September 6th, 2016

Thoughts on comments; comments on thoughts

The comments section here offers food for thought, and lots of it. So here’s a post based on a few comments and my reaction to them.

(1) “The Other Chuck” wrote of all the GOP presidential candidates in 2016: “It’s interesting how Trump makes them ALL seem reasonable in retrospect.”

Well, true. But most of them (maybe all) seemed pretty reasonable at the outset. Some were a lot more reasonable than others, of course. But if any of them—and that includes the ones I disagreed with most—had ended up the nominee, I would not have hesitated to have voted for that person.

(2) “Julie near Chicago” says “One of the things I find interesting is the number of people coming out from behind a bush to say that their first pick was Scott Walker — including me.”

I think I said it long before the campaign began. I initially thought Walker would be the one to beat. Courageous, experienced in the executive branch, with conservative bona fides, he had a proven ability to earn votes in blue states. Unfortunately he was too bland for the fired-up and angry electorate of 2016, and his foreign policy inexperience showed. But the latter problem wouldn’t have mattered to voters so much, I think, if it hadn’t been for the former. No, this year, the candidate who stomped his/her feet loudest was the one a plurality of people seemed to want. And because of the size of the pack, a plurality rather than a majority of the voters were able to decide the outcome.

(3) “AesopFan” quotes an article that claims, “a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.”

I am heartily sick of the common but misleading Russian roulette analogy. I wrote an entire post describing its inappropriateness to the situation we face with these two candidates.

(4) “Sergey” asks a very interesting question:

I can’t understand why authoritarian ruler is always considered to be a bad choice. It entirely depends on personal virtues of this ruler. Singapore and Chile are clear examples how authoritarian ruler can save his nation on the verge of catastrophe and do the job which no democracy can ever accomplish due its inherent weakness and impotence.

Certainly some people acknowledge that as a dilemma, because it’s well understand here (at least by those who think about such things) that authoritarian rule can be more efficient. But in this country it has been rejected, at least so far. It has to do with our special heritage about liberty.

We are very touchy about our liberty—at least, we used to be, and many of us continue to be, probably more than any other group of people on earth. Liberty is considered a good thing in and of itself, even a necessary thing. Also an American thing. Of course, our liberty is compromised in certain ways. But there are still many Americans who consider it very important and even vital, the key to American exceptionalism and to American culture itself

Hitler made the trains run on time [*see NOTE below]. We really don’t care. At least, most of us don’t. We’d rather they were a bit late and we kept our liberty. That’s why we don’t sing “God Save the King” any more, although we use the same tune for a different sentiment:

My country ’tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died
Land of the pilgrims’ pride
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring.

[*NOTE: A reader mentioned to me that it was Mussolini who is said to have made the trains run on time. When I Googled it, I found a few references to Hitler having done it in Germany, but the majority of the references were to Mussolini. So it’s likely to have been him.

The analogous saying about Hitler was that “he built the Autobahn.” Apparently, I got the two types of transportation mixed up in my mind, but the idea being expressed is the same: increased efficiency. Of course, in other ways, dictatorships and authoritarian rulers are not necessarily efficient at all. Five-year plans, anyone? How often does authoritarian rule actually “save” a country on the brink of catastrophe, as Sergey posits occurred in Chile and Singapore, and how often does it lead a country further down the road to ruin? I maintain the latter is far more common than the former.]

34 Responses to “Thoughts on comments; comments on thoughts”

  1. DNW Says:

    Sergey’s question is understandable given certain social assumptions common to, and unavoidable in, Europe.

    They are the same assumptions that many are determined to put firmly in place here – by reconstructing the United States as a unitary social solidarity regime.

    In such a regime, one facing longstanding questions of what to do with, or what sacrifices to make for, the welfare of the behaviorally incontinent considered as fundamentally unalienable “family”, one kind of answer will seem obvious.

