• Announcements

    • Editor

      Civil Discourse is Back!

      Civil Discourse, established in 2000, is up and running again after a hiatus. Ours is a boutique web site with a tight group of enthusiasts dedicated to substantive, amicable discussion. We are always happy to welcome like-minded contributors to the forum, regardless of their political, religious or philosophical leanings. Please join our effort to bring civility to online conversation. Click here to learn what CD is all about, here to see our master forum page and here for tips on starting or joining discussions. Register as yourself or under a pseudonym, and you'll soon be eligible to start new conversations, plunge into current debates, and jump-start dormant topics on which you have fresh ideas. If you're not receiving our weekly updates, click your name at the top of any page and be sure you've entered your e-mail address correctly. Send questions and suggestions to EditorCivilDiscourse@yahoo.com. Tell your friends about us, and let's all get Civilized.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Jim Hamilton

Kleptocracy As The Antidote For Communism

22 posts in this topic

According to Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan, kleptocracy is the only antidote for communism.

I was surprised at how unsophisticated Alan Greenspan sounded in his video clips from last night's PBS Frontline episode, The Warning (about the quixotic attempt by the Clinton administration's Commodity Futures Trading Commission chief, Brooksley Born, to penetrate and then regulate the "over-the-counter derivatives" market in 1998). I always took ABC, The New York Times, et al. at their word; i.e., that Greenspan was an above-the-fray super genius who, all politics aside, really knew what was best for the world.

Instead, actually listening to Greenspan's Congressional testimonies as he defended unbridled "black box" (non-transparent) corporatism throughout the 1990's and 2000's, I was struck by how simplistic the Federal Reserve chairman sounded: "Free market good; government bad." Ronald Reagan sounded more sophisticated about macroeconomics.

Explanation?

The Warning begins with an introduction to Greenspan's ideological mentor: Of all people, Twentieth Century novelist and post-Soviet maven of libertarianism, Ayn Rand. Libertarianism is an innate human condition, and it is already embodied in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Every American is a libertarian. However, today's kleptocrats trot out libertarianism as if it is a recent antidote to the current supposed Stalinist, Barack Obama, and Rand is the notion's dusted-off and trendy standard-bearer of today.

Well no wonder Greenspan, who after 2008's near calamitous financial meltdown admitted in further Congressional testimony that he had been wrong all along about the role of government in the world economy, sounded so childishly simplistic during the last couple of decades. Consider the following Wikipedia biographical information on Rand:

______________________

Rand was born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum (Russian: Алиса Зиновьевна Розенбаум) in 1905, into a middle-class family living in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She was the eldest of the three daughters (Alisa, Natasha, and Nora) of Zinovy Zacharovich Rosenbaum and Anna Borisovna Rosenbaum, largely non-observant Jews. Her father was a chemist and a successful pharmaceutical entrepreneur.[9]

Rand was twelve at the time of the Russian revolution of 1917. Opposed to the Tsar, Rand's sympathies were with Alexander Kerensky. Rand's family life was disrupted by the rise of the Bolshevik party. Her father's pharmacy was confiscated by the Soviets, and the family temporarily fled to the Crimea.

______________________

Well naturally, a budding twelve-year-old Russian socialite (Rand was very intelligent and very beautiful) would object to and be molded by her father's fortune being confiscated for the good of the local soviet. But it doesn't follow that the philosophy forged by such a life experience -- i.e., that government interference in business is inherently evil -- is any more accurate or practical than any other adolescent notion formed by even the brightest of us.

So no wonder Greenspan sounded so childish. He was parroting the notions of a child.

A very few of us will understand the significance of this, but how many other post-modern Americans will, even if I could reach all 300 million? A thousand, perhaps? Even fewer? The Frontline episode was exemplary, and I recommend it to all. However, it's already a forgotten and dusty file in a forgotten and dusty archive. Greenspan and Rand acolytes Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner are Obama's chief financial officers this very day.

The message, and thus the future, I'm afraid, is very clear: We've gone back to and will remain in the pre-1933 model, in which wild fortunes are made and lost by the financial markets' biggest inside gamblers, and the rest of us are along on the medieval ducking stool. If we gamble wildly and cash out in time, we never have to work jobs.

