Powerful insights about our world. Entertaining for some, useful for citizens!

Summary: Here are some brilliant insights about our world from recent days. This is the kind of material of use to citizens, people who assume responsibility for America and work for its survival and prosperity. For the others it is just entertainment.Clear vision

America’s information systems (not the computers, the important ones) see and report to us each day about the trends that demand our attention. Our problem is neither ignorance nor misinformation. It’s that we read for entertainment, to feel engagé in the great events of our time. But without work. Without risk. We are observers, the first step to becoming peons.

Must They Have So Little Dignity?” by Mike Lofgren — “Reince Priebus’s fall is a sad metaphor for Trump’s America.” Lofgren turns his keen vision on the sad spectacle of the Team Trump.

This will not end well for Germany: “Muslim Biker Gang Vows to ‘Protect’ Fellow Muslims” by Soeren Kern at The Gatestone Institute — “Police warn of spiraling vigilantism, growth of a parallel Islamic legal system.” Trump was right about this.

We were once among the best: “Measuring up US infrastructure against other countries” at The Conversation. Dams older than their expected life expectancy. Much of our transportation system in decay like the NYC subway system. We have extractive elites who suck the fruits of our rising productivity, leaving little for the rest of us — or America.

Even British leftists at The Guardian see the growing counter-revolution in America (eventually even the NYT’s editors will see it): “‘Young white guys are hopping mad’: confidence grows at far-right gathering” — “‘Race realism’ and call for a white ‘ethnostate’ among themes at the American Renaissance conference in Tennessee.”

Now for today’s main reading…

Thomas Frank Explains What’s The Matter With Democrats“.

An interview by David Sirota at the International Business Times.
Excerpt of Frank discussing the dysfunctional role of experts in America.

Thomas Frank
Thomas Frank by Larry D. Moore. Wikimedia Commons.

As always with Frank, this overflows with insights about the decay of our political parties. He describes how Clinton and Obama wrecked the Democratic Party.

Sirota: Why do you think Obama didn’t take the Democratic Party back to its New Deal roots?

Frank: That is the ultimate historical question about Barack Obama’s presidency, and that’s the shadow that will hang over him. That, and then the Trump election. Those two things are the shadows that will hang over his presidency forever. We don’t really know.

He’s never really said, but the theory that I hammer at in Listen, Liberal is that there’s a class solidarity between the people at the top of the meritocracy, the academic meritocracy, the kind of people that Barack Obama appointed to run all of his agencies, the kind of person that Barack Obama is, quite frankly. There’s a class solidarity between that group and the Wall Street people. They’re forever expressing their admiration, before the crash, of course, before the financial crisis, were forever expressing their admiration for the Wall Street guys, talking about how creative they were, how sophisticated they were, how much they admired them.

Sirota: On that point about class solidarity in the Democratic Party, it almost sounds like that famous idea of the “best and brightest” — the smartest folks who made tragically bad decisions back then about the Vietnam War. Is there a similarity there?

"Listen, Liberal" by Thomas Frank
Available at Amazon.

Frank: It’s almost exact. There are very similar groups.  I was a big Obama supporter in ’08. One of the reasons I really liked him is because I knew how smart he was. I had met Barack Obama, and I was very impressed by him. I knew that he would bring in smart people to run government. By the way, that’s always the word that these people use to describe themselves. Smart. That’s always the word they use.

This seemed like a really good idea after George Bush, after the administration of hacks and cronies and all the idiocy. They’d run Washington into the ground. I was really excited that here comes Obama. He’s going to put in these very smart people, and it’s Larry Summers and it’s Tim Geithner. Larry Summers was … He’s supposedly the smartest economist of his generation. He’s the president of Harvard University, and all of these other guys. You go right down the list, and it’s all of these people who are certifiable geniuses.

They have very extremely excellent, formal academic credentials, and they proceed to continue the policies of the Bush administration towards Wall Street, basically unchanged.

Sirota: This gets to a question about “expertise.” If, as you argue, very smart, well-educated folks are making bad decisions, what is the alternative?

