May 23, 2010

"[W]hat if we could just be China for a day?... You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions...."

"... and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment.  I don't want to be China for a second, OK, I want my democracy to work with the same authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness.  But right now we have a system that can only produce suboptimal solutions."

So said Thomas Friedman on "Meet the Press" today. And the funniest part of him saying that wasn't the horrible vision of America as a dictatorship.... though it must be hilarious to think of America as a dictatorship, because famous funnyman Woody Allen said it too: "It would be good… if [President Obama] could be dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly." Nor was it the fact that he said it and at the same time tried to deny that he was saying it with all that "I don't want to be China for a second, OK" business.

No, the funniest part was that he said it right after he deplored the way the political center has been "decimated" in part by the "an Internet where I can create a digital lynch mob against you from the left or right if I don't like where you're going." He's reminding us Internet folk of our lynch-mob powers and then throws us the rope to hang him with that wish that "we could just be China for a day." Come on, everybody, let's destroy Thomas Friedman for saying he knows all the "right solutions" and wishes — or would wish if he could get away with it — that we could have a dictatorship to get it done. 

A love of autocracy often lurks beneath the liberal veneer. There's this idea that the right answers are known and the people are just too deluded and distorted to see what they are and to vote for them. And Friedman openly deplores the internet, which decimates moderation because there are people like me who who persecute elite truthbearers like him. Ooh! It's a lynch mob. Ha. Sorry. I don't want the rope. I just want to laugh at you.

It's late now. Let me sign off with a crazy old song that supposed to be beautiful but that's really dreadful, the way Friedman's lament is dreadful:
If I ruled the world, every man would be as free as a bird,
Every voice would be a voice to be heard
Take my word we would treasure each day that occurred
My world would be a beautiful place
Where we would weave such wonderful dreams
My world would wear a smile on its face
Like the man in the moon has when the moon beams
If I ruled the world every man would say the world was his friend
There'd be happiness that no man could end
No my friend, not if I ruled the world
Every head would be held up high
There'd be sunshine in everyone's sky
If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world


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Seerak said...

"Imagine a giant Leftist cockroach, with unlimited strength, a massive inferiority complex, and a real short temper, is tear-assing around Manhattan Island in a brand-new liberal suit. That sound like fun? "

We've been having that sort of fun for well over a century now.

(With apologies to MiB)

Fen said...

It’s a pity that so how many people’s knowledge of “Atlas Shrugged” is based on a book review by a man who later admitted that he hadn’t actually read the book.

Same pattern with the Arizona Law.

Cant really blame them. Why bother reading the source material when you plan on creating myth anyway?

Seerak said...

This. I've been saying it here for as long as I've been posting here. The further you move to the left, the bigger the government until you reach totalitarianism. The further you move to the right, the smaller the government until you get anarchy. I don't know what's so hard about this to understand.

The flaw is that the political opposite of tyranny is liberty, not anarchy.

Anarchy, on the other hand, is not a political theory or position at all. It is the declaration that politics, as a field, does not exist (or to be more precise: it is the anarchist's declaration that answering the question of "how are men to live together" is too complex for him to answer -- so just declare the question invalid in the first place! Solved!)

Seerak said...

It’s a pity that so how many people’s knowledge of “Atlas Shrugged” is based on a book review by a man who later admitted that he hadn’t actually read the book.

That's one of the job requirements for "Ayn Rand critic".

Fen said...

Libtard: The question I raissed was why didn't he get off his lard ass and get the Louisiana national guard or other state workers or others period out there and get to work.

He did:

"I request that you approve funding for at least 90 days of military duty in Title 32 USC 502(f) status for up to 6,000 Soldiers and Airmen serving on active duty in support of our response to the threat of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to the State of Louisiana.

Currently the oil spill is projected to reach the coast of Louisiana today, April 29, 2010.

I am prepared to order the Louisiana National Guard to state active duty in order to respond to this threat to Louisiana’s fragile coast line."

Next Libtard....

HDHouse said...

Franklin said...
"Scratch a Liberal, find a fascist; scratch a conservative, find an anarchist"

ahhh what is next:

scratch your ass and you find a tea party?

scratch you back and you find Cheney?

scratch your head and you find Palin?

