Most of what Democrats say is wrong about the Republicans’ recent actions in Congress

Summary: The media are alight with denunciations of the Republican Party’s stance in Congress. They say that negotiating using the threat of shutting down the government, or even forcing a default, is irrational or even mad. It is unprecedented in American history! None of these things are correct. This is the first in a four part series.

“Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.”
— Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address, 27 February 1860. Not an exact parallel, but worth reading today.

Chess Board
Deftly moving the pawns is a key to victory

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Contents

  1. Logic
  2. History
  3. No matter how bad is today,
    tomorrow might be worse
  4. Other posts in this series
  5. For More Information

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(1)  Logic

Seeing the actions of mainstream political actors as irrational usually results from an Orientation failure, the combination a lack of empathy plus an unwillingness to see the world as they do. The GOP is acting logically according to their values and worldview. Short version: the GOP has worked for decades to set up this situation. They have sown; now they expect to reap the harvest. Let’s examine how the world looks to Republicans.

(a)  About the value of government services

The Federal government is wasteful and inefficient, often doing things of little or no value — sometimes even harmful to the nation. The real America needs little of it, and most of that will be funded during the shutdown (e.g., pay the troops)

This has always been a strain in American thought, as explained in “The Myth of Rugged American Individualism“, Charles A. Beard, Harper’s, December 1931. But this belief coexisted with support for the government’s large infrastructure projects — from the transcontinental railroad to the Internet — and since the progressive era for government regulatory and civil rights programs.

During the past few decades our plutocrats have spent vast sums to change American’s views about government. They have succeeded on a scale seldom seen in American history. Even people who greatly benefit from government programs (my favorite: farmers) will deny the government does much good. For more about this see Undercutting people’s trust in the Republic: another step to destroying the Republic and Gallup sounds an alarm, again, about our lack of confidence in ourselves.

(b)  Legitimacy

Obama is the foreigner, secret Muslim, elected by the fraudulent actions of ACORN and other traitorous groups.

Quite delusional, but widely believed. Well-funded propaganda works; almost 1 in 5 Americans believe Obama is Muslim (see the PEW poll and AP poll).

In Congress, few Democrats explicitly ran on a pro-ObamaCare platform. Whereas many (most?) Republicans did. So the GOP representatives do their constituents bidding by opposing ObamaCare to the max.

Correct.

For more about this subject see Is the US government illegitimate? If so, does that justify violent revolution?

(c)  Public Service

ObamaCare is the first step away from our wonderful healthcare system to the horrific European systems.

Yes, propaganda works — no matter how false. Here’s one example (about wrong-site surgery) of the barrage which has so warped American’s perceptions; here’s data comparing our system to those of our peers (spoiler: many nations provide similar outcomes with 1/2 to 2/3 of the cost).

(d)  About the finances of the Federal government

  American’s deficit and tax burden are high and growing, so the spending must be stopped

Not correct.

  • The Federal deficit is shrinking fast.
  • Federal taxes for most Americans are near mutigenerational lows (although higher than during the special tax breaks following the crash).

(e)  The stars have aligned for the GOP: now is the time to act

Perhaps correct. Several factors favor the GOP now.

  • Their white boomer base is at the peak of its political power (older, organized, peak income, not yet senile). It’s use it or lose it for the GOP, as demographic change might be the their foe.
  • Obama has a history of folding in negotiations. He and many of the Democrats in Congress share the GOP’s deficit obsession (e.g., see Obama’s and the Democrat’s support for Simpson-Bowles proposal.
  • The economy is weak enough to arouse fear (as the GOP daftly blames this on the debt and deficits), but not so weak as to empower Obama to take bold actions.
John C. Calhoun, by Mathew Brady (March 1849)
John C. Calhoun, by Mathew Brady (March 1849)

(2)  History

Is this an unusual event in US history? “Unprecedented” is the word most often used.  That is not correct, looking at our history. This is what our system looks like when it works very well: filibusters, extreme rhetoric, policy gridlock — but eventual resolution.

The most obvious precedents are conflicts that the political system was unable to resolve for a long time, often with some degree of violence:

  • the antebellum era, when the southern “fire-eaters” worked for expansion of slavery in the frontier and its support in the North (e.g., return of fugitive slaves);
  • the often-violent conflicts over unionization begun in the late 19th C, raging until the New Deal legislation (for example, see Today in Labor History).
  • the often-violent conflicts from the oppression of Blacks in the South from the Civil War until the 1960s civil rights legislation.