Frank: There is another option that I eventually figured out while I was writing this book because the first thing I did was to say, “Well, look, government by expert has, is failing us, you know?” I’d dig around in the past. Has it ever worked? The first thing you come across is the book you mentioned, The Best and the Brightest, when the exact same thing happened during Vietnam, where you have these experts from, and again, they’re mostly from Harvard, but from various other Ivy League institutions. It’s the same problem. They won’t listen to voices from outside their discipline, and they show this extraordinary deference to one another, to the people at the top.

The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule (2008)
Availale at Amazon.

Then I say, “Well, has there ever been a time when it worked?” This is where it gets interesting because, of course, there is. Government by expert has worked. The Roosevelt administration. They call them The Brain Trust. It worked very well. They pulled us out of the Depression. They won World War II. These guys were awesome.

I start digging around. Who were these guys? Here is the fascinating thing. They were brilliant, but they came from all different walks of life. They weren’t all these highly credentialed academic authorities. That’s not what they were. This is the thing that you finally realize. There are highly intelligent people all over America, from all sorts of backgrounds, in all sorts of different industries. The best minds in banking aren’t necessarily at Goldman Sachs…

What I discovered also is there is a lot of pathologies of professionalism. We had been talking about one of them, which is that they show this deference to one another at the top. Another is that they don’t listen to voices from outside their discipline. You have the problem of orthodoxy.

Sirota: Which area of “expertise” do you think these problems are most prevalent in?

Frank: The worst offender  is economics. I went to the University of Chicago. I have firsthand experience with these people, and they get things wrong all the time. They predict things that never happen. Things happen that they had could never have foreseen. They’re just constantly, constantly getting things wrong, and they’re protected. They’re shielded from any kind of accountability by the nature of the professional discipline.

When you decide that this is how you’re going to define expertise, this is how you’re going to define excellence, is by going to the top people in a discipline like that — oh my God, I could predict even before you start what a disaster it’s going to be. There’s many other disciplines that are the same way. Political science. This is an endemic problem.

The other problem, I talked about how they have this deference for each other at the top. They have zero solidarity for people below them, zero.

Here’s what I realized. Basically, the unofficial philosophy of the Democratic Party is meritocracy, as defined by education. Everybody gets what they deserve, and what they deserve is defined by how they did in school. This is pernicious doctrine in all sorts of ways, but one of the most pernicious ways is that there is no solidarity in a system like that between the people at the top and the people lower down in the hierarchy. This is killer.

———————— Read the full interview————————

An MIA bracelet. Call if you find it.
An MIA bracelet. Call if you find it.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the Trump era, about Reforming America – Steps to a New Politics, and especially these about experts…

  1. Today’s debate: a passionate defense of credentialism. State your view!
  2. Experts now run the world using their theories. What if they fail, and we lose confidence in them?
  3. Do we face a future without confidence in experts?
  4. Our confidence in science is crumbling. Why? How can we fix this?
  5. 2015 might bring an end to the great age of experts’ experiments on us.
  6. Tips to find the experts that help you see the world more clearly.
  7. Will our geopolitical “experts “lead us to ruin?

3 thoughts on “Powerful insights about our world. Entertaining for some, useful for citizens!

  1. The Frank article is excellent, particularly his observations on the economists at the University of Chicago. Looking forward to reading the Lofgren article when I get a moment.

  2. These government officials aren’t selected because they are smart and good. They are selected because they are reliably corrupt and deviously effective.

    The brain trust during Roosevelt’s time still had some loyalty to the Constitution. Today we witness treasonous type activities on a regular basis and call it US policy.

    Trade agreements that allow for an environmental and slave wage arbitrage that gut US manufacturing. A healthcare system that is not universal and cost twice the industrialized economy average while prematurely killing 30,000 to 50,000 people per year. Perpetual war and pursuit of global empire that backs Saudi war crimes in Yemen, a civil war and Syria and takes to the brink of nuclear war with Russia and North Korea.

    1. RC,

      Sadly, I agree. But it is important to understand why this has happened. Americans have become passive and apathetic. Many don’t even bother to vote, let along get involved politically. If we won’t work the political machinery, then others will run American. Naturally, they will do so in their interest — not ours.

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