Scratch a color wheel and you find Dr. Paul?

Can you guys step it up a notch..this is pretty easy feasting tonight.

former law student said...

I found it sadly amusing that the Army Corps of Engineers wouldn't give Louisiana the go-ahead to create sand berms along their shores, because the Corps had to study and evaluate the environmental impact of constructing the berms.

The environmental impact. Of constructing sand berms to block the inflow of oil from the worst environmental disaster in years.

Maybe the Corps wanted to figure out if the proposed solution would work. And, having had to eat the blame for New Orleans, they might want to look for possible major flaws before they allowed it. When it comes to solutions for major environmental problems, simplicity is no guarantee of success. In fact, simple, obvious solutions often make the problem worse, or simply transfer the problem from one area to another. Consider the failure of simple, obvious solutions to beach erosion -- note that sand moves away from where you want it to be extremely easily:

Scott M said...


ahhh what is next:

...snark from you, apparently, instead of you debating the real issue which the quote outlines very efficiently.


The flaw is that the political opposite of tyranny is liberty, not anarchy.

Tyranny is a bit nebulous as a concept. Totalitarianism describes a system of government in which the government has ALL the power. Anarchy is opposite, in which there is no sovereign power at all, government or people...the wild west, in other words.

The problem those decrying the limited government movement we see growing in the country have is trying to claim, for instance, that the Tea Party activists are all anarchists. No conservative I know what eradication of all government. Sticking to the Constitution would suite just fine.

Scott M said...

er, uh, "what" should be "wants"


Roger J. said...

House: you remain the consummate idiot--Do a bit of research on the stafford act, the insurrection act, and the national response framework. You are about the most pathetically ignorant commenter on this blog--Jeremy makes you look like the president of the local Mensa chapter.

Seven Machos said...

I'd be interested in seeing the part where Chambers said he didn't read Atlas Shrugged.

The Bear said...

At the heart of every true Progressive is...Stalin.

A desire to inflict that person's child-like vision of paradise coupled with a childish response to opposition - screaming and kicking and caterwauling which, if given real power manifests itself in gulags and thought-police.

Nate Whilk said...

"It was only AFTER the Soviet régime became unmistakably totalitarian that English intellectuals, in large numbers, began to show an interest in it. Burnham, although the English russophile intelligentsia would repudiate him, is really voicing their secret wish: the wish to destroy the old, equalitarian version of Socialism and usher in a hierarchical society where the intellectual can at last get his hands on the whip."

George Orwell, "James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution", aka "Second Thoughts on James Burnham" (1946)

The Monster said...

Whittaker Chambers' gas is one of those dog-whistle things like "you lie BOY!", "I can see Russia from my house", or "the Arizona law says cops can round people up because they're brown and have an accent".

Taking his fantasies as a basis for attacking Rand reminds me of the time The Bride of Monster whacked me in the middle of the night because of something she dreamt that I did, or Joy(less) Behar's unsubstantiated allegations that Senator Johnson's medical condition had somehow been caused by Rethuglikkkan dirty tricks, because "I know what... this party is capable of". When all you know about Atlas Shrugged is what someone else said about it, you know Jack Schidt, and you should STFU.

The Sanity Inspector said...

The thing that admirers of what they imagine to be benevolent despots forget is this: When dictators close off the public input loop and just bull ahead, they can do as much untold harm as whatever good they might do. There was no public brake on the Soviet Union's industrial diktats, so they wound up with dustbowls, Chernobyl, and the withered Aral Sea. There are villages in China whose groundwater is poisoned by industrial chemicals--and the voiceless inhabitants are forbidden to move away. Friedman & Co.'s daydreaming that surely they, their own anointed selves, would get things right, betrays a monumental lack of respect for the American people, and an equally monumental inflated sense of their own probity.

Cedarford said...

There is some truth to the wishes that we just have a system that "is capable of getting something done".

America is ossified, uncompetitive. In lawyer and political gridlock. Urgently needed things go unadressed of stifled for decades in court or in committee. America also knows that "things really get done" here only when wars happen, we are in a Depression, or cities burn. Or when "good cabals" that control matters can effectively take charge (Defy the laws and Parliament, have appointed people write a Constitution when the laws and Congress of the day are overthrown. Bankers decide railroads are needed and draw lines, the military decides we need an interstate highway system and will brook no court challenges to eminent domain.)