The first of these great crises was different. It was the least violent, led by brilliant statesmen like John C. Calhoun (1782-1850; see Wikipedia). They patched and stitched solutions that held the union together. The next generation failed to continue their work, leading to war. Even that river of blood failed to achieve a real solution. That came only a century later with the great civil rights legislation of the 1960s, whose political reverberations still echo. Perhaps it would have been better if the Nullification Crisis of 1832 had run to a final conclusion, with President Jackson hanging Calhoun as a rebel.

Now we have another conflict, this time about the very nature of government in America. The Republic-that-once-was has been dying for decades, with the New America being erected on its corpse.  This might be the start of a slow but definitive battle between the past and one possible new future, fought in Congress and at the ballot box for years or decades.

(3) No matter how bad is today, tomorrow might be worse

Obama and flag
One of the milder posters about Obama

Let’s hope this conflict does not become violent.

One key to the large number of successful predictions (see the Predictions Page) on the FM website is a willingness to state the unspeakable but obvious possibilities. It is an effective way to make bitter enemies. Why stop now? Here is another harsh observation:

  • Gun sales are increasing (see here for a rough indicator of recent growth).
  • The people with guns are largely conservatives.
  • Many of them are right-wing extremists.
  • Many see a nation of “real Americans” and others.
  • For decades right-wing media increasingly have been saturated with claims that our freedoms are in danger from the coming wave of Sharia-immigrants-communism-anarchy (see these posts).
  • Many believe that citizens using guns are the ultimate defense of liberty from threats domestic as well as foreign.

The time might come when they use their guns. On us.  As a right-wing adaptation of the socialist maxim “Production For Use” (see Wikipedia). For a warning see the Homeland Security Assessment “Rightwing Extremism“, April 2009.

If so it wouldn’t be the first time such a thing happened. If it does, future generations will see our surprise as the only odd aspect of this chapter in history.

“If there is a gun hung on the wall in Act One, it should be used in Act Two.”
— The dramatic principle of Chekov’s Gun, by Anton Chekhov

(4)  Other posts in this series

  1. Most of what Democrats say is wrong about the Republicans’ recent actions in Congress
  2. Let’s learn from this inevitable crisis, which results from flaws in our system
  3. About the crisis: The GOP is right. So is Obama. That’s why it’s a crisis.
  4. A new political party for a New America: the Tea Party GOP

(5)  For More Information

(a)  About American politics:

  1. Posts about politics in America
  2. Posts about the Democratic Party
  3. Posts about Obama, his administration and policies
  4. The world of wonders: Democratic Party takes center, pushes GOP right to madness

(b)  Posts about the Republican Party:

  1. Whose values do Dick and Liz Cheney share? Those of America? Or those of our enemies, in the past and today?, 14 March 2010
  2. The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
  3. Conservatives oppose the new START treaty, as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan, 24 July 2010
  4. A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011
  5. The key to modern American politics:  the Right-Wing Id Unzipped, 15 February 2012
  6. Why Republicans Need Remedial Math: Their Budget Plans Explode the Deficit, 16 March 2012
  7. Let’s list the GOP’s problems. They’re all easily solvable, 12 November 2012
  8. The Republican Party is like America, and can quickly recover it strength, 14 November 2012
  9. The world of wonders: Democratic Party takes center, pushes GOP right to madness, 19 February 2013
  10. A harsh clear look at the history of the Republican Party, 22 September 2013
  11. Recommended: The Atheist Conservative shows why secular conservatism continues to be an irrelevant and impotent force in American politics, 26 September 2013
  12. Conservatives show us their thinking, not well glued to reality, 30 September 2013

What do many conservatives see when they look at Obama?
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HitlerOBAMA

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35 thoughts on “Most of what Democrats say is wrong about the Republicans’ recent actions in Congress

  1. My brother is the genius of the family, but the last time he had an original thought was 20 years ago when he emigrated to North America. He’s a US citizen now. Like with most US citizens, his every opinion is verbatim what he heard on TV news last night.

    That creates a need for a website that provides factual, unbiased analyses of current affairs, for the benefit of those who wish to keep thinking their own original thoughts. Enter Fabius Maximus — FM.

    However.

    If this article intended as satire, FM with its reputation for factual, unbiased analysis is the wrong place, and The Onion does it so much better.

