For the holiday season, here are some comforting thoughts about America

Summary:  As the sky darkens over America we find comfort in logical but incorrect beliefs, ignoring the horrifying nature of our core problem.  Here are two comforting examples.

(1)  Our leaders have bad advisors

In both national security and economics we have well-funded think-tanks advocating policies not in the nation’s interest, supported by neither logic nor facts.  Just effective propaganda (“advocacy” in Newspeak).  One common reaction to this (slightly paraphrased from the original):

“When is someone with leadership going to tell these think tanks to get lost, and bring in real thinkers?”

This assumes our problems result from advisors giving the Czar bad advice.  During the Bush administration, conservatives often blamed neo-cons for leading the President astray.  See here for links to examples.  As they said:  foreign wars, large deficits, open borders — this wouldn’t happen if we’d elected a Republican.  Now we see liberals invent excuses for Obama, as he follows Bush’s economic, military, and homeland security policies.  This allows hope for a better day when the King hears the cries of the people and dismisses his bad advisors.

A comforting view, but one that ignores the realities of power.  As Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) says, “The Cossacks work for the Czar”  The original post is here.  Later he explained that  “Courts are the natural habitats of deceitful courtiers who tell the princes exactly what the princes want to hear.”  But there’s a deeper, sadder level to this. 

Blaming our leaders is a cop-out.  In fact that’s a key aspect of our problem — a failure to assume responsibility for our nation.  We, America, get the leaders we want. Fearful weak people elect leaders who skillfully exploit their fears and weaknesses.  That’s the Circle of Life, if not the way Disney tells it.

(2)   Let’s talk about better policies!

Many of America’s top experts expend great effort devising new and better policies for America.  Such as this by Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel laureate in Economics).  But even as they do so, they know their work is futile.  Stiglitz concludes:

“There’s only one problem: It wouldn’t benefit those at the top, or the corporate and other special interests that have come to dominate America’s policymaking. Its compelling logic is precisely why there is little chance that such a reasonable proposal would ever be adopted.”

While accurate, it’s superficial.  Chuck Spinney (one of our top defense analysts) looks at Stiglitz’s plan and sees more deeply:

“Of course, his ideas will never be seriously considered by the let-them-eat-cake oligarchs now running Versailles on the Potomac, because to put this plan into action, someone must smash the Hall of Mirrors that is distorting what passes for reality in our collective OODA Loops.”

In a Republic we, its citizens, bear the final responsibility.  The policies wrecking America — the growing powers of banks and the national security apparatus, pointless foreign wars, massive deficits, etc — are popular with a large segment of the public.  Equally important, those who oppose them are passive and dispirited. 

We’re the problem.  The American people today want reform, but not the cost and work it requires.  A profound revulsion at what we have become is a necessary, perhaps even sufficient, first step to reform. Anger might be a precondition or result of that self-insight. After that comes the real work.

Other posts about a path to reform for America

About our our leaders and our citizens:

  1. Which is better? Rioting in France and Greece or snoozing in America?, 28 October 2010
  2. Polarization and hot rhetoric conceal two similar political parties. Will we ever notice?, 29 October 2010
  3. We have the leaders we deserve. Visit MacDonald’s to learn why., 30 October 2010
  4. The Enigma of American Power, 8 November 2010
  5. Why China will again rise to the top. About their most important advantage over America., 11 November 2010

More attempts to describe solutions:

  1. The first step to reforming America (the final version), 7 December 2009
  2. Re-envisioning the FM website, becoming soldiers in the war for American’s future, 21 December 2009
  3. Question of the Day, about reforming America, 12 March 2010
  4. The project to reform America: a matter for science, or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
  5. The Tea Party Movement disproves my recommendation for the path to reforming America, 20 April 2010
  6. Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010

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