March 11, 2008

"The further backward you look, the further forward you can see."

Said Winston Churchill, quoted in Alan Greenspan's "The Age of Turbulence," which I was looking back at today. Doesn't it seem as though that new McCain ad was conceived as an illustration of the quote? The ad dips back into the past, showing, first, Churchill, and alternately races into the future.

22 comments:

Middle Class Guy said...

"It is not an accident that human beings persevere and advance in the face of adversity. Adaptation is in our nature, a fact that leads me to be deeply optimistic about our future. Seers from the oracle of Delphi to today's Wall Street futurists have sought to ride this long-term positive trend that human nature directs. The Enlightenment's legacy of individual rights and economic freedom has unleashed billions of people to pursue the imperatives of their nature—to work toward better lives for themselves and their families. Progress is not automatic, however; it will demand future adaptations as yet unimaginable. But the frontier of hope that we all innately pursue will never close."


This quote says it all. People will persevere, adapt, and overcome adversity in the quest for a better life for themselves and their offspring. Progress is never easy and change is never comfortable, but we persevere.

Meade said...

"Doesn't it seem as though that new McCain ad was conceived as an illustration of the quote? The ad dips back into the past, showing, first, Churchill, and alternately races into the future."

Brilliantly perceptive.

Beth said...

I don't see the wow factor. I see "Hey, here's a great wartime leader, Churchill" and "Here's our guy, McCain. Churchill, McCain. Churchill, McCain. Got it?"

I guess if you're 72 running for president, you need to run on the idea that your past, all those many years of it, is really about the future. And in the future, they'll be looking back saying, "Remember McCain? He was our Churchill!"

I'm out of Kool-Aid, but I'm sure there'll be more in the future.

Paul said...

Conservatives believe in evolution. Liberals-progressives believe in intelligent design.

Conservatives believe that there is a vast repository of knowledge in tradition and culture accumulated through millenia of trial and error, and that most of that knowledge is unconscious and transmitted from generation to generation through customs and behavior so ingrained and automatic as to be second nature.

They believe that no man or council of men can even begin to approach that vast body of wisdom through conscious thought or design and are thus very cautious in implementing radical social experiments, as the laws of unintended consequences will surely dictate disastrous results.

Liberals-progressives on the other hand look at culture, tradition, etc., as backward, unevolved, and an unnecessary hindrance to be jettisoned in favor of utopian social arrangements to be designed by an elite of the most enlightened individuals. The premise being that man is perfectible if only the proper government is designed to nurture and control people so they are able to achieve their fully evolved potential.

The twentieth century's experiments with utopian social arrangements should have put paid to the progressives' fantasies, but they are driven by a religious fervor...utopianism is faith based after all...even while purporting to be "scientific". Utopianism is totalitarian by definition, thus we see the left's affinity for dictators and personality cults.

The culture wars being played out in America will determine if we will continue to live as free individuals or as wards of the state. At this point through the left's control of the media, academia, and vehicles of popular culture it would appear that we are headed down the road to serfdom.

John McCain's appeal to history as a guide to the future stands in diametric opposition to the Obama personality cult of "change", or rejection of tradition for a utopian social experiment.

God help us all.

Middle Class Guy said...

Paul,
Basically it is collectivism and the so called common good versus our historical and cultural tradition of self reliance, self determination, and rugged individualism.

Who will win? I prefer the latter and despise the former.

Meade said...

Elizabeth,
Nevah drink the Kool-Aid. Nevah, nevah, nevah.

rumtumtugger said...

a propos of nothing: if you're still in brooklyn i recomend a bar / restaurant on smith between bergen and dean called 'apartment 138' - especially if you're dining informally in a group.

inexpensive, good atmosphere, good (simple-ish) food - in fact, i've been in nyc for nine years and it's the only place i've found here that i could classify as a great neighbourhood hang.

that's all.

Tim said...

The lessons of history are a recurring theme amongst the thoughtful - that McCain seeks to remind smarter voters of that is, well, smart.

Just as Rome was not built in a day, neither did it fall in a day. Dumb leftists think we can absorb a surrender by choice in Iraq as of slight negative consequence to our interests, and probably with large benefit. Same thing with unilaterally abrogating free trade treaties with our largest trading partners. Smart leftists know we'd pay a tremendous price, but that doing so is necessary to fulfill their aspirations for us.

Paul said...

