Quote of the Day – James Lileks Edition

I need to start reading The Bleat regularly again.  Today’s gem comes from today’s post:

My favorite term is “free-dumbs,” which marks the latest continuation of the word “freedom” as a signifier of idiocy. At some point “liberty” fell into disfavor with these people, because the wrong people were insisting that it applied to them as well.

In Relation to My Previous Post…

I’ve Been Thinking, there’s this:  Stay Alive, Joe Biden, a piece in The Atlantic published day before yesterday.

Key graphs:

Democrats—some independents, and some Republicans too—were terrified and furious at the prospect of another four years of Donald J. Trump. And as the weeks of the primary season ticked on, it became clear that there was one option to forestall that possibility, and his name was Joe Biden.

Through it all—the fairly awful campaign events and confusing statements and garbled debate performances—the idea of the former vice president has somehow remained consistent, and apparently convincing, as both Trump’s inverse and co-equal. Senator Bernie Sanders may still be in the race, but this is a detail. Democrats have chosen Biden as their vessel for Trump’s defeat, and that choice is the entire point: The vanquishing matters more than anything else.

Biden’s team appears to understand this, and to believe that what matters most now is keeping their candidate alive in the American imagination as an alternative to Trump. His appearances these days have an almost parallel-universe quality to them: Biden’s audience-less remarks from his home in Delaware have the suggestion of an Oval Office address, and their content seems intended to offer a glimpse into the twilight zone where someone else, someone more empathetic and capable, is president. It’s as if Biden is telegraphing to his public: You have already imagined that I can beat Trump; now imagine what it will be like when I am president.

For the foreseeable future, there will be no more speeches in front of hundreds, or lines of people waiting to shake Biden’s hand. There may not even be the glossy fanfare of a convention with a prime-time address. But, truthfully, all those things were always sort of beside the point. Like on that morning in McClellandville, and countless other ones besides, Biden was never really convincing anyone on the stump—his political power at this point is an idea, held collectively, about how to defeat Trump. The work now is to keep that idea convincing enough, for long enough, among as many people as possible, for the corporeal man to actually win.

“Keep their candidate alive in the American imagination….”

See also: Ace of Spades

And this:


Great minds and all that.

Quote of the Day – Adaptive Curmudgeon Edition

From his post The McDonald Girl’s Story:

For whatever reason, I’d never before understood the beatific wonderment of youth. This child, who was clutching a buck’s worth of sugar water, had a direct line to the joy of the universe. It was amazing; in the true sense of the word. I stood there astounded and speechless at the complete, naïve, guileless, joy of a happy child’s smile. 

It was then that I started to understand. This is why adults raised children. This is why they tolerated crayons on the walls and dirty diapers and Barney videos… this was a real, unfiltered, direct link to heaven.

She was so happy. And I was too. I was delighted to have noticed such a moment. I saw and truly understood… joy.

 RTWT.

Other People’s Content

As you may know, I frequent Quora.com. Recently someone asked the question:

What are the great ideas of progressivism distinct from liberalism?

This answer by Charles Tips is one of the best, most concise responses I’ve ever read, and I asked him if I could archive it here on my blog.

He said yes:

All of progressivism is distinct from liberalism. It rests on an idea I hesitate to call great, but which certainly has been workable. And that idea depends on a number of ancillary ideas and methods.

The modern reordering of politics

Monarchism enjoyed a long run of more than two millennia before being beset in short order by three new politics: Liberalism kicked in in the late 17th century. Bonapartism commenced in the early 19th century followed by Marxist socialism in the mid-19th century.

It was a rough time to be a monarch or aristocrat, institutions propped up only by myth (some are made of better stuff and are more beloved of God), militia (the finest knucklebreakers money can buy) and corruption (we give ourselves titles, offices and land; you can barely survive without paying us). If Napoleon wasn’t running roughshod over your turf exposing you as not so hearty as you claimed, Old Karl was filling your subjects ears with nonsense about class-free society.

But the real kicker was liberalism, which, with its economics of productivity, stood as a rival power center. When Richard Arkwright, a poor tailor’s son, died near the end of the 18th century worth half a million pounds from his inventiveness and enterprise, it sent shock waves through all of European society. The reverberation was especially strong in the courts of kings—scientists and tinkerers and commercial men now had an engine that could produce real wealth and offer useful employment to our subjects!

The gentry had laughed up their sleeves at the very notion of the United States of America—a class-free society… with no titles of nobility… with subjects made full citizens… and the leaders of government construed as public servants!!?? Preposterous! But it kept succeeding—not preposterous but prosperous.

Napoleon came and went, and his nephew was not the adroit he was. Socialism threatened wide-scale revolution then went quiet. But liberalism had bestowed commoners with the goose that lays golden eggs. What were thinking layabout sycophants to do? And then the United States threatened to split in two. Maybe liberalism was a dead end.

Monarchy rallied and soon King Wilhelm I charged Prince Otto von Bismarck to go out and get the many German principalities and duchies to submit to his rule. He needed an incentive, and the strongest appeal to the masses was socialism. He decided to explore and so had a famous series of private meetings with Ferdinand Lassalle, leader of an early social democratic party (that being the name communists had had to resort to in order to get around sedition laws).

Bismarck soon concluded, by God, this man is every bit the monarchist I am, just for the House of Lassalle rather than the House of Hohenzollern. I know how to work with such opportunists!

And so he stole Marx’s entire scheme and implemented it in the name of the King. He hired leading social democrats into his government, united all the German states under now-Kaiser Wilhelm I, created the paternalistic welfare state, and not long after made socialism illegal. As Bismarck explained:

My idea was to bribe the working classes, or shall I say, to win them over, to regard the state as a social institution existing for their sake and interested in their welfare.

The new myth: We Care. By swallowing socialism whole, he had lucked upon the means to protect privilege against liberalism. Item #2 in The Communist Manifesto had been a graduated income tax. Implement that and the political class then has a throttle on the personal wealth of the rising entrepreneurial class. All the goodies capitalism produces can be kept—the goose can keep laying the golden eggs; we just get our eggs off the top. And we need a lot of them because We Care.

Social democracy comes to America

The United States was birthed at the zenith of liberalism as the pinnacle of liberalism. Our Constitution guaranteed a society that was flat and free. Citizens were free to pursue their own self-interest because Adam Smith had shown that turns out to be good for everyone.

In order for an enterprising man to succeed, he has to create a win for his workers so that they willingly stay engaged in production. He has to create a win for his customers so that they keep buying his products. He typically must use the profits that eventually begin flowing in to shore up the business. It is only with a great deal of risk and fortitude that he himself can gain a win.

Modern free-enterprise economics had supplanted pre-modern non-productive economics, which was zero-sum (win-lose) and therefore produced no new wealth. In fact, the old non-productive economics was now referred to as corruption. Only, for those who were well-situated, it was so much less toil than productive economics. One could become wealthy not by getting in harness for the long haul but simply opportunistically by taking advantage of one’s status.

As word of the Bismarckian bombshell began arriving in the US, several things were going on.

  • Resentment, reaching well into the North over Reconstruction and the three amendments with the effect of making former slaves full citizens
  • Former slaves from the South and Swedish farm boys arriving from the Upper Midwest looking for factory and trade work
  • The steady arrival of “new immigrants” on the eastern seaboard—Jews from Eastern Europe and Catholics and Orthodox from Southern Europe
  • The rise of industrial might and industrial tycoons
  • A rising number of politicians unwilling to be content in the role of public servant
  • The widespread adoption in genteel families of Victorian morality

Progressivism, the movement to implement Bismarckian social democracy in the US soon dominated both parties. However, the movement faced a huge impediment in the Constitution, a document crafted as a bulwark against statism. Here are some of the methods employed by progressives over the years in service of their great idea.

  • Law schools at Harvard, Yale and other leading universities devoted themselves to a democratic reading of the Constitution—majority rules rather than the republican idea that no law is valid that impinges on the rights of anyone
  • Doubling down on democracy with new voting methods—ballot initiatives, recall elections, referenda, direct election of senators and so on
  • Adoption of the Prussian Volksschule, geared to indoctrination, as our public school model
  • Alliance with the Conservative Democrat faction in the South
  • Scientism—Spencer’s popularized version of Darwinian evolution becoming the basis for eugenics and white supremacy
  • Amending the Constitution (XVI) to permit a capitation tax (previously disallowed) on income
  • The rise of Keynesian economics, an economics conceived specifically to allow for political control of the economy
  • After progressive numbers were halved in the wake of Prohibition, an increasing reliance on Fabian deception
  • The rise of administrative law together with federal agencies having police units not publicly accountable
  • Approval of public-sector unions, which has seen a rise in public-sector compensation outpacing that of all productive sectors and with union dues going directly to the Democratic Party
  • Political Correctness—the use of Gramscian ideas to control thought, meaning and culture
  • The rise of the deep state and “weaponization” of public agencies

To be sure, there are many branches to these methods, and this list is far from exhaustive. But all such methods are in support of the great idea of progressivism. In a nutshell…

And so our wealthiest neighborhoods now surround our political capitols, especially Washington, DC, and our politicians no longer see themselves as lowly public servants: United States order of precedence.

