Little Republics & Little Platoons

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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132 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I don’t have any kids (four cats, baby!) and so all of my speculations on parenting are far, far closer to “totally ignorant” than not. With that said… LET’S SPECULATE!!!

    It seems to me that the job of the parent is to make sure that the infant is held, allowed to sleep, be fed, and kept clean.

    The job of the parent is to make sure that the toddler is taught to crawl then walk then run, taught to speak, taught to sing, taught to read, taught to share, taught basic impulse control, and, of course, held, allowed to sleep, be fed, and kept clean.

    The job of the parent is to make sure that the child is taught to sit quietly, play outside, feed himorherself (not, like, totally but make a sandwich, use a microwave, pour cereal), relate with others, be friendly, stand up for oneself, intermediate impulse control, and myriad social skills. Of course, be held, allowed to sleep, be fed, and kept clean.

    The job of the parent is to make sure that the teenager is taught to restrain his or her impulses. Seriously. Impulse control. IMPULSE CONTROL. More intermediate cooking skills, job responsibilities, more social skills, more relating to others, and IMPULSE CONTROL I MEAN IT. Holding, sleeping, feeding, and keeping clean is important but this is out of the hands of the parents at this point.

    The job of the parent is to make sure that the adult that leaves the nest is capable of holding a job, relating to others, standing up on one’s own, impulse control, and, perhaps, being capable of doing all this with their own child.

    *NOW*, to get to the point… how off is this? I ask because you, Erik, are a parent. (And if there are other parents in here chime in! Tell me what I got wrong and how wrong I got it!)

    If it’s completely and totally off, this next part just needs to be tossed out completely because it’s predicated on the first part.

    It seems to me that a government that focuses on making sure that people are fed and allowed to sleep and kept clean is arresting their development as human beings. A government that treats individuals like children or adolescents is arresting their development as well… and this creates a feedback loop.Report

    • Avatar gregiank in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Which certainly explains why Norway and Sweden and Germany and etc are hell holes that are falling apart.

      So if said you were a libertarian who wanted homeless people to die in the gutter and kids to die because they couldn’t get health care: well then what? How dare a gov make sure hungry people have a bureaucratic process where some people can get aid so they don’t starve….oh the humanity. But its THOSE PEOPLE who the EVIL GOVERNMENT just won’t let grow up that cause the problems.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to gregiank
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        says:

        So if said you were a libertarian who wanted homeless people to die in the gutter and kids to die because they couldn’t get health care: well then what?

        I’d probably tell you to get in line.

        I’d also wonder why you’d turn an observation like “it seems to me that the result of policy X would be outcome Y” into “YOU ARE A WHO WANTS THE FOLLOWING BAD THINGS AND IS INDIFFERENT TO GOOD THINGS! ALSO I LEAVE NOUNS OUT!”Report

      • Avatar Simon K in reply to gregiank
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        says:

        I think Jay’s point applies more to the US and less to Norway, Sweden etc. The peculiar characteristic of the US welfare state isn’t its meanness(its actually not that mean once you consider all programs), but its patchy, fussy, controll-freakishness. I mean, you get unemployment if you had a certain kind of job and lost it under certain circumstances and at a certain time. You get assistance if you’re really destitute, but you have to use it to buy food, and only certain kinds of food that we approve of. You get social security if you can’t work any more, but you have to at least done a certain amount of work, because we don’t want to support useless people who’ve always been useless. We’ll pay you and protect your job while you look after your baby, but you have to have a job. Because we wouldn’t want people to just stop working, would we? Its just crazy. And thats just the entitlement programs. Don’t get me started on the tax system – the entire withholding system is a tax on people who can’t handle bureaucracy and do math simultaneously.

        In places where the welfare state is more universal, its simultaneously much less controlling.Report

        • Avatar Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony in reply to Simon K
          Ignored
          says:

          So, you are saying you want being on the dole to be a more pleasant experience? Really?! Incentives matter. Welfare should be unpleasant so that people are very anxious to get off of it. People being deprived the freedom to buy junk food in exchange for tax payers paying for their food is a great incentive to get off of welfare.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I’m not sure your analogy quite holds up though there is truth to it. I think it makes more sense to think of local governments and communities as families who know best how to deal with their own problems. Sometimes these may include feeding the hungry; sometimes too this will mean looking to the ‘extended family’s for help.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to E.D. Kain
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        says:

        Well, there are people who have had bad (and I don’t just mean “inept”) parents who have turned out to be absolutely amazing people (and amazing parents) in their own right.

        There are also people who have had really awesome parents and they, somehow, ended up being pretty crappy human beings.

        There is nowhere *NEAR* a 1:1 thing going on here.

        But it is true that most of the really good parents I know ended up raising really good kids. And it makes sense to me that really substandard parents would be a lot more likely to raise a substandard child.Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      The assessment of parenthood isn’t so far off. That’s the basic job.

      Optimally, you also want to encourage your child to expand their capabilities. I prefer to point out continuously that “There’s water over *there*, and over *there*, and hey if you’re having fun just doing that thing you’re doing that’s okay too” rather than leading the horse to the pond and shoving his nose in there.

      > It seems to me that a government that focuses on making
      > sure that people are fed and allowed to sleep and kept clean
      > is arresting their development as human beings.

      Maybe. Maybe not so much if they’re not currently able to feed themselves or keep themselves clean, though, yes? This is where E.D.’s support of safety nets comes from.

      Do you think the government “focuses” on this? Or is this just something else it does? Is it okay for them to do it at all? Or is it inevitable that this will lead to persistent welfarism?

      > A government that treats individuals like children or
      > adolescents is arresting their development as well…
      > and this creates a feedback loop.

      That I’ll buy. However, having the government *only* treat individuals like adults (which seems to be where you’re going with this) doesn’t really work all that well if a large portion of the individuals don’t act like adults.

      We don’t have a “prove you can wipe your own ass” test to participate.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Pat Cahalan
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        says:

        Do you think the government “focuses” on this? Or is this just something else it does? Is it okay for them to do it at all? Or is it inevitable that this will lead to persistent welfarism?

