Thursday, September 22, 2011

Steve Benen, Sam Harris, E.J. Dionne, and Ron Paul: All Human

One of the most important elements of politics is knowing what’s humanly possible and what isn’t.

•As a political blogger for Washington Monthly, Steve Benen is in a position of some responsibility and really ought to be smart enough not to think all his political foes are sadists who secretly agree with him but want to hurt people.  That’s how children think of their foes.  Yet he wrote a piece about how Republicans wanted to stop the latest Fed “rescue” plan – you know, the one that likely caused today’s 400-point Dow plunge – out of a desire to see Americans suffer.  Because that’s always good for votes, you know.  He fails what Bryan Caplan dubbed the “ideological Turing test,” ability to model the beliefs of others.

•More nuanced is the hope of atheist Sam Harris that an ethos opposed to Lying (even so-called white lies, which are the dangerous gateway drug) can be cultivated.  He knows it’s an uphill battle – but this is the sort of thing that can be somewhat mitigated by talking about it. 

(Of course, sometimes bad things happen when you talk about it: I think a notorious breakup of mine was sparked in part by me waxing philosophical about the importance of vowing to avoid even white lies – after all, if you can’t muster the courage to say “I’m not crazy about that hat,” how will you muster the courage, when the time comes, to say “I’m cheating on you,” I opined?  The ex in question was not at all comfortable with this principled stand – nor with any others, as far as I can tell.  But perhaps a bit more on that in two weeks, as we reach a special media-event anniversary.)

•As I noted on Facebook, E.J. Dionne lays bare his ignorance of economics – and FDR’s – in this telling passage from his column yesterday:

Franklin Roosevelt described the other way in 1932: “Our Republican leaders tell us economic laws – sacred, inviolable, unchangeable – cause panics which no one could prevent.  But while they prate of economic laws, men and women are starving.  We must lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature.  They are made by human beings.”

Once human beings throw off the chains imposed by the idea that all economic laws are “natural,” they discover the capacity to change things and can use the tools of democratic government to do so when all else fails.

If we all just wish hard enough, people, there’ll be upward-sloping demand curves, Fed money-pumping without inflation or stock jitters, and, needless to say, unicorns with unlimited zero-interest loans.  You just have to believe.  Likewise, there are no laws governing the behavior of gases, since in principle each atom could choose to move in a surprising way or to vote for Obama.

•Those not falling for Dionne’s crap, Obama’s, or Benen’s might wish to join me at Ron Paul Liberty HQ at 178 Mott St. at 8pm for the 9pm GOP debate.  Let us hope Ron Paul and Gary Johnson augment rather than undermining each other and that the rest of the field is forced to play keep-up.  Or at least that Paul and Johnson make some minimal effort to explain to the audience what the hell they’re talking about, lest I stop talking about both of them.

No comments: