Whither common sense?

The article I cite here is from the 19th. I wrote this entry last week, but left it to marinate in my brain because I wasn’t sure I said anything worth publishing. This needs to be fleshed out more, and I’m not sure I’ve convinced even myself. I’m posting it raw for future possibilities to build on the idea.

Megan McArdle asks a question:

Assume, for the nonce, that come January 2009, there will be a Democrat taking the oath of office. What will the blogosphere look like?

Compared to the netroots, right now, the rest of the political blogosphere is a demoralized and listless place. Libertarians are abandoning their mild preference in favor of Republicans, not for the Democrats, but for despair. On the conservative side, even ardent supporters of the president have tired of him. Everyone is out of plausible policy proposals. What is there to be in favor of? More tax cuts? An even more aggressive foreign policy?

Her answer is good and worth reading. Blogging is mostly a response, so it’ll morph into something new and interesting as the world changes. I think mostly is the key, though. What will blogging do to politics.

If nothing else, blogging has better shown how ridiculous political debates are, how unprincipled the arguments and, particularly, how despicable the players are as leaders. There is no audience that won’t be sold to a higher bidder. Only the most rabidly blind partisan doesn’t know that. (Admittedly, that’s a large-ish group, but the point is basic.)

What is there to be in favor of? This concerns me. I think we’re already seeing the future of this problem, represented by Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and Barack Obama. Not all of this is bad, probably, but the potential is dangerous.

Candidate Huckabee is a creation of the blogosphere. Without a swell from whatever corner his support crawled¹ out of, his candidacy wouldn’t be news. He’d still be a no-name governor from a bottom-ranked state who pedals too much Jesus and too much nanny-state socialism. In the end this will probably be his undoing, as the blogoshpere invokes some of the corrective potential inherent in the American readiness to knock down those it builds up. A little extra light shows him to be the calculating politician he clearly is. And there’s a large segment of the population that hasn’t seen his shtick up close yet. (The blogosphere giveth, the nation taketh away?)

Ron Paul is a more compelling example. He is selling a set of solutions, which too much of the blogosphere is buying without sufficient skepticism and investigation. Too many of his ideas are simply wrong (gold standard) or worse, morally indefensible (immigration). The blogosphere is not as good at delayed, thought-out responses as it is at offering immediate, emotional defensiveness. The latter builds short-term momentum.

Carried on for too long, this becomes a phenomenon. I don’t think we’re there yet in the blogosphere’s influence, but it could happen. Support for the candidate centers on what his supporters claim he represents, not what he offers. With Ron Paul, he is the libertarian candidate while holding very few libertarian positions. His appeal rests on a dream of what might result that is neither claimed nor implied by what he’s saying. Unintended consequences fall on non-sober, well-intentioned dreams as easily as they fall on sober pandering.

Barack Obama is the most compelling example of what might happen, although compelling does not necessarily mean good. He’s changing the rhetoric of our current political climate by focusing more on optimism and change. That’s a winning formula, as the blogosphere’s reaction seems to embrace his effectiveness at speech-making with little-to-no concern for the sense of what he’s actually saying. His policies are little different from any of the other Democratic candidates, yet he gets a free pass on dumb. The search for the appearance of leadership explains this, I fear.

What is there to be in favor of? Huckabee’s supporters look to his faith in Jesus. They do not worry that saving people from themselves and for Jesus isn’t the job coming open next November. Paul’s supporters look to his lack of faith in the federal government. They do not worrying that he’s not against the states violating the rights the federal government violates. Obama’s supporters look to his faith that government can help people if it has the right leaders willing to solve the problems. They do not worry about how much this will cost or that it be the most efficient solution as long as the leader makes the government appear to care more. None of these approaches is good for us.

I admit I’m cynical about politicians and what they promise. But I can still react to what they say with a fair analysis of each proposal. On solving the issues, every candidate is awful. Of course I’m biased in thinking that the government shouldn’t be involved, but supporters of the government intervention every candidate promotes² should explain why each solution is the best solution, with details that do not rely on moral platitudes involving the poor, the rich, public health, family values, or our children. How will each solution help individuals without doing so at the expense of another?