"Paul,
Basically it is collectivism and the so called common good versus our historical and cultural tradition of self reliance, self determination, and rugged individualism.

Who will win? I prefer the latter and despise the former."

Yes, but the notion of an unconscious body of knowledge beyond the scope of an individual or group of individuals needs to be driven home. This is a concept that liberals have no clue about.

Also it needs to be emphasized that leftism-collectivism-socialism-nanny statism is by default totalitarian, that the concentration of power in an elite will inexorably devolve into universal slavery for the masses. The framers knew this but this knowledge is disappearing from the body politic.

Paul said...

No Tim, not for us. For themselves.

Daryl said...

Beth wrote: I don't see the wow factor. I see "Hey, here's a great wartime leader, Churchill" and "Here's our guy, McCain. Churchill, McCain. Churchill, McCain. Got it?"

I'm probably Sen. McCain's biggest booster here. I will admit, when I first saw the ad, I did not make the connection (conscious or unconscious) between McCain and Churchill. Yeah, Churchill was cool, and we should stand for his values, but I didn't associate the persons.

Sen. McCain will be a good president, a Republican president, who isn't a Democrat, and isn't going to socialize our economy, and appoint radical leftists to the Supreme Court, and won't pull out of Iraq irresponsibly just to keep a stupid campaign promise. But is he Winston Freakin' Churchill? We'll see. I'm certainly not sold on that yet.

Step Back said...

Look backwards to see forwards?

What kind of insane ideology is this?

No one knows the future until it's in the rear view mirror; and even then our vision is limited by funnel vision and warped eyesight.

Read Nassim Taleb's "Black Swan" to get a better vision of why history can be so misleading.

Pogo said...

Ann nicely expressed this idea earlier, saying "I thought: This is the feeling of being conservative — it is a deep emotional sense that the past matters and flows into the present and makes sense out of the future."

It is not an ideology at all, but a point of view, one Thomas Sowell described as the 'tragic vision' [Sowell calls liberals the 'anointed' while conservatives are 'benighted' or 'tragic']

""Out of every hundred new ideas ninety-nine or more will probably be inferior to the traditional responses which they propose to replace. No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for those are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history." -- P. 112

"In the tragic vision, individual sufferings and social evils are inherent in the innate deficiencies of all human beings, whether these deficiencies are in knowledge, wisdom, morality, or courage. Moreover, the available resources are always inadequate to fulfill all the desires of all the people. Thus there are no "solutions" in the tragic vision, but only trade-offs that still leave many unfulfilled and much unhappiness in the world." -- P. 113

"In their haste to be wiser and nobler than others, the anointed have misconceived two basic issues. They seem to assume (1) that they have more knowledge than the average member of the benighted and (2) that this is the relevant comparison. The real comparison, however, is not between the knowledge possessed by the average member of the educated elite versus the average member of the general public, but rather the total direct knowledge brought to bear though social processes (the competition of the marketplace, social sorting, etc.), involving millions of people, versus the secondhand knowledge of generalities possessed by a smaller elite group." -- P. 114

"For the anointed, traditions are likely to be seen as the dead hand of the past, relics of a less enlightened age, and not as the distilled experience of millions who faced similar human vicissitudes before." -- P. 118

"The presumed irrationality of the public is a pattern running through many, if not most or all, of the great crusades of the anointed in the twentieth century--regardless of the subject matter of the crusade or the field in which it arises. Whether the issue has been 'overpopulation,' Keynesian economics, criminal justice, or natural resource exhaustion, a key assumption has been that the public is so irrational that the superior wisdom of the anointed must be imposed, in order to avert disaster. The anointed do not simply happen to have a disdain for the public. Such disdain is an integral part of their vision, for the central feature of that vision is preemption of the decisions of others." -- P. 123-124

"Although Adam Smith regarded the intentions of businessmen as selfish and anti-social, he saw the systematic consequences of their competition as being far more beneficial to society than well-intentioned government regulation." -- P. 126 "

cf 'The Vision Of The Anointed'
Thomas Sowell



And Nassim Taleb's "Black Swan" has a few good points that would have made a fine article somewhere; the rest is a diatribe lamenting how few people seem to recognize how smart Nassim is, and how much he holds them in contempt for their stupidity.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

Pogo, if you didn't like The Black Swan, try Paul Ormerud's Why Things Fail. Similar themes, but from a more rigorous economic point of view.

