November 9, 2012

Of cabbages and kings

Michael S Greve, George Mason law professor, puts a decidedly cynical spin on the state of our national politics:

The miserable condition, I argued here, is an unsustainable, let’s-have-it-and-not-pay-for-it transfer state that both parties promised to maintain. We are stuck with that condition, as we would have been under President Romney. What now?

For advanced democracies in the transfer state predicament, there are only two ways out. One is a responsible Social-Democratic party that is (1) cognizant of the fact that a wrecked economy would also wreck its constituencies and (2) capable of holding labor unions in line. Successful reform countries—Canada, Germany, Sweden, and (more arguably) Brazil—all  have that dynamic in common. America had but forfeited that chance in 2008, with Mr. Obama’s victory over Mrs. Clinton. The moment is gone for good, and Mrs. Clinton (should she enter the 2016 sweepstakes that started yesterday) will go nowhere. The new face of the party is Elizabeth Warren et al—brutal, ruthless hacks from Harvard.

Not to nitpick here, but I have to interject:  Dear professor, there is no such thing as a “responsible” Social-Democratic party.  The very ideas of punitive progressive taxes and “economic justice” are anathema to a system built around free markets, equality of opportunity, limited government, individual autonomy, and private property rights.  A Social-Democratic party is an attempt to force a bridge between collectivism and free market capitalism.  The two can’t co-exist except by a kind of supercharged bureaucratic enforcement apparatus — and this administrative state, people with unelected regulators beyond our reach as voters, runs counter to the idea of representative government and the consent of the governed.

The rest of the point — that we are being overtaken by what Mark Levin has called “masterminds” and I’ve called a “faculty lounge” political mindset — is dead on:  how the voters of Massachusetts could vote for us a socialist who embodies everything that is broken in our society, from a clearly expressed economic illiteracy to a manipulative gaming of every system she was apart of as a way to put herself in positions that may have otherwise gone to those better qualified or more deserving (and to be rewarded for it), is frankly beyond me.

The only answer I can come up with being that the majority of people really are ignorant morons undeserving of their franchise.

But I digress.

The only other way out is a political force that offers a competing social model. That force, and that model, does not now exist—largely, I suspect, on account of our grimly professional politics. Conservatives felt compelled, for eight long years, to defend the Bush administration, an exercise that left them exhausted and compromised. After 2008, they should have done what opposition parties normally do—rethink, and regenerate. Alas, there was never any time for that: all the energy went into a fight against Obamacare, stimulus bills, etc.

The natural temptations is to keep it up: the people voted for “the people’s House” to keep taxes low. Maybe. But they also voted to keep benefits high, and so there’s the problem. A responsible opposition, it seems to me, would have to start at the opposite end—not with some clever promise to move crucial voting blocs (Hispanics, blue-collar Catholics), but with the truth: the country is broke. Our institutions are broken.  Our economy is on the ropes. To fix the mess, you must give up something; but we have a plan that makes it worth your while.

That pretty much sums up The Federalist. The difference between Publius and us is the willingness to tell the truth, and the plan.

The TEA Party movement did just this.  Predictably, they were demonized by the left — not for wishing to save the Constitution (though much was made of the “fetishizing” of such a dated document), but as racists and militia cranks and fringe extremists.  Less predictably — and more disturbingly, it seems to me — they were demonized by many on the right, including many so-called “conservative” opinion leaders.  Lately, they’re being called “purists” and “true believers,” having graduated from being Hobbits and Visigoths.

One of the problems with nominating moderates is that they are cast by the left as right wing extremists. Mitt Romney called himself “severely conservative” even though he was clearly a technocrat who believes in the supremacy of government as a means toward social and economic problem solving.  And the fallout from this is that timid, “pragmatic” party hacks, relying on the left’s characterization of the right, set themselves up as “conservatives” when they are, in fact, no such thing.  And yet because they’ve adopted the label, they presume to speak on behalf of those who, in reality, they don’t much care for, those who have been pushed into the “fringe” camp by the constant leftward movement of the political lines of demarcation.