And we see the autocratic capitalism system of nations like Japan, Singapore, China, Fascist Italy DO work very well.

The bone is that people shy from that because they reasonably conclude that they will not be in charge.
But may just go for it in a nation that is in decline, cannot control its Borders, ships it's good jobs overseas, has no energy or entitlements policy. And which they conclude is already run by an unaccountable ruling elite that does want Open Borders, half of Goldman Sachs in government while the other half works on the next financial bubble. That they really do want our jobs shipped to China and 7 dollar a gallon gasoline.

Other democracies have failed. And historians don't blame it on the ascendent autority figure so much as the collective failure of the people to run their democracy well.

It could happen in America. If it does, I hope it is the military in charge rather than an idiot from the Left or the Right.

atlharp said...

Autocracy would be a good way to describe editors and newsrooms for years. The dictatorial power of editors and newsrooms to decide what made news and what didn't put a tremendous amount of power in the hands of people like Friedman who saw it as their birth right to decide what you and I knew. When Friedman swoons at the idea of autocracy, he isn't think about how wonderful it would be, he is thinking about how wonderful it was. This is nothing new....there is a reason why the Times hired men like Friedman and Walter Duranty. It is because it furthered their aims to have people who were willing decievers and liars on their payroll to do their bidding. The lusts of their they will do...

Seven Machos said...

I was enraptured by Atlas Shrugged. I read the thing in a few days because I could not put it down.

...Still waiting for any kind of indication from any source that Chambers did not read the book he reviewed. That's not like Chambers at all.

Joe said...

And we see the autocratic capitalism system of nations like Japan, Singapore, China, Fascist Italy DO work very well.

We DO, one is kaput, China is on a bubble about to burst, and Japan underwent a ten year recession, but beyond that I see your point.

Paul Ciotti said...

Liberals have always had a soft spot for dictatorships when their party is running the show. During the depression, the esteemed political writer, Water Lipmann. told Roosevelt: "The situation is critical, Franklin. You may have no alternative but to assume dictatorial powers,"

In the meantime Eleanor Roosevelt was sweetly purring over morning coffee that what the country needed just then was a "benevolent dictator."

I don't know what it is about people on the left. Praise for dictators falls so easily from their lips.

Seven Machos said...

Jesus, Fen. Are you dense? There's no actual passage that says get to a gas chamber.

Read the review. Read something. Then bloviate.

George said...

How awful. FLS defends a bloody, bloody monster with legalistic simplicity. Read Mao's good books, don't pay attention to his piles of corpses.

Its just like a lawyer defending a child pornographer. Your honor, that's not a picture of a 6 year old being violated, its just electrons on a hard drive....

Place your selve firmly on the side of the monsters FLS, we read you loud and clear.

Its kind of like the movie "Its a Wonderful Life". Everytime a liberal defends a tyrant (Pol Pot, Mugabe, Coseascue, Mao, Stalin, Castro, Chavez) a patriot buys another box of .45 ammunition.

George said...

---Read the review. Read something. Then bloviate ---

Those who can, do. Those who can't write. Those who can't write write reviews. Those who admire those who write reviews... are pathetic.

former law student said...

George -- kindly do not mistake me for the hypothetical 60s American leftists who are the subject of the discussion I've been having.

Seven Machos said...

Those who can, do. Those who can't write.

George -- Like Ayn Rand maybe? Do you know anything about Whittaker Chambers? He did not write novels. He lived them. If ever a man did, he certainly is that man.

You, sir, are really, really stupid.

Largo said...

...Still waiting for any kind of indication from any source that Chambers did not read the book he reviewed. That's not like Chambers at all.

I would like to know too. Chambers appears to have read at least something of the book. Where he is wrong, he in not wrong in the way of many who in denouncing the book misconstrue its events and plot.

Let me criticize one passage:

"""[By] man's noblest activity, she means, almost exclusively, technological achievement, supervised by such a managerial political bureau. She might object that she means much, much more; and we can freely entertain her objections...."""

