At Ground Zero, Coffee and Jokes. [UPDATED AGAIN]

August 19, 2009 at 8:46 am (By Amba) (, , )

I wake up from vague political nightmares and turn on Twitter and find everyone cheerful, as if nothing happened.

Actually, I guess the Obama admin’s reversal and threat to ram through public-option health care with 51 votes (by the tactic called “reconciliation”) makes a lot of people happy.  It merely confirms alarmism on the right about O’s and dems’ “tyrant” instincts — that inflammatory argument will no longer have to be rammed through, it’ll slide right in — while it has immensely cheered up the moping warriors of the left, who’ve wanted him to seize this opportunity to do just that all along.

Here I was stupid enough to think things were actually working as they should and that the minority had managed to slow the majority juggernaut almost to a standstill, forcing everyone to think and talk and work out a compromise that incorporated the best of a range of views.  It looks to me as if the administration is reacting with wounded pride — urged on by its “base” — rather than trusting its own second thoughts or its flimsy (as it turns out) reconciler fantasies.

Didn’t they learn anything from the Hillarycare fiasco?  They have handled this SO badly.  Inconsistent, incoherent, chaotic, driven, it seems, by vanity and petulance rather than chastened sobriety and eagerness to learn.  Nothing new will be allowed to emerge.

The Democrats may have a political majority, but that can’t paper over the deep crack almost right down the middle of the body politic.  To force a solution on the country that close to half of it doesn’t want will give a fatal blow to the splitting wedge.  We’re going to be a crippled country.  When it’s all over we’ll be remembered for being so spoiled by success that we squandered our strength on the luxury of fighting each other, turning our birthright into the spoils of a political Super Bowl.

I’ll admit my own myopia.  When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail, and when you’re a centrist partisanship, not “socialism” or “wingnuts,” looks like the force destroying the country.  It goes back to the Republicans trying to destroy Bill Clinton (who, after the stumbles of his first year, is looking better and better, though rogue’s luck played a part) for no better reason than that he was a successful Democrat who’d “stolen” some of their ideas about fiscal prudence and welfare reform.  (Granted that Bill put the weapon in their hands — and it was in his own pants — but it was wanton and self-indulgent of the Republicans to grab it.)  It goes back before that to Democrats, including myself at the time, despising Ronald Reagan because he was a hawk and not an environmentalist, failing to appreciate how much the freedom we ourselves enjoyed depended on living in a strong country.

I think we’re in terrible trouble, and I’m really scared for the first time.  I must have been naïve:  hardly anyone seems concerned or even surprised this morning.  It’s just another day for you and me in paradise.

UPDATE: From the other side, Philip A. Klein agrees with Maxwell that using reconciliation to pass healthcare reform is an empty threat — and little more than a bluff.

UPDATE II: Randy finds the best links!  If I’d seen this by Clive Crook in the Atlantic sooner, I’d have just quoted it instead of trying to write about the issue myself.

This struck me as a non-story if I ever saw one.

Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s co-operation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks.

Oh please. It isn’t Republican support they lack, it’s public support. And this is not the way to go about getting it. Democrats are technically right that they can get a bill through the senate even with one or two defections on their own side, using a special procedure to prevent a Republican filibuster. But with public opinion, previously well-disposed to reform, now leaning against the Democrats’ proposals–a result of the White House’s dismal failure of leadership on the issue–it would be political recklessness of a high order to pass reform by means of a ruse. Not least because the purpose would be to disempower dissenting Democratic senators, not just Republicans. What would centrist voters make of that? The go-it-alone threat surfaces every few weeks. Though complaints about Republican obstructionism are justified, the idea looks less credible now than before.

It goes on.  Key passage, in my view:

The administration should drop the public option. Politically, the disappointment of the Democrats’ hard-liners would be a plus for the administration, not a minus: their protests would reassure moderate opinion. Substantively, it would subtract little or nothing from the considerable virtues of the other aspects of the reform proposals, around which a broad popular consensus can still be built.