If we still think that FDR democracy regulates the market, we're likely to age and die in the same conditions as Tom Joad.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not agree with your post entirely, but I also was one who thought Greenspan was a genius. Once again the lesson was this: Whenever society tells us one person is infallible, our first choice should be a very healthy dose of skepticism.

Democrats today would do well to remember this when supporting Obama. Perhaps we should be grateful for the Rush Limbaugh's of the Right. When they unreasonably attack Obama they will keep him from becoming idolized, and force him to defend his positions.

Taking this thought further, it may be that the current batch of birthers, teabaggers, etc. are doing a disservice to liberals as well as conservatives. They make conservatives look bad by their refusal accept the failures of previous conservative policies. They do liberals a disservice by not providing intelligent and reasoned debate in opposition, thereby encouraging liberals to view all opposing positions as ignorance. Just as those few who opposed Greenspan where considered too ignorant to understand economics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that Ayn Rand's view of what's best for humans is flawed. I had a brief love affair with her works when I was very young, in my teens.

Looking back, I realize now why I thought the notion of "enlightened selfishness" was so very cool; the young and strong can't imagine anyone else might not be young and strong. They exist in the splendid isolation of their own skins, inwardly directed and self-involved. We need to go through this phase, I believe, in order to figure out how to use the toolkits we're born with to best effect.

But, hopefully, at some point in young adulthood, the carapace gets shed. I know my own realization that Rand was best enjoyed(!) as extreme fiction was when I saw clearly that there are some of us who work and defend and there are some of us who are worked for and defended and that there's not a thing wrong with the model. Everyone contributes their bit to the mix and our bits are all different.

To think that an adult might consider Rand's philosophical point of view worth modeling is distressing. To think Greenspan is one of them explains a lot about the last twenty years, as you point out. I'll never figure out why people who rely so completely on the government to protect their property and keep the peasants away from the gates can imagine they'd even exist without constant shoring up. To hear that Greenspan might imagine there's some sort of evolutionary "fitness" involved is weirdly hilarious.

The most recent infusion of public cash to the already flush is only that - the most recent. There's no free market; hasn't been as long as there's been great wealth to tip the scales. There's an unlevel playing field where the privileged get the law, the tax code and the police to protect their advantages. The only time the hallowed "free" market is invoked is when there's some chance that business might have to chip in with some taxes or suffer even the least legal restraint that private citizens bear daily.

I love the idea of a free market; most Americans do. The very words suggest that we might all get a piece of the big pie of success, that it's a concept worthy of defending. It's something of a shill, the way the deck is stacked. Perhaps the story of America is the story of the struggle to create a level playing field where success is the natural reward for hard work; we're certainly not there yet. I still think it's worth working for but it's wearying at times when you consider history and the way the odds lean.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The most recent infusion of public cash to the already flush is only that - the most recent. There's no free market; hasn't been as long as there's been great wealth to tip the scales. There's an unlevel playing field where the privileged get the law, the tax code and the police to protect their advantages. The only time the hallowed "free" market is invoked is when there's some chance that business might have to chip in with some taxes or suffer even the least legal restraint that private citizens bear daily.

I love the idea of a free market; most Americans do. The very words suggest that we might all get a piece of the big pie of success, that it's a concept worthy of defending. It's something of a shill, the way the deck is stacked. Perhaps the story of America is the story of the struggle to create a level playing field where success is the natural reward for hard work; we're certainly not there yet. I still think it's worth working for but it's wearying at times when you consider history and the way the odds lean.

Always glad to strike a chord, but here Rain misses the point of my closing. There's a reason I referred to FDR at the end of my post. The lesson is not that capitalism will never be fair; the lesson is that capitalism was fair, from roughly 1935 through about 1985.

That is, under the New Deal, robust federal (and to some extent state) institutions and agencies protected small investors and consumers from the worst excesses of the financial markets and corporate "personhood" (i.e., the notion that corporations are in a sense commercial "people" that shield the real people who run them from personal liability for theft, fraud, defective products, etc.) And don't forget that under President Eisenhower, a Republican, the highest base tax rate on the wealthiest Americans was over 70% (so that we could all have Tamiflu, instead of having Cindy McCain, the offspring of a beer distribution monopolist, owning 14 personal residences (Or is it 15?)).