    In another context, wherein the relation with fellow citizens as citizens is considered formal rather than organic or national, the answer will be a different one. And in such a polity it will be reasonable to ask if those incapable of self-governance in the small “g” sense, have any logical claim to membership in or consideration of political place or peer-hood in a polity based on self-governance.

    What expression of political and social solidarity does the self-governing and self-responsible man owe to the man who cannot muster those virtues? What responsibility has he to his welfare, and to what degree and for what end is he expected to sacrifice his own freedom in order to cosset the behaviorally incontinent so that they may live as illusory political and moral peers?

    These virtues of self-control and direction were once considered as the conditioning virtues necessary to even be considered for membership in the class of enfranchised citizens.

    To a large extent, what the left has been all about these hundred fifty years, is tearing down that framework and substituting another which is based on another political anthropology.

  2. Juli Says:

    common but misleading Russian roulette analogy.

    I’ve seen it put this way: Both are revolvers. Hillary has 6 bullets, Trump has 5.

    To my mind, that’s a bit more accurate, although still disheartening.

  3. Nick Says:

    An authoritarian can change the course of the ship of state. It’s possible for an authoritarian to make things better – he can do it quicker than a democracy can. The Roman Republic had an office of the Dictator, who could exercise complete authority in a crisis. Every government has something like that, I’m sure, in emergencies. (Ask a non-crazy historian about Lincoln.)

    The problem is, obviously, that the authoritarian can do things differently than the will of the people. Authoritarians can do some good in two situations: when the order has collapsed, or when the state has become corrupt beyond repair. I’m thinking Somalia, not Albany. When you’re at the point where a people are better off wiping the hard drive and reinstalling an OS, then I guess the risk of an authoritarian’s vision doesn’t seem as great. But remember that the person who emerges as the leader in a free-for-all is almost always the most ruthless of the contenders.

  4. Nick Says:

    Russian roulette only has two outcomes. Reality is rarely that clean.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Juli:

    Read the post of mine that I linked to, the one on the shotgun election.

    Not only is the number of bullets in dispute, but whether they are bullets or something more destructive, as well as who the weapons are pointed at.

    It’s a bad analogy all around, positing a far more simple either/or than is actually the case.

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    1) As just one example, how was Jeb’s covert support for open borders ‘reasonable’?
    2) It was not the number of GOP candidates but a fractured electorate unable to reach concensus.
    3) With all due respect, the Russian Roulette analogy is entirely appropriate and I offered several long comments in support of it.
    4) A benevolent all powerful leader IS the most efficient form of governance. Obviously the flaw as a system is that, sooner or later the tyrannical assume the reins of power and, invariably entrench their tyranny.

    Liberty rests upon the proposition that all of our rights stop, where another’s rights begin.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    “Covert support for open borders”? You’ve been reading much too much on Breitbart.

    See this (and yes, I consider National Review a more reliable authority than the Trump shills at Breitbart).

    As for this statement from you, “With all due respect, the Russian Roulette analogy is entirely appropriate and I offered several long comments in support of it.”

    Ah, well then, case closed!

    Actually, I wrote a post on the subject, and I happened to disagree with you then, and disagree with you now.

  8. oldflyer Says:

    Sergey, I suppose that an argument can be made for a specific authoritarian, particularly in a crisis, or near crisis situation. We have done that at points in our history; but, always within structural limits, and with counter forces in place–even if they were complicit at times. In general, I don’t buy the concept..

    There are a couple of obvious problems with handing unconstrained power to an Authoritarian. (Without which does it fit the description?)

    First, of course, is the very issue of restraint on power. An Authoritarian who has been vetted and deemed benevolent in the beginning, is not guaranteed to remain so. If time proves otherwise, then where do you go?

    Another obvious one is the question of succession. To use an analogy; even though you stand in a clear, cool stream, the flow does not stop, and and you cannot know what is flowing toward you from upstream. Ask the North Koreans among others how their issue with succession worked.

  9. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    neo,

    No Breitbart needed. In regard to illegal immigration, Jeb Bush made his support for the status quo quite clear.

