If you haven’t already, please go read this piece by Peggy Noonan.
Then come back and let’s discuss it.
Are things really that bad?
Some Chicago Boyz know each other from student days at the University of Chicago. Others are Chicago boys in spirit. The blog name is also intended as a good-humored gesture of admiration for distinguished Chicago School economists and fellow travelers.
If you haven’t already, please go read this piece by Peggy Noonan.
Then come back and let’s discuss it.
Are things really that bad?
71 thoughts on “Dark Thoughts from Peggy Noonan”
I read the article yesterday. I believe that she is overly pessimistic. We are self centered in outlook about our own times but I am sure that there were people who thought that the center could not hold throughout history. Look at the pessimism during civil war, or during the depression or even during the 60’s. So my answer is No, things, IMHO, are not that bad.
If you are in the elite, as Ms. Noonan is, then things will change. If you aren’t, then SOS.
Things don’t just fall apart by themselves. Or rather, they don’t fall apart by themselves any faster than they used to.
If civilization falls apart, the reason will be found in the behavior of its members. Either the rules they live under have changed from those that promote prosperity and civilization to those that don’t, or large numbers of people start believing disastrously stupid things and end up doing disastrously stupid things, or the idiots outbreed the rest and leave behind a less capable generation, or something else concerning the individuals and their activities changes from one generation to another.
Personally, I suspect that the engine started sputtering more than a hundred years ago and civilization here has been running on sheer momentum ever since.
Whether or not the ‘elites’ are are actually stockpiling against the coming doom, there’s a detachment visible that probably stems from these same ‘elites’ being told through the last few election cycles that those of us lower in the food chain aren’t terribly impressed with their wisdom, and that they can keep their opinions to themselves. Think about it… in politics, media, and academy, little people are ignoring them left and right. And they’re Important! So they’ll take their ball and go home.
Uhg, what a ridiculous article. Sorry Ms. Noonan, I already lived through the end times in the 70’s. We were going to have a nuclear apocalypse at any moment; the economy was in a free-fall with no apparent explanation; a failed war and two of history’s worst presidents completely destroyed all confidence in government; we were falling behind the developed world economically and educationally; and we were all about to die from the population bomb and pollution and race riots and an ice age right after we ran out of oil.
Now we have roaring productivity increases driven by technology and a return to market economics; a huge world-wide increase in the proportion of free and democratic governments; hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty in the developing world; and our worst ideological rivals are so incompetent that they cannot even fashion their own basic weapons out of steel.
I sometimes hear this sort of future-shocked anxiety attack from my dear mother who is addled by leftist propaganda, I certainly did not expect it from Peggy Noonan, pundit of the WSJ.
Peggy Noonan is old enough to see dramatic diiferences in the world of 2005 and the one of 1955 – which was enormously different from the world of 1905. The pace of change upsets her. Why is it that things which move so slowly suddenly are different?
In 1955 we could destroy the world; in 1905 we couldn’t. Rapid change is not new, it started November 21, 1621, here in America. Rapid change is America’s gift to the world. Rapid change is the result of ordinary people, guided by Adam Smith’s invisible hand, making decisions for their own futures.
What Peggy Noonan has proved is that Intelligent Design does not work, cannot work and has never worked. One person or one bureaucracy cannot make all the decisions needed just to maintain our present day economy and civilization. Intelligent Design can produce Cuba but never Hong Kong.
The Founding Fathers did not believe that God apponted a King, or even a group of Lords to rule. God’s Grace does not flow directly to a King who then rules wisely. God’s Grace flows directly to each and every citizen who then governs his or her own life according to God’s will. There can be no elite, because we all have equal amounts of God’s Grace. No one man can say he is King by the Grace of God. Those of us who are conservatives know that all men are equal because we all have the same amount of God’s Grace and that the only government we need is minimal.
Conservatives trust people and distrust goverment. Liberals trust government and distrust people. Liberals still believe that God only gives his Grace to the elite, to the Saddam Huseins of the world. They believe leaders can come only from the elite. They condemn the American liberation of Iraq because they do not trust the Iraqi people can govern themselves and because Saddam was a member of the elite.
Peggy Noonan is overly upset. Absent modern government amazing things will happen. As things are going, the world will turn into Cuba but, on the whole, be pretty much like it was on November 20, 1621.
Ed nailed it, what’s really bothering them is they got what they wanted and they’re not special anymore.
Egalitarian – Affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people.
But they’re special? How do you make yourself special when everyone is special?
They’re hanging on by their nails and if they don’t get their way, they’ll destroy it like a bunch of 2-3 y.o. Or 60s boomers…….
Well, there’s the synopsis for The Incredibles, got to hand it to Pixar. Nailed the boomers.
I have never seen a clearer illustration of the difference between a conservative and a libertarian. The key sentence is this: "Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us." Wrong! The elites are simply coming to realize that things are too complex to be subject to their authority. Yet they cannot admit it in public. To do so would immediately show the public that an elite is not needed at all.
We will figure something out. We always do. A few thousand people will try different things, and the one who succeeds will be copied by the rest. The elites think that we advance by thinking things out and avoiding mistakes. In fact, we get farther faster by correcting mistakes as quickly as possible.
Statists, whether liberal or conservative, think that societies and economies are too complex to have arisen and to maintain themselves without conscious control. They embrace a secular version of Intelligent Design. Lucky thing that they have nowhere near the degree of control that they think they have.
