Wednesday, December 17, 2014

America: Midterms and Our Enduring Political Impasse

What people want is isn’t the blue model in its current decadent state or the inchoate mix of policies that “red dawn” states like Kansas and North Carolina have unevenly introduced. What they—we—want is a set of policies and ideas that harness the wealth creating productivity enhancements of the information revolution in ways that reduce the cost and enhance the quality of essential services (health, education, governance) while providing economic opportunity, middle class living standards and rising living standards to the American middle class. This ought to be possible and one day it will be, but at the moment we are still stumbling around in the early stages of one of the most disruptive changes the human race has ever known.

In the meantime, American politics feels stuck.


—Walter Russell Mead, “America after the Midterms: Blue Twilight, Red Dawn?” November 8, 2014


The Recovering Bureaucrat has long noted the enduring stability of America’s current 50-50 split, more or less a product of the end of the Cold War and the acceleration of the Information Age.

On this Mead notes, “We try the right for a while, and turn to the left in disgust—until the left fails as well and we turn wearily back toward the right.”  Why, it’s almost as if America has entered a great Schizophrenic Era!  To explain this, many in the MSM commentariat have now latched on to the (to them) comforting notion of “two electorates”: one presidential and liberal, the other midterm and conservative.  Certainly it’s a historic fact that more of us vote in presidential elections than in any other.  But history also refutes the nice “liberal/conservative” rotation theory.

What if the tidal forces of history—what Mead calls "one of the most disruptive changes the human race has ever known"—are simply too emergent and chaotic to yield a comforting and observable pattern?  The history of both the cosmos and humanity is non-linear; what’s happened in the past is not a reliable predictor of what’s to come.  But human consciousness has not yet evolved to include the capacity to grok non-linear dynamics and their external manifestations; in the Advanced Sector we are still bound by a Newtonian belief in mechanical regularity as the fundamental metric of reality.  The profound and disturbing implications of quantum physics remain a mystery for almost all of us.

Indeed, we may also be able to recite the formula represented in Einstein’s famous equation E = mc², but few of us have any idea of how its insights impact daily life.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Earnestness of the Left, Part 2

How far apart are we conservatives from this set of social desires?

Do we not also care about the welfare of the entire community?  Do we not agree that individual choices can do serious harm to the collective?  Do we not also want everyone to enjoy the blessings of liberty?  Are we not disgusted by any governmental attempts to prevent people from this enjoyment because of minority group discrimination?  Are we not equally committed to a Constitution that reflects the actual needs of the nation?

With a few exceptions—important ones, no doubt—the average leftist and the average conservative probably are in agreement about the kinds of outcomes we would wish each of us to enjoy.  So what prevents consensus?

In the fifth century BC Socrates famously asked about what constitutes “the good life” which Plato chronicles in The Symposium, The Republic, and other dialogues.

We humans have been debating this ever since.  And what keeps liberals and conservatives apart are very different approaches to answering this fundamental question.

The evidence for this divergence can be found in the unconscious framework of our internalized narratives.  The Recovering Bureaucrat was recently reminded of this by a post on Facebook by the great author Robert Bidinotto, whose salient work on the “clash of Narratives” helped him better understand the stubborn consistency of leftist beliefs even against hard evidence of their nonviability, or, as they might like to put in, their unsustainability.

Facts may be stubborn things, but denial is even more tenacious.  The RB would bet on denial over facts any day.  Our determination to cling to a Narrative about “reality” appears to be a hard-wired developmental structure, an element in the trajectory of our individual and collective human evolution.  The relatively rare capability to witness our mentation is essential to noticing that we are, indeed, adhering to a narrative in the first place—and how many of us have engaged in a meditative practice effective enough to develop this witnessing capacity in the first place?  It tends to happen only in matured individuals, people whose self-sense is autonomous and responsible, and how many of us fall into that category?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Earnestness of the Left: Separating the wheat from the chaff

From time to time it is useful to revisit the mindset of our friends on the Left, for while the aims of many of them are reactionary and their methods deleterious, they represent a significant set of mainstream aspirations and beliefs, which conservatives must be willing to address in our endless struggle to support founding principles.

Let us agree from the outset that there is an important distinction between the organized Left with its base in academia, the union movement, and the Democrat Party, and those millions of voters who see in these institutions a more reliable partner in the fulfillment of their desires than they do in the institutions of the Right.

We can reserve all our opprobrium and vilification for the “progressive”/rent-seeker axis without disparaging the honest and honorable aims of those voters.  It might even be the case—although I am not particularly hopeful—that if we understand their point of view better we might be able to demonstrate how fealty to our founding principles would do better at meeting their goals than the axis itself.  Of course, to make that happen, the key political instrument of the Right, the Republican Party, would have to re-examine its assumptions and methodology as well. 

It would also require the honest leftist to re-examine some of the implications of this worldview upon the very health of the community that is his primary concern.

The average left-leaning citizen cannot understand how the wealthiest nation in human history still permits poverty and institutional obstacles to the pursuit of happiness.  He earnestly believes that if everybody had the same chances in life, we all would do well.  Therefore, the wealth gap is de facto evidence that too many people do not and cannot get the same chances that the privileged do.