The New Deal model, which served us amazingly well through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, was dismantled by Rand, Reagan, Richard Mellon Scaife*, and GW Bush. The right-wing story was that the New Deal was no different than communism, but for the reasons set out in my prior post, we know that's childish nonsense. What Rand, Scaife, Reagan and Bush really wanted was what we have now -- Brazilian style third-world capitalism, under which the rich become super-rich but don't have to worry about The Mob (because they can now afford gated communities and private armies).

The solution to our current woes is not to bemoan the eternal injustice of capitalism, but rather to just go back to the New Deal. If you're related to the governor and you get picked to put the tax labels on the booze, such that you're making a million dollars a month with no competition, you need to pay taxes of more than 50%. If you're a $30K per year nurse keeping old people alive with dignity, you need to pay taxes of about 3%. This is not radical. It's the American way. It's real democracy.

Can I get a witness? Will someone testify? WHY IS THIS SO MYSTERIOUS?

* Richard Mellon Scaife, scion of the early 20th Century monopolist Mellon families and heir to the Mellon Bank, Gulf Oil and Alcoa fortunes, bankrolled Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky during the impeachment of President Clinton in the late 1990's.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/polit...emain050299.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Mellon_Scaife

Edited by Jim Hamilton

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sorry, but I have to take exception to attacking Rand and Objectivism and blaming them for America's financial fallacies. Rand believed that no one has a right to force altruism on another without his consent. She also believed that one should always live honestly and deal honestly with each other, that it was through brutal honesty that we most effectively respected each other and each other's rights. I find it hard to argue with any of that. All philosophies are flawed, but all serve a purpose and have specific virtues. Using Rand, a brilliant thinker, as a scapegoat isn't really applicable or fair. It's actually quite juvenile. I liken it to people who like to blame God for the Church's atrocities through-out history. I'm not saying Rand is God, by any means. What I'm saying is, its over-simplistic and a disservice to Rand to blame her and her profound work for the actions of people she had nothing to do with. And one needs to remember when setting Rand's work up for trial, that much of her work was an answer to Communism, was theoretical in nature, and is much more applicable and successful when applied to an individual's life, instead of a commercial entity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm sorry, but I have to take exception to attacking Rand and Objectivism and blaming them for America's financial fallacies. Rand believed that no one has a right to force altruism on another without his consent. She also believed that one should always live honestly and deal honestly with each other, that it was through brutal honesty that we most effectively respected each other and each other's rights. I find it hard to argue with any of that. All philosophies are flawed, but all serve a purpose and have specific virtues. Using Rand, a brilliant thinker, as a scapegoat isn't really applicable or fair. It's actually quite juvenile. I liken it to people who like to blame God for the Church's atrocities through-out history. I'm not saying Rand is God, by any means. What I'm saying is, its over-simplistic and a disservice to Rand to blame her and her profound work for the actions of people she had nothing to do with. And one needs to remember when setting Rand's work up for trial, that much of her work was an answer to Communism, was theoretical in nature, and is much more applicable and successful when applied to an individual's life, instead of a commercial entity.

Ayn Rand and profound work don't go together in my mind at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry to say that I haven't read one single word written by Rand, because, well, her advocates in my sphere of friendships didn't impress me so much on an intellectual level.

Even so, this is one of the best strings that I've read on CD. Good historical- critical thinking by both Hamilton and Rearden. I won't pass any judgement on judgements of Rand because I've not read her works. Much more interested in the contemporary applications of New Deal politics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
According to Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan, kleptocracy is the only antidote for communism.

I was surprised at how unsophisticated Alan Greenspan sounded in his video clips from last night's PBS Frontline episode, The Warning (about the quixotic attempt by the Clinton administration's Commodity Futures Trading Commission chief, Brooksley Born, to penetrate and then regulate the "over-the-counter derivatives" market in 1998). I always took ABC, The New York Times, et al. at their word; i.e., that Greenspan was an above-the-fray super genius who, all politics aside, really knew what was best for the world.