I think Peggy Noonan has a poor mind and a good gut. Her book on Reagan is a masterpiece. Her analysis of moods and the emotional response politicians evoke is often acute, but her explanation of why actual events occur is pretty random. In this case, I think she is onto something. A key fact, or pair of facts, is that we are in a statistically terrific economy, but polls show over and over that people think it is a bad economy. My assessment of this is that the gross figures may be true, but do not show what many people value, which is security and stability. Everybody, no matter how much they make, knows that their job and everything they know how to do, could be swept into the dustbin of history at any minute. The smarter you are, the more you know that this is less a matter of “if” than “when”. Everybody also figures that we are going to be screwed out of our Social Security, that the money is gone for good and that we are all going to starve. And people see illegal immigration, resent the illegality of it, and see that powerful factions in both parties have contempt for the law and that the Government is never going to do anything to stop it. Americans have a high tolerance for turmoil, because they think everybody has an opportunity to make it big. Add on top of this the perceived inequality which is going on, and people feel like not only are they screwed sooner or later, but that the game is rigged as well. As to the politicians and the people who can supposedly lead us, as well as the MSM, the rise of the Internet and alternative media have had a big impact, showing that they are often dishonest. While this is a good thing in itself, it tends to strengthen the sense of cynicism, “they are all crooks”. So there is a lot of stuff going on. And I think Peggy Noonan is right about the vibe. The interesting question is: What will the political consequences be of this public mood?
She’s a yuppy. 60s child. Of course the end is near for her generation – they are all in their 50s and 60s. The end is near as they are getting old.
Cold war is over. The world wars of the 20th century are over. People have leasure time galore. Johnson is being unwound and FDR is next. The future is so bright I gotta wear shades.
For the most part, every year of my life has been better than the previous. And at the same time, the Elites are always telling me how the world is getting worse.
I actually just think Noonan needs to get out of Washington and New York. I’ve been noticing over the past few years, how people who really enjoy living in the confines of a big city, seem to think the world is ending. This might be true for them, as more and more of us move into the suburbs and exurbs. What they value is diminished – or at least that is how they see it. They seem to find it hard to believe that most people would rather live a different life than them.
I live in the middle of LA now, and whenever I travel to the suburbs or back home to Phoenix, I am always so amazed at how much happier people in the burbs are.
She is way off, generalizing, I think, from her experience in a city that has been losing jobs and businesses for decades. And probably most of the people she knows are in businesses — like publishing, academia and government — that are threatened by competition from the disintermediated masses. What would her gut tell her if she had been talking to businesspeople? What about if she lived in Dallas or LA?
The NYC intellectual world is brilliant, but it is also insular and in some ways profoundly ignorant about what productive people are doing in the rest of the country (and probably even in NYC). The intellectual world produces words. The broader American business world produces giant aircraft, computers, astonishing software innovations, luxurious cheap housing, services of all kinds, and many other goods, and it does so more efficiently all the time. The business world — not government, academia or the intellectual talk-factories — is where the dynamism in our society can be found. Noonan doesn’t see it because she focuses on the least productive economic sectors. If you take off the blinders and look at the economy and society as a whole things look very good.
My first thought: Noonan’s piece tells me more about her personal anxieties than it does about the state of the world. She can’t see where we’re going, and has lost sight of where we’ve been. Unanchored, this ex-Reagan speechwriter sounds uncertain and scared.
I think her “hunch” about resigned “Elites” is correct, but her fearful conclusion is illogical. Elites’ resignation only results in the forfeiture of their remaining political influence. This is a good thing.
It is a loaded piece, though, and I’m still digesting it… I’ll stay tuned to your discussion.
Lex says: “A key fact, or pair of facts, is that we are in a statistically terrific economy, but polls show over and over that people think it is a bad economy.”
There are (maybe) at least a couple of reasons for this in addition to his reason.
1) If you ask the question correctly, people say “I’m doing OK, maybe great but I worry about my neighbors.”
2) The MSM publishes the good data, sometimes, somewhere but their editorials and news slathered with pesimism beat out the actual data. First the gloomy headline, then para one maybe two or more of woe is me, then the fold/page break, then the data or real story that very few bother to read. That’s because they are already depressed and think that the rest is just more of the samo samo.
3) I think that many, if not most, polls are deliberately distorted, some a little, some a lot.
I live in a retirement community and what I have discovered is that many of the residents are left and elite (or so they think). The staff are remarkably sensible. I don’t know how they vote or even if they do, but they sound considerably right of center.
If the Singularity hits, this either doesn’t matter or is all too real. But I don’t think the Singularity will hit in my lifetime. Too bad. More, faster, please.
Without the Singularity, we have to clean up the mess we made. I think the basic fault line is hard/soft America. Soft america is an illusion trying to believe itself real. I think the elites are trying to act as if their soft lives are universal. I think we have to respond to the empirical consequences of our collective actions, and do somewhat better.
Now, the Anglosphere is progressing better than any other culture, IMHO. So, the actual evidence isn’t particularily in favor of Libertarianism, but rather in a messy noisy mix of central regulation and coertion and individual freedom.
Yeah, the MSM. The big media are so systematically ignorant about economics, and so brain-dead cynical about everything else, that you are better off ignoring them entirely on many issues, including the state of the national economy. Gee, it’s almost as if the MSM were staffed by people who had never studied economics, science, engineering, history. . .
Nah, that couldn’t be it.
How about the question, does the continual rise of conservatism in this country relate to this? I’m not talking about Republicans or the Religous Right. I am thinking of the core of conseratism and free market economies. I believe are country is headed in a direction that will decrease the size of government, against all odds.
The only danger I see is people latching onto someone promising them everything. I do think its more likely a great leader will emerge soon and really make drastic (good) changes.
Noonan is rather lacking in perspective, memory, and even reasonable experience that might have led her to develop the other two.
ArtD0dger puts it into perspective above, and I think everyone should read his comment. Please excuse me if I put a few thoughts of my own down even if I don’t add much to the discussion.
The environment in the US was once so wrecked that I once saw a river burn in my home state. Large game such as deer practically disappeared from the woods. Today the big problem is deer overpopulation, and we can use the rivers to put fires out instead of start them.
They tested the air raid sirens in my home town every Wednesday at 3 PM. I used to turn the radio on a good 30 minutes beforehand, wondering if an attack would happen just at that moment. But it was always a test, only just a test. Now the threat of nuclear war has receded so far that my town doesn’t even bother to test the sirens every week. The idea of a massive nuclear exchange with another world power is so remote that I found myself having to explain the movie Fail Safe to my 22 year old coworker.