        One at a time.

        Much more than prior to LBJ (and much much more than prior to FDR).
        Yes, it is one of its myriad foci but it’s taking up a larger and larger chunk.
        At all? That’s camel’s nose if ever I saw one. “Now we’re haggling.”
        Is there any persistent welfarism at all? What amount of persistent welfarism, if any, is acceptable?Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          > Much more than prior to LBJ (and much much more than
          > prior to FDR).

          That’s fair.

          > At all? That’s camel’s nose if ever I saw one.

          Every once in a while I like to throw an obvious grenade at you, just to see if you’re awake.

          > Is there any persistent welfarism at all?

          For the record, I’d say that there’s some, yes.

          > What amount of persistent welfarism, if any, is acceptable?

          “Enough that those that will be persistent welfarists regardless of steps taken to reduce persistent welfarism are happier on the dole than they are robbing my house”.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          What amount of persistent welfarism, if any, is acceptable?

          Little enough that the damage done by it is less than the good done by giving people a temporary leg up when they need it.Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I can’t speak about the accuracy of the description of parenting, but I think your government analogy is a little too much of a blunt instrument as phrased. But the direction you’re heading reminds me a lot of James Poulos’ description of a “Pink Police State,” as “the state as cool parent, with a stripper pole in every pot,” where citizens are “apt to surrender more and more political liberty in exchange for more and more cultural or ‘personal’ license. And the government of a Pink Police State tends to monopolize and totalize administrative control while carving out a permissive playpen for the people.”

      Now, while I’m not entirely convinced of Poulos’ language (which is, think, important to the specific point he’s after), I brought in that short summary to point out that I don’t think the problem with governmental paternalism is in the idea of a SAFETY NET so much as if it creates, encourages, or allows the expectation that you don’t have to worry about providing for yourself, because IT is there — in the same way that children do not need to worry about working, providing, etc. (This, too, is too blunt a point.) But think about the people who have trouble shifting from adolescence into adulthood. From my experience, at least, they aren’t the ones who parents necessarily WANT to continue to treat them like children; they’re the ones who themselves EXPECT that their parents will (or are obligated to) continue to treat them like children/adolescents re: necessities, while giving them what they believe is “adult” autonomy on personal matters/”lifestyle choices.”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to J.L. Wall
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        says:

        From my experience, at least, they aren’t the ones who parents necessarily WANT to continue to treat them like children; they’re the ones who themselves EXPECT that their parents will (or are obligated to) continue to treat them like children/adolescents re: necessities, while giving them what they believe is “adult” autonomy on personal matters/”lifestyle choices.”

        Can that be mitigated against? At all?

        If at a personal level, can it be mitigated against on a city (or higher) level?Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to J.L. Wall
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        says:

        Learned helplessness. I see it all the time. I would probably demonstrate it myself were my wife to let me get away with it.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      JB- As a parent, I’m not sure you’re analogy quite works (close, but not quite). In fact, it may have the opposite effect of what you were arguing.

      It’s true that I don’t coddle my boys because I want to help them learn to be self-reliant.

      But if they’re 22 and lose their job and apartment and have nowhere to go, and I going to open my home and pantry, and maybe even write a check? Or as a parent am I going to let them live in the street with no food so they can “think good and hard about why you lost their job, you man.” You’ve just made conservative little me into a socialist.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to RTod
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        says:

        But if they’re 22 and lose their job and apartment and have nowhere to go, and I going to open my home and pantry, and maybe even write a check?

        That’s *AWESOME*. That’s great.

        The problem is that the government cannot distinguish between 22 and losing a job and apartment and having nowhere to go and being 22 and never having left (with no intention to ever leave).

        If you are a parent and your kid is 22 and still hasn’t left, what then? Still won’t get a job, what then?

        Is there a point at which you might feel it justified to kick the kid out of the nest? Ever?Report

        • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          Question what if our lazy good for nothing child get cancer.

          Likely from the fact that he has spent all of his time since turning 15 smoking and playing various versions of halo in the basement.

          Should I let him fend for himself or pay for his chemo?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy
            Ignored
            says:

            What if it’s my kid?

            Should you let him fend for himself or should you pay for his chemo?

            Or let’s say that it’s the kid of someone you’ve never met and neither you nor I pay enough taxes to take care of this kid.

            Should you let him fend for himself or should you force someone else to pay for his chemo?Report

            • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              In a word: Yes.

              Letting him die is monstrous in would of yacht’s, miniature gamers, and Lady Gaga performances. If we were living in world where we were barely making it and using the resources on him meant that someone else would die then we have a sticky situation.

              The free market and evolution are both really good at optimizing designs for efficiency and survival. But neither one gives a damn about the individual creatures involved or their suffering. Interestingly both depend on some of the creatures/orgs subject to them losing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                How many people is this person you’ve never letting die, Pirate?

                Right now?

                How many children could he be helping at a Childrens’ Hospital? A little facepaint and a used PS2 would help a *LOT* of kids and wouldn’t even take that much out of him.

                How many people in India could benefit from her taking an EMT course and spending a couple of years over there just teaching people how to make water potable?

                How many kids could be helped by his showing up at the Big Brothers/Big Sisters tonight and just playing ping pong?

                Couldn’t we be doing so much more to make this person we’ve never met help even more people?

                How many people are you and I letting die *RIGHT NOW* by our failure to make this person we’ve never met help more?Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Reload, Jay, because you’re losing me. (I’ve been with you up till now.) Is the knowledge that you will never be able to help everyone really an argument for not helping anyone at all?Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                And it isn’t as if I’m imposing a huge obliogation either.

                I’m saying that in a country where the infrastructure is already built up it is wrong to tell someone sorry we could save your life but we are going to let you die for budgetary reasons.