Instead, actually listening to Greenspan's Congressional testimonies as he defended unbridled "black box" (non-transparent) corporatism throughout the 1990's and 2000's, I was struck by how simplistic the Federal Reserve chairman sounded: "Free market good; government bad." Ronald Reagan sounded more sophisticated about macroeconomics.

Explanation?

The Warning begins with an introduction to Greenspan's ideological mentor: Of all people, Twentieth Century novelist and post-Soviet maven of libertarianism, Ayn Rand. Libertarianism is an innate human condition, and it is already embodied in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Every American is a libertarian. However, today's kleptocrats trot out libertarianism as if it is a recent antidote to the current supposed Stalinist, Barack Obama, and Rand is the notion's dusted-off and trendy standard-bearer of today.

Well no wonder Greenspan, who after 2008's near calamitous financial meltdown admitted in further Congressional testimony that he had been wrong all along about the role of government in the world economy, sounded so childishly simplistic during the last couple of decades. Consider the following Wikipedia biographical information on Rand:

______________________

Rand was born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum (Russian: Алиса Зиновьевна Розенбаум) in 1905, into a middle-class family living in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She was the eldest of the three daughters (Alisa, Natasha, and Nora) of Zinovy Zacharovich Rosenbaum and Anna Borisovna Rosenbaum, largely non-observant Jews. Her father was a chemist and a successful pharmaceutical entrepreneur.[9]

Rand was twelve at the time of the Russian revolution of 1917. Opposed to the Tsar, Rand's sympathies were with Alexander Kerensky. Rand's family life was disrupted by the rise of the Bolshevik party. Her father's pharmacy was confiscated by the Soviets, and the family temporarily fled to the Crimea.

______________________

Well naturally, a budding twelve-year-old Russian socialite (Rand was very intelligent and very beautiful) would object to and be molded by her father's fortune being confiscated for the good of the local soviet. But it doesn't follow that the philosophy forged by such a life experience -- i.e., that government interference in business is inherently evil -- is any more accurate or practical than any other adolescent notion formed by even the brightest of us.

So no wonder Greenspan sounded so childish. He was parroting the notions of a child.

A very few of us will understand the significance of this, but how many other post-modern Americans will, even if I could reach all 300 million? A thousand, perhaps? Even fewer? The Frontline episode was exemplary, and I recommend it to all. However, it's already a forgotten and dusty file in a forgotten and dusty archive. Greenspan and Rand acolytes Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner are Obama's chief financial officers this very day.

The message, and thus the future, I'm afraid, is very clear: We've gone back to and will remain in the pre-1933 model, in which wild fortunes are made and lost by the financial markets' biggest inside gamblers, and the rest of us are along on the medieval ducking stool. If we gamble wildly and cash out in time, we never have to work jobs.

If we still think that FDR democracy regulates the market, we're likely to age and die in the same conditions as Tom Joad.

Finally saw "The Warning" last night on TiVo. Brooksley Born rules! Watch the entire episode here:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/view/.

Bug-eyed libertarian ideologues who think they can reduce the sum of human existence to two or three bromides should be forced to watch an endless loop of Greenspan's capitulation. Sweet!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm sorry, but I have to take exception to attacking Rand and Objectivism and blaming them for America's financial fallacies. Rand believed that no one has a right to force altruism on another without his consent. She also believed that one should always live honestly and deal honestly with each other, that it was through brutal honesty that we most effectively respected each other and each other's rights. I find it hard to argue with any of that. All philosophies are flawed, but all serve a purpose and have specific virtues. Using Rand, a brilliant thinker, as a scapegoat isn't really applicable or fair. It's actually quite juvenile. I liken it to people who like to blame God for the Church's atrocities through-out history. I'm not saying Rand is God, by any means. What I'm saying is, its over-simplistic and a disservice to Rand to blame her and her profound work for the actions of people she had nothing to do with. And one needs to remember when setting Rand's work up for trial, that much of her work was an answer to Communism, was theoretical in nature, and is much more applicable and successful when applied to an individual's life, instead of a commercial entity.