Women and other minorities used to be victims of open discrimination. The idea of a girl taking a man’s job caused a great deal of bad feeling. I’ve since had the great fortune of working with women police officers. Not only that, but it’s been a decade since I’ve been employed by the city so that particular glass ceiling was shattered a long time ago.
So far as domestic politics are concerned, I distinctly remember the anger and violence that a Nixon administration caused in some people. Riots in Chicago, riots at most large universities, protests every weekend and again during the week, 4 dead in Oh-Hi-Oh. We still get the protests since the current President was elected, but it’s mostly the same people showing up who are organized by professional Communist protest groups. For some reason they aren’t as eager to act up and get arrested now that they’ve turned 50.
Things are improving in leaps and bounds. There have always been people desperate to kill us just because we’re Americans, we’re prosperous and we’re free. There has always been dissent, and it’s sometimes gotten loud and uncivil. There has always been room for improvement in the way we order our lives, our environment and our society.
That is the bad news, and it’s never going to change. The good news is that our enemies now can only muster a fraction of the threat that our enemies could then, the environment has improved beyond all hope in the last 30 years, and our society is more free and prosperous and egalitarian than it has ever been.
So are the wheels going to come off? Only if we decided to develop a flying car.
Nice! I was waiting for someone to bring up flying cars!
I live in the Midwest and am not an elite like Nooonan. I work and live around non-elites in the blue collar world and have never seen nor can remember a more rewarded group of people for their labors. Free medical insurance, vacations, bonuses, all the rest. When I was growing up in the 70’s, my family and I were poor and eating out was definitely considered a luxury – now everyone eats out all the time. That may sound simple, but obvious things like that show us how far we have come. I think if Noonan could come with me to work for a few days her perspective may be different – not to mention if she had to go to work with Abdul in Teheran or Mgwebi in Lagos. Most people lack much needed perspective.
Dan says “Most people lack much needed perspective.”
Maybe so — but the interesting question is: Why? And the second questions is: What will be the political consequences of masses of people thinking an economy that anyone up to about a decade ago would have considered miraculously good is bad and headed in the wrong direction. What people think, even when they are wrong, even especially when they are wrong, is a political fact.
I have a economics prof who usually spends about 45 minutes of an hour and a half lecture to tell us how bad things are and how there is no hope for us. She is at least 70 years old. For some sinking reason, I think she gets thrills knowing that she might crush someone’s spirit or dash a few hopes and dreams here and there. Its almost pathological shadenfreude.
Besides Ms. Noonan’s vague contention that the “whole ball of wax” is coming apart, she is kinda unspecific about what she is upset about. Is it that “Stuff happens faster” now than it use to? So. The government is more than just one person. I generally trust the government to do what it thinks its suppose to do, and I will keep trying to influence just what the government thinks it should do. Thats what I am supposed to do as a citizen of a constitutional republic–participate in the political process.
Mr Noonan, while has a distinguished career, I’m sure, has never had that classical-liberal optomistic outlook that say, a Reagan, Freidman, or a Hayek had or has. She is a has-been writer living off the legacy for writing a few speeches for a great president. She has been writing goofy editorials since I first started reading the WSJ in the mid-90s. The only thing off the tracks is herself and her left-wing unhinged ilk.
So she thinks that our government cannot save us now from the evils in the world. Her list of government responsibilities is a tad broad, and like Mr. Vason says, more eloquently than I could, Ms. Noonan looks to the government for salvation, and discounts the curative effects of free ideas and free markets. I’d be gloomy too.
I suspect there is much to this that needs thought, but I have an aide:
One of my colleagues is Cambodian; she served in the army; she and her mother were sent to the killing fields. Her life was horrendous; now she faces each day with calm and high-spirited laughter. During Rita, some of their family/friends came to stay with her. They were caught in the terrible jams between Houston & here and spent 12 hours taking what is generallly a two-hour drive. One of the Houstonians was complaining that this was the worst thing that ever happened to her; that staying 12 hours on the road was a disaster. Then her family reminded her of Cambodia, the killing fields, the forced march – they pointed out that now they were in a car, then they walked; then death surrounded them, now they were welcomed into my colleague’s home. The younger woman stopped and said, ah, yes, that was worse.
I suspect we take much for granted – especially those items we use daily. Our sense of life’s purposelessness, the malaise our betters suggest we should be feeling – I’m not saying that isn’t important. But I would say that it is human nature to take for granted the extraordinary and to forget the deprivations of the past.
Very wise Ginny.
I grew up abroad and came here in late adolescence.
Sometimes I bitch and moan about matters and think things can’t get worse. Then I remember the father of my classmate being hauled off to prison as a political enemy. I remember another family friend blown up in a political rally. And another shot to death in broad daylight. I also remember getting so sick during an epidemic of sorts that I was in the hospital for 5 weeks and my mother wasn’t sure I’d make it.
Then I look at my family and house and car, and I stop bitching. At least for a while…
Lex, it is true that perception is, in fact, reality. My comment on perspective was pointed at Noonan and the fact that if she could pry herself out of her cocoon on the beltway and spend a little time with “normal” people her outlook may be different. I am fortunate in the fact that I have a job that keeps me busy 70 hours a week and two fine children and a wife that keep me busy for the rest of my time. Not being able to have time to watch most news (only have time for a paper and a few blogs a day) has shown me how little most of the stuff that goes on in DC affects the little people on a daily basis. I agree that if people think the economy stinks that they will throw the bums out no matter the facts. But I also think that if Noonan could walk in my shoes for a week that her perspective on everything would change dramatically. I would also like to say that I have very much enjoyed this comment thread.
I haven’t even read the column, but I’m going to answer… YES
(Or perhaps, the answer may be “no”… Things aren’t really that bad…
Great gut, unsystematic but not weak mind; marvelous, lyrical voice. I too was touched by this piece when I read it yesterday, because it captures the sense of loss we’re usually too busy to feel as the world changes around us at a seeming accelerating pace. None of us knows how it will all come out – the old order’s elites least of all. So naturally they fortify and cocoon and protect what’s theirs.