And from the Financial Times editorial Crook links to:

The sooner he ditches [the public option], the better. …  In signalling that he might be ready to do so, Mr Obama has said that comprehensive reform is still possible without it. He is right. A broad consensus supports new rules that would stop insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, cap out-of-pocket expenses (so that illness would no longer mean bankruptcy), and make affordable insurance (with public subsidy where necessary) available to all. Those changes are transformative in themselves. Dropping the public option in order to get that done would be a triumph by any sensible standard, not a defeat.

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59 Comments

  1. Maxwell said,

    Meh. Threats are as much a part of the process as anything else, and frankly the reconciliation threat looks like an empty one to me. See Klein & Drum, for instance – both fairly partisan Democrats, it should be noted.

    My worry is much more that there will be no reform whatsoever, than anyone will have anything forced upon them.

  2. amba12 said,

    Well, I AM naïve. And the lurching inconsistency of the thing bothers me probably even more than its content, but maybe that is strategic: if conciliation looks like it won’t work, try threats.

  3. michael reynolds said,

    Sausage and legislation, two things you don’t want to see being made. We’re seeing more than we used to. And because we are more democratized there are more people meddling in the process. In the good old days it would have been a dozen mandarins in a room with cigars and brandy.

    Reconciliation is not a threat to democracy, Annie, it’s just a threat to a Senate tradition.

  4. amba12 said,

    It’s a mugging by the majority, a fairly slim (and shrinking) minority that has the right and the power to do so, but that you’d hope would have the wisdom not to.

  5. wj said,

    I suspect that there would be less inclination to go with the reconciliation option if there was any sign that there were a significant number of Republicans in Congress who were interested in any kind of compromise legislation. But so far, I’m seeing extremely little of that — even though there are a couple of actual bills in Congress on the subject of health care which actually look far better (at least to this conservative) than what has come out so far.

    But if you indicate that all you are willing to do is scream NO!, any willingness to meet you half way sort of goes out the window. It may play well with some parts of the voting public, but it’s a hell of a way to run a country. And I say that as someone who has been a Republican for decades. If we don’t get ourselves some better people in Congress soon, it’s going to be a very long time in the wilderness.

  6. Randy said,

    IMO, Maxwell has it about right. At this point, I’m not convinced the tyranny of the majority is about to be let loose upon the minority in the manner feared. As Michael says, sausage making can be messy and less of the process is hidden behind closed doors than was previously true. While it seems to me that WJ makes a valid point, the GOP is well within their rights (and political tradition) to act like a defendant’s lawyer and propose no alternative solution if they wish.

  7. Maxwell said,

    It’s also politically smart for them, frankly, just as resisting Social Security reform was smart for the Democrats.

    What’s politically smart for the governing party is (gasp!) good governance.

  8. michael reynolds said,

    It’s not an empty threat. It’s probably an empty threat if you’re looking for a major systemic change.

    Why any of this frightens you, Annie, is absolutely beyond me. This isn’t exactly nuclear war we’re talking about. What we’re talking about is how to pay for what we’re already basically paying for, who gets gored a bit, who profits a bit, who gets to claim a political scalp or two.

    Spoiler Alert:

    We’ll get some kind of a bill. It will solve some problems, it won’t solve others, it will make some things better and other things worse. Everyone will claim victory. It will cost too much. It’ll be half-baked, but we only ever do half-baked because we’re a country whose policies rest almost entirely on who can do the better job of terrifying clueless old farts.

    Life will go on. The Republic will be safe.

    Then the week after we’ll get back to some juicy sex scandal.

  9. realpc said,

    “it will make some things better and other things worse. ”

    This may be off the topic, but I just had the experience of talking to some liberal/progressives at my job. I had learned NOT to do this years ago, but somehow got swept along. For some reason I couldn’t help saying what I think about certain things, and it made me realize, once again, that it’s impossible for people with different perspectives to communicate.

    We were just standing around the coffee machine and I don’t know how it got started. They were talking about how the world could be such a great place if we just get rid of war and greed and selfishness. No one understood anything I said. I was explaining how when you improve something there are unexpected consequences, that it isn’t possible to see the future. I should have just shut up but I kept trying.

