09
Sep
09

Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 47

Dear grad students’ association: if you’re going to schedule a pub night involving more than thirty people getting free food and cheap beer, please check with the FUCKING PUB first. Empty tables don’t just appear out of nowhere, particularly during frosh week.  kthxbye

——

We go from the piddling and irritating to the ultimately irrelevant but utterly frightening.

Let me give some context before I continue.  Lately I have complained that democracy is a means, rather than an end (second item) — and that the simple fact that a result has been arrived at democratically in no way justifies that result.  I have also been taken somewhat aslant by the notion that “democracy”, apparently in its role as a friendly and comforting noun, is able to supplant “capitalism” (last item).  By all of this I intend to argue that democracy has no intrinsic virtue.

The democratic government of a republic does however have practical virtue — among other things, in that it provides (empirically speaking) a far greater harvest of liberty (thence quality of life) than any of its alternatives.  I won’t argue that democracy is irreplaceable because it is democracy, but instead that democracy is irreplaceable with anything else we’ve devised because it’s fucking well better than anything else we’ve devised.  Don’t make me quote Churchill at you; I’ll do it, I’m fucking serious.

All this brings us to Thomas Friedman.

(Who else would publish this dreck?  Anyway, hat tip to Cafe Hayek and Below the Beltway.)

Friedman begins with this affront to history:

Watching both the health care and climate/energy debates in Congress, it is hard not to draw the following conclusion: There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today.

Um.  Did I miss something when I read about the Great Leap Forward?  Widespread famine, at least twenty million deaths, and the ignorant and profligate waste of one of the world’s strongest developing economies?  I mean, I’ll be happy to argue that cap-and-trade isn’t a good idea when put up against a Pigovian carbon tax, but it’s a far better plan than coercing peasants — at gunpoint — to deforest their farms in order to smelt pig-iron in their backyards.

Wait!  Wait, wait; I’ve got it!  Thomas Friedman is secretly a libertarian, and he’s slyly poking fun at the Coke/Pepsi party system we’ve had running on this continent since the middle of the 19th Century.  That’s the only interpretation that makes sense!

which is why it would never be published in the New York Times.  Okay, my mistake.  Carry on!

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages.

Well, charging the families of political prisoners for the price of executing their relatives must cut down on penal costs.  C’mon, tell me about how enlightened the PRC is!

That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power.

…that’s it?

I have a policy announcement to make.  The People’s Republic of Blunt Object is committed to overtaking China in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power, and wind power.  What now, bitch?

I don’t know whether Thomas Friedman has ever sullied his mind with the practical considerations of the hard sciences, but it sure seems to me — my research lab works with a bunch of labs from the PRC on a regular basis; it’s not a hard-and-fast rule but it’s better than mere anecdote — that the vast majority of Chinese research is ultimately market-driven.  Biggest Chinese player in my field?  Microsoft Research China.

OMG Micro$oft r teh c0mm13z! rumours on Slashdot in 3… 2… 1….

And what’s this about a one-party democracy, anyhow?  Seems to me we have at least two.  Okay, one and a half.  One and a quarter!  Fine!

Sorry; I thought I could find something in the article to justify that characterization.  Instead, I find this:

Our one-party democracy is worse. The fact is, on both the energy/climate legislation and health care legislation, only the Democrats are really playing. With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying “no.” Many of them just want President Obama to fail. Such a waste. Mr. Obama is not a socialist; he’s a centrist. But if he’s forced to depend entirely on his own party to pass legislation, he will be whipsawed by its different factions.

Um.  So we have two parties, which are at odds with each other.  And even within Mr. Obama’s own party, it seems like there are many sub-parties — factions, we can call them — at work.  So while Mr. Friedman purports to be arguing against “one-party democracy” (which is rather rare, pretty much by definition), the political structure against which he’s actually arguing is a multilevel multi-party democracy.  He describes this as “one-party democracy” because only one of the parties — the dominant faction — is willing to bend over for the leader of the dominant faction.  I could happily fill a day with unending complaints about the present Republican party, but nowhere in my vituperation would you find that about which Friedman’s complaining — that they’re not utterly supine to the ruling faction of the Democrats.

So we have a one-party democracy because we really have a many-party democracy.  That makes sense in a New York Times sort of way, I suppose.

And now, a cheap shot:

Look at the climate/energy bill that came out of the House. Its sponsors had to work twice as hard to produce this breakthrough cap-and-trade legislation. Why?

Because it was an ineffectual grasping piece of regulatory-capture dogshit.  Next!

(Don’t believe me?  Hit me up in the comments, and I’ll be happy to post a shit-ton of links to Coyote Blog explaining, in great and occasionally insufferable detail, why cap-and-trade is practically inferior but legislatively dominant to a flat carbon tax.  In fact, if there’s much interest at all, I’ll write that up myself.  Moving on.)

At last, we are provided with this:

The G.O.P. used to be the party of business. Well, to compete and win in a globalized world, no one needs the burden of health insurance shifted from business to government more than American business.

I cannot properly convey my dismayed incredulity on my own.  I’ll have to defer to analogy with a better writer.  You’ll be expecting H. L. Mencken, or perhaps P. J. O’Rourke, but I’m going to quote Paul Kelso from his book “Powerlifting Basics, Texas-Style”:

I was pulling on my sweats to go  when the boy sidled over and sat by me.

“Uh, Mr. Kelso, you write for the magazines and know a lot of people and all, well, I was, uh, wondering if you could tell me how to get ’em?”

“Get what?”

“Them.”  He pointed at Lope [Delk, Texas rig-pig and sometimes powerlifter].

“Them what?”

“Stretch marks.”

“What?”

“I mean, what exercises do I do?”

“WHAT?”

“For stretch marks.  Is there a special machine for them, or could I have one made?”

HAWNH?”

Take it on faith about that last word.  That’s roughly the sound of the East Texas good ole boy whou absolutely does not comprehend what’s going on.

HAWNH? is about the sound I made at the end of that last fragment from Mr. Friedman.  (I’m not from East Texas, but perhaps Central Alberta counts in a small way.)  Can someone explain to me how, when government gets its money either by taxing businesses and individuals employed thereby or by lending to businesses and individuals employed thereby, any sort of burden can be transferred from businesses to government?  The best one could possibly hope for is to break even — and that assumes that no government employees would get paid in the process.

I nevertheless submit that this is good news: Mr. Friedman has penned, perhaps unintentionally, the best defence of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that I have ever read.

I’ve exceeded my word count, and shall discuss some other what the dickblistering fuck is WRONG with you? stories in the next day or two.


8 Responses to “Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 47”


  1. September 10, 2009 at 02:38

    Capitalism and Democracy it can’t be join like oil and water :D

  2. 4 Sennin
    September 10, 2009 at 05:36

    How about a no-party system? (Yeah, I know, never happen) A system where the government takes care of things like national defense, foreign affairs and such, based on facts rather than ideology, and leaves the citizenry ALONE!??

    Sry, Jus’ thinkin’ out loud.

  3. September 10, 2009 at 16:30

    This was both hilarious and deeply sobering, as Thomas Friedman is supposed to know something about economics.


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