OK, I admit it -- I'm a monster. I've accused Rand of forming her theories when she was twelve years old.

Oh, the humanity! Will Hamilton never stop his predations?

Hank's hand-wringing here is exactly the sort of pabulum that right-wing ideologues resort to when they're being cuffed around like Marvis Frazier fighting the young Mike Tyson. "That guy who's right and knows how to express it is being dominant and just plain mean! Make him stop!"

Reaganists like Hank don't like dealing with facts, because facts are too complex. And facts that seem to be conflicting need to be reconciled, which leads to -- well, just too much thinking for simplistic brains. Much better to parrot the ideas of a twelve-year-old and just keep it simple, so that you can sound appropriately forceful (or in Hank's current case, merely plaintive) without actually having to think.

If Hank wants it simple, I'll keep it simple for him. Rand was a quack. She was traumatized by being caught in the midst of the biggest political and social upheaval of the Twentieth Century. She never got over it. Mediocre thinkers like Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan (as now revealed) took her novels -- her novels! -- as gospel and then fashioned the entire world's economics on Rand's idea.

And her idea? In a nutshell? "If we were all perfect, there would be no need for government." Well, well, well . . . Ain't that profound? Every single human being, each his or her own country, perfectly self-contained, self governing, etc.

Except, of course, for the roads that run from one house to the next. Or the water that runs in the stream that starts on my land but passes by yours on the way to the next guy's. Or the gross domestic product that I'm willing to bet will be worth 105% of its current value next year, but you're willing to bet will be worth 500%. (We're back to Brooksley Born, for those of you who haven't noticed.)

Are you starting to get it? Sure, we'd all like a perfect world where no one has to pay taxes or answer to regulators and everything would just run itself. But NO SUCH WORLD EVER HAS OR EVER WILL EXIST. Except in periods of anarchy (the worst of all human states), taxes and government and regulation have always existed, and they existed in the best balance humankind has ever known from 1935 to 1985.

Now, sadly and dangerously, we're back to 1929. Because of Alan Greespan . . . because of Ayn Rand . . . and because of Ronald Reagan and GW Bush. And these people and their ideas need to be discredited.

Before they do any more damage.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't really have time to address the rest of Jim's red-faced post, but I'd love to if I can, later. I did want to say something about this portion of it:

And her idea? In a nutshell? "If we were all perfect, there would be no need for government."

In Atlas Shrugged, Rand expressed her idea in a nutshell. She said it was, "A is A. A cannot be non-A."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I see what you mean, Jim. Yes, the New Deal was a big step forward in this perpetual dance of outwitting the oligarchy. Now we've taken a giant step back and we're ready for the next step forward. I am pretty sure that the current group of people in Washington will not be the ones to take that step.

I'm among the "disappointed lefties", I guess, that are now realizing that we did NOT elect a radical president. I think he'll probably be a nice, incrementally effective elected official but I'm losing hope that he's the inheritor of FDR's cape. Of course, it's still early days and there's a lot of things on the docket with which the new administration has to deal. Hope springs and all that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, kudos to HR for not personalizing JH's flamboyant barbs. Jim pushes the envelope of sandbox comportment from time to time, but I think all of us agree his posts never fail to entertain or offer interesting insights.

I'm sorry, but I have to take exception to attacking Rand and Objectivism and blaming them for America's financial fallacies. Rand believed that no one has a right to force altruism on another without his consent. She also believed that one should always live honestly and deal honestly with each other, that it was through brutal honesty that we most effectively respected each other and each other's rights.

That's precisely why she must shoulder responsibilty. This pie-in-the-sky outlook informed the deregulation fever that caused the earthquake we're now digging out from under. As "The Warning" showed, Greenspan and his allies didn't even want government to enforce regulations against secrecy and fraud.

All philosophies are flawed, but all serve a purpose and have specific virtues. Using Rand, a brilliant thinker, as a scapegoat isn't really applicable or fair. It's actually quite juvenile.

To the contrary, I think it's right on target. Rand would have heartily endorsed the right of businessmen to engage in all the shennanigans that brought us to the brink of collapse.

I liken it to people who like to blame God for the Church's atrocities through-out history.