                Your saying it is more wrong to tax the person buying the yacht, miniatures, or lady gaga tickets.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to ThatPirateGuy
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                says:

                Here I can agree with you. And I think that’s cause the government is a means, and we can agree disagree over whether its a good or bad means to achieve a certain end, and still agree that the end is moral.

                I kind of jumped into your and Pirate’s back and forth. What are we trying to force the government to make other people do?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m at the point where I’m wondering about the wacky morality of forcing people you don’t know to help people you don’t know and considering that a particularly moral decision.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                With great power comes great responsibility.

                You want great wealth then you just asked for great responsibility. So it become depraved of you to then turn back on one of your (all living things are very distant cousins)cousins and say your too lazy for me to let you live so you don’t get chemo.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                By the way you just described medicare as more immoral than letting old people who didn’t save enough die.

                I.e. taxes(which will never ever go away) are worse than death panels.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Moral intuitions are often wrong (i.e. they can be tricked by logic thought experiments, tests, etc.)

                Why should morality be based on personal contact?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Why should morality be based on personal contact?

                Because Milgram strikes me as more likely than not.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “Because Milgram strikes me as more likely than not.”

                Yes, except that Zimbardo suggests that it ain’t the proximity or amount of personal contact/Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m not sure I understand the intervening reasoning.

                How does that follow from Milgram?Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I think JB means that when people are in the other room and you don’t have to look them in the eye you have no problem hurting them.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Exactly, so our moral intuitions/sensibilities are based on personal contact, but that leads to obvious contradictions/inconsistencies.

                I don’t quite understand why Milgram is evidence to support basing morality on that, as oppose to demonstrating that a morality based on personal contact leaves gaping holes for immoral acts.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Good thing for Jay that he isn’t in the room with that lazing smoking kid when they tell him that he needs chemo and they won’t give it to him.

                Because I know I could be in the room when I say we should spend our money on health care not wars.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I imagine that it’s not only easy to hurt someone who is in another room entirely, it’s easy to take from them in the name of morality.

                A guy in a white coat telling you the rules suggest the button be pushed is much more menacing than a guy telling you that by pushing the button you’ll be able to make eye contact with a person with cancer that, co-incidentally, you’ll also never meet.

                Hell! It’d be downright immoral to *NOT* push the button! What kind of monster wouldn’t push the button?

                We could extend the lives of the elderly! We could make the blind to see! We could cure cancer in 22-year olds! Hell, in children!

                And all we have to do is push a button.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Right, but morality entails not just falling commands blindly either.

                You’ve substituted a straw man morality in order to attack it in this case.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Relying on them to be in the room is not a failsafe. The fact that we could act immorally if they were not in the room shows that morality must be based on something other than personal contact.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Not really.

                It seems to me that “morality”, for a lot of people, involves using the government to force people they’ve never met to help people they’ve never met.

                Indeed, downright immoral to *NOT* use government to do this.

                This strikes me as, if not immoral, at the very least fraught with hazard and waaaaaaay too much self-congratulation.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Put it in the wrong section.

                Here I can agree with you. And I think that’s cause the government is a means, and we can agree disagree over whether its a good or bad means to achieve a certain end, and still agree that the end is moral.

                I kind of jumped into your and Pirate’s back and forth. What are we trying to force the government to make other people do?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Here’s the punchline both to Milgram and to my little analogy:

                The button isn’t connected to anything.

                Hey, by pushing the button, we claim to be saving a child! But, of course, we’re not. Though… we *ARE* raising taxes on another guy and that money will be going to bail out some pensions, maybe pay for some torpedo real-time telemetry software for use in the Indian Ocean, maybe pay for the leather chairs for the floor in charge of choosing the contract to pick which torpedo real-time telemetry software company will get the Indian Ocean contract…

                But it’s always sold as saving children with cancer or the elderly and, at the same time, it’s always sold as something that only immoral people would refuse to do.

                Push the button and pay for leather chairs.

                Are you going to push the button? How about if I told you that it would save a child? Teach a child to read? Send a child to medical school where she will learn how to cure cancer!!!

                You can’t do that by pushing a button, of course.

                Nor are you particularly likely to do it by making someone you’ve never met pay more money to the government.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “Nor are you particularly likely to do it by making someone you’ve never met pay more money to the government.”

                So what was your argument for why paying more in taxes is like sitting alone in a room pushing imaginary buttons?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                So what was your argument for why paying more in taxes is like sitting alone in a room pushing imaginary buttons?

                My comparison was to Milgram.

                Instead of a researcher telling you that the rules say that you administer an electric shock, you have a group of folks telling you that, by pushing this button, you will be saving children.

                The establishment of a welfare state, I argued, was going to result in a lot of arrested development.

                Indeed, I think that the war on poverty did a greal deal of damage… but even talking about arresting development has resulted in, among other things, accusations against my moral stature.

                And what was it that I was refusing to do?

                Force someone I’ve never met to help someone else I’ve never met.

                Once we start talking about setting policies to force people we’ve never met to help people we’ve never met, we can start imagining all sorts of wacky stuff. The people we’re making spend more in taxes will just have to be entertained less! The people we’re helping will die otherwise! We’re moral by doing this!

                When, really, we’re not doing anything at all (though we certainly think we are).

                The closest analogy to not doing anything at all (but thinking we are) that I was able to come up with was Milgram.

                And then I switched the mindset of the button pusher from “doing something arguably evil” to “doing something arguably good”.

                That was my argument.

                Fundamentally flawed?Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I’m just confused, cause it seems like you are talking in one instance about moral values, and in another instance about efficacy.

                People could be morally obligated to help others, and just be mistaken as to whether their help is actually helping. I grant that.

                But that doesn’t argue against any fundamental moral value to helping others. Just about better understanding of welfare policy, social psychology, personal development, etc.

                But I am right that you are making the claim that higher taxes to fund welfare programs do not help anyone (feed, cloth, keep alive..)?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Are we talking about helping others?

                Or are we talking about forcing people we’ve never met to help other people we’ve never met?

                Because those seem to me to be *EXCEPTIONALLY* different propositions and we’re talking about them as if they’re functionally identical.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I guess you’d have to define what it means to “help” another person.

