Saturday, November 20, 2010

Visions, Conflict, American Decline

Hiding From Reality - NYTimes.com

I'm willing to suffer the pain of reading Bob Herbert to attempt to understand how the elite looks at America. The fact that I "agree" with his last paragraph shows the importance of shared premises:
"America will never get its act together until we recognize how much trouble we’re really in, and how much effort and shared sacrifice is needed to stop the decline. Only then will we be able to begin resuscitating the dream."
A favorite joke on shared premises problems is from Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar (it's better in the book, but this is shorter):
"An old cowboy goes into a bar and orders a drink. As he sits there sipping his whiskey, a young lady sits down next to him. ... She says, 'I'm a lesbian. I spend my whole day thinking about women. ...' A little while later, a couple sits down next to the old cowboy and asks him, 'Are you a real cowboy?' He replies, 'I always thought I was, but I just found out I'm a lesbian.'"
My view of the problems with America today is that Bob and I don't agree on WHAT the trouble we are in is, who and what the shared sacrifice is, the definition of decline, nor the definition of the American Dream. Bob doesn't even know what my definition is (or care) -- even though I think I pretty much understand his.

His definition is massively higher taxes on earners, massively larger amounts of government spending, regulation and intrusion into the daily lives of more and more Americans. Bob saw the "peak" of America in maybe "1975" ... or maybe even '79, but since Reagan, we have "been in decline". He saw Democrats being elected in '06 and BO in '08 as "the right direction", and he is now depressed because he sees any reduction in the march toward larger government as "hiding from reality". He sees no other positive future reality other than "The United States of Sweden for 300 million people".

Bob and my realities don't match. My America was founded in 1776, not 1932 with FDR ... or maybe 1900 with TR. My America was exceptional -- it had no interest in being "like Sweden, Germany or France". There already is a Sweden, Germany and a France -- and even a Cuba and a Venezuela. There is no reason to build another. If you want one of those, you can just move there.

My America has been in decline since at least 1900 and in some ways since the Civil War. The measures that usurped states rights for secession were probably legitimate for the special case of a group of states withdrawing to protect the institution of slavery, but much like the draft only being instituted when required for national emergency, the rights of the states and the people should have been returned once the conflict was ended.

Arizona defending it's borders, states deciding against BOcare, or even states deciding to legalize drugs -- or prohibit alcohol, or a host of other "difficult things" are the kinds problems that liberty entails. We have mortgaged broad swaths of our liberty to the federal government for supposed security, convenience and order. Bob sees that as "progress" (thus the term "progressive"), and I see it as decline -- and thus my term "REgressive". I see the transfer and rapid increase of centralized government power as a LOSS of liberty, and therefore movement toward tyranny that the country was founded to LIMIT!

I could go on and on ... I see the massive unions of teachers and other public workers as the one of the key killers of our ability to innovate, compete and improve -- in education and in broad swaths of modern life. Bob sees any threat to the salaries and benefits of the public workers now 2x the standard private sector jobs as "decline". I see the cozy relationship between the government and public workers as corruption, heavily contributing to our decline -- Bob sees it as something we ought to increase.

**THE** major problem with left and right is just that. "A conflict of visions". We disagree on the premises -- what the current reality is, and what the objectives are. Bob thinks that "progressivism" is "settled social science", just like Anthropogenic (human caused) Global Warming -- AGW. Bob see's the government taking and controlling pretty much "half" of everything as "half full" -- with the objective being more toward full! I see it as "too full already", with the objective being "15-20% or so", **NOT ZERO** as Bob would tell you anyone who disagrees with him believes.

While my America has been declining a lot, it has had long moments of relative sunshine -- the '80's with Reagan, even the '90s with Clinton triangulating to the reality of a Republican congress and at least paying lip service to the idea that "the era of big government was over". Bush was way too progressive -- prescription drugs were bad, the level of deficit, even taking 9-11 into consideration was too high.  Post '96 however, with the Democrat takeover of congress and then BO, it has been nothing short of disaster.

Our task in America is very large because Bob and I can't agree on the most basics of basics -- what ARE the unique and special principles of America? Are we really the same as a host of other countries now in existence? What is the American dream? Is risk involved, or is it all about security? Again, this list could go on -- something like 20% of the country--  Bob, the elites, the hard left have one vision, and something like 60% of the country quietly believes roughly what I do, but the elites are rapidly shifting that by buying votes hand over fist and running all the media.

In my mind, the CORE problem is that Bob and his 20% are the chattering classes, and they refuse to be honest with the 80% about what their goals really are. If they were, their power would dwindle to nearly nothing because it would be very clear that their values were NOT American values -- in the sense of 1776, liberty having priority over security, etc. They are slicker than that however -- they intend to keep chipping at those liberties in the name of progress and security until enough feel that they are too dependent on the government behemoth to risk having an alternate opinion.

And then my America will die and Bob will continue to complain of all the "damage" that is caused by the last vestiges that fail to succumb to his vision. The free speech of the liberals means your right to yell the old "7 dirty words" at the top of your lungs in any forum you desire. Freedom to espouse your ideas that are not in agreement with them? They believe you have no freedom of that sort whatsoever!



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