Wednesday, April 27, 2011


"In China, if the leadership can get around to an enlightened decision it can order it from the top down."

Decree Power
Sometimes I sit and think about what it would be like if the US had an absolute ruler with unlimited power to accomplish the basic things that have to be done. No arguing in congress, no fights in the press, no misleading advertising or rhetoric, no concerns about the voters and how they'll react.

In a way, a virtuous, wise absolute monarch is the ideal system of government, because such a person could be trusted to do what was right and not take advantage of their power for personal benefit. But where would we find such a person, and what happens when they die? Eventually someone else will take over and could they be trusted?

That's why the founding fathers embraced democracy. The system is messy and stupid and conflicted, but as Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government... except all the others that have been tried. All forms of government have their drawbacks but at least with a democratic republic you have the maximum liberty and input on the government and overall things tend to work out eventually.

Its like a free market; the free market has serious flaws, but over time, they tend to be evened out and eliminated, if the market is truly free. That's the drawback with democracy as we now enjoy it. Its not truly a representative democracy because you have to be fabulously rich to get into real power and the cronyism of big business and special interests makes the system more like an oligarchy than a democracy. Its not truly democratic or republican, so its not working like it is supposed to.

So I understand where dreams like Thomas Friedman's "if only we were more like China, then Obama could do whatever he wants" come from. Friedman doesn't really want a brutal dictatorship, he just wishes things were more streamlined and effective at implementing his political agenda.

Yet that's not the only place these dreams come from. Leftists tend toward autocracy by their very nature. The left is the origin of the two great horrors of the 20th century: Communism and Fascism, each trying to implement the latest scientific and philosophical ideas in a practical and methodological system which ended up dehumanizing and murdering billions of people.

Leftist ideology presumes that the enlightened few are better able to deal with life than the stupid, uneducated, and selfish many. That's the concept behind the reeducation camps, the ruling councils, the commissars, and the dictatorships. All leftist systems presume the need of absolute power to fix things before the real freedom can take place. Karl Marx' revolution started with this concept, with an absolute ruling council bringing stability and order, which eventually evolved into pure communism without any rulers.

That's why we get articles such as a recent one in the Sydney Morning Herald by columnist Elizabeth Farrelly. The entire article drips with "we know best and you're a knuckle dragging cretin" rhetoric. It is concerned with Australia, but applies globally, and is not unusual thinking for many on the left, particularly academics. Here are a few samples:
It may be, as one correspondent wrote last week, that advertising works on the "80/80 principle", the assumption that 80 per cent of Australians have an IQ average of 80. Now I'm fine with stupidity in advertising. Indeed, I expect nothing less - isn't that why God gave us the mute button? But what makes the 80/80 thought especially gripping - as in, by the throat - is how much it explains that branch of advertising we call politics.
Democracy is very close to our hearts. So close that we go to war in order to impose it on those too weak or benighted to grab it for themselves. But democracy, the tyranny of the majority, may yet prove an own goal for humanity, mainly because of the weird trick it does with scale; allowing us all to pursue our own happiness as if we were the only ones on the planet. Allowing us to act like a vast family of solipsistic only children, steadfastly voting for lower taxes and higher services.
Whether non-democracies such as China will negotiate the rapids of the coming century more adroitly remains to be seen. Certainly, freed from any need to pander to the 80/80 rule, they have at least one freedom Western-style democracies do not have - the freedom to act decisively.

Overall she has some good points, but she misses the mark by a wide margin because of her leftist bent. She's really bad at math (there are 36,794,240,000 acres on the surface of the planet and almost 7 billion people, for example, meaning that's just under 6 acres per person, even if some of them aren't quite hospitable) and holds to basic leftist mistakes such as the idea that lower taxes results in less government revenue, or that a tax on pollution would save the planet.

She's right that people cannot be basically selfish and survive as a culture, but she thinks that's due to liberty rather than due to human nature informed by a leftist, relativist worldview. Her very concept of life is what leads to selfish behavior, but she thinks that this is due to too much freedom and power in democracy.

So she wonders if maybe the best thing to do would be, again, to be more like China, where people are ordered around by commissars and an all powerful one-party government. That way hings are so much more orderly, and nobody can fight back when the government insists upon the latest leftist theory. Like the apologists for the Soviet Union back in the cold war and earlier, these new China apologists recognize there are problems with the system, but yen for it all the same, because if only people like them were in power, well things would turn out so much better.

The flaw in this theory is that people like them are in power and always have been in Communist nations like China and the Soviet Union, Andorra, Cuba, and so on. That's why things turn out the way they do, because the slide from "benevolent dictator" to "brutal thug" is defined by where you get tired of people not doing exactly what you tell them to, when you tell them to.

The gulags were meant to be reeducation camps, but it was a lot cheaper and easier just to throw people in there until they died. The start of almost all revolutions is noble and idealistic, but when the challenges of reality hit, revolutionaries are almost never up to the task. Consider President Obama, whose head full of wonderful butterflies and unicorns was unready for the actual job of president. Dozens of times he criticized President Bush for different policies and ended up doing exactly the same thing. Over and over he's tried his theories out and watched them make things substantially worse rather than better ("stimulus," Quantitative Easing, etc).

Yet for someone like that, the problem isn't with their ideas, oh my no. The problem is those other people who disagree. Best if they have their power taken away, after all, anyone who dares disagree with someone as enlightened and noble as myself must be some sort of horrible monster anyway. And so the slide begins, checked only by a system which prevents one person from having too much power.

The dream of absolute power to do the right thing is tempting, but flawed and sinful as we humans are, it always ends in horror, because none of us do the right thing all the time, and even when we do the right thing, we still get it wrong in some ways. We're not perfect, so we aren't worthy of the power only a perfect person could wield properly.

The problem isn't insufficient power, its innate corruption within. No system will help us escape what's a natural part deep inside us all. The best we can do is find a system that takes advantage of that and turns it to the best for the most people.

But when you're a leftist, you think perfection isn't just possible, but inevitable, if only people would do exactly what you tell them to. So you want the power to make that happen, and when you can't get it, you try to find a way to do it anyway - such as by using the EPA to implement policies congress refuses to and the courts deny you.


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