    I guess I was expressing my Taoist, postmodern, systems theory, ideas which seem so obvious to me. There were 3 of them and they all were on a different wavelength that was perfectly obvious to them. I think I could see where they are coming from, having observed the liberal/progressive perspective my whole life. But they didn’t get me at all

    I was explaining how things are relative and interconnected and depend on context, saying how humans beings are limited. I explained how a benevolent world government is impossible, because it would have all the power and would inevitably prefer some people over others.

    I mean, everything I said seemed so logical to me, but no one could get the point of anything I said. To them it was obvious that everyone could be nice and unselfish, like the people in Norway, and we would all be happy and peaceful and there would be no poverty, and eventually no diseases.

    They were making so many assumptions but didn’t see it and never questioned it. And I could not get any of my ideas across. Or if they did see my point they didn’t like it, so it never really sank in.

    I thought I would never get involved in a conversation like that again, but I did. It makes me feel so disoriented and so different. But those 3 people are not typical of Americans in general. It just seemed like it because it was 3 against 1.

    It’s such a weird feeling. Of course I have been all through it too many times with relatives and friends. It’s a bad feeling.

  10. realpc said,

    I grew up with liberal/progressive ideology and it was second nature to me also. So I know how they feel, and why it’s so obvious to them that the world could be made perfect by educating everyone into their way of thinking. But I also questioned those ideas all my life, and now I see them as full of paradoxes and contradictions. Of course it’s hard to explain, especially to people who think anyone who disagrees with them in any way must be either a hateful Social Darwinist or an ignorant redneck, or both.

    I tried really hard to not say anything, as usual, but I don’t know why I tried to express some of my ideas. No one got any of it. Normally I only have those debates online where no one knows who I am. Well fortunately my boss wasn’t here today. And I did try hard not to say anything too outrageous.

    But those blank or angry stares you get when you’re the only non-liberal in the room!

    (And, of course, it’s the same if you’re the only non-conservative in the room).

  11. realpc said,

    Oh, and in case you’re wondering exactly how these people define liberal/progressive — they call themselves communists and would like to see a communist world government. That’s where the left is these days.

  12. realpc said,

    The moderate left. The educated scientific normal left.

  13. realpc said,

    Oh too many posts, sorry. If I wanted to start my own topic, is it easy to do here? Amba, I was thinking of posting that story I sent you last winter. I know I can’t explain my philosophy in a web post, but I think that story sort of expresses why I am not a utopian or a communist.

  14. amba12 said,

    Michael:

    Thanks for calling me a clueless old fart! ;-)

  15. Ron said,

    Amba:

    I’ll never call you clueless…;)

  16. Donna B. said,

    Ron — LOL!!

    realpc — the social darwinists were the original progressives. And though their tactics have changed, the goal is the same: social control.

  17. Darcy said,

    Well, I’m not happy. I’m alarmed and talk about it every day. So there will be no gloating about being right about it from me. I’ll be enormously sad if this passes – in any form. It has been characterized over and over as “a toe in the door” to the single-payer system by Democrats in Congress. I believe that.

    I will continue to hope that even if it does pass, Americans will be outraged enough to swing the other way in the next election and we can undo this before it’s implemented.
    So I’ll always hope. And I’ll fight for what I believe is worth holding on to….our freedom of choice and a free market for that choice.

  18. michael reynolds said,

    Ron:

    And I would never call her old. So, between the two of us . . .

  19. michael reynolds said,

    Darcy:

    What exactly are you upset by? And please don’t say “the cost” unless you also opposed pissing hundreds of billions away in Iraq, or billions on a missile defense system to protect us from a country that no longer exists, or tax cuts for the well-to-do in the middle of a war.

    What exactly is godawful about having the same caliber of health care as a Frenchman or a Dutchamn and none of the fear of medical bankruptcy.

  20. Ron said,

    Michael, isn’t it true that the French have a bankruptcy rate the same as Americans, and the rate of Canadians is even higher than that? I do remember that the French rate is 7 times higher than the German rate.

    So, if these countries both have health care systems that would remove medical bankruptcy as a possibility, we assume they’re, what, worse spenders than Americans? I would find that hard to believe….