The question going forward is this:  do we allow the party hacks to pretend they’re conservative and adopt a new way of defining ourselves so that we can separate ourselves from the pragmatism and realism that these people preach, and that we as members of their party — and it is theirs, from a leadership and messaging standpoint — are consistently punished by?  Because that would necessarily require either a third party or a third party coalition of some sort that worked with actual conservative Republicans, classical liberals, and libertarians whose foreign policy views are prudent and America-centric.

Or do we instead just keep on the rhetorical attack, pointing out how the electoral “solutions” being discussed by the GOP by way of a postmortem are in every instance a surrendering to the progressive’s narrative and a capitulation to their epistemological paradigm — something that we can’t do without necessarily moving toward authoritarianism and tyranny, even if it comes wearing the smile of liberal fascism?

I honesty don’t know.  Help a brother out?

Posted by Jeff G. @ 10:00am

Comments (61)

  1. Demonized by the left and strangled by the Republicans, who never have seen a political revival of purpose and fortune they could accept if it meant momentarily ceding a particle of their precious personal power.

  2. I think one possible answer is that the left thinks that the spats and monocole wearing plutocrats were handing out plum positions for their own in years past and now it’s their turn to manupulate the system. In other words, the so-called power brokers from years past did it and now it their turn to “level the playing field”.

  3. Pingback: Cabbages

  4. I tried to start a business selling spats and monocles to plutocrats, but the spat-and-monocle industry plutocrats helped the Spats & Monocle Makers Union plutocrats organize my shop and I had to close down.

  5. I just had to turn Rush off because I couldn’t stand listening to Boehner accept every premise Diane Sawyer offered up for him about the GOP being too old too white and too out of touch with “real”* Americans.

    *you know, the 47% living off the rest of the country (not all of them willingly, granted).

    I’d like to think the GOP is salvageable at the state and local levels. The national organization and the elected leadership, however, aren’t. And I really don’t know how to go about seperating the former from the latter.

  6. Or do we instead just keep on the rhetorical attack, pointing out how the electoral “solutions” being discussed by the GOP by way of a postmortem are in every instance a surrendering to the progressive’s narrative and a capitulation to their epistemological paradigm — something that we can’t do without necessarily moving toward authoritarianism and tyranny, even if it comes wearing the smile of liberal fascism?

    The clown hosting Huey Hewitte’s abysmal “conservative” morning drive time show (Mark Davis, or something?) was all up in the mic this morning, prattling on about real serious conservative values and almost tsk-tsking the legions of 100% pro-life stay-at-home Republicans and how to temper tones next time and how to just really rock the world in 2014 and how to create some candidate with something less than an eight-figure net worth.

    And did I say he as all up in the mic, teevee preacher-like?

    That kind of unmitigated bullshit is why we lost the nation, fool. This kind of unmitigated bullshit is virtually the entire online right right now too, clapping themselves on the back out of the sheer courage of their clapping themselves on the back saying precisely what they said two years ago and four years ago and six years ago and eight years ago and…

    You’re all dead to me, you Republican pragmatists and strategists and operatives and tools. What exactly, pray tell, will it take to resurrect you from your tombs?

  7. Rick Santorum calls the masterminds of the faculty lounge the village elders –people like Hillary Clinton who like proverbial African proverbs.

    They never quite getting around to telling us why they want is in their villages or on their campuses though, do they?

  8. I’d like to think the GOP is salvageable at the state and local levels. The national organization and the elected leadership, however, aren’t. And I really don’t know how to go about seperating the former from the latter.

    I was wrong to think (and say) this year that the TEA/Liberty/et al folks were taking back the grass roots and with it the base of the Republican power pyramid. But had they done so we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  9. “And I really don’t know how to go about seperating the former from the latter.”