    If this is intended as an advocacy piece, then goodbye to FM’s reputation for factual, unbiased analysis.

    If this is intended as a rational analysis, I have seen about twenty better analyses, from both the Dem and Rep sides, and if you want I could send you the links.

  2. This government shutdown reminds of a similar event in my home state of California a few years ago. People here got so fed up with the State Legislature that their anger eventually culminated in the 2010 Proposition 25, which loosened the requirements for budget passage and suspended the pay of Legislators if a budget was not passed. This, combined with redistricting reform and primary election reform, significantly hurt the local Republicans’ ability to negotiate or act at the state level.
    Now of course, there is no national citizen initiative process like there is one in California, but people might wish there were if this goes on for too long.

    1. Winston,

      Yes, shutdowns are frequent events.

      Here is every previous government shutdown, why they happened and how they ended” By Dylan Matthews, WaPo, 25 September

      The threat to force a government default is extraordinary.

      The combination of threats to shut the government AND default on the debt is extraordinary.

      Doing these things to prevent tens of millions of Americans from having access to basic health care — standard at all other developed nations — is extraordinary.

      Documents from the GOPs previous fights against public health care show that their fear is not that ObamaCare will fail, but that it will succeed. That is despicable, IMO.

  3. For family reasons I don’t have time to post a length right now.

    Basically, the Republicans think they have the Democrats by the short and currlies because they think the Democrats need the government more than they do. (Two reasons. Many Repulicans have economic interests that are less – or less obviously – tied to the government. Also, Republicans have social values – particularly abortion – which are widely perceived as antithetical to the government. )

    This is but the latest episode in The Great Republican Filibuster, which began with the Clinton healthcare debacle. It has served the Republicans pretty well over the years because for a long time they were correct in their assessment that Democrats needed the government more than them.

    But this has grown very old. Both the body politic and the Democrats have developed antibodies. Also, many Democrats also are growing pretty alienated from the government – which pardoxically means a Republican shutdown angers rather than hurts them.

    And here is a newspaper cover – and the point is that it is the New York Daily News – that says the Republicans had best cut their losses and give up this issue ASAP: NY Daily News’ Shutdown Cover Is Incredible. Case closed.
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    NY Daily News cover

    1. “And here is a newspaper cover – and the point is that it is the New York Daily News – that says the Republicans had best cut their losses and give up this issue ASAP.”

      Speaking as a longtime resident of New York City, I would be far more impressed if the newspaper carrying that front-page story were the Murdochtopus-owned New York Post rather than the Daily News.

      Currently, the Daiy News is owned by Mortimer Zuckerman who has been a supporter of the Democratic Party for many years. Even though he voted for Obama in 2008, he has criticized the administration on several issues since then. Nevertheless, it’s hardly surprising that the Daily News has sided with the Democratic Party with regard to the shutdown.

      It would be very surprising indeed if the New York Post decided to do so (although they have on rare occasions broken ranks with the GOP)…in fact, it would probably make most New Yorkers look uneasily toward the sky just to make certain that no dramatic and unexpected new advances have suddenly been made in the field of porcine aviation.

    2. Duncan,

      “Case closed.”

      I don’t share your opinion of the omniscience of the New Daily News’ Editor, not the stupidity of the GOP leadership. Time will tell who is correct.

    3. “Basically, the Republicans think they have the Democrats by the short and currlies because they think the Democrats need the government more than they do…Many Repulicans have economic interests that are less – or less obviously – tied to the government.”

      I’m not convinced of the truth of this…and for one particular reason. The Department of Defense in this country is not only the biggest of all others in its field — it spends about as much or more as those of the next twenty-two countries combined — but according to several sources (among them the BBC and The Economist), it’s the world’s largest employer whether public or private. (Not only that, these statistics don’t even include all the various subcontractor firms that depend on the DoD either partly or completely for their bread-and-butter.) The Department of Defense has become a huge money-making enterprise for a great many people, so much so that some people believe that we’re going to war because we make bullets instead of making bullets because we’ve gone to war.

      I admit that I am resorting to something of a sweeping generalization at this point, but I think it would be safe to say that the Department of Defense (especially in the form of the military) tends to be more of a Republican and/or conservative enterprise. It is not an institution in which there is much tolerance for independence of thought or action — nor, sadly, much respect for individual rights (especially those of women, given how the military has chosen to treat the issue of sexual violence against women in uniform). Granted, the left has its own share of insistence upon conformity and anyone who chooses to join the military must be prepared to surrender some degree of individuality…but the style of conformity exhibited within the DoD tends to be decidedly of the “God, guns, and gays” variety.