  21. amba12 said,

    Michael,

    Deep mistrust of (big) government is an article of conservative faith which, arguably, goes back to the Founding Fathers. It is, like liberal mistrust of (big) business, partly rational and partly not.

    What scares me is the violence of the reaction of nearly half the country to this idea AND the Democrats’ willingness to push it through anyway!! You can’t say the same thing about the Iraq war because the Democrats almost all supported it at the beginning.

    The liberal Democrats are sure they are right about this, but they don’t have a big enough majority to impose it on the dissenters without doing severe damage to the country. Majority rules in a democracy, but there’s a responsibility, especially on the part of the president, to govern the entire fractious divided country. Restraining the size of government and of debt and defitic are NOT crazy ideas, for Christ’s sake. In fact, they are hard to argue against even if you do not see burgeoning government as evil (I don’t; I see it mostly as unwieldy). There should be a way to incorporate those ideas into a health care reform bill if only to rein in costs. Why is bigger government almost the Democrats’ religion? Why are they so attached to it?

  22. Randy said,

    Why are they so attached to it?

    Votes, money and power.

  23. Donna B. said,

    Amba, it is big government coupled with efficiency that worries me. Either alone are manageable monsters… but together they scare me.

  24. Randy said,

    I think this post by Clive Crook at The Atlantic is worth reading. As is the Financial Times editorial he links to.

  25. michael reynolds said,

    Amba:

    Actually we have a big enough majority to do most of what we want. Are you suggesting we should abandon any policy opposed by scared old people and loudmouthed, gun-toting bigots? You want a country run by the lowest common denominator? You want policy set by the kind of ignoramus who believes in death panels?

    Or is it that you want the country run by the people who spread those lies to the ignoramuses?

    When Harry Truman integrated the army the idea had 13% support. If Lincoln had polled on emancipation what do you think he’d have had, even in the north? The Civil Rights act? What do you think that polled? We elected Obama to do the right things, not whatever didn’t annoy the Party of the Confederacy.

    As for an addiction to big government: what nonsense. What tired, 1990’s-era drivel. The GOP handed us a 100 pound sack of shit and we’ve been trying to clean it up. The GOP ran up the debt and the deficit, stalemated two wars and stood around with its collective thumb up its collective ass while the financial system leapt off a cliff.

    Now, thanks to Democrats, we are no longer looking at a depression.

    And you’re still prattling on about “big government?” Really? That’s your major worry? “Big Government” just saved capitalism’s ass. Even bigger government has already brought about a turn-around in Germany, France and Japan. If we’d had bigger government we’d probably be closer to recovery now.

    So, let’s add this up, shall we? The advocates of “Small Government” delivered 2 stalemated, mismanaged wars, torture, a massive deficit, a housing collapse and a financial collapse that has us all thinking 1929.

    So far the “Big Government” party has stabilized banking, softened the blow of the housing collapse, covered the unemployed and rescued the entire fucking country from economic disaster.

    That Republican, “government is the enemy” crap is about as relevant as a Victrola.

    I have to say that I am shocked to find a Jew siding with the party of race-baiting, theocracy and plutocracy. The party of fear-mongering and lies. What is it about these people that you find attractive? And don’t tell me again how you’re just rejecting your liberal brainwashing, you’re not a teenager.

    You need to explain just what you hate about the idea of giving poor and struggling Americans a level of health coverage that a Frenchman takes for granted. Just what is so threatening about the idea that young, hardworking people might have a piece of the safety net that waits just inches below you and Jacques? You won’t be paying for it, I will. So why does it terrify you?

  26. amba12 said,

    Your contempt for your countrymen is EXACTLY the sort of thing that makes a wide swath of Americans, who are not encompassed by your description, hate and fear liberals. You’re writing off millions of people like your friend Ruth Anne Adams, who I don’t think is either old and scared or a gun-toting bigot. If you think that ignorance and racism characterize red America, red America thinks that out-of-touch snobbery, head-up-arse intellectualism, and American self-hatred characterize blue America. Ignorance comes in a number of varieties, and most (no, not ALL) blue-state Americans would be helpless without red-state Americans to build their houses and keep their cars running, just for starters.