But a day’s busyness and reflection and reading others’ reactions (sharp or gooey) have come, and the sentiment has faded. As it must.
One point about Noonan’s central image: the trolley coming off the rails. The TROLLEY? Kinda gives the Disneyfied nostalgia game away, doesn’t it?
Lots of good comments. I don’t think things are as bad as Noonan suggests, but I do think there are some awfully disturbing trends.
And I think a big part of the problem lies in the way higher education is largely conducted these days. College (particularly grad school) seems to inculate a combination of cynicism and sense of entitlement which is very harmful to the development of any serious leadership skills or sense of social responsibility. (See my post An Incident at the Movies for an example of what I’m talking about.)
At the same time, K-12 education has been emphasizing an unhealthy kind of “self-esteem” building, which tends to shut people up within themselves. Not a good foundation for citizenship or anything else.
Though I know it is terribly politically incorrect, permit me to suggest that, in discerning wars and rumors of wars and Hezekiah-like “elites” content with peace and security in their time, Peggy “Cassandra” Noonan is in high Irish (and, perhaps, along with her co-prophet Ted Kennedy, deep in her cups).
Nevertheless, I think Lex is on to something when he points out that, while objective evidence indicates things are going well, lots of people are just as full of doom and gloom as our Miss Peggy. Why? I think a lot of it is war-weariness. Remember, the 90’s were a hoot! During that decade, I kept telling friends of mine that I was haunted by Pharoah’s dream, i.e. that we were then living in the years of plenty but had no Joseph to prepare us for the years of want ahead. In many ways, ever since 9/11, we’ve found out just how unprepared we were for those years.
It’s not surprising that lots of people, when they look back on the care-free 90’s, believe that, today, the whole ball of wax is coming off its tracks, to continue Noonan’s mixing of metaphors. War-weariness has done in hyper-powers before, as the article by Jonathan Last, linked to by Ginny yesterday, shows. Last too relates national malaise to the failure of elites, perhaps most tellingly when he says: “Where the Great War robbed England of a generation of its best and brightest, in America the baby boom generation was lost in Vietnam or, perhaps worse, in Canada, in the Air National Guard, and in the universities, where they learned to hide and not lead. This has taken its toll. Our two baby boom presidents have been exceedingly imperfect. (As Edmund Burke once cautioned, ‘A great empire and little minds go ill together.’)”
Still and all, I remain the cock-eyed optimist who believes America has another “greatest generation” in her who can overcome this present darkness as their grandparents and great-grandparents once overcame the darkness of their time.
The other day I was reading about the failed predictions of the Club of Rome.Who in the early seventies predicted gloom and doom. Being an impressionable college student they had a very negative effect upon my attitude and subsequent life.Many of the so called elites were effected as well.Most became liberals.Most of them became wealthy because, in spite of gloom and doom, they lived in a place of spectacular economic and social opportunity.They are just now realizing how full of crap they have been all these years.
This planet and the interaction of humans on it are not and have never been static. Anything that becomes static decays. There are events in our lives and our world we can not control. At best you can influence and direct the course of those events but you can not stop them. Best to learn to ride the wave than drown under it or under your own dark fears. Any reasonable study of history tells you that there has never been a better time for being alive on this planet and particularly in what is defined as the West.
To someone steeped in energy issues (as I am), Noonan’s prose resonates. Let’s look at some of the gross failures of the elites in Washington over the last few years:With a national tightening of oil refining capacity, passed huge tax breaks for business buyers of the thirstiest vehicles, regardless of how inappropriate or unnecessary they were. What does a doctor need with an H2 that can’t be done by a Cadillac on half the fuel?Killed the PNGV in 2001 and didn’t revisit the issue even after 9/11. Slashed, and continue to slash, programs to promote energy efficiency. This in the middle of soaring oil prices and a continental natural-gas shortage that isn’t going away. Declared a war but refuses to name the enemy.
We’ve spent about $300 billion on the Iraq war so far, plus a huge premium on oil imports due to lower production there and consequent higher world prices. For $300 billion we could have purchased 150 gigawatts (average) of wind power capacity, and paid $2500 toward the cost difference between a standard and hybrid drivetrain in 60 million vehicles. We could have had Saddam running scared from a collapse of the price of his major export and replaced all of the natural gas we burn for electricity, eliminating two of our current problems. (I’m not saying that Saddam shouldn’t have been overthrown, I’m just looking at this with 20/20 hindsight.)
At the very least, such obvious countermeasures should have received the same sort of attention and incentives as “faith-based” social programs.
Yet this has all been ignored, save for some meager last-minute crumbs in the latest pork-laden energy bill. Our elites are profiting from these ills, and would lose by any amelioration of them. Whose profits would disappear if decreased demand for gasoline reduced refinery utilization to 90%? Exxon-Mobil’s.
We have senators from Disney and Archer Daniels Midland and the RIAA. These are all entities whose interests ARE many of the problems faced by Americans. If the trolley isn’t off the rails, it’s because someone laid a new line straight to Hell. Noonan appears to see that (however unclearly), and for that I thank her.
There’s an extensive post on this column over at The Anchoress. She writes from a religious perspective that I do not share, and I disagree with her on a lot of specific issues, but I think she’s one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking writers in the blogosphere.
None of this is about “accelerated change” or the resurgence of deer walking on the water or any of the rest of it. Rummel: you’re deluded.
There is a great deal of whistling past the graveyard in these comments. Let me point out just one example. Someone wrote: “Johnson is being unwound and FDR is next.” I’d like to see that resolved with, for glaring example, an eight trillion dollar federal debt as well as everything explicit and implicit in that fact.
Now; I think that some of you people might be able to understand that government is the principal cause of civil decline. And if you once consider and integrate that fact in the current American historical context, then you’ll be able to picture where this is headed, at least in the broad-stroke, if not every detail.
When you people talk about technological advances and stuff, I think that you don’t realize that you’re only making a variation of the old assertion about “trains running on time”. And every adept student of politics understands that that is not the essence of matters.