    4. “As we need to remember now and then, the federal government is basically an insurance company with an army, and the insurance side isn’t bad. Nondefense spending is dominated by Social Security, which is highly efficient; Medicare, which could do better, but is more efficient than private insurance; and Medicaid, which is much more cost-effective than private insurance.” — Paul Krugman

      This desperate opposition to health care is driven by private insurance companies?

    5. Mikyo,

      ObamaCare was carefully crafted to use Federal funds to funnel more customers to the insurance companies. It passed because it was either neutral or positive to stakeholders in the health care system (they own it; we just pay for it).

      The conservative opposition to a modern health care system, like our peers all have, comes from their fear that it will work (as it has for our peers). This has been clear for a century. The clearest statement is this famous memo:

      Project for a Republican Future
      MEMORANDUM TO: REPUBLICAN LEADERS
      FROM: WILLIAM KRISTOL
      SUBJECT: Defeating President Clinton’s Health Care Proposal
      December 2, 1993

      … the long-term political effects of a successful Clinton health care bill will be even worse–much worse. It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for ‘security’ on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government. …

    6. Fabius Maximus:

      Life is indeed uncertain and, who knows, we may even be hit by an asteroid.

    7. Duncan,

      We can state that with much stronger certainty. There are many Apollo asteroids (I.e., with Earth crossing orbits), plus comets on their long long orbits. They have and will continue to hit the Earth.

      But in the distant future — the near future in geological terms — these will be small threats.

      In the late 21st century, for the government to handle.

      In the 22nd, for Boy Scouts.

      In the 23rd, for Cub Scouts.

    8. Bluestocking:

      The amount of money spent on DOD as well as DOD’s Republican sympathies are very well known.

      Interestingly, DOD is largely unaffected by the shutdown.

      I did allude in my prior post to a disconnect between the the Republicans’ subjective perception of their independence from the government as opposed to their actual objective dependence upon it. Their massive reliance upon government contracting – including DOD contracting – is part of this.

  4. Most Presidents get the Congress (and the public support) they deserve, especially in the second term. Johnson got a Congress that he dragged into Civil Rights, the War on Poverty, and sadly, Vietnam, where he lost the public and ultimately, the White House. LBJ was the greatest president since FDR, in my opinion. He is the first one I noticed in real time, as it were.

    Nixon got a Congress willing to impeach him. Ditto Clinton. But for different reasons. The GOP was alarmed and embarrassed by Nixon’s presumption of the divine rights of presidents. Clinton’s congress was sick of being led around by the nose, and embarrassed by Clinton’s intern, a somewhat farcical repeat of Nixon’s “divine rights” hubris. ( Remember: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” – Karl Marx )

    In between, Reagan made every Congressman feel like a co-president, a crony. Or a caretaker of a sick old man. Or both. He had Congress eating out of his hand.

    Ford had friends in Congress, and so they didn’t impeach him over the pardon of Nixon, although they really should have. The enraged public didn’t give him a second chance.

    Carter was no politician and made no friends, and Congress scorned him, ensuring he didn’t get a second term. It created a really bad precedent of modern congressional scorn, of which Obama is the full beneficiary, for he has done the same. Actually, Obama goes out of his way to throw his supporters under the bus, for the amusement of those who he really wants to impress. Or appease. Sometimes both. Obama got a second term because 1) he had richer supporters than Carter ever did, and he’s taken care of them handsomely 2) the GOP went crazy at the primaries, promoting anti-Reagan types.

    As for the Bushes, pater et fils….it’s not what you know (well, except for blackmail purposes) it’s who you know (and can blackmail). Poppy didn’t blackmail on his own behalf, but he didn’t have the Reagan star quality. The Reagan Infrastructure wasn’t enough to sustain the public interest in such a nebbish, but Iran/Contra was enough to topple him, so Bush Sr. took the fall for Reagan. Poppy was too high-minded to try blackmail (not visibly, in any event), until W and Cheney started taking pratfalls. So W got his second term by right of dynasty.

    It’s not a pretty picture. Nor is it complete.