I assume HR would say church atrocities violate God's maxims. Greenspan's deregulatory prescriptions followed Rand's maxims as close to the letter as he could manage.

What I'm saying is, its over-simplistic and a disservice to Rand to blame her and her profound work for the actions of people she had nothing to do with.

Alan Greenspan was part of Ayn's bizarre inner circle in the Fifties, and she once accompanied him to the Oval Office. She and her acolyte were joined at the hip intellectually and personally.

And one needs to remember when setting Rand's work up for trial, that much of her work was an answer to Communism, was theoretical in nature, and is much more applicable and successful when applied to an individual's life, instead of a commercial entity.

Adolf Hitler was an anti-communist, too, so that shield isn't big enough to cover up the failings of a deeply flawed alternative. HR also ignores the fact that Rand spent decades urging her world view upon the public and private economic sectors.

I don't really have time to address the rest of Jim's red-faced post, but I'd love to if I can, later. I did want to say something about this portion of it:

In Atlas Shrugged, Rand expressed her idea in a nutshell. She said it was, "A is A. A cannot be non-A."

I sincerely look forward to the rest of HR's analysis. I'll admit I don't find this teaser particularly helpful or profound.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry, I just have to chuckle at the turn of this thread.

I "read" Atlas when I was about 13 (eons ago!). The quotation marks indicate that I allowed my eyes to scan every page. Since I remember absolutely NONE of it - and I mean none - I can't say that I really read the book.

What is humorous is the idea that a man as brilliant, if misguided, as Alan Greenspan would be directed solely and exclusively by one person let alone a WOMAN in that day and age. This thread has taken the topic to the extreme that the recent election gave to the perceived influence on Obama by William Ayers.

The simplicity argument from Jim resonates with me. I think all of us would like to view the world as simpler than it really is. I think those in society who feel absolutely that the very foundations and philosophies that they have accepted without question all their lives are being erased express that disassociation in anger and simplistic terms. I think that there are politicians who having little if any intellectual curiosity or capacity but have very much greed will seek to be the face of that demographic. Why else would Sarah Palin even have name recognition much less a following?

I don't place Greenspan on either side of that situation. I haven't always agreed with his approach but, by God, I do respect him and I especially respect his civil behavior. Of all the important people associated with government over the last 2 decades, he and he alone conducted himself honorably and without overt political posturing. I wish the current set of Supreme Court Justices - supposedly the most apolitical organ of the entire federal government - could be so described.

But Rand's influence being that important? Don't think so. Maybe, as he said, Greenspan found her and her positions during a particularly susceptible stage of his growth but his education and his work history proves, IMO, that he wasn't a mere ideologue. He was and is a practical and pragmatic man. His greatest sin was thinking that those in power would recognize self-defeating behavior and avoid it.

Greenspan, at least, acknowledged this. Haven't heard any other supporters of government-free business environments doing that.

aC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I see what you mean, Jim. Yes, the New Deal was a big step forward in this perpetual dance of outwitting the oligarchy. Now we've taken a giant step back and we're ready for the next step forward. I am pretty sure that the current group of people in Washington will not be the ones to take that step.

I'm among the "disappointed lefties", I guess, that are now realizing that we did NOT elect a radical president. I think he'll probably be a nice, incrementally effective elected official but I'm losing hope that he's the inheritor of FDR's cape. Of course, it's still early days and there's a lot of things on the docket with which the new administration has to deal. Hope springs and all that.

It's worth remembering that Obama ran as a centrist reformer and is governing exactly as he said he would, despite bitter criticism from the right and the left. It's hard to fault a man for that.

Sure, he's no FDR, but the times don't call for one. Truly radical change was needed in the dire Thirties. Despite the depredations of Reagan, Cheney and Greenspan, our country is in a far better place today than it was when FDR took office. Incrementalism makes more sense now, and the health care debate proves anything else is a pipe dream anyway.

In the end, Reagan and Cheney were incrementalists, too. This is a time for tweaking, not demolition.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few reactions to aC's fine post...