                I’ll substitute “improving their position” to generally get at the aim behind state funded welfare.

                So if you believe that this arrests them developmentally, then you wouldn’t actually think their position is being improved. That’s one thing.

                But say hypothetically, that doing x directly helps a person, while doing y indirectly helps a person. I recognize the difference between x and y in many ways. But I don’t grant that any of those differences do anything to diminish the moral obligatory-ness (ugh) of doing either one.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                That seems to me to be a way to absolve oneself absolutely.

                That person ended up dying?

                Hey, I argued for health care and higher taxes. I did my part. It was those other people who didn’t do theirs.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Saying that one must argue in favor of those policies (assuming they do in fact achieve some of their ends, and that those ends are moral), is not to absolve them of having to do anything else.

                I agree, that many people use the “I pay my taxes” as an excuse to do charity work, volunteer time, etc. but a lot of other people don’t do their part either, and should not be absolved either.

                With great wealth comes great responsibility.Report

        • Avatar gregiank in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          Perhaps the Gov should have some sort of metrics or data to help determine if a person deserves help. Or they could go with the safe decision and do nothing. Really the thought that some bad, no good person might get away with something is just to much to handle….i mean a lazy person driving a Cadilac and eating T-Bone’s on the Gov dime….better off to do nothing really.Report

        • Avatar RTod in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          I wonder if you haven’t just hit the true difference between conservatives and liberals when it comes to safety nets:

          Conservatives: people who believe the system is set up for and dominated by kids who still live at home, with the unemployed 22 year old being the exception.

          Liberals: vise versaReport

          • Avatar mark boggs in reply to RTod
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            says:

            And I don’t think the argument comes down to government / no government, but at what level government has the most power. I read Smith’s piece to say that things being done on smaller levels is where the real amount of freedom exists and is usually where we might find the wisest course of action rather than being “one-size fits all-ed” from a centralized bureaucracy.Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      There’s one question, the answers to which I think informs us of where one stands on the social welfare issue.

      Is helping the people who genuinely need help to get back on their feet, and then do get back on there feet, worth helping those who don’t need/will continue to bum off the system?

      If one thinks it is worth it, then the question isn’t “to welfare or not to welfare,” but rather, “how much can we afford to welfare.”

      Part of that, how much can we afford to welfare question, could include how much are we willing to spend trying to figure out who really needs it and who doesn’t. In this way it’s similar to mental care. If enough people were employed to do very thorough evaluations of and follow ups with patients, it would help (not fix) the problem of those who feign suicide to get a bed vs. those who are actually ill.

      It’s also similar to people who are against the death penalty because of the innocence issue. Do we kill them all and just say, hey, there’s always going to be some that get caught up by accident (bad police investigations, bad legal representation), or decide that we think it is worth it to spend the money keeping all of them incarcerated, keeping the innocent alive, but also the guilty, and at the expense of the taxpayer?Report

  2. Avatar Dennis Sanders
    Ignored
    says:

    Walter Russell Mead has been blogging about little “l” liberalism and how it has to change. You should give him a read sometime.

    I never feel that I am up to snuff to run with the big boys on this blog, but my take on this is that we are moving towards a “facebook world.” What I mean is that it is more based on networks than on something that is centralized. I think centralization had its place in the 20th century, but changes in society have made put big centralized institutions in decline. As a pastor, I think that’s why mainline churches are failing. They were designed for mass culture, and mass culture is vanishing. It’s also why my home state of Michigan which was home to one of the most well-known mass industries is not doing so well.

    I think that governing will have to be more about networks than about centralized beauacracies, but the problems that I see are how to do that in a nation of over 300 million and how to encourage this new way of thinking. Modern Democrats, schooled in the legacy of the New Deal are tied to a more centralized way of thinking.

    Just my two centsReport

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Dennis Sanders
      Ignored
      says:

      Dennis, all very good points. The tech and communications gains provide an interesting counterpoint to other centralizing forces to be sure and one we are still trying to fully understand.Report

    • My take on this is that we are moving towards a “facebook world.” What I mean is that it is more based on networks than on something that is centralized. I think centralization had its place in the 20th century, but changes in society have made put big centralized institutions in decline.

      I almost fully agree with you, Dennis–almost. Where I disagree is that a decentralization that isn’t conducted in light of, and indeed contributes to, some kind of shoring-up of identity, or constructing of community, is almost invariably going to result in different component parts of our economy, our culture, our way of life, being picked out, bought out, privatized and corporatized. In this way, decentralization lowers the resistance of democratically engaged citizens, by dividing their interests and increasing the power of the appeals of focused special-interest groups to buy out one part of their collective lives or another, one bit at a time.

      And so, I’m a localist, but a left localist–I want to come up with whatever kind of communitarian compromises which empower while they decentralize. I have no clear idea how to make that work; like Erik, maybe I’m really just a romantic. I supported health care reform, despite disliking many of its philosophical and operational presumptions, because I can’t help but think that in the society we live in today, establishing a more common (even if, yes, arguably more centralized) way of covering health care costs would remove from citizens the often desperate, and socially divisive, pursuit to win deals from one private insurance provider or another. Now maybe I’m seeing the problem the wrong way (and I don’t mean to attribute any particular view on this question one way or another to you; I’m just thinking as I write here), but that’s how it appears to me. Centralization is going to be a constant temptation in any society which cares about efficiency and profits (and redistributive egalitarians, in the end, care about such things just as much as free-market libertarians do); if technology is enabling us to imagine other forms of social organization–and that is clearly the case–then I hope we can pursue those forms with some sense of social(ist) empowerment in mind. Otherwise, all the freedom and diversity and flexibility those networks provide won’t add up to a whole lot of real democratic power. Your neighborhood, your “little republic,” may have the liberty to choose between seven different garbage-collection providers, but dollars to donuts, you’ll probably find most of those owned by the same central corporation in the end, if there isn’t some structural force preventing that from happening.

