Shannon’s arguments are arresting, thoughtful and useful. Since he’s a technological wizard and I’m a pretty run-of-the-mill liberal arts type, since I have the myopic tendency to draw conclusions from my anecdotal experience and he from broader & more objective sources, we see the world from quite different angles, but, in the end, we see the same world. I’m reassured that the private is full of examples of the public, the specific of the general. And some of it boils down to – who’s the adult? I hope (whenever we get this damn conference over) to offer some meditations that discuss how I slowly learned to be (intermittently I fear) the adult. But here’s the first installment and it isn’t all that personal. It is merely an observation.
Laura Bush went to college, supported herself, decided to go back and get another degree to retool for a job she found more attractive, got that degree, got that job. She was in her late twenties, supporting herself & prepared to do it for the rest of her life. She met a man, married him, and chose to blend their responsibilities, have children, raise them. Her choices were not always the ones I would have made. Still, looking at them, I see the mark of a grown up who felt the importance of self-reliance in her bones.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, set her eye on a smart, charming and ambitious classmate; for the perks that such a marriage gave her, she was apparently willing to make some sacrifices – move to Arkansas, cherish his charm and overlook his philandering. She was hired by a law firm because of its ties to her husband’s power & party. When she feared her rocky marriage might implode (leaving her with little money & threatening her status in Arkansas) she entered into a stock deal that, at the least, appears to have had little entrepreneurial risk. She thought she deserved protection from financial loss.
I suspect that is true of many on the left. They have never felt the strength that comes from being the adult, so they panic. They want a higher authority (the government, the UN) to sanction their child raising choices, their virtue. They need a cocoon. Getting a library science degree versus manipulating a stock transaction with political buddies: Which is the path of independence? Which the path of an adult?
To me, this sums up the difference between the two sides – one expects to be taken care of and one expects to take care of itself. Those on the right are optimistic about our capabilities – the great cheerleader is Glenn Reynolds with his “pack not a herd” advocacy. They are also, in the end, optimistic about human nature. It may take us a long time to get things right, but left alone, we will probably muddle through. They are, however, pessimistic about any one person’s ability to understand, control. They realize that biology, history, fate are far more powerful than our puny wills – wills we probably shouldn’t trust completely anyway. (Again, we should have learned that one long ago.) And they accept (how can we not?) that life is complicated and there are far more variables than we can understand, let alone control.
But the left is optimistic about the ability of the government to act. Only incompetence can explain the government’s reaction to Katrina – a good government knows all, protects all, supports all, rebuilds all. They think a government should be created that conquers biology, history, fate, the weather. Such an understanding of the world is foreign to those on a farm, whose daily triumphs and disasters are affected by biology, weather, the market. A farmer learns that he doesn’t “deserve” anything – but the left tends to feel that, in some mysterious ways, they’ve already paid their dues and deserve all.