Originally posted 1/10/2011.
E J Dionne, an establishment liberal who writes for the Washington Post, complains that many House Republicans “behave as professors in thrall to a few thrilling ideas”–ideas, that is, about limitations on the power of government–and says:
Their rhetoric is nearly devoid of talk about solving practical problems–how to improve our health care, education and transportation systems, or how to create more middle-class jobs.
Instead, we hear about things we can’t touch or see or feel, and about highly general principles divorced from their impact on everyday life…
Daniel Jackson, a rabbi who lives in Israel, says:
Now, it was this last sentence that grabbed my attention. Why is it problematic to discuss things that are abstract? I would have thought that for those who style themselves as intellectuals, keeping abstract, non-tangible concepts in mind would not be an issue.
Perhaps, however, that is precisely the problem. This is not a new conflict–between those who maintain a fiduciary responsibility to unseen concepts and those who simply cannot understand such phenomena.
Read the whole thing.
In reality, of course, the size, scope, and structure of government has an enormous effect on a nation’s prosperity or lack of same. As an extreme example, a society with Soviet-union-level centralization can implement endless detailed programs for improving the lives of its people: it is going to remain a much poorer society than it would have been with a less-controlling structure.
In the corporate world, a bad CEO may work very hard to make the right decisions in dozens of different areas–but if he fails to delegate and to put the right incentive structures in place, if he strangles the initiative of his subordinates by centralizing everything in his own hands, then he is very likely to fail—and the larger and more complex the corporation, the more likely this failure is to occur.
(Original CB comment thread here)
8/15/2012: A discussion thread at Bookworm on the roots of Progressivism’s appeal links to an article (see comment by Old Buckeye) which is very relevant to this topic.