    If the nation were organized on GOP principles, it would resemble the ante-bellum South: a society of gross inequality. The fabled southern way of life exploded when its economic underpinnings disappeared. So too will this attempt at a re-reconstruction. I just don’t want to subject my family, friends, neighbors, or complete strangers, even, to such a horror, ever.

  5. “The time might come when they use their guns. On us.”

    There’s no question that this is a potentially significant threat. Even Little Green Footballs — a political blogger whose generally right-wing stance has gradually shifted toward more toward the center — has admitted that his position has shifted largely because the level of rage and violence in the hate mail he receives from the right wing far exceeds that from the hate mail from those on the left.

    One of the quickest ways to incite a violent purge within a society is to touch a spark to whatever powderkeg of suppressed hatred and violence may already be simmering beneath the surface of that society (just as the Nazis did in World War II with their exploitation of longstanding Germanic anti-Semitic sentiment) — and unfortunately, as numerous commentators have pointed out, you don’t have to look too hard to see that there *is* just such a powderkeg in this society. Numerous commentators over the last decade have attempted to bring attention to the more-than-occasional use of eliminationist symbols and rhetoric by various right-wing pundits and political figures — whether it be a picture of the Democratic donkey in a gunsight or Anne Coulter suggesting that the best way to have a conversation with a liberal is to use a baseball bat.

    As history has shown in numerous occasions, it’s actually not all that difficult to encourage those who nurture such violent fantasies (which they express through eliminationist words and pictures) to begin putting them into action. In fact, if anything, the famous Milgram experiments of the 1960’s strongly suggest that the assumption of responsibility for harmful actions by a representative of a higher authority is all that is needed to compel a significant majority of ordinary well-adjusted citizens to eventually engage in actions (no matter how reluctant) which they have reason to believe will inflict pain, severe injury, or possibly even death on another person. This is the same reasoning which was used by the Nazi defendants at the Nuremburg Trials as well as the perpetrators of the My Lai massacre by American soldiers in Vietnam…they attempted to deny any and all responsibility for their own actions with the words “I was only following orders”, submerging personal conscience in favor of the dictates of a perceived higher authority.

    Given that Milgram’s results suggest the mere presence of a white coat and a clipboard — or to extrapolate from this, an expensive three-piece suit and an American flag — can convince as many as 66% of subjects to behave cruelly or even violently toward a person for whom they feel no particular antipathy and when the other person has committed no serious offense, imagine how much easier it is to bring such behavior out when it is prompted by pre-existing anger and hatred and/or when the other person is considered to be a threat to the first person’s safety or well-being..

    1. Bluestocking,

      The potential for violence in the US is something I’ve been pondering, considering writing about. Most I ask about this dismiss it as impossible. The next post discusses this in more detail.

    2. “This is the same reasoning which was used by the Nazi defendants at the Nuremburg Trials as well as the perpetrators of the My Lai massacre by American soldiers in Vietnam…they attempted to deny any and all responsibility for their own actions with the words “I was only following orders”, submerging personal conscience in favor of the dictates of a perceived higher authority.”

      I think this means that there is no higher authority than one’s own conscience. And I agree.

      How does this work within the framework of Boyd’s grand strategic vision of an overwhelming unifying vision to attract the uncommitted? And Sun Tzu’s dictate not to attack higher (moral, in this sense) ground?

      I’m starting to see how FM’s focus on culture wars preempt the tenets of 4GW. In an open system – possibly the only systems there are – one has to direct the attack to higher scale bodies which provide sustenance to the opponent at its operational level.

      Going back to the grand strategic level/ultimate authority of “personal conscience”, I do not see how this can be effected amongst a large number of people. It’s not like one can force it upon anyone; and then this aspect of things seems to me to boil down to individual choice as to whether to act in self interest or interest of other or hopefully both. Or to not act at all if the benefits appear to be nil or even detrimental in terms of ill effects or perceived waste of time.

      I hope you guys are wrong about the potential for violence but I wouldn’t argue the point because I just don’t know.

    3. derek5,

      Nicely said comment!

      “I do not see how this can be effected amongst a large number of people.”

      Information operations have been the backbone of wars for a long time, demonstrating — along with the success of advertising — that propaganda-marketing-advertising (a rose by any other name) sometimes works.

      America today results from our plutocrats multigenerational program to build a New America by shaping the Right into a more useful form. The Republican Party today bears little resemblance to its form in 1963. They have molded conservatives like a potter does his clay, giving them new values — which they believe passionately. In some ways this might be one of the most historic accomplishments of America during the past “three score and ten years”. Perhaps a bigger success than Apollo, perhaps with larger effects on history.