The problem with looking backward is that it encourages thinking of history as a closed system. You can draw lessons and apply them, but your schemes will just as likely fail as not, when other agents react to your schemes and force unpleasant adjustments upon them.

Karl Rove looked back to the Gilded Age for lessons on creating a Republican ascendancy. He couldn't account for the arrogance and self-indulgence of the people he ascended.

Donald Rumsfeld looked back to Vietnam with the determination to not misuse the military the same way. As a result he cleared the field of battle for a host of new blunders, both tactical and strategic.

Those against the Iraq war also look back to Vietnam and in the guise of learning from history, attach the same blinders as the original antiwar left: those that educated themselves to see the the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese as postcolonial victims, no matter the totalitarian foreign ideology that rode with them.

What set apart Churchill wasn't his historical knowledge (though he had that), but his historical (Victorian) principles: honor, courage, love of country.

By all accounts, subjective as he is as a politician and thinker, McCain embodies some of these principles.

Dave said...

Henry, one needn't try to live in the past to look at it for possible guidance for the future. In fact, one who refuses to look at the past in any depth is almost undoubtedly setting himself up for failure in the future. Why have to repeat the same mistakes over and over when history demonstrates the failure starkly.

The reason appears to be religion -- devotion to an ideal in the face of contradictory evidence. Thus, Leftism as an opiate of the intellectual classes.

Anyway, there's a reason that quote about those who fail to learn the lessons of history is so widely circulated.

Markets are quite possibly the best example of paying attention to the past while moving into the future. In, say, 1980, how many people believed that IBM would not be the dominant player in the computer industry for the next many decades. Creative destruction requires history as well as future, I think.

Dave said...

Henry, one needn't try to live in the past to look at it for possible guidance for the future. In fact, one who refuses to look at the past in any depth is almost undoubtedly setting himself up for failure in the future. Why have to repeat the same mistakes over and over when history demonstrates the failure starkly.

The reason appears to be religion -- devotion to an ideal in the face of contradictory evidence. Thus, Leftism as an opiate of the intellectual classes.

Anyway, there's a reason that quote about those who fail to learn the lessons of history is so widely circulated.

Markets are quite possibly the best example of paying attention to the past while moving into the future. In, say, 1980, how many people believed that IBM would not be the dominant player in the computer industry for the next many decades. Creative destruction requires history as well as future, I think.

chickenlittle said...

What you all seem to be debating here is nicely paralelled in the world of physics: you're talking about the branches known as statics vs. dynamics.

In chemistry one speaks of thermodynamics vs. kinetics.

In everyday life, it's stability vs change.

Can't be whole without them both, but you think about them separately.

Elliott A said...

Sadly, we can't know if anyone will be the next (fill in the blank) until they are challenged. This is where the greatness or mediocrity resides.

Pogo said...

Henry,
I agree; Paul Ormerud's Why Things Fail is a fantastic book.

Step Back said...

ChickenLil',

I like your post name.
Actually, we are not talking about physics or chemistry but rather about complex unpredictable systems (or hard to predict systems).

The human brain likes to simplify things and build small little models for itself to explain how the world works. A simple model might be: "If A happens then B is sure to follow". Example: let A=McCain becomes president, let B= USA goes to war with Iran.

The problem is that our models are full of holes and our brains are full of blind spots. We don't want to admit to any of this.

I'm currently reading through Taleb's "Black Swan" and can see why some may not like the book. There are parts where Nassim talks too much about himself (brags) rather than about the main topic (Black Swans that destroy our preconceived notions of how the world is).

Anyway, his is not the only treatise on the topic. There are probably many others that get the point across. Looking backwards doesn't mean you can predict what's coming your way. Some things are a once in history event: i.e. extinction of Neanderthal Man. I bet the conservative branch of Neanderhood didn't see it coming. They just wanted to stick to the old ways, to values, principles, all that tried and proven true stuff. :-)

madawaskan said...

Well the commonality between Roosevelt , Churchill and McCain [besides the military experience is that they vacillated between the polar opposites.

Both Churchill and Roosevelt switched parties-McCain is accused of wanting to do so, or being a quasi-Republican "the Gang of Fourteen" which is really kind of some title there aye?

Run that by some military guys and a lot of them have no idea what you are talking about-it's kind of like an inside baseball term.

You'll get in response "Gang of Four"-umm, no they aren't accusing him of that. It's ludicrous when you think of it in relation to that.