    I’m not terrified by government, and I’m not terrified by health care reform. I’m terrified by you, Michael. Just like I’m terrified by Michael Savage and Glenn Beck. And by the insane clash between all you insane bastards, right and left, and the mobs and the snobs who are, between them, lighting each other’s fuses and destroying this country. I hate and fear extremists on both sides. I am attracted to sane voices, which include sane voices that advocate government involvement in health care and sane voices that oppose it. Those voices could solve the problems you describe in your last paragraph in a way that a real majority could accept. But no.

  27. amba12 said,

    And what happened to the Michael Reynolds who was over in France arguing for American exceptionalism and the Iraq war? Was it that that TV show never aired? Or did the French guys win the argument? You mean you let somebody else win? The French dazzled you with their sophistication? How did someone who achieved success without finishing college become such a snob? Is it the ignorant yokel in you sucking up to Hollywood types?

    But this is a parody — your style, not mine.

  28. amba12 said,

    So, let’s add this up, shall we? The advocates of “Small Government” delivered 2 stalemated, mismanaged wars, torture, a massive deficit, a housing collapse and a financial collapse that has us all thinking 1929.

    Plenty of blame to go around for the housing collapse and the financial collapse. I’d advise leaving those off the list of exclusively Republican malfeasances. A lot of independents and some Republicans voted for Obama because they too were disgusted by George W. Bush’s government-expanding, deficit-spending ways. They took a chance on believing Obama’s promises to be post-partisan and to listen to a range of ideas.

    So far the “Big Government” party has stabilized banking, softened the blow of the housing collapse, covered the unemployed and rescued the entire fucking country from economic disaster.

    Your kids are going to pay for that, Michael. I don’t have any.

  29. amba12 said,

    P.S. Many, many Jews side with “the party of, etc. etc.” far more than I do.

    And you are really screwing yourself when you play the race card, because it begins to look more and more like Democratic strategists elected Obama precisely for his, as it were, blackmail power. He can’t be evaluated on his competence or his ideology without people like you squalling “RACISM!” How nifty. The invisible shield. But that’s a dishonest and totalitarian tactic. Some of those who criticize Obama are driven by race; some who criticize him are beyond it. You can’t — or rather, don’t want to — tell the difference. You and Al Sharpton.

  30. Scott said,

    You know Micheal, From the previous thread, I thought you were a rational and fair minded liberal, that while I disagreed with you, I could respect you. Well, shame on me.

    From this thread I have discovered you are nothing but a small hateful and bigoted man, who demonizes anyone you disagree with.

  31. Ron said,

    if a president simply proposed three things for health care:

    1.) detach health care from employers.

    2.) prohibit insurers from excluding people because of “pre-existing conditions”

    3.) establish a ceiling of payments from individuals having the government cover the overage

    he would have something easily sold to Americans and something that would relieve a lot of anxiety people have about health care bills.

    Not to say we couldn’t discuss more than this, but this baseline would cut through the Gordian knot as it were.

  32. realpc said,

    “Your contempt for your countrymen is EXACTLY the sort of thing that makes a wide swath of Americans, who are not encompassed by your description, hate and fear liberals.”

    And you can’t reason with the current incarnation of liberal/progressivism. They are so absolutely sure they are right about everything. I found that out once again yesterday, and it is so tiresome. If you are not a liberal/progressive they think that means you want people to die from lack of health insurance, you like to see poverty and war and disease.

    It never once occurs to them that they don’t know how to solve everything and make everything fair and lovely . The are so absolutely sure it can all be done once you get the ignorant hateful religious bigots out of the way.

    You can’t show them any of the paradoxes or contradictions or ironies in their thinking. They won’t see any of that because they are blinded by the absolutely certainty that they are on the side of intelligence and compassion.

  33. realpc said,

    One lady, at work yesterday, said everyone in the entire world should be guaranteed a place to live, food, healthcare and education. It seemed so obvious to her. I was too startled to think of a rational argument.

  34. realpc said,

    Because the arguments against that kind of thinking are so difficult. You would have to go back to the very basics and there just isn’t time, and they would never get it anyway. Her beliefs sound good and if you oppose them well you just aren’t nice. You don’t want everyone in the world to have these things? Don’t you care?