    “I offered several long comments in support of it.” GB

    “Ah, well then, case closed!”

    I wasn’t implying that my arguments were more persuasive, just that a valid argument could be made in support of that analogy. That you find it unpersuasive, no more invalidates it, than does the opposite. So yes, on that subject we do disagree. Friends can do that.

  10. Big Maq Says:

    “Not only is the number of bullets in dispute, but whether they are bullets or something more destructive, as well as who the weapons are pointed at.” – Neo

    Also in dispute is how many times each will pull the trigger and how quickly.

    Yep, bad analogy. Just gets people sidetracked on the validity of the analogy than on what it is supposed to represent.

  11. miklos000rosza Says:

    More than one leader in Africa has begun rule seemingly benevolent, intelligent, far-sighted and reasonable. Reading the histories of such places as the Congo or Nigeria can be heart-breaking when you allow yourself to provisionally succumb to the charisma and charm of young man — who later on will become yet another insanely greedy kleptocrat with a mansion in Provence who closes down any newspaper which dares for one moment to function as anything less than an embarrassingly servile PR firm for the by-now paranoid ruler and his insanely corrupt family and regime.

    What happens to them? Is it really so simple as “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    I’ve known for a long time it would be not be good for me or anyone else if I was in charge of arbitrary powers of life and death.

  12. Big Maq Says:

    the leader in a free-for-all is almost always the most ruthless of the contenders.” – Nick

    Right. In general, it is foolish to argue in favor of an authoritarian to “fix” anything.

    I can’t understand why authoritarian ruler is always considered to be a bad choice” – Sergey

    Rather fanciful thinking that is. Instead of keeping it on the theoretical, let’s talk about right now.

    What of trump says that if he were to be authoritarian that he’d be “benevolent” as Lee Kuan Yew? The two men couldn’t be further apart in character, philosophy and purpose.
    .

    I cannot understand why people talk like any form of authoritarianism would be a good thing at this point in time, some arguing it is necessary and desirable.

    Just what kind of world do they even want at the other end to think it worth such a horrendous risk?

    Do they even understand / acknowledge the risk and likely results?

    Have they even really done much to try to avert this situation over the past eight years, if it is so bad that this is a necessary choice?

    Ultimately, it seems just another “monday morning quarterbacking” form of the “burn it all down” argument.

    Too many Major T J King Kongs riding the rocket here, yip-ki-yeaying all the way, because they’ve given up before they even started.
    .

    Neo talks about Liberty in the response to this.

    Doesn’t seem that these folks talking like this value it all that much. Theirs seems a different set of values, where there doesn’t exist a step too far in opposing clinton / the left.

  13. Vanderleun Says:

    Actually, the Roulette item sort of cherry picks the article. The full lead is:

    “2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

    Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.

    To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic. The stakes can’t be that high because they are never that high—except perhaps in the pages of Gibbon. Conservative intellectuals will insist that there has been no “end of history” and that all human outcomes are still possible. They will even—as Charles Kesler does—admit that America is in “crisis.” But how great is the crisis? Can things really be so bad if eight years of Obama can be followed by eight more of Hillary, and yet Constitutionalist conservatives can still reasonably hope for a restoration of our cherished ideals? Cruz in 2024!

    Not to pick (too much) on Kesler, who is less unwarrantedly optimistic than most conservatives. And who, at least, poses the right question: Trump or Hillary? Though his answer—“even if [Trump] had chosen his policies at random, they would be sounder than Hillary’s”—is unwarrantedly ungenerous. The truth is that Trump articulated, if incompletely and inconsistently, the right stances on the right issues—immigration, trade, and war—right from the beginning.”

    The Flight 93 Election

  14. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Big Maq,

    Who here has argued that authoritarianism is necessary or desirable?

    Some do recognize and acknowledge the risk. A horrendous risk is only acceptable when faced with the alternative of a horrendous certainty.

