or group to come take those roots and your stick away from you.

Brooks is dead right -- maintaining a Lal-ian Liberal International Economic Order is difficult and we lack the stomach for it. Make your choices, but do not pretend that everything will be fine. That the terrorists just want us to leave them alone and that Putin just wants us to stop giving them stupid props. China just wants a couple of rocks in the ocean.

UPDATE: Heh. Insty links to the same column, importunely pointing out "This a direct consequence of who we elected in 2008. You, David, were a part of that."

Elevator Talk Posted by John Kranz at April 29, 2014 11:17 AM

NO! [Picture me standing athwart history.]

I say no to the Sage of Knoxville blaming this epochal condition on "who we elected in 2008" and also to Brooks' conclusion that it is hard to get people to risk death in defense of principles other than nationalism or religion. Our national memes just aren't promoting the right principles. Take a look around Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch and tell me people won't risk death for an idea.

As for the president's culpability, sure, he has much to answer for. But as I expained to a FB friend (not of the RFF variety) the true villain in eminent domain actions is not the corporate beneficiary, but the force-wielding government. Homologically [I couldn't resist] a majority isn't to blame for the tyranny it imposes upon its minority neighbors - the blame belongs to the democratic system of government that instantiates and legitimizes said tyranny.

This came to me while driving this morning, as I listened to one Rush Limbaugh simultaneously celebrate the flight of Californians for Texas, and bemoan that they will "bring their stupid ideas with them." This is of course a very real phenomenon, as Coloradans can today attest, but it isn't the stupid ideas we need to worry about. It's the fact that GOVERNMENT ALLOWS PEOPLE TO FORCE THEIR IDEAS UPON OTHERS, AGAINST THEIR WILL.

There's yer problem.

Posted by: johngalt at April 30, 2014 3:01 PM

Oh yes, I'm not finished.

My premise above mirrors Brooks' description of the pre-modern order throughout recorded history: That "Powerful people have generally tried to impose their version of the Truth on less powerful people."

But the modern order Brooks thinks we should "die" for includes exactly this, as factions are molded and shaped and allied to create, what? Democratic majorities. Which do, what? Impose their version of the Truth on the less powerful.

Okay, now I'm finished.

Posted by: johngalt at April 30, 2014 3:09 PM

Firstly: you're not going to want to wait until Sunday's Review Corner to order your copy of David Harsanyi [all Hail His Holy Name]'s The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy.

Secondo: Not sure who gets the unequivocal and all caps no. Dost thou let Mister Brooks off the hook? The [albeit-token] Conservative at the NYTimes gives the all-clear to vote for the Democrat, based on . . . the crease of his trousers.

I was alive in 2008. Two-thousand-eight was a friend of mine. Many people I know thought that Senator Obama's professed plans to hastily reduce forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were reckless. David Brooks and Peggy Noonan provided cover for any Republicans who wanted to get swept in the celebrity fervor of "Our Nation's first African-American President™" and vote their conscience and dry-cleaning over a sober recognition of America's place in the world.

Likewise, Governor Romney was ridiculed in 2012 for his "Cold War mentality." I may be arguing with a statement you did not make, but I do not plan to forgive Brooks & Noonan (isn't that a C&W act?" until they admit culpability and beg forgiveness.

Posted by: jk at April 30, 2014 3:31 PM

I am not Jesus but I can forgive. Are you and Mr. Reynolds not making the same reflexive overreaction as the RFFs you so rightly chided, mere paragraphs earlier? They did the wrong thing, and for the wrong reasons, but as long as they're serious about saving the liberty and prosperity of the modern era, and casting off the quest for "progress and global goodness" welcome under the tent Mr. Brooks and Ms. Noonan. Now, help me get your dumbass - excuse me, urbane - friends to vote for new restrictions on what can be done to people through the vote! Let's try again at that "republic" thingy. This time, without the anachronistic flaws.

Posted by: johngalt at April 30, 2014 4:59 PM

Or, as Xander said, "The quality of mercy is not Buffy" (I Only Have Eyes for You, Season 2).

Forgiveness is swell, but neither Brooks nor our Margaret have come back to be reliable defenders of liberty. Nor has either acknowledged his or her mistake.

I'd greet either warmly and buy coffee at The Black Dog Coffee Shop, but both represent eastern elitism above liberty. When they do write good columns, I will happily recognize them.

Posted by: jk at April 30, 2014 5:57 PM

All Hail Taranto?

Why? One reason was because of the cult of personality that surrounded Barack Obama during his campaign and the early days of his presidency. His supporters, including many journalists, were the functional equivalent of Data's virtual audience, cheering Obama no matter what he said or did. The virtual audience may be smaller now, but it's heavily represented at Vox.com--although it must be acknowledged that Klein, Fisher, Kliff and the rest of the "data-driven journalists" are all too human.

Posted by: jk at April 30, 2014 7:46 PM

"NO" doesn't mean I don't hold Brooks, Noonan, Obama, Biden, Holder, Roberts, Kerry, Clinton, on and on ad infinitum responsible, it just means that getting rid of that army of people with bad ideas won't prevent a new wave from taking their place and doing the same thing. (Hence the term "ad infinitum.") Structural change is required. A "fundamental transformation" from the democracy we have crept toward and now find ourselves in, back to the republic our forbears were once bequeathed.

You're talking about the trees while I'm saying, "See that forest?"

Posted by: johngalt at May 1, 2014 11:35 AM | What do you think? [7]