What I have bolded would be anathema to Rand. For her, productivity could be multiplied my teamwork (through firms as well as trade), but never managed by bureaucracy. To say that Rand meant this is to grossly misrepresent her. Unless...

"""...But, in sum, that is just what she means. For that is what, in reality, it works out to. And in reality, too, by contrast with fiction, this can only head into a dictatorship."""

Chambers offers no reason for thinking so. Perhaps he is right, and that "reality" in contrast to "fiction" would turn her efforts to achieve one goal into the creation of the opposite. But in saying "man's noblest activity" to her means something "supervised by [a] managerial political bureau" is grossly misleading. In doing so, he also injects his own opinions of economic and social cause and effect as underlying matters of fact.

If he were writing a political or economic essay, it would be appropriate to opine on such causes, hopefully with argument to help us agree with him. But it is a serious failing here, in what is meant to be a review. But perhaps it's failure as a review is of no consequence to Chamber, if his hope was for it to be successful as something else.

Seven Machos said...

Largo -- As I say, Rand deeply affected me as a younger person. There's no question that how I think borrows a great deal from her to this day.

At the end of the day, I think that she was an auto-didactic who was herself raised in the vortex of Marxism. Her philosophy works out to Marxism subverted -- the materialism of Marxism is all there but "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is just turned on its head with a whole lot of Nietzsche thrown in.

The parts you quibble with I quibble with, too. But, you have to ask yourself: if we are to take this philosophy or any philosophies seriously, we have to ask ourselves: how would they be implemented?

It's really sad that we had to find out with communism and continue to find out with socialism. Whatever the difference is between those two isms.

dick said...


You should read the news. Even your newspapers are reporting that Jindal (the gov) has his work crews working on the shores of the gulf to protect the state from the gulf spill. He is, in fact, doing what Haley Barbour did after Katrina, get the state working on the problems to clean things up. Jindal realizes that he cannot depend on Obama and his FEMA crews to do their jobs. Obama and his crews want to spend all their time planning and none of the time actually doing.

Fen said...

Jesus, Fen. Are you dense?

No. Are you?

There's no actual passage that says get to a gas chamber.

No really? Whats next, you going to explain the concept of symbolism to me?

How about explaining where he sees the gas chamber metaphors. Provide examples.

And I guess I should qualify for your thick skull that I'm not expecting a literal passage about gas chambers. My bad for not doing it sooner - I gave you credit for being more intelligent.

Seven Machos said...

Fen -- Read the review, man. It's all there.

dick said...


But it is the 60's actual leftists you are supporting here - your Friedman, Allen, etc, are the 60's leftists who supported Mao and his Little Red Book. You sainted leader is a product of those hippies and he was educated by them as a child. Where do you think this whole dictatorship talk came from. The hippies and other leftists of the day were arguing whether to support Mao or the Soviet Union and which one would be better for Ho CHi Minh. They had arguments over whether China or the Soviets were supporting Pol Pot. That was the basis for what they wanted. You must not have been there or else you were not paying any attention. It actually went back further than the 60's. I was in college in the late 50's and there were plenty of professors and Beatniks who were in favor of the Soviets then. When Castro took over there were a lot of parties held in the colleges about that and many students went around with armbands supporting him in his early days. Those same people later wore the Che shirts and had the posters on the walls. That was what was going on then.

Largo said...

The parts you quibble with I quibble with, too. But, you have to ask yourself: if we are to take this philosophy or any philosophies seriously, we have to ask ourselves: how would they be implemented?

Seven -- I think we could make an imperfect--but significant and useful--distinction between philosophies that we can live out on and implement on our own (at least insofar as surrounding society lets us) and philosophies whose nature is to be implemented on a broad scale.

Society may constrain how you and I might chose to live and play and run our businesses and raise our children, but insofar as we can do these things as a Catholic, libertarian, Objectivist, Amish, philanthropist, curmedgeon, or whatever, such philosophies do not cause be to worry.

If the only meaningful implementation of a philosophy requires force, then I worry; especially so when the philosophy is one who sees society as an organism greater than its members.