What is humorous is the idea that a man as brilliant, if misguided, as Alan Greenspan would be directed solely and exclusively by one person let alone a WOMAN in that day and age. This thread has taken the topic to the extreme that the recent election gave to the perceived influence on Obama by William Ayers.

But there is an important difference. Ayers was an insignificant acquaintance of Obama's. Greenspan was a self-described acolyte of Rand.

But Rand's influence being that important? Don't think so. Maybe, as he said, Greenspan found her and her positions during a particularly susceptible stage of his growth but his education and his work history proves, IMO, that he wasn't a mere ideologue. He was and is a practical and pragmatic man.

As "The Warning" reminded us (again, everyone who clicks the link above to that program will be greatly rewarded) Greenspan agonized publicly about his sworn duty to enforce laws and make economic interventions he and Rand thought were morally wrong. That's admirable, but it's fair to ask whether he acted as effectively as a non-Randian might have in his position. I think the financial disaster that his actions helped usher in provides the answer.

His greatest sin was thinking that those in power would recognize self-defeating behavior and avoid it.

Greenspan, at least, acknowledged this. Haven't heard any other supporters of government-free business environments doing that.

He does deserve credit for intellectual honesty. I hear he's a pretty good dinner party guest, too. But his once lofty reputation is now in tatters, and there's nothing but justice in that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...Sure, he's no FDR, but the times don't call for one. ...

This is a time for tweaking, not demolition.

Thanks for the chuckle in a grey day of cold drizzle and flurries! I'll take the bait. "Tweaking"? Really?

When I look around the planet, I see circumstances that call out for "truly radical change" that should have long since started.

If we keep making incremental changes in the face of our current reality, we're going to tweak ourselves into being unable to inhabit the coastlines of our continents; into vast new inland deserts and water wars; into rolling brown outs and perpetual energy shortages; into more or less permanent shanty towns and the concomitant disease and violence. The last thing we can afford to do right now is try to get by with fine tuning institutions and conventions for living that are at their base unsustainable disasters.

We most certainly do need FDR; we need him AND Churchill AND Elizabeth I AND Mother Theresa. And Tom Mix. And, what the hell, Buck Rogers, too. I've been hoping that the current administration could rise to the occasion and become the heroes we need; it's the times that make them, I hear.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks for the chuckle in a grey day of cold drizzle and flurries! I'll take the bait. "Tweaking"? Really?

When I look around the planet, I see circumstances that call out for "truly radical change" that should have long since started.

If we keep making incremental changes in the face of our current reality, we're going to tweak ourselves into being unable to inhabit the coastlines of our continents; into vast new inland deserts and water wars; into rolling brown outs and perpetual energy shortages; into more or less permanent shanty towns and the concomitant disease and violence. The last thing we can afford to do right now is try to get by with fine tuning institutions and conventions for living that are at their base unsustainable disasters.

We most certainly do need FDR; we need him AND Churchill AND Elizabeth I AND Mother Theresa. And Tom Mix. And, what the hell, Buck Rogers, too. I've been hoping that the current administration could rise to the occasion and become the heroes we need; it's the times that make them, I hear.

Though liberals have since canonized him, FDR in his day was savaged from the left even more than Obama has been. Huey Long, the labor radials, the socialists, and others called him a corporate toadie who was more interested in tweaking a rapacious capitalist system than in truly helping the common man. Seen in the largest context, he, too, was an incrementalist during a time many thought, with some reason, that anything short of revolution was immoral.

Lincoln, too, was assailed from what we could call his left for charting too careful a course before, during and after the Civil War.

Everyone likes to think he lives in the best and worst of times, but a little perspective is in order here. Is America really worse off now, confronting even more dire threats, than it did in 1860 or 1932? Centrist leadership was appropriate then, and it's appropriate now.

What's more, it's the best one can hope for. Obama is pulling teeth to get a watered-down health care bill through a Democratic Congress. Faulting him for failing to revamp the world's energy consumption patterns overnight is pie-eyed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Though liberals have since canonized him, FDR in his day was savaged from the left even more than Obama has been. Huey Long, the labor radials, the socialists, and others called him a corporate toadie who was more interested in tweaking a rapacious capitalist system than in truly helping the common man. Seen in the largest context, he, too, was an incrementalist during a time many thought, with some reason, that anything short of revolution was immoral.