Instead, each part of the blogosphere is promoting an atmosphere of unquestioning built on receiving from the Dear Leader it chooses. As I mentioned, I think there’s a corrective built into the American psyche. But I’d be happier if we engaged pro-actively in solutions rather than reactive adaptations to flawed ideas after they’ve come into ugly, morphed reality.

¹ Maybe I shouldn’t use a term that implies evolution. Without a wave of His finger from the entirety of Heaven that God created Huckabee’s support in His universe, to enable the Huckabee/Christ ticket…

² Spare me the rhetoric about how Rep. Paul is not promoting government intervention.

2 thoughts on “Whither common sense?”

  1. It might not hurt to actually mention some harm that might come from Ron Paul’s proposed policy on gold, since you seem to think that it would be damaging.
    The policy he has advocated implementing is to exempt monetary materials, like gold, silver, and platinum, from capital gains taxes, to allow people to exchange any of them for Federal Reserve Notes (a.k.a toilet paper) without being taxed on it. Also, any laws which prohibit or regulate trade in these metals should be repealed.
    The advantage of doing this, even if you don’t understand the economic reasons that money should be valuable, is that people like me could shut up and be happy, and hold our wealth in gold, which you smart people could hold your wealth in FRN’s, and watch it disappear year after year.
    The disadvantage to the Fed is that if something like gold was being traded regularly in America, on a retail level, people might notice that the prices were all rising in terms of their fiat paper, but were not rising in terms of gold, and start to develop some intuitive understanding of economics.
    But since, I take it, you are not arguing against the idea of trading gold because you have some mad idea that the Fed must gain power year after year no matter what it costs the rest of us (a position that only Alan Greenspan, who used to be a free market economist, could love), I’m curious as to what you fear from letting people trade freely in gold and silver. I know what the Fed wants to hide. What are you hiding?

  2. I’m not against the idea of trading gold. You should be free to use whatever means of exchange you wish to settle a contract with a fellow voluntary trader. Trade in cow dung or sexual favors, for all I care. I do not seek to block that. I don’t think I’ve argued otherwise.
    My issue is with United States policy. It should not be the gold standard because the gold standard is as arbitrary as Federal Reserve Notes. The problems of irresponsibility in Washington are more systemic than what can be fixed with a different arbitrary system. I’d much rather worry about gov’t spending. In that respect, the Fed is more a symptom.
    I can’t find any sources on either side citing Rep. Paul’s specifics. It’s not on his website, at least not that I can find. I’m willing to accept that I’m working on a misinformed notion of what he’s arguing.
    So what if I drop my concern over Paul possibly (or not) advocating a return to the gold standard? He’s still wrong on dismissing the Fed and FRNs. There’s a strong argument for the efficiency of a central currency. The only legal requirement would be paying the federal government in that currency. You couldn’t settle your tax liability, court fines, whatever in live chickens and rubies. That’s a price, but it comes in exchange for efficiency in exchange. The economy works much easier because I don’t have to barter every transaction or find a currency market to change dollars into X method of exchange.
    That doesn’t mean I agree with what the Fed does. The Fed has a successful history of mucking things up. Even now, when it’s lowering interest rates to “prevent” recession, it’s only making things worse when they finally happen. And they will happen. I’m under no pretense.
    Still, it would be unfair to recognize the Fed as a complete failure. It made the Depression significantly worse than it needed to be, if my memory of my studies serves me. (It may not.) But our economic history before the Fed wasn’t roses and chocolate. Recessions were bad, longer and deeper. The Fed should stay out of the economy as much as possible and attempt to plan as little, if anything. That doesn’t mean it should be dissolved.
    Perhaps I’m not pure in my principles because of that. But being practical within that framework is necessary to live in a less-than-ideal world, which is what we’ll always have. We’re only discussing a change in degrees of imperfection.

Comments are closed.