Ken wrote about “the engine started sputtering more than a hundred years ago”, and “momentum ever since”. I say he’s more right than he probably knows. I mark the moment with the rise of Pragmatism.
Noonan has no way of knowing this: what she addressed is actually a matter of applied philosophy. And no amount of “optimism” or cheering over cell-phones is going to turn that around.
There is no escape from premises, and they are not being addressed. Until that happens, the decline that this dicussion wonders about will continue, implacably, and over a course of time so much longer than a single human lifetime that any given generation can delude themselves into ignoring it.
But that’s not going to stop it.
> There is no escape from premises, and they are not being addressed. Until that
> happens, the decline that this dicussion wonders about will continue, implacably
Billy? It’s beyond tragedy now, and deep into Greek comedy territory. For example, you live in an age when a slowly-trundling hurricane in the Gulf submerged a below-sea-level city filled with people (well aware of said-such) who had time to *walk* to Baton Rouge, and failed to do so. Only five generations of government shepherding can selectively breed people programmed to avoid thinking for themselves on a scale like this.
— You literally can’t *talk* to anyone anymore because their conceptual faculties have de-evolved to the instinctively animalistic (e.g., “Is Billy here to feed me, or is he trying to prevent that nice man from the Government from feeding me with a pound of his flesh?”), and either wag their tails or bare their fangs accordingly.
> …I mark the moment with the rise of Pragmatism.
I simply can’t agree with that; I maintain that the proclivity toward evil by some percentage is a constant, and will exploit any niche given to it. I.e., there will *always* be an Ellsworth Toohey manipulating whatever levels of power are available to him. Pragmatism, in our instance, arose to exploit a pre-existing American government infrastructure and came to dominate as the philosophy most usefully employed by bureaubots to either absolve their own consciences with gobbledegook or to sell dictatorial ambitions to a credulous populace. Essentially: Pragmatism was inevitable because a government was there “for the taking”.
There will always be talk for liberty and talk for tyranny, but the knot in the tug-of-war line between them dangles over a particular freedom scale-point as a consequence of applied muscle. Liberty proponents who talk but do not fight will always be slaves.
Peggy needs to take a Nice Long Vacation. A VERY LONG Vacation. Oh, and drinks with “Teddy-Pooh” probably don’t help, either.
She is getting on in years. This is the conventional lament of those getting old. If we cannot run a govt now after 3 centuries, then let the Chinese run the world. (ps: if things are crap, then it is her party, her guy, her congress that made it so)
Sorry… I want to like her but she just sounds like an old souse who thinks she’s lyrical.
The other day my 17 year old came home from school with a study that his teacher said showed “everyone is ruder today.” He asked, “Isn’t this what every old person always says? Everything was better back when I was young.”
I said yeah and now since its a huge segement of the population that will be doing the kvetching it will seem like their complaints must be more valid. They’re not. It’s just melacholy, self-indulgent cranks with no sense of human history.
Thanks for the link and the post. Peggy now joins Arianna and Maureen in my “get off the stage you tiresome old skirt” file.
You’re not paying attention, Zuckerman; the “crap” you speak of is ingrained in all political parties and all facets of government.
All advancements enjoyed by the human species are the result of innovations by individuals, and occur in spite of (not due to) the efforts of governments.
Noonan’s “conventional lament” is borne of the fact that she’s now wise enough to discern bigger pictures (such as, I suspect, the one I list in the preceeding paragraph) than you’re apparently capable of perceiving.
– – – –
When “optimism” becomes euphemism for widespread, exuberant denial of reality, one voyages with the Damned.
None of this is about “accelerated change” or the resurgence of deer walking on the water or any of the rest of it. Rummel: you’re deluded.
I have no idea what your point is with this.
There is a great deal of whistling past the graveyard in these comments.
Or a clear understanding of history. Compare conditions in the past (even the recent past) with those today and one would have to be deluded to think that things are worse.
“Worse” than what, and in what ways?
The Romans had running water, James. It was more than a thousand years after the fall before that happened again.
You don’t have to tell me that you have no idea. I get the picture.
From the article:
“…Our elites, our educated and successful professionals,
are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere….”
If this is where she is coming from then no wonder she’s pessimistic. She quotes Ted Kennedy describing how things are going to fall apart, implying that if he and his were steering, all would be dandy. Yeah right.
One good thing about 911 was that it forced many to show their cards. In many ways Katrina did the same with regard to state/local/individual/federal responsibilities.
The problems of the nation and world are huge today. Is it really 1929?
To Engineer-Poet re: October 29, 2005 10:35 AM
EP, do you support building more refineries, more nuclear power plants and reducing oddball regulations? I do.
The problem is not people driving H2’s. The problem is not Halliburton-Cheney or oil company profits.
Lex, the pessimism you describe regarding the economy is partly due to the fact that in the last two US election the nation was viciously divided, even moreso after 911. Half of the nation is blue half red. Most people don’t really pay attention to day to day politics. Most people don’t get involved because…..things are so good (even when bad).
The danger to the free world is the fifth column ‘watermelons’, i.e green on the outside, and red to the core types who ‘know’ that they can make the world a perfect place if only anyone will listen.
The GOP threw out it’s right wing nutjobs. The Democratic party would be wise to do the same.
“Worse” than what, and in what ways?
I think I did a pretty good job enumerating a few in my earlier post. The environment is cleaner, we’re richer and more free, prejudice is at an all time low (and is even illegal), etc. etc.
The Romans had running water, James. It was more than a thousand years after the fall before that happened again.
This is an attempt to construct a straw man. The Romans also based their entire economy on slave labor, which is why they could afford to construct massive public works such as aqueducts. You’re statement has no validity unless you actually consider forcing another human being into a life of servitude to be in their best interests.
“The Romans also based their entire economy on slave labor,…”
(cackle) Oh, and — for instance — this government isn’t arbitrarily and unilaterally punting peoples’ futures straight into the long-distance shitter.
You’re crazy. That’s all there is to it.
_Rich as a King_ condensed from Home by David Owen, 1995.