      (Sorry for the semi-rant; I was planning on commenting on Erik’s post in general, but your comment somehow tripped a wire in my head.)Report

  3. Avatar gregiank
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    says:

    There a strong hint of “effete latte sipping volvo driving” liberals in this: Those darn edumacated lib’s looking down on everybody else. It is a reasonable point to note the technocratic nature and highly educated nature of a lot of people in gov especially on the D side but its easy to go overboard.Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to gregiank
      Ignored
      says:

      Yeah, this really struck me:

      > Data, assessment, tests and legislative complexity. The
      > foregoing not only fail empirically; they annoy the hell
      > out of much of the rest of the country.

      I’ll buy they annoy the hell out of the rest of the country. But “fail empirically”? Man, that’s one hell of a claim. Data fails empirically?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Pat Cahalan
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        says:

        Maybe it’s not data but just a bunch of anecdotes.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Pat Cahalan
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        says:

        Man, that’s one hell of a claim. Data fails empirically?

        If we are talking about forecasting, then yes. Forecasters have a lousy track record.

        This doesn’t mean we are left without any basis for action, of course, or that we are stuck wherever we find ourselves. But it does mean that our plans, insofar as we make them collectively, should be both flexible and modest.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          says:

          > But it does mean that our plans, insofar as we make them
          > collectively, should be both flexible and modest.

          Yeah, I’m on board with that. I certainly like the idea of adding drop dead dates to things, where they can’t be easily rubberstamped into perpetuity.Report

          • Avatar RTod in reply to Pat Cahalan
            Ignored
            says:

            Although I see one potential problem with the drop dead date solution: a lot of fights about statutes are politically rather than practically motivated. It seems for all the statutes passed, very few (as a percentage) are held up for later scrutiny. The thought of State/Fed legislatures having to re-hash every unnecessary political battle for everything you passed, say, two years ago as well as everything you need to get done this year makes me want to stick knitting needles in my eyes.Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to RTod
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              says:

              Yeah, but imagine what it would be like for them.

              I mean, do you really want to have to go through the rigmarole of passing your flag/party-waving B.S. legislation every 4 years? Maybe once, maybe twice, but eventually everybody is going to get tired of the baloney.

              Well, maybe not, but perhaps in a future date my son will be able to watch politics without wanting to put knitting needles in *his* eyes. It’s all about the children.Report

        • Avatar Annelid Gustator in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          says:

          Forecasters may, but the persistence of “insurance” argues that actuaries are pretty good at it.Report

          • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Annelid Gustator
            Ignored
            says:

            Forecasters try to predict moments of advantage. That’s pretty shaky territory.

            Actuaries just try to predict patterns of doom in a population. That’s a lot easier.Report

            • Avatar RTod in reply to Pat Cahalan
              Ignored
              says:

              That was a pretty astute comment, Pat, that gets more astute the more I think about it. It makes me reflect that whenever an insurance company goes down in flames (and they periodically do) it’s rarely because their underwriting was fuzzy. It’s almost always because someone at the executive level believes that there’s an “advantage” to capturing more of the market by believing in some non-underwriting based system.Report

      • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Pat Cahalan
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        says:

        I think I recall from several bio-features that Obama detested the Senate and actually hates legislative complexity, but has let a bunch of legislative technocrats manage his agenda.

        True empiricists recognize the limits of inductive inferences. Once can not hold them responsible for their arrogant/hubristic colleagues.

        But I do agree, that the value each places on “facts” and “evidence” is a definitive distinction between the MSM caricatures of both ideologies (conservative and liberal).Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Pat Cahalan
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        says:

        I think in part it’s how government uses data. Data is most commonly used to support a pre-conceived notion, rather than a way of improving your knowledge base. I don’t mean to pick on government specifically, since this is the way pretty much everyone uses data, but if you’re using data that way a greater focus on data only makes it easier to win arguments, not actually make better policy. At that stage you can fairly dismiss pseudo-empiricism as a form of intellectual snobbery.

        Now, I’d be really happy if government actually let data drive their decisions more, and I’m trying to help this happen in my own little way, but in practice government’s don’t use data much they abuse it.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to James K
          Ignored
          says:

          > Now, I’d be really happy if government actually let data
          > drive their decisions more, and I’m trying to help this
          > happen in my own little way, but in practice government’s
          > don’t use data much they abuse it.

          Okay, I’m totally fine with this version of the above. That’s not “data failing empirically”.

          That’s “idiots playing with data”.Report

          • Avatar Annelid Gustator in reply to Pat Cahalan
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            says:

            Got examples?Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Annelid Gustator
              Ignored
              says:

              The hot dog thing, that would be one.

              Using obesity statistics to “justify” halting the development of fast food joints in South Central Los Angeles. Really, you think a blue collar guy who works a double shift is going to go sit down and eat a healthy breakfast because of this legislation… when (a) he doesn’t have the time for a healthy breakfast and (b) there’s already a Jack in the Box between him and the freeway that he’s been stopping off at for the last 12 years?

              I could go on. Using data to point out there is a problem works if there is indeed a measurable problem, and if you actually come up with a solution that has a snowball’s chance in hell of actually changing the root causes of the data.

              Otherwise, it’s “Look, numbers! That means you should let me do stuff!”Report

              • Avatar Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony in reply to Pat Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Government agencies actually DO use data for the approapriate purposes: from tracking terrorism to improving healthcare (VA for instance). That is because they are, at the ground level, run by professionals who are held accountable by tax payers. This is how technocrats actually operate, and to the extent that they are allowed to do their jobs without it being mucked up by political appointees, things usually run reasonably well. The paucity of political appointees in the government systems in Europe is often why their welfare state seems to hum along fairly smoothly.