    If Hayek’s idea of cosmoi is correct as to the organization of economies, then perhaps analogously they’ll separate themselves as they’re led by their own grasp of the problems they confront, I think. In a sense, just as the phenomenon of the arising of the tea parties themselves came about, though presumably on an even larger wave of recognition.

  10. They never quite getting around to telling us why they want is in their villages or on their campuses though, do they?

    I wasted two years here requesting that a particularly virulent site troll produce a leftist manifesto…

    Bottom line is we need to not talk about values and principles. Nobody is listening, and there’s little more embarrassing than lobbying and debating the choir, he said guiltily.

    What we need is to utterly distill everything down to one matrix: Liberty or tyranny. Does Federal Program 944F – A14, sec. 121 support liberty or does it defeat it.

    Now go through literally millions of laws, statutes, policies, decrees, mandates, and whatever bullshit flew out of DC over the last hundred years.

    Personally, I’m not wasting any more time on this, save to visit here, Jeff permitting. Facing the firing squad at dawn has a way of focusing the mind.

    So what do we do? Simple. Write a stern form letter and send it to every official or agent who represents you. Demand one thing: That s/he start dismantling. Everything. Resend it every 30 days.

    Then join up. Something.

    Oh, you think government school should be saved? Medicare repaired?


    I’d love to suggest an alternative but honestly I cannot think of one. The good news is the message is so simple nobody will miss it. Call it Jeff’s stitching a label on your forehead.

    Before your master does.

  11. We’re in a vicious cycle. The party elders keep trying to supress the base in vain pursuit of independent moderate swing votes, and the base keeps trying to demonstrate why they’re needed by staying home, and so the party elders try to make up the losses by becoming even more moderate further alienating the base.

    I don’t know the way out of this.

  12. This is the conversation I had hoped we would be having after the election. I was concerned that it would prove quite difficult with Romney in the White House but the Dems still entrenched in the Senate.

    At least now we don’t have to pretend that POTUS gives a shit about our ideas.

    Silver linings and all that…

  13. – Speaking of Lizzy Warren, appareently no one told her she was going to actiually have to, you know, do stuff and know stuff, because honestly, whats a fake native American Harvard grade supposed to do, beyound lie her way into school and then into office. They said there wouldn’t be any stuff, like work and such.

    – Next thing you know, all those dirty, uneducated little people will expect her to actually govern. How gosh.

  14. Just as the president at any given moment is deemed the leader of his party, a governor in a state has a lot of influence over the direction of his state party based on how much other pols depend on him for advancement.

    If he’s a Beltway ass-kisser (I’m looking at you, Chris Christie), then the state party is going to have a pro-Beltway bias. If he’s more inclined to kick it than kiss it, then the state party is going to reflect that.

    Getting a kicker elected governor in a red state in 2014 should be easier now than it might have been if Romney had won.

  15. We do more or less what we’re doing:

    1. Be bemused.
    2. Talk survival.
    3. Recognize that we will be hated, and can’t play their games (easy because their games are embarrassingly naive and stupid)
    4. Talk about politics enough to remember what needs to be salvaged, and not as our salvation.

  16. I’ll put it another way: My parents vote Republican, then lavish Democrats with praise to keep their day-to-day business going.

    They hope I’ll follow suit and move to Austin in five years to “be safe.”

    But I know there is no safe. Or Social Security. Or social medicine. Or Pension. So I play to win, and I play for tangible assets that can survive inflation.

  17. Bemused doesn’t organize a credible alternative to the GOP, nor does it revitalize the GOP.

    Can’t fault the rest of it.

  18. The Federalist had resulted from a fundamental government fail: the Articles of Confederation were inadequate to the nation, lacking any central organizing principle altogether, so to speak. So a reorganization of the structure of national government was undertaken and the Federalist sought to persuade as to the new proposal’s virtue.

    That’s not exactly our current problem is it? Yes, we have government fail, but government fail of a different sort. Our problem seems more akin to a central power run amok, so more like the tyrannical powers of King George III, no?