Damn, Charles, that was beautiful. And frightening.

Quote of the Day, Civil War 2.0 Edition

From American Thinker, What Might Civil War be Like?:

Cities cannot feed themselves under any conditions, and what food could be grown on America’s resource-starved farms would be gobbled up by people nearer and dearer to the farmers. Leftists would have to both secure vast territories around their urban strongholds and relearn from scratch the generations-lost art of food production. Liberal enclaves stranded in the hinterland would simply be untenable. We, on the other hand, would be critically short of new Hollywood movies. Without a steady supply of the works of Meryl Streep and Matt Damon, millions of conservatives would instantly drop dead from boredom – that is, according to Meryl Streep.

Recommended Reading

I was pointed at this piece in an exchange over at Facebook. I’m not through with reading it yet, but it’s interesting enough for me to recommend it to my readers who have attention spans. Situational Assessment 2017.  Excerpt:

I use John Robb’s term “Trump Insurgency” here to highlight the fact that the election of 2016 was not an example of “ordinary politics”. Anyone who fails to understand this is going to be making significant errors. For example, the 2016 election is not comparable to the 2000 election (e.g., merely a “close” election) nor to the 1980 election (e.g., an “ideological transition” election). While it is tempting to compare it to 1860, I’m not sure that is a good match either.

In fact, as I go back and try to do pattern matching, the only real pattern I can find is the 1776 “election” (AKA the American Revolution). In other words, while 2016 still formally looked like politics, what is really going on here is a revolutionary war. For now this is war using memes rather than bullets, but war is much more than a metaphor.

This war is about much more than ideology, money or power. Even the participants likely do not fully understand the stakes. At a deep level, we are right in the middle of an existential conflict between two entirely different and incompatible ways of forming “collective intelligence”.

As I said, interesting.

This is an Optimistic Piece

Found at Blue’s Blog:

One 82-year-old lady loves Obama and she may have a very good point. She says that Obama is amazing, and is rebuilding the American dream! She gives us an entirely new slant on the “amazing” job Obama is doing, and she says that she will thank God for the President. Keep reading for her additional comments and an explanation. When discussing Obama, she says:

1. Obama destroyed the Clinton Political Machine, driving a stake through the heart of Hillary’s presidential aspirations – something no Republican was ever able to do.

2. Obama killed off the Kennedy Dynasty – no more Kennedy strolling Washington looking for booze and women wanting rides home.

3. Obama is destroying the Democratic Party before our eyes! Dennis Moore had never lost a race. Evan Bayh had never lost a race. Byron Dorgan had never lost a race. Harry Reid – soon to be GONE!

These are just a handful of the Democrats whose political careers Obama has destroyed. By the end of 2016, dozens more will be gone. Just think, in December of 2008 the Democrats were on the rise. In two election cycles, they had picked up 14 Senate seats and 52 House seats. The press was touting the death of the Conservative Movement and the Republican Party. However, in just one term, Obama put a stop to all of this and gave the House and the Senate – back to the Republicans.

4. Obama has completely exposed liberals and progressives for what they are. Sadly, every generation seems to need to re-learn the lesson on why they should never actually put liberals in charge. Obama is bringing home the lesson very well: Liberals tax, borrow and spend. Liberals won’t bring themselves to protect America. Liberals want to take over the economy Liberals think they know what is best for everyone. Liberals are not happy until they are running YOUR life.

5. Obama has brought more Americans back to conservatism than anyone since Reagan. In one term, he has rejuvenated the Conservative Movement and brought out to the streets millions of freedom loving Americans. Name one other time when you saw your friends and neighbors this interested in taking back America!

6. Obama, with his “amazing leadership, “has sparked the greatest period of sales of firearms and ammunition this country has seen. Law abiding citizens have rallied and have provided a “stimulus” to the sporting goods field while other industries have failed, faded, or moved off-shore.

7. In all honesty, 4 years ago I was more afraid than I have been in my life. Not afraid of the economy, but afraid of the direction our country was going. I thought, Americans have forgotten what this country is all about. My neighbors and friends, even strangers, have proved to me that my lack of confidence in the greatness and wisdom of the American people has been flat wrong.

8. When the American people wake up, no smooth talking teleprompter reader can fool them! Barack Obama has served to wake up these great Americans! Again, I want to say: “Thank you, Barack Obama!” After all, this is exactly the kind of hope and change we desperately needed!!

9. He has saved Carter’s legacy and made Jimmy Carter happy, since Jimmy is no longer the worst president we’ve ever had. Credit goes to where credit is due. I feel better now!

THANK YOU OBAMA

Actually, I can’t argue with any of that.