                The LA fast food example that you are harping on isn’t in the same category AT ALL. Community activists pushed a politician who represented their area into creating that legislation. This is locally driven Democracy in action. It wasn’t government who abused the data, it was the community groups pushing for the legislation that did. And yes, this policy certainly wasn’t in the best interests of many constituents in that community. However, the problem is that THEY weren’t actively involved in their local politics, unlike the people pushing for this. Examples like this are exactly why I think it is terribly naive when I hear libertarians SWEAR that more local control leads to fewer abuses of government power. I think, ‘What world are you living in? Have you met your neighbors??’Report

  4. Avatar Russell Arben Fox
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    says:

    Erik, this is another excellent, thoughtful piece (and no, not just because of the shout out!). I have several things to say in response, but I don’t really have the time, and I said some of them in a response to Dennis below. One thing I would strongly recommend though: read Erik Olin Wright’s Envisioning Real Utopias. Wright is not really any kind of left-localist; he’s not particularly engaged by these questions at all. But whether or not he intended to, his belabored attempt to re-orient the “socialist compass” away from Marx and towards greater flexibility in the forms the left project must take opens up, to my mind anyway, really tremendous vistas in terms of imaging different, more localist, even more “libertarian” ways, of building social democracy.Report

  5. Avatar Francis
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    says:

    ED: There are ample opportunities to be a romantic in this country. You can live wherever you want, from northern Alaska to the Florida keys, from the cramped street of Manhattan to the wide-open spaces of Montana. You can pick the community you want to live in — from monochrome gated communities of Orange County, California to the free-spirited diverse cities of Venice and Santa Monica, just down the road. You can worship whatever god you want or none at all. You can be active in your local community or live through a blog and Facebook. You can do all your shopping at Wal-Mart, or organize boycotts against it, or even choose to live in communities that have banned it.

    But please, in the area of governance, bland rationalism is the way to go. I don’t want romantics deciding to invade Iraq, as to bring Western democracy to the Middle East. I don’t want romantics deciding that evolution is just a theory, with equivalent standing to intelligent design, and putting that teaching into high school textbooks. I don’t want romantics telling me that god wouldn’t allow us to poison ourselves so global warming must be a lie.

    You live in a society where pragmatism and rationalism have been so successful for over 200 years in governance that you now yearn for more irrationality in government. That’s simply insane. Take a look at the governance systems around the rest of the planet. Most suck. And they suck because they have romantic ideas about what government can and should do. What’s a monarchy but a romantic idea that one particular family is chosen by god to lead a people? What’s a military dictatorship but a romantic idea that warriors, who know how to lead men in battle, also know how to govern civilians?

    Next time you cast a vote, please cast it for the person who is more honest and more pragmatic. You’re a lot less likely to regret it.Report

  6. Avatar Francis
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    says:

    Posted separately because I thought of this later:

    How many people here can actually point to a federal law that is adversely affecting them personally? And if the federal government abdicated that role, would the state or local government fill in, or would there be a void?

    I’ll start. I live in a flood zone, so my (private) mortgage holder requires me as a condition of my mortgage to have flood insurance. The federal government offers the cheapest flood insurance around. (I’m also aware that there is a lengthy process by which FEMA draws flood maps, that this process is open to the public, that there is ample opportunity to have a scientific debate about the parameters of a flood zone, and that FEMA is willing to redraw flood zone maps.) If the fed. govt. didn’t offer flood insurance, I’m pretty sure the State of California would step up. If not the state, a private insurer might. But the reason that the feds stepped into this market was due to market failure; insurers weren’t offering the product because they couldn’t adequately diversify the risk.

    NCLB? I’m childless. OSHA? I’m a lawyer; I work at a desk. Environmental laws? They provide me work, and provide my community enormous health benefits. Could the state do the same? Not to the same extent. Only the federal government can set sulfur standards for diesel fuel. Could you imagine the confusion if 50 states had 50 different fuel formulation standards? And there is a Cal/EPA. (The relationship between the states and the federal government in the field of environmental regulation is actually quite complex. The fed EPA delegates far more powers to the states than most people realize.)Report

  7. Avatar E.C. Gach
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    says:

    “And so I embrace a liberalism that emphasizes autonomy and voluntary association, civil society and local empowerment over the unwieldy central state apparatus and its corporate favoritism. “

    I think there is corporate favoritism at any level of government. The only thing that changes is the amount of money that get’s thrown around.

    Suburban (and even rural) land development is case and point. At least in my township (PA) there is plenty of collusion at the local level between commissioners and developers as they work at getting rich off of the piecemeal big-box-storeification of the town.

    Also:

    “- For example, there has been a huge increase in the number of lawyers in Congress and elsewhere in the federal government. Lawyers tend to be technocratic control freaks more than ideological ones. But the effect is much the same and has helped to produce more federal laws since the late seventies than we had had in our first 200 years.”

    I attribute that to the explosion in the federal discretionary budget. As it grows, so does the official registrar. It might have something to do with the number of lawyers, but I think they are a symptom rather than the cause of the problem.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Palmer
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    says:

    I think you need better sources, E.D.

    Smith claims, “- For example, there has been a huge increase in the number of lawyers in Congress…”

    In 1955, 57% of the House and 60% of the Senate had law degrees. By 2005, that had increased to 40% in the House (a whopping -17% increase!) and 58% in the Senate. That’s some increase.

    Smith claims, “The explosion of MBAs have also helped, up from around 5,000 a year in the 1950s to around 150,00o in the past decade.”

    Well, in 1955 – the middle of that decade – the population of the US was 165931202, and in 2006 – the middle of the last decade – it hit 300,000,000. In that respect, the number of 1950’s MBA’s in terms of today’s numbers is only up 66%, and that’s from 50 years ago. That’s a 1% annual growth rate in MBAs – it doesn’t strike me as a particularly high growth rate – certainly not “explosive.”

    Maybe my sources are wrong – I found my data in five minutes of lazy googling – but I’ll bet that’s five more minutes than Sam Smith put in.Report

  9. Avatar Christopher Carr
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    says:

    Excellent post. I enjoyed every word of it.Report

  10. Avatar Creon Critic
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    says:

    The takeover of the liberal movement by a grad school elite…

    Of all the places I would think to find an anti-intellectual streak, LoOG was not one of them. You regularly have posts on Greek literature (I enjoy them btw)! E.D., you’ve delved deep into the weeds of healthcare reform, comparing the merits and demerits of healthcare systems in an effort to draw lessons for the US – iirc you’re partial to Singapore. A giant exercise in comparative government in politics, what are we to rely upon when making/suggesting public policy if not critical thinking of this sort?

