Archive for the ‘World Politics’ Category

The Road to Serfdom

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Yeah, you really should put down what you’re doing and go read up. If, after skimming, you don’t agree it was worth your time to do so, I can pretty much promise you weren’t doing anything worthwhile when you got interrupted.

It was written by one F. A. Hayek between 1940 and 1944, and effectively predicts the world’s struggles with socialism in the years after World War II. The trailhead is the wartime necessity of “coming together for the greater good”; from there, even after the cessation of hostilities, the slope just becomes steeper and more slippery. People become acclimated to the notion that any challenge can be overcome we if can just be persuaded to put aside our sniveling, greedy little individualist ambitions and somehow be bludgeoned into following a few more rules.

But whose rules? After the last shovelful of earth falls on the casket holding the shattered remnants of libertarian spirit, we come across a problem of Too Many Chiefs Not Enough Indians. A strong opinion, it turns out, is not such a rare and precious thing; if it were, we’d seek out a wise man. But there is much power available to whoever came up with the plan that shall reign supreme, and this culminates in quite a different state of affairs. Endless bickering, squabbling…a wise man isn’t what’s needed, we just need someone strong. We need unity, gosh darn it, and if it doesn’t come naturally we will force it. That will make things better.

The prosperity and happiness of “everyone” depends on it.

It’ll really make you think about things. Or it should.

Hat tip: Classical values.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Sleepin Wit Da Bad Boy

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Via Boortz: Looks like, all around the globe, we just don’t care that much for nice guys.

As President George W. Bush limps through his lame-duck year, it won’t surprise you to read that he’s hugely unpopular. Now a new poll taken in 20 countries by and released exclusively to NEWSWEEK confirms the world’s low opinion of the president—but adds a twist. No other major world leader enjoys significantly greater trust abroad. In a sense, they’re all Bushes now.

Just as striking are the leaders who do best, albeit by a slim margin: Vladimir Putin, Gordon Brown and Hu Jintao. That’s one democrat and two dictators. In other words, the bosses of what are often cast as the biggest, baddest authoritarian states—China and Russia—are among the planet’s most trusted officials. That should seriously alarm the leaders of the West, and particularly President Bush and Condoleezza Rice, his secretary of State, who have made the export of democracy a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy.

Now, this is an interesting piece of human development, and I’ll bet if you could achieve immortality and thereby earn the privilege of watching hundreds and hundreds of years of progress in world politics, you’d find it to be an enduring trend: The People Have Spoken, and they are thinking like an immature high school cheerleader. Nice guys are boring, they’re after the bad boy. They like the bad boy better…they trust him more.

And, paradoxically, the current “mood” is to elect exactly what people don’t like…once that guy is actually in charge. Barack Obama. Oh yes, you look out on the campaign trail and you see Obama is as popular as cold beer in Hell. Sure. But you can’t find any evidence that people remain happy with this leadership style, once it takes effect. Especially now.

I think if you could hang around for the better part of a millenium watching these cycles first-hand, you’d find this is an enduring paradox. You’d find humanity has a tendency to say it wants one thing, when it wants the exact opposite. We’re most vociferous about accepting Mr. Rogers as our next savior, by our words, when by our deeds one can see we’re most enamored with Vito Corleone.

The issue of trust is somewhat interesting. There is, indeed, a certain sincerity to the bad boy. It’s not that you always know where you stand with him. But with the sweater-wearing Bill Clinton Jimmy Carter Barack Obama Nice Guy, of course, you never do. He tells you what he feels he needs to tell you to make you feel good, kindly shows himself out, and then when he meets with those other guys he tells ’em…y’know…like, whatever.

George Bush has managed to illustrate this paradox all by himself. I’ve watched his popularity ratings plummet, and it’s been a pretty consistent trend for him. “You’re either with us or your with the terrorists” — back then, his approval ratings were pretty damn high. By the time he publicly regretted saying it, he was doing it to try to snap out of a tailspin with those approval ratings. And, of course, being a reformed nice guy, he failed. Then he got nicer and more liberal. And his approval ratings tanked some more.

My theory? It’s a product of evolution. We’re wired to investigate, pragmatically, who makes a good friend and who makes a good enemy. If there’s a price to be paid for being your friend but a lesser price to be paid for being your enemy, we don’t need a reason to be your enemy. We like to pretend there has to be a reason because it makes us feel better about ourselves. But the unpleasant truth is that, for most people, questions of friend-and-enemy boil down to cost-benefit decisions, and are very rarely based on principles.

So around 24 time zones, we’re buried in this Big Lie. We seem to be caught in this vicious cycle of telling each other, “remove all of the costs involved with being your enemy, and I will be your friend.” President Bush just found out the hard way, over the last five years, that that’s a load of crap…which is why it’s never actually stated outright word-for-word. But that’s the pact, and it looks like a few million of us are about to be fooled exactly the same way. We should know better.