  35. realpc said,

    AND you can’t say anything to them about the American founders or their philosophy. They will immediately start raving about slavery and killing the Indians. The entire foundation of this country has no value to them, because all they can think about is old white men who owned slaves, or young white men shooting Indians. The ingenious philosophy that created this nation is completely lost for liberal/progressives now.

  36. Randy said,

    Even bigger government has already brought about a turn-around in Germany, France and Japan

    Did it? Citations, please. It is my understanding that Germany, for example, opted for no government stimulus in response to the financial crisis.

  37. realpc said,

    [The GOP ran up the debt and the deficit, stalemated two wars and stood around with its collective thumb up its collective ass while the financial system leapt off a cliff.]

    [Now, thanks to Democrats, we are no longer looking at a depression.]

    And exactly who were all those Democrats who could foresee the financial crisis and knew how to prevent it? If only the evil stupid Republicans had allowed them to.

    And how, exactly, do you know the Democrats’ policies have prevented a depression? How do you know what the outcome of different policies might have been?

    I have noticed that when people join up with an ideology they stop caring about logic. Yes, I know Michael claims not to be a liberal/progressive or whatever you want to label it. But he is obviously very caught up in some kind of ideological mania.

    And why do people get caught up in these things? I think it give them hope, for one thing, because it provides simple answers (just get rid of the evil morons and the we’ll be fine). But it also promotes an exhilarating feeling of belonging to the superior group.

    So you can blame all the troubles on evil morons, while at the same time declaring that you are not an evil moron. So you feel good.

  38. realpc said,

    ” the party of race-baiting, theocracy and plutocracy. The party of fear-mongering and lies. ”

    You can always focus on the negative side of any party, group, belief system, or individual. We could also list everything we don’t like about the Democrats, or everything that is sensible about the Republicans. You obviously have a big emotional investment in hating non-liberals.

    Just think of any person you know well and list their good and bad traits. You can create either a demonic or angelic image of that person just by crossing out all the good or all the bad. That’s what Americans do with the political parties. It’s a childish game.

  39. realpc said,

    ” I am shocked to find a Jew siding with the party of race-baiting, theocracy and plutocracy”

    So I guess since I’m Jewish I have to side with the party that hates religion and loves terrorists? Michael, you are thinking with a very blunt instrument. I don’t mean you aren’t intelligent — some of the smartest people these days are thinking with a chain saw when a scalpel is required.

  40. amba12 said,

    Scott: he’s both. He’s Jekyll and Hyde. You wouldn’t know it to see us going at it here, but we’re friends. And these fights are not personal to me, they’re Kabuki.

  41. amba12 said,

    *chuckle* So glad I invited you back, real.

  42. wj said,

    real, perhaps what the lady meant was that nobody should be artificially prevented from having a place to live, food, health care and education. That kind of position would be very difficult to argue against (except for quibbles over what constituted an “artificial” bar to them). But to say that everybody should be guaranteed those things ignores the question of just how they are to be created.

    If you expect the market/demand for them to motivate people to provide them, you have to figure out what to do if it occasionally doesn’t. And if you expect “the government” to provide them, you are saying that the government should force someone who does not wish to do so to provide them. And we have a certain amount of evidence from the last century that suggests that the latter does not work very well.

  43. realpc920 said,

    wj,

    The lady was coming from a simplistic idealistic perspective. She had obviously never considered any of the complicating factors. Her thinking is so different from mine, I could not even respond rationally. There are so many reasonable objections to her statement, and you have listed some of them, but I couldn’t think of any at the moment.

    Yet I don’t think she is all that unusual among current Democrats. They can see that some European countries do have those guarantees, so they wonder why the whole world can’t do the same.

    Of course they don’t read much about history or economics, and therefore aren’t aware that although rich nations can provide socialist guarantees for a while, the money runs out eventually and the pendulum swings back towards capitalism.

    They also don’t realize that these countries are basically capitalist, not socialist. There are no socialist economies anywhere as far as I know. Most capitalist countries provide socialist guarantees, to varying degrees. The US provides less, but that could be why we are (or were) the richest.