    Perhaps more to the point, what do you (E.D. and Sam) think goes on in graduate school? Largely, I have found it an exercise in becoming better read, learning how much you still have to learn, and sharpening analytic skills. Very quickly – you read a lot, you learn that you still have to read a whole lot more, as in a lifetime’s worth more, and you learn you have to give thought to counterarguments and alternatives – the reason we have “on the one hand, on the other hand” economists. If anything, I’d prefer if more public policymakers went to grad school (ahem, Sarah Palin).

    So maybe grad school grads have their less than humble moments (don’t we all, especially those writing/commenting on the internet), but the idea that we want to systematically disenfranchise those who haven’t been to grad school, in Sam Smith’s words, treating others “in a manner reminiscent of white southerners of a pst time talking about blacks.” Nonsense. The “liberal elite” now wants to dismantle the civil and political rights of those lacking the right post-nomials? Nonsense upon stilts.Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Creon Critic
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      says:

      Or at the very least, any kind of elitism has always been going on, and it permeates both movements. Both have their populist push back against top down technocracy from those who know better.

      But higher education shouldn’t become synonymous with out of touch/I know better than you, except when in fact someone does, because they are more experienced/better learned.

      We also shouldn’t let the difference between in theory and in practice be used as a cover for bashing schooling.

      Again, truly educated people would be educated as to the limits of their education.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to E.C. Gach
        Ignored
        says:

        My experience is that grad school makes you feel more perplexed and confused than other people, if anything.

        I liked Erik’s post quite a bit, but I felt that the other writer’s line to the effect that, “the liberal elite with increasing frequency can be heard speaking of less powerful and educated Americans in a manner reminiscent of white southerners of a pst time talking about blacks,” could sound really hyperbolic and absurd if you aren’t familiar with the comments or discourse he’s referring to- and I’m not. So, some examples would help.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Creon Critic
      Ignored
      says:

      Of all the places I would think to find an anti-intellectual streak, LoOG was not one of them. You regularly have posts on Greek literature (I enjoy them btw)! E.D., you’ve delved deep into the weeds of healthcare reform, comparing the merits and demerits of healthcare systems in an effort to draw lessons for the US – iirc you’re partial to Singapore. A giant exercise in comparative government in politics, what are we to rely upon when making/suggesting public policy if not critical thinking of this sort?

      Creon – My take is that this is not anti-intellectualism so much as it is anti-elites-know-best-ism. In other words, it’s all well and good to be an intellectual, to go to grad school, to be “elite” and so forth, but when you take that experience go to the halls of government and start trying to mold the world to your vision of what’s best, to perfect it from a central location and a central ideal, you will inevitably fall short. That’s the arrogance of the central planner (and I realize everyone will deny being or wanting to be a central planner, but just look at education reform for a wonderful example of how this is the default position very smart people take when they also get ahold of too much power). So think of it not as anti-intellectualism but rather anti-arrogance. These grad school elites should be trying to improve their own communities, not an entire nation of 300+ million. At least as much as is possible. This is just another branch of the whole concept of subsidiarity.

      Now Smith may go a bit overboard at times, but I think his point stands.Report

      • Avatar BB in reply to E.D. Kain
        Ignored
        says:

        ED, thanks for the post. But I have a question about this comment: why are you saying it is so impossible (and so arrogant) to come up with policies that affect 300 million people? We kind of have to do that, at least to some degree, right? We have lots of things to do at the national level. For example, we have to have a national currency. If you can come up with one policy that works for 300 million people, then shouldn’t we be open to other possibilities for national level policies? It just seems odd to me whenever people issue blanket condemnations about such things – I mean, we put people on the moon, we have a functioning currency, so I would assume we aren’t always destined for failure, as if there is some natural law that sets a limit on the number of people a policy can successfully address. And I’m still not clear on why people who go to grad school but only address 1 million people with their policy proposals are humble and good, but grad school folks who offer policies that address national level problems are necessarily arrogant and bad. Those are just people addressing problems at two different levels of scale. Where’s the evil?Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to BB
          Ignored
          says:

          Have you ever tried to manage people? Managing ten people is hard. Running a city government is a huge task. Or running a school. These things simply do not scale gracefully when you’re talking about tens and then hundreds of millions of people. It has nothing to do with intention and everything to do with the reality of results.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to E.D. Kain
            Ignored
            says:

            I’m not sure what you mean regarding managing people. There is nobody who is managing tens of millions of people in any sort of fed gov program. People manage programs with metrics so show what they are dong, they are not managing the populace. They manage payments or programs solely within their purview.

            Anecdata: My GF is a SW who works for a medicare contractor. She is endlessly researching and trying to help people manage moving from state to state with their medicare. While MC is a Fed program each state manages it themselves, so a person can be eligible in one state but not get it another state for some reason or not be covered because one state has some paperwork delay. And each state has people to manage their own requirements instead of just one simple national standard.Report

  11. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    I liked this post a lot as well- I have some things to add, but you just happened to post this right as I was working on a sidebar question for the traditionalists about, in essence, “the profound tragedy in the loss of tradition, of folkways and local practices.” So, I’ll try to expand on that a bit when I get a few minutes.Report

  12. Avatar scarshapedstar
    Ignored
    says:

    Given that both Bushes went to Yale, couldn’t you say that the Republicans have also been taken over by effete Ivy Leaguers?

    And isn’t this just a remake of Bill Whittle’s horrible ‘Tribes’ essay?

    Liberals are homos who waste time in laboratories getting their meaningless degrees, or they’re lawyers and think they’re so smart, when really we need more down-home country folk running the place, like… Harvard Business grad George W. Bush.