    So the Declaration seems a closer statement to the solution of our current predicament, it seems to me. It is more fundamental than the Constitution in this respect, as it seeks to retrace the purposes of government in the first instance, purposes which the Constitution takes for granted.

  19. Presbo is speechifying about the exact same bullshit he’s been speechifying about for 4 years. They out to just play a tape of the mutherfucker and let him go to the driving range.

  20. Haha! Yes, Leigh.

    “My…. opponent… is…a… GoOd…. man. Turn tape over.”

  21. One of my personal goals is to redefine cool, Ernst.

    We’re never going to save the culture if the standard of cool remains “A different girl every night, and pay for her clinic trips.”

    But that’s my own personal contribution. Raise families, explain your principles, ‘sall good.

    History’s not on our side anyway, might as well have fun with it.

  22. Ach, fuck culture. For Christ’s sake.

  23. Sdferr, some might argue that what you describe is symptomatic evidence of the ultimate failure of the document. I do not think so, preferring to view it as failure to adequately follow the document. But, given the low probability of any cohesive return to it’s core principles that just may be a distinction without a difference.

    What I do know is that our current practices are so far disconnected from the document as to render any attempts to alter it pointless and irrelevant.

  24. Yeah, you’re right Sdferr. I meant more fight culture.

    But please feel free to toss it all in the bin: no complaints from me.

  25. If the document had a capacity to act, we’d be safe saying it had failed, I guess. But I’m more comfortable putting the blame on the human actors, either those who created the document failing to adequately hedge its preservation, or those whose charge it was to follow and keep it. As you say though ThomasD, possibly a distinction with only marginal differences as regards our manner of speech. But potentially with huge differences as to the paths available to correction. I mean, King G’s oversteps led to protracted warfare. Hard as it is to see, so may our own overlords’. The question for now though, is the diagnosis just?

  26. I don’t mean to be as harsh about culture as I may often come off, but think this: Christ himself had no culture. Aristophanes had no culture. Bach had no culture. Fuck culture, unless we wanna talk about Immanuel Kant. I don’t mind talking about Kant, or attempting to understand him — though I think I know the efforts will be frighteningly painful — I just don’t see the use in attempting to tailor our lives to his vision.

  27. Christ had the Jewish culture. Bach Lutheran. Aristophanes Greek. All of which much, much better than the modern “Gotta GET me MINE,” culture that is unchallenged in America.

    Immanuel Kant is the reason our museums are now so incredibly boring and, frankly, useless.

  28. See, that’s where we differ William. I believe had we asked any one of those people I mentioned they’d have no idea what the hell we were talking about because what we’d import back to their time and their thoughts of the world was not a part of their world: it hadn’t been invented yet. We can interrogate their works and writings all we care to do, we’ll never find them talking or writing or blathering about culture. And insofar as we believe we can port our concepts into their times and thoughts, to impose ours on them, so far we will never understand their intentions as to their own thoughts and understandings of their world. It’s hard. But there it is.

  29. This conversation is way too long for a combo box, Sdferr, and I mostly understand your point of view, but Jesus rarely mentioned the Roman culture He was in. Most of His teachings were about refining the laws and values of the Jewish culture, as it existed alone against the Romans.

    Aristophanes wrote to criticize his culture, and Bach wrote to establish it. What they did may have eventually redefined the mores of their country eventually, but their excellence is what got people’s attention in the first place. Giving Greeks doubt, Luthern’s pride, and Christians a desire to be a universal culture.

  30. Well yes Sdferr, but when asked Jesus or Aristophanes, while initially perplexed, would probably have eventually responded with “I am a jew” or “I am a Greek” once they gathered your drift. Those terms, in their time, encompassing our modern notions of culture.

    The real question is would Jesus have recognized his Greek?

  31. Take heart, sdferr. I actually read someone, Derbyshire, I believe talking about virtues. He hates the whole ‘culture’ meme as well.