    But this lady wasn’t talking about the US; she sincerely wanted these guarantees for the whole world. She, and the other 2, believe a world government is necessary to prevent war and unfairness.

    This kind of person does not understand the basic motivation of the American founders, which is the prevention of tyranny. (Of course, the American founders have no worth or validity because they accepted slavery).

    I explained to them the obvious problems with having an all-powerful world government. But I’m sure they think all you have to do is put the right kind of people in charge — intelligent, compassionate, unselfish, scientific, tolerant, etc. Just like themselves!

    I tried to explain the law of unintended consequences, using rent control as an example. They didn’t get it. They thought all rent should be controlled, and to heck with the landlords because all they care about is making money.

    I said no one would build anything if they didn’t have a chance to make money. I guess they think everything should be built by the government, the all-powerful, all-seeing, compassionate world government.

    There are so many people who think this way, and not because they’re stupid. There are plenty of Marxists and anti-capitalists around.

  44. wj said,

    Sometimes (not always, I grant!) the way to get thru to people of that mindset is to ask what happens when the wrong people end up running the world government. Point out all the people on the news who are saying things (e.g. in town hall meetings) that they disagree with. Ask what happens if those people end up getting one of their own elected head of the world government.

    In my experience, they come back with one of two responses:

    1) those people who disagree with them are a tiny, if loud, minority. This usually stems from the speaker not having much contact with anyone who happens to disagree with their views — let alone with people outside the US. Pointing out that Ronald Reagan won elections here in California, not just nationwide, will give pause to those who are not totally closed minded.

    2) those who disagree with them should simply be prevented from voting/running. Looked at clearly, this is the old position of government by philosopher-kings. Which assumes that those wise members of a tiny elite will always go the fight (from the speaker’s view) thing. Which, in turn, actually means that they think that they, personally, ought to have the deciding say on any issue that they have an opinion about.

    Of course, there are equally narrow-minded people on the other sides, too. (I say other sides, plural, because the left and the right are not the only fools out there. Some libertarians, just to take one example, can also sound amazingly detached from reality.)

  45. reader_iam said,

    Ron: Yes, but I’d add one more: Prohibition on canceling coverage–or jacking up the individual premiums to unreasonable levels–for people who’ve been paying for health insurance for years and then have the temerity to get ill with something that’s going to be expensive to cover.

    I know some people say that’s how the free market works. But to me, it’s like saying that if I’ve spent years stocking my pantry with canned goods, it’d be a-ok if the grocery store from which I bought them all those years came and cleared the shelves just when I’m hungry and need to rely on them. Or told me I could buy them all over again, but this time at astronomically higher cost.

    Immoral.

  46. realpc920 said,

    Yes, you could make them think about the fact that people they despise could get control of the world government. However, they probably believe that once they get control of the world it will become so wonderful no one would think of rebelling. Their whole view of human nature is wrong. Yes, it’s the old philosopher-king idea — if people like myself ran things all would be fabulous.

    I took a different approach and explained that it’s human nature to treat people you like better that the ones you dislike. And who knows why we decide we like one person and not another. The benevolent absolute ruler might have a bad dream about you one night and wake up with an idea that you belong in prison.

    But of course they don’t get it, because their faith is in human nature. They believe human intelligence the way some of us believe in the wisdom of God or nature. To them, human nature, if educated correctly into Western science and progressive values, is godlike.

  47. wj said,

    But if human nature (properly educated) is so perfect, then simply providing that education must, over time, lead to a perfect world. So just providing that education, anywhere, will lead to geometrically expanding numbers of perfected people. I wonder if they have spent any time in a classroom….

    And obviously no perfect people will ever have children who do not follow in their perfect footsteps — guess they have seen very few children, even outside a classroom! I am put in mind of an old New Yorker cartoon: two aging hippies, looking down at their short-haired child, dressed in suit and carrying a briefcase, and asking each other: “Where did we go wrong???”

  48. realpc920 said,

    “But if human nature (properly educated) is so perfect, then simply providing that education must, over time, lead to a perfect world.”