  6. If I believed that space aliens were going to land in the Grand Canyon on April 12th, 2014 and place all the Earth under martial law; and that they would give the most choice positions in the new world order to those who were present at the landing and offered them large tin boxes filled with cat shit; and I then proceeded to conduct all my affairs in logical pursuit of the most certain chance of being able to appear at the appointed place and time with the biggest, heaviest tin box full of cat shit imaginable; would you call me rational?

    At least in the ordinary use of the words, the essence of irrationality or madness is defective reality testing, not merely, or even primarily, literal failures in logic.

    (a) … Even people who greatly benefit from government programs (my favorite: farmers) will deny the government does much good.

    Defective reality testing, not values and worldview.

    However, note that while Republicans were eager to reduce food stamp benefits, they had no problem with the subsidies in the farm bill. Actions speak louder than words: Republicans do not believe in small government. They don’t mind wars, prisons, surveillance, militarized police forces, drug laws, regulation of reproductive rights. “Small government” is code for “nothing that would interfere with the prerogatives of wealth, or ameliorate the differences between wealth and poverty.” (For the mass audience, re-translate that to “nothing that would help them damn fill in your favorite slur.”)

    On the part of the decision-makers, it’s not even defective reality testing; it’s hypocritical bullshit.

    (b) … Obama is the foreigner, secret Muslim, elected by the fraudulent actions of ACORN and other traitorous groups. Quite delusional, but widely believed.

    Defective reality testing.

    (c) … ObamaCare is the first step away from our wonderful healthcare system to the horrific European systems. Yes, propaganda works — no matter how false.

    Defective reality testing.

    (d) … American’s deficit and tax burden are high and growing, so the spending must be stopped. Not correct.

    Defective reality testing. Again, though, actions speak louder than words, and history shows that the only importance the deficit has for Republican politicians is that it makes a good bogeyman when one is needed to advance an agenda they know it is wisest not to articulate openly.

    I think there is good reason to believe most Republican politicians are acting “rationally” (GOP voters, not so much); but I don’t see that this post makes that case. The party set itself on a long path with the Southern strategy; its recent course was a plausible follow-up to that strategy, until the Tea Party took on a life of its own. Now they’ve painted themselves into a corner, but it was a failure of foresight (which can happen to anyone) more than of reason. All options left are a gamble of one sort or another; most House Republicans are going to take whatever chance they think leaves them most likely to win their next primary.

    1. Coises,

      I believe I understand your reasoning, and suspect we’re crunching the same logic. These things can be conceptualized in many different ways, and determining which is correct is IMO not possible except in hindsight.

      As an analytical preference I prefer to state what people believe, and consider rational action that which matches their beliefs. There worldview might differ from mine, and I might have what I consider strong evidence that they are correct, but I do not consider them irrational on that basis.

      Opinions can differ on each step of this process, including the conclusion.

      More important, IMO, is the degree to which we agree on the individual steps of the analysis — rather than the label we affix to the conclusion.

      Is that clear? I find it difficult to explain these things in a coherent fashion.

    2. “I prefer to state what people believe, and consider rational action that which matches their beliefs.”

      Lacking mind-reading apparatus, how might one state what people believe? With politicians and other influential figures, there is a credibility gap; we can’t assume they are honest about anything, since they know their statements have consequences. (It would be… irrational… for them to be habitually honest in public statements.) Opinion polls are notoriously sensitive to wording and other presentation details: clearly they don’t tell us what ordinary people believe in any meaningful sense.

      I’m more inclined to a reverse approach: watch what people do, and then determine what values and worldview that behavior implies. Of course, that risks the error of assuming rationality. (Ugh. Now I’m abandoning my definition and using yours, because I need it. To sort this out, I think we need a psychologist, a philosopher… and a good bartender.)

      “Is that clear? I find it difficult to explain these things in a coherent fashion.”

      I’m finding a response difficult as well. I think I just can’t ignore my sense that the Republican party is too fractured to be understood as a single thing. They appear cohesive only because they share a common marketing strategy.

    3. Coises,

      Your method is just as valid in these things as mine. How do I determine what people believe? Surveys. I agree they are not reliable with every subject, and seldom reliable when used on public figures. But these do appear accurate with a wide range of useful questions, when professionally conducted.