Lincoln, too, was assailed from what we could call his left for charting too careful a course before, during and after the Civil War.

Everyone likes to think he lives in the best and worst of times, but a little perspective is in order here. Is America really worse off now, confronting even more dire threats, than it did in 1860 or 1932? Centrist leadership was appropriate then, and it's appropriate now.

What's more, it's the best one can hope for. Obama is pulling teeth to get a watered-down health care bill through a Democratic Congress. Faulting him for failing to revamp the world's energy consumption patterns overnight is pie-eyed.

I recognize that my personal wishes for a real live saint to be elected as president were just that -- personal wishes, without adequate grounding in what I know about reality and the way the world works. My disappointment is commensurate with the ultimately impossible quality of those wishes. You're right; expecting this one president and his staff to fix all that ails us was pie-eyed. I'm working through it; I've been irrational-expectation-clean and wish-sober for a few months now. I have the odd relapse but in the main, I'm better.

I agree with you that everyone probably thinks their own slice of history is the most dangerous, challenging and pivotal. Obviously, that can't always be true but since history tells about dangerous, challenging and pivotal times, it must be correct to hold that view now and then.

For example, if you were a Saxon in 1066 you would have had fine reasons to be concerned about what William of Normandy was thinking. Likewise, a smart Carthaginian would have found other places to be when they saw the Roman ships landing in 149 BC. Sumerian farmers who noticed salt wilt on their crops would have been right to be worried about the future of the empire. It's rather egotistical to think that, of course, WE could never be in the same dire straits as people at other historical cusps. I'm sure many Muscovites didn't expect to be Russians again but there it is. The only way to know for sure one way or the other is to wait for hindsight to clarify things. Hmm. I vote we act like everything matters greatly and leave historians to debate whether this was irrational.

The wishes that led me to want a hero for president are born of a dread I have for the future. My worries are not fully universal; I'm not concerned about, say, the survival of our species. That's as may be; nature will have its way with us whatever we do. And, I'm not worried in the ordinary way of things - should the public option be more robust or should OTC derivatives be regulated. Rather, I'm worried about the survival of this particular civilization; I think it holds the greatest good for the greatest number of people and is worthy of preserving. It's a work in progress, yes, and far from perfect but I like it. It has legs. It might be said that America is NOT the sum of our current civilization or even its best flower but we do appear to have our hand on the tiller at the moment. I think what we choose to do or omit doing in the next few years could be pivotal to our current global civilization evolving in a direction that continues to provide the greatest good for the greatest number.

Our problems are not small; energy, agriculture, resource management, social organization and justice. The basics of all civil societies. I started writing this post hours ago and I've edited it this way and that over the landscape of what's wrong and how it might be addressed but really, there's no quick way to sum up what could be the making or unmaking of our civilization. It's a big question.

Finally, I must respectfully disagree that our current leadership situation is "...the best one can hope for..". Hope is free, boundless, and eternal and droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven. It is meant to be used with a lavish heart. I'm done wishing on stars but I hope for a LOT.

With apologies over savaging the primary subject of this thread, I think I'm going to start another discussion and salt it with some hair raising ideas I have on how an heroic president might address some of the issues I think are pressing on our world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As usual, I admire QR's latest provocative post, and I look forward to the new thread s/he's contemplating on the world's most pressing problems. For now I'd like to feature the paragraph that underscores why Obama couldn't and shouldn't be a revolutionary president.

Our problems are not small; energy, agriculture, resource management, social organization and justice. The basics of all civil societies. I started writing this post hours ago and I've edited it this way and that over the landscape of what's wrong and how it might be addressed but really, there's no quick way to sum up what could be the making or unmaking of our civilization. It's a big question.

If a person as thoughtful as QR has trouble framing the urgencies in his own mind, how can any political leader be expected to address them comprehensively in an ideologically polarized environment that is (rightly) encumbered by the checks and balances of democracy? Obama is correct to seek out the common ground, try to expand it, and get done whatever he can in a way that gives most of us a stake in his success.

Yes, We Can Only Do What We Can Do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0