    I think they believe that a complete modern Western scientific education for everyone will result in a population of compassionate, non-violent, unselfish atheists. And since all problems are caused by religion, greed and ignorance, everything would be fab.

  49. reader_iam said,

    Human nature is like a force of nature: largely uncontrollable by humans.

  50. realpc920 said,

    “Human nature is like a force of nature: largely uncontrollable by humans.”

    That’s right, but you will never convince a progressive.

  51. amba12 said,

    A friend of mine says some Harvard friends of his now openly call themselves communists. I could hardly believe it.

  52. amba12 said,

    Canceling coverage when someone actually gets sick cancels the whole idea of insurance. The concept is that the pool of healthy people paying in provides sufficient funds to pay out to those who get sick.

  53. wj said,

    Why not, amba? Some people managed to convince themselves that communism was a wonderful idea, even when there were real-world examples of what it was really. Now that such inconvenient examples are “merely of interest to historians,” how much easier to believe that it’s a great idea. Certainly no more difficult that believing that every word of Genesis is absolutely true.

    Hmmm. And consider that frequently the same people shift effortlessly from one of those belief systems to the other. Perhaps what is important is understanding that “facts are the enemy of truth,” and “reality is a matter of opinion.” (Which, as an engineer, I have difficulty wrapping my mind around.)

  54. wj said,

    Canceling coverage when someone gets sick makes sense IF you see insurance, not as a way to spread the burden of unpredictable disaster, but as a bet in a casino of life. And the house always wins…..

  55. realpc920 said,

    “A friend of mine says some Harvard friends of his now openly call themselves communists. I could hardly believe it.”

    I think it’s very common now, at least around here. Anyone who is not a conservative or libertarian seems to label their self a communist or socialist. Yesterday I pointed out that all the communist experiments, so far, have not worked out so well.

    But these people think Norway is communist or socialist. They use the words however they like. It’s cool to be a communist now.

  56. amba12 said,

    Human nature is like a force of nature: largely uncontrollable by humans.

    Actually, I think it IS a force of nature. As its name acknowledges.

  57. Donna B. said,

    I too think that everyone in the world should have food, clothing, shelter, and a bed upon which to rest their head.

    I also realize that so far, capitalism has furnished that for far more people than any other political system. Sure, capitalism gives a few gold plates for their food and clothing made of fine soft cloth while others eat off Corelle and buy their pillows at WalMart. If I must be poor, I want to be poor in a prosperous capitalist country like the U.S.

  58. Randy said,

    Its has been my experience that Trotskyite is the preferred term. I seriously doubt that courses taught from a Marxist perspective declined appreciably after the collapse of the Soviet empire. In the groups I’m familiar with, the Soviet system and its satellites were viewed as a corruption of the communist ideal. China and Cuba were the role model until China moved on to state capitalism. Alas, only Cuba remains.

    As a side note, I would not be surprised if there are more self-avowed Marxists/Communists/Trotskyites than Republicans among the professoriate on the average campus of the most influential colleges and universities in the United States today. (Not a criticism, just an observation.)

  59. realpc920 said,

    “I would not be surprised if there are more self-avowed Marxists/Communists/Trotskyites than Republicans among the professoriate on the average campus of the most influential colleges and universities in the United States today. ”

    I think it’s because academics are mostly non-religious these days. And if you don’t believe in any kind of God or higher intelligence, then you naturally assume human beings are the smartest thing on earth. So of course you would believe human beings can design a better society that what has naturally evolved.

    Most Americans these days fall into one of 2 philosophies — either you believe Mind creates Matter or you believe Matter creates Mind. Academics are in the latter group.

    People who believe in intelligent Design, like myself, are unlikely to have faith in social engineering, because we think that political and economic systems have their own intelligence. We (or at least I) believe that intelligence is in everything, or I should say, that everything is made out of intelligence (or information).

    So to me, Nature has its own intelligence, which we can never understand much about. And even our economic and political systems are to some extent beyond our comprehension.

    But I can see why academics, who are mostly atheist/materialists now, would think social engineering shouldn’t be all that hard. Not harder than going to the moon.

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