William I, who conquered England some 930 years, had wealth, power and a ruthless army. Yet although William was stupefyingly rich by the standards of the time, he had nothing remotely resembling a flush toilet. No paper towels, no riding lawn mower. How did he get by?
History books are filled with wealthy people who were practically destitute compared to me. I have triple-tracked storm windows; Croesus did not. Entire nations trembled before Alexander the Great, but he couldn’t buy cat food in bulk. Czar Nicholas II lacked a compound-miter saw.
Given how much better off I am than so many famous
dead people, you’d think I’d be content. The trouble is that, I compare my prosperity with that of living persons: neighbors, high school classmates, TV personalities. The covetousness I feel toward my friend Howard’s new kitchen is not mitigated by that fact that no French monarch ever had a refrigerator with glass doors.
There is really no rising or falling standards of living. Over the centuries people simply find different stuff to feel grumpy about. You’d think that merely not having bubonic plague would put us in a good mood. But no,we want a hot tub too.
Don, you joke at all of our expense. Get off your ‘I’m a survivor of a survivor of plague bandwagon’.
When I was a lad I had to walk 800 feet to the bus stop.
/sarcasm button broken/
I’ve felt the world was a good deal more “right track” after 9/11. It made me realize what I had, what was important, and how much, in the end, I trusted certain ideas to win out in the long run. Those were ideas I’d taken for granted, but 9/11 made me realize they shouldn’t be – they were strong but not indestructible.
Yes, the event was tragic but even in that day, when we saw what happened in Pennsylvania, we saw a society that encourages individualism, personal responsibiity – a pack, not a herd.
I felt like a fog had lifted. I wonder if others felt that. Only rarely touching our consciousness, we’d known at some level that what began in 1983 in Beirut meant something. After 9/11, we read bin Laden’s fatwas and began to see his view of the world. And our values, traditions emerged–defined by what they were not. Our old friends, the marketplaces of things, ideas, religions were there and stood opposed to the tribal, the old beliefs we understood but no longer respected. Our values – our delight in life, in respect for the other seemed wonderful old friends–we appreciated our world, potentially chaotic but also grandly optimistic.
And so, instead of listening to NPR and going to faculty dinners, I began lunching with friends who wanted to talk philosophy rather than department gossip and I began reading libertarian blogs who saw walls we could climb rather than ones that imprisoned us. And life, well, life seemed a lot more on the right track.
Peggy Noonan was surprised that Ted Kennedy saw what she saw. Well, I think that might be a hint: his party has lost a couple of elections and believe, say, the school systems are going to hell in a hand basket. Well, if so it is because that particular institution hasn’t jumped those particular tracks that sorely needed jumping.
Kennedy’s lack of generousity–toward Iraq, toward women, toward the poor who might profit from school choice, toward those who have differing opinions from his–comes from a deep emptiness, a complete lack of humility before the values that I had assumed Peggy Noonan held.
I suspect she a)spends too much time talking to people who spend too much time listening to Aaron Brown’s voice and checking on NPR–or living in darkened rooms and forgetting to take their meds; b) she speaks from the deep spiritual longing that most feel in a culture that has long defined itself by its meaninglessness; c) her sense that Bush is not likely to redeem our nation and so the counter to the spiritual – the sense of community – is shredded by the blue/red tensions.
But that means she doesn’t recognize – or at least value highly – that what happened in Iraq is really a big deal; the spirit of malaise was left behind by action – action that led to a people who found themselves capable of governing themselves and writing their own constitution.
I don’t think it is 1859; I don’t see that. Perhaps I, too, whistle past the graveyard. But, you know, there have always been graveyards; the question is, has our world been moving so steadily toward the various, now even global, marketplaces?
abc, Don has a point.
As I recall, in Sociology 101 or 102 classic studies showed that, for most folks, satisfaction levels are not so much tied to “what they have” but very much related to “what they have compared to what they believe others have”.
By the way, maybe ole Peggy should quit paying so much attention to current events if she wants some peace of mind….she knows too much (trivia?) to be happy.
I agree that if Ms. Noonan got out more she might see the world as more half full than half empty. I agree that in many many ways things today are great, better than they have ever been. But not everybody feels that way. The last election demonstrated that slightly less than half of us don’t feel that way.
They are worried. They are angry. They think the word is going to hell in a handbasket and they don’t know what to do to stop it. Look at the groups running the Democratic showe. They’re nuts. But our fellow citizens on the left are so distraught thay they are listening to the nut-jobs. Do we agree with their anguish? No, but the fact that they think this way is a problem for us, too.
We can grumble about “so-called elites” and “who made them elites” and the real elites are …. But the fact is that some of these groups of people historically considered elites do still matter.
The MSM journalists do still matter. More people listen to them in their various guises than get their news out here online. The grim picture they paint colors many people’s thinking here and abroad.
The academy still matters. Are their alternatives? Some. But most people still send their kids to State U and the professors at State U are filling their heads with defeatist, self-loathing garbage. Are many kids smart enough to ignore them? Yep. Do most go on to be productive citizens? Sure. But some of the garbage sticks. And even if it doesn’t, our kids are missing an opportunity to be enlightened.
The government matters. Do most of us here think it should be smaller? Do we think private citizens could do a lot of things better than the bureaucracy? Do we think the important work is being done out here? Yeah, of course. But we’re losing the fight. The government spends a lot of our communal money and their slice of the pie keeps growing. Even under an administration and Congress that should be shrinking it, it is meatastisizing. The people who are spending that money agree with Ms. Noonan.
America today is a great place. Best country in the world ever. But it could be better. Think what we could accomplish if we could convince our malaise-ridden fellow citizens to help instead of kvetching.
abc123 asks of me:
Yes, but probably for a somewhat different definition of “oddball” than you use.
No. The oil companies have been merging and shutting down refineries. To support building more is to believe that you know the oil business better than they do. If we’ve seen or are about to see peak oil in a few years, excess capacity and minimal margins will once again be the rule in refining; by the time any new project could be completed, it would be pointless.
This is a huge issue, and it’s largely ignored by people who should know better. Vested interests keep us wedded to oil by blocking moves to (or even potential openings for) other energy supplies. That is going to hurt us to a degree that most people here cannot yet imagine.