As I said, it is am imperfect distinction. If there is a "need" for government health inspectors regulating our trade of food, then a philosophy that concerns itself with this may, might prevent you from selling me the unpasteurized milk I love so much. Perhaps there is no need for regulating milk in some corner cases, but the cost of making exceptions in these cases is too high. So we sacrifice what is truly a harmless liberty in great of a larger good.

Largo said...

This I understand. To what extent I would approve (if I would approve at all) would perhaps be very contextual. But I can appreciate a philosophy that says (or allows) saying "we need to keep the food supply safe".

If the philosophy, or the attitudes around it, is "some things, alas, do need to be done, but there really needs to be a reason for it", we might be ok. But if the thinking is "there are many things that would be good to do, so lets do them" -- that is, well, concerning.

I am not an anarchist, and I will say the state has needs. Defense and courts. Maybe highways and meat inspectors too. I'm open. Does the government need highways? No. Do the people need highways? We can quibble about what "the people" and "need" mean, but sure, ok. So the government can make regulations because the people (or the public or some such thing) needs it.

However when it comes to smoking, does "the public" need smokers to quit? No. Does "the public" need smoke free restaurants? Well, does it need restaurants at all? They are a convenience, an entertainment, but rarely a necessity. But.... OK, I'll go along. Sure. The public needs smoking be prohibited from restaurants. Now, what of the beach? Covered transit junctions? Open air transit junctions? Your own car? Your own car if you use it for business, even if you only drive alone? Your home office, if you do work from home?

A dangerous impulse is to try to control a person's behavior for their own good, beyond "societal need." I'm telling you nothing here, Seven, that you don't already know, I am sure. But you are prompting me to work out my own thoughts here as it relates to "philosophies" that might be implemented. Is there a political philosophy that allows restriction on liberty for the common good (assuming there is need for this to some degree), but that deters this "nanny" impulse? How can the political notion of "the public good" be constrained within a system, to prevent it from being used as pretext for allowing the exercise if this impulse? What counter-mechanism can be implemented to show that there is no public interest served in forbidding me from smoking in my own home, or up in the hills? Or for my eating a high fat meal, notwithstanding the government (by its choice) underwriting much of my future medical expenses?

Maybe trans-fats should be banned. Maybe restaurants salt shakers with more than three holes should be banned. Maybe bars should be limited to serving patrons three drinks in any evening. There may be some reasonable restrictions, and I am here granting that, ok, what seems to me the most onerous and ridiculous restrictions might be ok. Because that is not what I am arguing about here.

What concerns me, as I mentioned before, is whether there is any countermechanism, theoretical (in philosophy) or practical (in implementation) than can constrain the impulse. Because it seems to be that restrictions work like a ratchet. Foolish regulation is sometimes repealed, but such repeal is occasional and ad hoc.

This is what concerns me right now about political philosophy and its implementation. Half an hour ago, these concerns were real, but vague at best. They are clearer to me now, thanks to your comments that got me thinking about it.

Unfortunately it has become an essay (and what is worse, an unedited first draft) That's taking up two whole comments. An abuse of the thread I suspect. (Ann, please delete if you consider this too abusive.) But you got me thinking, and sometimes I can't stop.

I don't expect (in a normative sense) for you to have read all of this. If you did, I hope I made some sense to you.

As to the your paragraph which I quoted at the top: I'm with you completely.

wv: "cancers" really! Perhaps it's blogspot's way of telling me that my comment has metastasized.

Seven Machos said...

Largo -- In my own philosophical trek, I have come around to the conclusion that the most important thing is local control. (As an aside, I got here largely by having to write a long, heavily-footnoted paper on the ways judges are selected throughout the country.)

I realize that local control isn't always possible. As Americans, we do have certain principles that cannot be breached. Most everybody gets to vote. Racial and religious discrimination are verboten. Etc. But that's really a limited set. For most things, people should be free to decide how they want to live their lives in the places where they live their lives.

For example, here in Chicago, we have a blanket ban on smoking in bars. I enjoy it very much, though I feel ethically queasy about it. There are better ways to handle it than a blanket ban. The fact is, though, that nobody complains much about the law, at least not enough to make a political stand. The important part is that it's local. We are governing ourselves democratically, at a level where we can individually make a difference. That's the best human beings are going to get.

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