    Can’t you just think to yourself ‘gee, this stemwinder has been done to death already, and it sucked the FIRST time’ and…not write it?Report

    • Avatar scarshapedstar in reply to scarshapedstar
      Ignored
      says:

      Actually, W was a gratuitous cheap shot and I apologize.

      But thinking of the recent ‘common man’ congressmen, like bug man Tom Delay, isn’t very encouraging either.

      My favorite Congressional non-lawyer, Al Franken, is still a liberal elite. I guess I just can’t win.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to scarshapedstar
      Ignored
      says:

      Dude. You seriously need to read more carefully, scarshapedstar. Much, much more carefully, if you think this is somehow an anti-liberal piece.Report

      • Avatar scarshapedstar in reply to E.D. Kain
        Ignored
        says:

        ‘The takeover of the liberal movement by a grad school elite that sees itself as far brighter than much of the country’

        Well, you know, as a liberal grad student it’s hard to take this constructively. I assume you’re referring to MBAs and Government majors and such as opposed to biologists like myself, but then again, fully half of America believes that my entire scientific discipline is a satanic fraud.

        I was encouraged my entire life to study hard and aim high. Now, apparently, this is sheer hubris and my elitism is hurting America. (insert boilerplate observation about Chinese kids eating our lunch)Report

  13. Avatar Tom S
    Ignored
    says:

    You think the glut MBAs coming out of the nation’s B-Colleges are liberals? And that the concentration of wealth and power in the corporation and the elite is somehow a liberal ideal? I’d ask you what color the sun is on your world, but that would be really disrespectful. Perhaps it would be useful to understand what liberals actually believe rather than the caricature you describe.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Tom S
      Ignored
      says:

      You are obviously not reading this very carefully Tom. I suggest you read it again. Carefully this time. Nobody is saying that the MBA’s are liberals. Find where anyone actually says that. I mean, really, just read the damn thing (mine and Smith’s) without whatever bias you’re coming into this with, and construct an argument as opposed to a strawman and then maybe we can talk.Report

  14. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Yay! Balloonjuice linked to us!Report

  15. Avatar mclaren
    Ignored
    says:

    This is really excellent and I find that I agree with a lot of your points. This is one of the reasons why we desperately need sane conservatives in our politics right now, and why we’re suffering from a lack of sane conservatives. These people had a welcome habit of pointing out that the technocratic left-brain control-freak test-score-worshiping elites typically screw things up and get it wrong.

    Out in the real world, test scores don’t count for sh|t. Out in the real world, the people who tend to get things done are hands-on pragmatists, and very few of ’em tended to go to the “best schools.” If you look at guys like FDR’s chief of staff or Harry Truman or General Omar Bradley, these were no Ivy Leaguers. In fact, the administration that packed in the most Ivy Leaguers, JFK’s White House, presided over the biggest screwups — Cuban Missile Crisis, Bay of Pigs, Viet Nam, and so on.Report

  16. Avatar DougJ
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    says:

    Although I don’t agree with the sentiments here, and in some cases object very strongly, this is very well put and I learned a lot about your perspective from it.Report

  17. Avatar BlaiseP
    Ignored
    says:

    Traditions aren’t dying out… says the man who just bought a new Online calligraphy pen.

    Harking back to Sam Smith’s ur-screed, bemoaning the Liberal instinct to concentrate and modernize, from whence the worthy E. D. Kain began his progresso-libertarian riff on Less Gummint and Moral Autonomy, I’d like to venture an opinion, based on astrophysics.

    The sun and planets coalesced out of the remnants of a supernova. Over time, the larger bodies accreted ever more objects smaller than themselves. Jupiter continues to hoover up comets and suchlike, making our own orbit around the sun that much safer. Mr. Newton laid it out in his laws of gravity and Dr. Einstein would explain why those laws work: spacetime warps around mass. The boffins of CERN are similarly interested in this problem. Still, nobody understands gravity as we understand electromagnetism.

    Economies seem to follow the same rules. Wealth accumulates. The Brazilians have a phrase to describe a million BRL “um coelho”, a rabbit. Put one rabbit next to another, soon you will have more rabbits. Klipspringer sang in Gatsby, (misquoting the original song), “The rich get richer and the poor get children.”

    Gatsby quickly shot back “Don’t talk so much, old sport…play!”

    Klipspringer was right and Gatsby was avoiding the issue. Girls with 12 years of education will statistically have two children. Girls with less education will have more children. It seems the most potent contraceptive is a schoolbook.

    I completely disagree with Sam Smith: if Liberals want centralized government, they understand laws without an efficient bureaucracy to enforce them are no laws at all. All this populist puffery praising local government is grossly misinformed: for well over a decade, from about 85 to 95, I watched as the various states competed for Japanese screwdriver factories, biting each other’s asses, offering insane tax rebates. The Japanese played them off against each other. They’d pour a slab of concrete, put up a big metal shed then fly me in to do the assembly line integration and robotics.

    Not one of those factories is still operating. When the tax rebates ran out, those factories moved again, to another state. They even took the big metal sheds with ‘em. Now they’re all in Mexico and Malaysia and Vietnam. Same machines though.

    So much for the benefits of local governments: it’s a crock. The American Civil War was the triumph of federalism and the states and counties and parishes and school districts and all the rest of these parochial fiefdoms create as many problems as they solve with their massive duplication of efforts. Which is why Conservatives love ‘em so much and encourage these populist mouth breathers. While hoi polloi squabble over the right to pack a cell phone into a box, the multinational corporations are already planning to eliminate those jobs when the margin drops by a penny.

    As Rome edged ever closer to the abyss, its rich men affected the style of Agricola the Farmer, an ancient form we now see in these wretched Country Music artistes. All hat and no horse: not one of them could sterilize a milking machine or worm a hog. Marie Antoinette affected the lifestyle of a shepherdess, her little flock grazing down by Le Petit Trianon, the fanciest abri ever built.

    O tempura, o morels.Report

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