  32. Jesus rarely mentioned the Roman culture He was in.

    That would be becacuse he would have had to have been a twentieth century man trapped in the first century world to do so.

    Is the point sdferr was trying to make about culture.

  33. Saying culture culture culture culture over and over won’t put culture where it doesn’t belong. I mean, I’m well aware it’s easy to do (it’s also arrogant as all get out). But that is about us, not about them. It just doesn’t have any particular use when it comes to understanding the world and the people of the past, and, I believe is profoundly foolish of us. That is, through the incessant import to the past, we confirm our ignorance, rather than dispel it.

  34. Another way to put is like this: “Gotta GET me MINE” isn’t a culture, it’s an ethos.

  35. Hearing Barry’s “commanding” voice on Limbaugh’s broadcast right now is deeply unsettling. It’s as though he thinks he can take on an intonation and “make it so”.

  36. “…the laws and values…”

    Ha! Snuck one in on me, ya did. Yeah, they didn’t have those either.

  37. I meant that literally, Ernst. The Roman solider in the New Testament is famous for saying, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my tent,” which the Jews used to signify that they were more important than the Roman Empire, even though Jesus had chosen to establish a different kingdom.

  38. I can give you that one, Ernst. Once again truly bring shame to the “Gimmie” ethos, and not applaud it or, perhaps worse, ignore it because we’re comfortable assuming the wolves will never knock on our door.

  39. What we need is to utterly distill everything down to one matrix: Liberty or tyranny.


    The problem is, too many of our fellow subjects dig them some tyranny. Fuck them.

    “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
    — Samuel Adams

  40. If the concept of culture had existed in ancient Greece rest assured Aristophanes would have featured it (ie. shredded it) somewhere in The Clouds.

    Probably as what was blown out of the gnat’s ass.

  41. And I meant that literally as well. It would have been impossible for Jesus to speak of culture, Roman, Jewish or even of the Kingdom come. Because the word didn’t exist.

    Also, just an aside. The Matthew author wasn’t Jewish.

  42. What audience was he writing for?

  43. Declaring independence is one thing. Earning and keeping it are entirely another. It took six long painful years to make the first Declaration of Independence stick and that came with a lot more losses than victories until the very end. Victory will not be secured now in one presidential term or two.

    Ancient Rome and Greece didn’t think much in terms of culture, they tend to view most things as us (civilized) and them (barbarians). Why would anyne want to admire, emulate or respect barbarians?

  44. cabbage is cheap, nutritious, and usually tax-free if you’re willing to prepare it yourself

  45. At the height of the Roman Republic not be able to speak Greek marked you as nothing better than a common laborer (and probably something worse.)

    Conversely acting like a Greek marked you as decadent and entirely suspect.

    A slide into decadence is also what we face.

  46. I was typing too fast and left out a critical element.

    … Conversely acting like a Greek (even the most virtuous Greek) still marked you as decadent and entirely suspect…

  47. What audience was he writing for?

    It’s complicated. Depends on whether you belong to the school that thinks the Matthew author (hereafter “Matthew’) actually knew about Jewish practices, or only had a surface understanding. The former group argues “Mathew” was writing to persuade Jews of the Pharasaic sect to Christianity. The latter school argues “Matthew” was writing to both gentile and jewish Christians to persuade them away from the Pharasaic sect. The safest position is to say that “Matthew” wrote for followers of the Jesus Movement/Early Church (whole new can of worms) from a melange of backgrouds.

    The thing to remembe about all the Gospels is that they don’t get written down until after the Jewish Revolt. The Jews were even less popular at the time than usual.

    That’s my crude and decidedly partial take on the topic.

  48. Being able to speak and write Greek was a status marker.

    Like making it into the Ivy League.

    As a legacy admission.

    90-95% of the Roman population was comprised of common laborers of one form or another.

  49. “If the concept of culture had existed in ancient Greece rest assured Aristophanes would have featured it (ie. shredded it) somewhere in The Clouds.”