    Each of us must answer to their own conscience, as to what they may or may not have done. Which makes facile assumptions about having “given up”, at best presumptuous.

    Honestly compels he who poses the question to answer it as well. Where does the limit lie, where liberty will be surrendered, rather than cross that line?

  15. Vanderleun Says:

    And from the conclusion of The Flight 93 Election, these sage observations:
    =====
    “We’ve established that most “conservative” anti-Trumpites are in the Orwellian sense objectively pro-Hillary. What about the rest of you? If you recognize the threat she poses, but somehow can’t stomach him, have you thought about the longer term? The possibilities would seem to be: Caesarism, secession/crack-up, collapse, or managerial Davoisie liberalism as far as the eye can see … which, since nothing human lasts forever, at some point will give way to one of the other three. Oh, and, I suppose, for those who like to pour a tall one and dream big, a second American Revolution that restores Constitutionalism, limited government, and a 28% top marginal rate.

    But for those of you who are sober: can you sketch a more plausible long-term future than the prior four following a Trump defeat? I can’t either.

    The election of 2016 is a test—in my view, the final test—of whether there is any virtù left in what used to be the core of the American nation. If they cannot rouse themselves simply to vote for the first candidate in a generation who pledges to advance their interests, and to vote against the one who openly boasts that she will do the opposite (a million more Syrians, anyone?), then they are doomed. They may not deserve the fate that will befall them, but they will suffer it regardless.”

    The Flight 93 Election

  16. OM Says:

    “If they cannot rouse themselves simply to vote for the first candidate in a generation who pledges to advance their interests,….”

    Another pundit who “knows” that Trump advances interests that go beyond Trump. As if Trump has been consistent about conservative values or interests. Trump’s pledges are “worth a bucked of warm spit,” to paraphrase a long passed Vice President.

    Boil it down, Trump’s not Hillary, that’s all he’s got.

  17. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Boil it all down, Trump’s not Hillary, that’s all he’s got.” OM

    Quite possibly true. But then, given that alternative, it’s all he needs. Not because he’s a better choice but because, in the Orwellian sense, if the dems retain the executive branch, there will effectively be no ‘choices’ after this election.

    That’s not an opinion. That’s a demographic fact. 25 million ‘undocumented’ future democrats will prove it to be true. So go ahead, disprove that demographic fact. Explain how with amnesty and “a path to citizenship”, Hillary’s legacy will not be achieving effective one-party rule in the federal government.

  18. Matt_SE Says:

    @ Big Maq:

    “Just what kind of world do they even want at the other end to think it worth such a horrendous risk?”

    They’ve worked themselves into a hysterical lather over this election. When you’re in a crisis, everything is acceptable.

    @ Vanderleun:

    “The Flight 93 Election.” LOL
    Doesn’t that sound dramatic and heroic? Why, you’re a regular Cincinnatus, saving the Republic by pulling a lever!

    I think the better analogy is The Bachelor, D.C.: it’s reality TV, and every contestant is a loathsome phony.

  19. Matt_SE Says:

    “Explain how with amnesty and “a path to citizenship”, Hillary’s legacy will not be achieving effective one-party rule in the federal government.”

    There is a looming fiscal crisis in this country. When the money runs out and the economy collapses, you won’t see people scrambling to get into the US.

    You see anyone scrambling to get into Venezuela?

  20. OM Says:

    All the assumptions in the world about Trump future actions and what he will do regarding

    “amnesty and “a path to citizenship”, Hillary’s legacy will not be achieving effective one-party rule in the federal government.”

    When it is known that Trump’s character and consistency are shall we say “questionable.” Trust a con man if you will, me not so much.

    But you will say I don’t trust him…..but I know what Hillary will do…..I know historical facts…..Opinions and speculation we don’t agree. Nothing new here.

  21. neo-neocon Says:

    Matt_SE:

    Okay, now you’ve gone too far!

    I must defend the Bachelor franchise. See this.