And John Terry writes:
F*** yeah. People could start by actually studying mathematics and science so they’d understand what’s going on around them. Without being able to understand for themselves, they’re easy prey for demagogues and worse.
Observe that the person who posts this…
> The oil companies have been merging and shutting down refineries. To support building more is to believe that you know the oil business better than they do
> People could start by actually studying mathematics and science so they’d understand what’s going on around them.
…is eschewing his own advice regarding such necessary studies, which would, in his own case, “actually study” relevant critia pertaining to the subject at hand — such as the politics of *force* laid down upon the oil industry by government regulation.
Does he have any idea of what it means, in an allegedly “free” society, to have to grovel to a fucking bureaucracy in order to service a market (say, by constructing a new refinery)?
Hello, poster-child of the Endarkenment.
(Rummel)The environment is cleaner, we’re richer and more free, prejudice is at an all time low (and is even illegal)
Ah, thought is illegal. Welcome back to 1500, James.
(Beck)The Romans had running water, James. It was more than a thousand years after the fall before that happened again.
(Rummel)This is an attempt to construct a straw man. The Romans also based their entire economy on slave labor, which is why they could afford to construct massive public works such as aqueducts.
And our public works are NOT built by slave labor? Or are you still under the illusion that paying taxes is voluntary? You might want to ask Irwin Schiff about that.
Just like the Romans, there aren’t enough slaves to keep things going as they are. And there are too many Spartacuses to crucify.
J Q says “our public works are NOT built by slave labor?”.
The comment strikes me as hyperbole ….. enough hyperbole already. (Indeed, the public works are not built by slaves).
Not to demean or criticize you Jeff, I think we all need to trim our use of hyperbole in the attempt to enlighten and persuade. I, for one, seem to be getting more sensitive and irritated by it of late.
Peggy’s a boomer. End of story.
Bppmers tend to believe that the world began at their collective birth and as they age they naturally see it ending with their passing. Simply because she knows a lot of boomer parents too weak to use the n word with their children is strictly anecdotal evidence.
If Peggy wants an antidote for her pessimism she should listen to From the Top on PBS radio – young musicians. They all come from the bottle is half full half of the world and represent a tonic for depressed boomers of Peggy’s ilk.
We’re all rich. Unbelievably, stupendously, rich. And we’re getting richer, for now.
Will we stay rich?
That’s the important question. Descriptions of how rich we are now don’t address it. Will our grandkids be considered poor if they drive groundcars, or will they ride horses and look on people still driving shoddily built or ancient groundcars with bitter envy?
Will the best of our grandkids populate America 2.0 in the sky, or will that have to wait until the next renaissance, assuming there’s any fuel left for them?
Will we live to see a cure for aging, or are we doomed like all our ancestors before us? Our own lives depend on a continuation of technological advancement.
The Romans had running water… and they kept it for hundreds of years while their emperors were running Rome into the ground. Meanwhile they stagnated and never built any steam engines even though Archmiedes showed the way centuries earlier, and when things started visibly falling apart Diocletian tried to enforce stagnation rather than decline… and predictably failed.
> If Peggy wants an antidote for her pessimism she should listen to From the Top on PBS radio
> – young musicians. They all come from the bottle is half full half of the world and represent
> a tonic for depressed boomers of Peggy’s ilk.
*Laff*. If they don’t suck, why are they on NPR?
> Not to demean or criticize you Jeff, I think we all need to trim
> our use of hyperbole in the attempt to enlighten and persuade
Your government may seize your assets with impunity, orders you about as it pleases, and will kill you without impediment or remorse if that is in its interest. The only difference between your government and a Roman slave’s owner is the level of *honesty* affected by the master.
“Your government may seize your assets with impunity, orders you about as it pleases, and will kill you without impediment or remorse if that is in its interest. The only difference between your government and a Roman slave’s owner is the level of *honesty* affected by the master.”
The true sign of somebody that has never worked for the government. The government’s inability to do anything with any coherence is legendary.
Billy Beck? You apparently went some place that gave better grades for murky writing than content. I understand that’s all to common in today’s school system. “It’s absolute drivel but look how well it’s written.”
Yes, they are rolling back Johnson. Even Bubba Clinton couldn’t stop that train. Getting people off their rears and making them take responsibility for themselves is step one. FDR’s institution of government theft must be the next to go. Hear the recent rumbling about “Social Security?” The trick to having an optimistic view of the future is to watch Washington and your neighbors. When Washington is happy your neighbors aren’t. When your neighbors are happy Washington isn’t. It’s a sign. It might do some people a lot of good to just go live here in the midwest for a couple of years. I’ll take the perspective of the people I talk with at farm auctions with much more serious than the eggheads on the coast that think they know it all. Things are looking quite good in the midwest as Dan from Madison mentions. 1864 saw NY draft riots. They were suppressed with the help of a Wisconsin regiment. The more things change…
J Q says “our public works are NOT built by slave labor?”.
The comment strikes me as hyperbole ….. enough hyperbole already. (Indeed, the public works are not built by slaves).
He didn’t say they are built by slaves, but by slave labor. This is a perfectly reasonable description of labor for which people are not paid.
It is the truth that should upset you, not its candid admission.
“And what did it matter? It was needless to complain. This world was a foolish travesty, haunted with pain and with sorrowful memories and foreboding…What was the Emperor,the Peer of the Apostles, what even was Constantinople itself, the great City dear to God and to His Mother, compared to Christ Pantocrator and the glorious Courts of Heaven?”
– from BYZANTINE CIVILIZATION, by Steven Runciman, 1956
While the potentates of Europe were losing themselves in miserable quarrels, frittering away their possibilities, and even seeking an alliance with the Turk, only Pope Aeneas Sylvius, sick and dying, was finding the words for the occasion: “The barbarians have murdered the successor of Constantine together with his people, desecrated the temples of the Lord, overthrown the altars, thrown to the swine the relics of the martyrs, killed the priests, ravished their women and daughters, even the virgins consecrated to God; they have dragged along the camp the image of our crucified Savior, to the cry of ‘there goes the God of the Christians’ and have defiled it with filth and spit – and we seem to care for nothing.”