    They did have that shrouded idea of mysteries, very strange to us: sacred, divinely delivered pious private religious teachings never to be exposed to public view. Socrates, I’ve heard it said, may have been granted some such approval from Aristophanes when Socrates takes his student Phidippides out of view into the thinking-shop: the teaching was indoors, out of view. But then too, we may have to consider Euthyphron to discover any serious response to The Clouds.

    It’s also said that Plato died with a copy of Aristophanes’ works at his bedside. So there’s that.

  50. A consistent answer. I’ll give you final word on this, since any further argument is too long for a Friday.

  51. cabbage is cheap, nutritious, and usually tax-free if you’re willing to prepare it yourself

    My new thing is baby Kale.

  52. Carin, I love baby bok choy. I have to grow my own since I am surrounded by Okies who don’t eat vegetables.

  53. Coleslaw is okay if you make the vinegar kind and not the mayo kind. Cooked cabbage is gross and makes the house stink.

    Sauerkraut is okay and you can buy it already made.

  54. Take heart, sdferr. I actually read someone, Derbyshire, I believe talking about virtues. He hates the whole ‘culture’ meme as well.

    John Derbyshire is one of the few conservative pundits these days worth listening to. Since April, I’ve been listening to his podcast every week. It’s well worth your time.

  55. I love the Derb. His son just enlisted in the Army and is going to Ranger School after he graduates from high school.

  56. Yes, I read that article yesterday. What a great story, and I especially liked that his son is a solid conservative.. I hope Derb’s son makes it through Ranger school. And hopefully his daughter will see the light and quit being an Obamabot.

  57. Sauerkraut is okay [..]

    OK? What the hell do you have with Eisbein if not kraut? What kind of world is it where kraut is “OK?”

    I’m beginning to think there isn’t any German in you, leigh.

  58. I am of the thought that Aristophanes was seeking to warn Socrates of the dangers that his ways of thinking and teaching posed to the Greek State/religion/social order without being drawn too much into the actual didactic practices (probably for artistic reasons.) The only thing that remains unclear to me is whether Aristophanes really knew just how far along Socrates was, or where he was really headed.

    In Plato’s work we find out that Aristophanes was right enough, and that Socrates knew it, but refused to change his ways instead choosing to die for what he knew to be true.

    Of course if Aristophanes really saw the full implications of Socrates ‘new approach’ then he was either the singular genius of the time or that raises the question of just how innovative was Socrates, and just how much was he cribbing from other – undocumented – sources.

  59. Holy hell, check Fox news. Looks like we know why General Betrayus was so compliant on Benghazi.

  60. I don’t think Aristophanes would have found warning Socrates a problem constrained to the stage, I guess, if he were simply concerned for Socrates’ well being. Besides, at the time The Clouds was produced I don’t believe the problems which arose later would have been visible: the Athenians had lost their confidence at a much later date, only then arriving at a point where the silly nuisance Socrates posed to their beliefs earlier, at the height of their greatness (which they could then easily ignore), would rise to challenge them at their core in their decadence, so to speak.

    I haven’t any solid evidence to offer for the following (i.e. what I think Aristophanes was on about), but offer it up anyhow for what it’s worth (which mayn’t be much): it seems to me that Aristophanes did have a serious gripe with the class of sophists as such (and possibly not so much a gripe with Socrates as an individual among them, since he seems to have been distinguishable) and uses Socrates as his foil, or example, simply because Socrates is already so well known to the Athenians he makes a good stand-in for the rest of the crowd. Too, Socrates has the peculiar characteristics so readily mockable to the comic: ill-kempt, poorly shod, and so on. An irresistible target, in that sense.

    But then, in this I don’t quite account for Aristophanes’ preference for the older, conservative poet Aeschylus over the newer cool-kid Euripides (who apparently has some association with Soc). He is a politically conservative guy, Aristophanes. Yet are we sure we can’t say the same of Socrates? Not much of a democrat though, that seems plain enough.