  22. The Other Chuck Says:

    For all their talk about stopping Hillary, the “last chance” at saving what’s left of America, blah, blah, blah…what those types of Trump supporters really believe is that America is already lost and Trump is their weapon of revenge. They know that none of the ever changing policy proposals he comes up with will ever get through congress, but secretly believe that he’ll create so much chaos and wreck so much destruction that it will be worth it. Trumps twisted mouth spewing insults and threats matches their own inner id.

  23. VL Says:

    ” and how often does it lead a country further down the road to ruin?”

    It depends upon what you mean by “ruin”, doesn’t it. A pure authoritarian state is nearly always highly effective and efficient… at achieving the goals of one man. For Kim Jong Un, North Korea is a paradise full of every conceivable blessing.

    Greek-style Democracy is terribly inefficient, at all things, but it at least sees that the power belongs in the hands of the majority of the people.

    And finally, rights-based republics are perhaps the least efficient at achieving a unified civic goal, and most efficient at achieving individual goals within the limits of the rights of the individual. From this arises the spontaneous order which produces the technology, comfort, and plenty of today.

  24. AesopFan Says:

    Sorry ’bout that roulette analogy; Vanderleun is correct that it is an incidental point and not what I was interested in at all; as I said at the end of my post “His (the author’s) analysis of the blinders on the Right are more important than the incidentals of the candidate discussion.”

    Another interesting parallel to the discussion on the pros and cons of installing a Tyrant came up in this article (read past the Brexit lead to the parts about national freedom and ideological foundations):
    http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2016/09/nationalism-and-the-future-of-western-freedom/

    Here’s one on why partisanship is at an all time high (I get his point, but don’t agree that having all of the sources of news in agreement gave us either completeness or truth: it just gave us unity).
    https://ricochet.com/broken-political-radar/

    And since this is a meta-comment thread, I would like to say that I agree with Geoffrey: “on that subject (whatever it may be) we do disagree. Friends can do that.”

    Too many people are losing their friends over ideological and political disagreements, often for the reason posited in the Ricochet post: they are looking at entirely different landscapes and don’t understand what is wrong with you.

  25. Steve D Says:

    ‘I can’t understand why authoritarian ruler is always considered to be a bad choice.’

    It is because corrupt democracy and the autocracy are two sides of the same coin. In both cases the country is taken to the brink by a lack of freedom, particularly economic freedom. Getting the government out of the way (i.e. capitalism) will lead to both freedom and efficiency as the history of the US amply demonstrates. However, you don’t need to know history to figure this out. A few minutes of thinking (deeply) about the issues, and in particularly human behavior should make this obvious.

    ‘“AesopFan” quotes an article that claims, “a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.”’

    Seems to me the best choice is not to play Russian roulette at all. Voting for the least of evils presented by the major parties ensures that; 1) they will never offer us anything else but evil and 2) both the “best” and “worst” evils will get worse over time. The history of the last few election cycles (or the quality of leadership over decades of American history) amply demonstrates this, although the reason for it should be obvious. Why should they change if they face no negative consequence for their present behavior? This is the reason a vote for either Clinton or Trump is much worse than a wasted vote, but is in fact a vote to actively promote eventual tyranny.

  26. Steve D Says:

    ‘I wrote an entire post describing its inappropriateness to the situation we face with these two candidates.’

    You showed that the analogy was very imprecise; however on a very gross level the situation does vaguely resemble Russian roulette. I believe the analogy may do more harm than good if it obscures the reasons we are in this mess (i.e. the analogous question is why are you playing Russian roulette anyway). – what is critical to understand why neither choice is even close to acceptable and what to do about it.

  27. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “They’ve worked themselves into a hysterical lather over this election. When you’re in a crisis, everything is acceptable.” Matt_SE

    Looking at all of the issues of which we here incessantly opine and reaching the conclusion that they indicate a tipping point into an irreversible decline is NOT ‘working ourselves into a hysterical lather’. It’s simply reaching a conclusion with which you disagree. I for one, hope you’re right about this but I cannot agree that circumstances appear to support your position.