      Great question, since that is the subject of the next post.

  7. What country has made Progressive policies work? So far as I can see, all such countries are very heavily in debt, have unbalanced population structures, lousy economies (and getting worse as we enter a world-wide Greater Depression), banks that are bankrupt, and are increasing run by their elites for their elites. Just like the US.

    There is no technology that allows controlling complex, evolving systems. I have worked on control systems most of my career, I know that is true. Economies, societies and nation states are all complex evolving systems. Ditto wars, pushed by Progressives of the Right, which is why govs so rarely win ‘big picture’, even when they win. The wars always cost 10+X of initial estimates and the postulated rewards are 1%.

    While there are a few well-known examples of gov’s designing solutions for problems in those arenas, they are very few relative to the amazing failures. Head Start is an example, but all the studies are gov funded, one should not believe those any more than BP’s estimates of polution from it’s blowouts.

    OTOH, minimal government as a superior gov technology worked for the US for most of 100 years, and a few more Constitutional amendments to keep the gov from escaping into Progressive policies could work for the next 100.

    Again, there are zero examples of governments managing their economies into a sustainable advantage relative to other countries, and zero (Norway isn’t, oil $) examples of countries pursuing Progressive policies that are big-picture wins.

    These facts seem to me to be widely ignored, and contrary assumptions are basic to most in the chattering classes around the world.

    1. lew2048,

      Nations making progressive policies work:
      * most of Northern Europe, including Switzerland. Especially the Nordic nations (Norway’s oil wealth makes it a special case, as you note).
      * Canada

      Also, depending on your definition:
      * Singapore (an interesting case, starting in roughly 1960 with an island and little else).
      * Australia
      * New Zealand

      “there are zero examples of governments managing their economies into a sustainable advantage relative to other countries”

      Who cares about this? That seems to me an odd goal. Why is this a contest? What are the prizes, and who awards them?

  8. FM claims that Republicans believe:

    The Federal government is wasteful and inefficient, often doing things of little or no value — sometimes even harmful to the nation. The real America needs little of it, and most of that will be funded during the shutdown (e.g., pay the troops)

    Provably false. Republicans love big government — as long as it’s military big government. No U.S. military program can be wasteful enough or inefficient enough for Republicans. Real Americans need unlimited amounts military big government, with gigantic wack-a-doo weapons system like lightning guns (unworkable and sold on eBay for scrap) and airborne 707 laser death rays and pseudoscience hanfium grenades helicopters whose rotors delaminate, and which as a result require milspec super-expensive duct tape to keep them flying. This last sounds like a satire from The Onion, but rest assured it is not.

    The FAA has approved the fix, classifying it in a letter dated January 18, 2008, as an AMOC (Alternative Method of Compliance for AD (Air Directive) 2007-26-12.

    It involves putting a type of tape over the rotor blades, the technique was developed when military helicopters in the first Gulf War started having similar delaminating problems on their rotor blades.

    Again the FAA has approved the Airwolf Rotor Blade Protective Tape as an Alternative Method of Compliance for Robinson helicopter rotor blades that show signs of delamination or debonding.

    Source: FAA Airworthiness Directive, 6-17-2008, for the Apache military helicopter.

    The milspec fabulously expensive duct tape that keeps military helicopter rotors together after they delaminate is real: you can order it online for $33 per roll plus shipping.

    Let’s not get into the hafnium grenade, Pentagon-sponsored remote viewing programs, or the Pentagon project to kill goats by using dim mak (an asian “death touch” which allegedly works by disrupting the chi).

    1. More,

      This time it is a logic FAIL.

      “Provably false. Republicans love big government — as long as it’s military big government.”

      To say that Republicans love a part — such as military spending — is not to say they love the whole. And vice versa, that they dislike the whole does not mean that they dislike every part.

      Your determination to disprove every post leads you to some shoddy rebuttals.

    1. Choirboy,

      From a logical classification standpoint, you are correct in terms of history and philosophy.

      But we classify political groups using otherwise. The two most common methods are
      * how they identify themselves,
      * how their opponents classify them
      * where they are relatively on the linear spectrum of left to right.

    2. I think it is time to call them what they are, and eliminate a false equivalence that each side in this dispute is a political party.

    3. Choirboy,

      I understand, and agree about the importance of accurate labeling. It is a big step towards clearly thinking. Not going to be easy to accomplish, however.

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