It was indeed the final tragedy of Christendom, vanquishing first West, then East. At that point only the conquering Sultan found the words for the occasion. “The ruler of the world” – writes Tursum Beg, his chronicler – moved up like a spirit, to the summit of Saint Sophia; he watched signs of the already coming decay, and formed elegaic thoughts: “The spider serves as watchman in the porticoes of the cupola of Khusrau. The owl sounds the last post in the palace of Afrasiyab. Such is the world, and it is doomed to cometo an end”
– from “HAMLET’S MILL: An essay on myth and the frame of time” by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend.
Mike Schneider flames:
Observe the ad-hominems accompanied by the utter failure of critical thinking. The oil industry has been expanding capacity at some refineries even as it closed others. Obviously, they could have increased their net capacity if it suited them to do so.
The industry did not. If there was going to be more oil produced, they could only profit if they could refine it and sell it. This shows one of two expectations on their part:that excess refining capacity was damaging to their profits (it apparently was, as margins were very tight for many years), and/orthat they would not have much, if any, more oil coming in during their planning horizon.
One would expect Mr. Schneider to have posted pertinent observations on the factual points… if he had any. His silence speaks louder than his words.
Does Mr. Schneider have any idea what it means, in a world of nearly frictionless overseas trade, that refineries weren’t built in Mexico, Nigeria or Grenada?
Perhaps they would have been lousy investments?
Hello, thoroughly-propagandized product of public education.
Oil production in the US’s lower 48 peaked in 1970; Prudhoe Bay did not arrest the decline, and neither will ANWR. Russia has peaked twice (once pre-collapse, once post-collapse) and is sliding for the second and probably final time. Saudi Arabia, the world’s swing producer, is running flat out and probably cannot expand capacity much no matter what it does. World oil consumption has been outstripping discoveries by growing margins since 1985. Several oil companies recently had to restate their reserves sharply downward. Where’s the oil to feed new refineries coming from?
We’ll soon have enough refinery capacity for all the light, sweet crude we can get. A surfeit, AAMOF. It’s the 1970’s all over again; SUV’s are already a drug on the mart, and Toyota has cut fleet sales of the Prius to accomodate consumer demand. When gasoline heads upwards from $2.50/gallon once more and/or we get a recession, we’ll see refineries cutting back due to lack of demand and profit margins in refining heading back toward zero.
Build new refineries? Not until arbitrage makes it worthwhile to handle the heavy, sour stuff, and depending on demand maybe not even then. Other things are not standing still, and petroleum may find itself as obsolete as spermaceti.
Which government would that be? Venezuela’s? Brazil’s? The entire Persian Gulf, which could just as easily export refined product as raw material?
You realize that, due to differential demand for diesel vs. gasoline, we import considerable gasoline from Europe as they have an excess? You realize that Europeans are much more environmentalist (to the point of ratifying Kyoto) than the US has ever been?
Nope, never occurred to you. If you ever came to believe that or any of a thousand other inconvenient truths which invalidate your neat little conspiracy theory, your head would explode.
Pity you’ll never learn anything, though.
(NB for site maintenance: something about the spam filter dislikes the phrase “c o m e to”.)
> Observe the ad-hominems accompanied by the utter
> failure of critical thinking.
Observe the complete *stiff* of the saliant fact that the oil industry is regulated by a government beholden to environtalism since the mid-’70s (with slight cracks only appearing recently), rendering market considerations second fiddle to arbitrary coercion and lawsuits.
> One would expect Mr. Schneider to have posted
> pertinent observations on the factual points…
> if he had any. His silence speaks louder than
> his words.
My “silence”, such as it were, steams from the fact that the vast bulk of the internet, and real-world reality in general, is of considerably more interest to me that dashing back here to encounter irrelvencies, evasion and snide snottiness at a level of timeliness you’d consider convenient.
> Other things are not standing still, and petroleum
> may find itself as obsolete as spermaceti.
“May” is such an open-ended opt-out clause.
Mike: “Your government may seize your assets with impunity, orders you about as it pleases, and will kill you without impediment or remorse if that is in its interest. The only difference between your government and a Roman slave’s owner is the level of *honesty* affected by the master.”
Joe: The true sign of somebody that has never worked for the government. The government’s inability to do anything with any coherence is legendary.
Joe, I made no claims to coherence or even competence within government. Those things are not necessary for it to be incredibly destructive.
Caligula wasn’t “coherent” either.
> Yes, they are rolling back Johnson.
*hoot* What’s been “rolled back”?
What program has a smaller budget?
> Getting people off their rears and making them
> take responsibility for themselves is step one.
> FDR’s institution of government theft must be the next to go.
*mad cackle* RiiIIIiiight. That’ll be the day.
I can’t wait to see the political ads where the fresh-faced guy in the tie says he going to take the “free” pills away from all the oldsters.
Make no mistake: You’re living in a full-blown socialist polity now, and I’ll lay sound money down that “Kelo” stays law until the precise moment the high court goes up in flames.
Please note that my response to Michael Schneider’s comment has somehow wound up before the one to which it replies in this comment thread, though the comment numbers are in the correct order.
Heh, I got a hoot out of “they are rolling back Johnson,” too.
Mr. Schneider should look at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051028/ap_on_bi_ge/oil_industry_profits_1. A pertinent excerpt:
> Mr. Schneider should look at….
:”A surplus of supply is not good for the industry,”
:Shell Oil Co. president John Hofmeister said in an
:interview on Friday. “Just as a surplus of demand
:is not good for industry. We strive for balance.”
OK, other than proving that Hofmeister is a complete moron at the level of Lee Iacocca, who maintained that Chrysler existed to provide workers with jobs, what am I to make of your selective data-point?
“(A) surplus of demand is not good for industry”? — Oh, no! People want to BUY MY STUFF….and that’s “not good”?
Comments are closed.