    You might consider this; if you are right and we in the wrong we shall be pleasantly surprised, whereas if we are right and you wrong, not only will the opposite occur but you, if honest will have to ask yourself what led you to discount what we insisted was obvious?

  28. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “There is a looming fiscal crisis in this country. When the money runs out and the economy collapses, you won’t see people scrambling to get into the US.” Matt_SE

    That’s another complimentary aspect of the Left’s strategy to bring down America.

    If, in the next decade, a crisis resulting in fiscal collapse doesn’t occur, then under Hillary, the needed increase in democrats occurs.

    If the economy does collapse then the highly probable result will be a bi-partisan demand for law and order and, in the face of the chaos that collapse will bring, that means the imposition of martial law for “the duration of the national crisis”. You do remember the left’s mantra regarding the ‘opportunity’ that crisis brings… right? And under martial law, there is established legal precedent for the President suspending constitutional provisions…

  29. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Opinions and speculation we don’t agree. Nothing new here.” OM

    That’s true. You remain as obstinately opposed to a factually logical rationale that you can’t rebut, as ever. Since, when you boil it down, your response consists entirely of, “that’s not so!”

    “For all their talk about stopping Hillary, the “last chance” at saving what’s left of America, blah, blah, blah…what those types of Trump supporters really believe is that America is already lost and Trump is their weapon of revenge.” The Other Chuck

    You misstate our position and thus are only partially correct. Many of us do believe that America is already lost. I personally base that upon the elections of 2008, 2012 and now our ‘choice’ of two eminently unqualified nominees. But for many of us, we do not plan to vote for Trump out of a desire for revenge.

    You ‘nevertrumpers’ rightfully resent many Trumper’s mischaracterization of your position and then are guilty of the same thing in reverse.

    Rather than revenge (true of a minority), it is the realization that however Trump would act as a President, he will almost certainly not take us down the collectivist path that Hillary would and even if wrong about that, there is utter certainty as to Hillary’s path.

    And, many judge that, even at his most authoritarian worst, America stands a far better chance for recovery than it would in the aftermath of a leftist regime. Thus the comparison of a Pinochet and a Chavez.

  30. OM Says:

    GB:

    You “know” that I’m not the only one who does not buy your into your framing of the argument and consequently your framing of the “logical” conclusions.

    “That’s true. You remain as obstinately opposed to a factually logical rationale that you can’t rebut, as ever.” You state your position is “factually logical” therefor I am wrong. Clever game you have going.

    So don’t bring in character issues, “rationality,” or “willful blindness” into the mix. I could say you are “obstinate” in your positions, is that a neutral term?

    Different people weigh the risks, consequences, and probabilities differently than you. That isn’t new is it?

  31. Richard Saunders Says:

    Big Maq — short of making up lies (hardly necessary in the case of the Evil Empress) and armed resisitance, you’re right: “there doesn’t exist a step too far in opposing clinton / the left.”

    Neo – this might be a better analogy, I heard it from Dennis Prager: “You’re faced with two doors. You must go through one of them. Both have (truthful) signs. One says: “Man-eating Tiger.” the other says: “Perhaps Man-eating Tiger.” Which one do you choose?

  32. OM Says:

    The binary assumption, framing and setting the argument.

    That which is rewarded will be repeated. Keep choosing the lesser of two evils and the Republicans (RNC) who really don’t seem to learn from loosing, will keep giving us a lesser (looser).

  33. Big Maq Says:

    “a vote for either Clinton or Trump is much worse than a wasted vote, but is in fact a vote to actively promote eventual tyranny.” – Steve D

    About where I stand.

    All the good assumed with trump is merely a speculative hope. He looks to be driving down much of the same path, perhaps even faster than clinton would take us there.

  34. The Other Chuck Says:

    Big Mag, amen.

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