Kevin Williamson writes The Unmanageable Man in The National Review.
The responsibility of conservatives is to draw ever nearer to reality. And one unpleasant aspect of our current reality is that the pain the Left is feeling as its planning ambitions run up against reality will be redirected, notably into tribalism and authoritarianism.
We are experiencing a terrifying moment of authoritarianism among mainstream Democratic politicians: Harry Reid’s highly personal campaign of vicious demagoguery against Charles and David Koch is a national disgrace, but his party’s attempt to repeal the First Amendment is a national crisis. While Harry Reid wages war on free speech, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calls for the literalimprisonment of people with the wrong ideas on climate change. These aren’t Occupy terrorists trying to blow up a bridge in Cleveland; this is the United States Senate and a man bearing one of the most famous names in American politics.
The Left no longer has a credible intellectual case for its core program of control and planning. But, as Hayek predicted, the failure of central-planning aspirations is not going to be met with a renewed sense of humility on the part of our would-be rulers, but with denunciations of enemies of the people and demands for ever-more-extraordinary powers to deal with the emergency, which is now, it goes without saying, permanent. The world is moving on from command and control; the campus of Google might as well be on a different planet from the Rayburn House Office Building, its inhabitants practically alien. Power is shifting decisively in the direction of technology, capital, and innovation, and the planners are on the verge of losing, and spectacularly.
from C.S.Lewis, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
Joel Kotkin writes Choosing Fortune Over Freedom
This is not surprising, given the rapid progress that country has made in recent years. China has expanded its share of global gross domestic product from 2 percent in 1995 to 12 percent in 2012. Its economic model – communist control of thought and politics but welcoming to most enterprise – has vastly outperformed that of the strongest democracies, the United States, the European Union and Japan, particularly in light of the Great Recession. This recalls the 1930s, where Germany’s state-directed economy and that of the Soviet Union seemed to cope far better with the Depression than their Western democratic counterparts.
Chinese success has made it painfully clear that globalization of capitalism does not require pluralism or Western standards of legality. Nor has it done much to promote global understanding, in the China Sea or elsewhere in the world. Religious and ethnic divisions are, if anything, ever more pronounced. The failure of the much-heralded Arab Spring to create anything remotely pluralistic epitomizes this trend, leaving the West with the dilemma of selecting which repressive regimes to ally with to defeat even more heinous entities, like Hamas or the Islamic State.
Democratic Capitalism requires broad participation, a strong legal foundation, and a virtuous population. Authoritarian posers are mere cronies. This success will be short lived as we found our fascination with Fascism to solve conditions of economic turmoil to unwind.
Bret Stephens writes in The Wall Street Journal, Obama Needs to Call Bush
Maybe President Obama also calls Mr. Bush every now and then, just to talk, and one day we’ll find out about it. But I suspect not. No president has so completely built his administration with a view toward doing—and being—the opposite of his predecessor. Long private talks wouldn’t just be out of character for this president. They’d be awkward.
But having a long conversation with Mr. Bush is what Mr. Obama needs to do if he means to start salvaging his failing presidency. It would be an act of contrition: for six years of vulgar ridicule and sophomoric condescension. Also, humility: for finally understanding that the intel is often wrong (and that doesn’t make you a “liar”), that the choices in war are never clear or simple, that the allies aren’t always with you, and that evil succumbs only to force.
And it would be an act of bipartisanship: not the fake kind to which the president pays occasional lip service, but the kind that knows there is no party monopoly on wisdom, and that there is no democracy without compromise, and that there can be no compromise when your opponents sense you hold them in contempt.
Maybe then the two presidents can start talking about a few things they have in common. Like going from big re-elections to dismal ratings in a matter of months. Like realizing that you will soon lose the Congress, and that your own party is turning on you. Like figuring out that your top cabinet officers and White House confidantes are failing you. Like having your past boasts about military success rendered ridiculous by events. Like needing to come up with a new strategy, quickly, before a foreign-policy setback becomes a full-blown calamity.
Don’t make promises in private that you’ll renege on in public. Don’t give speeches denouncing Republicans as mean and greedy. Listen as if you might actually learn something. Give something if you want to get something.
F. A. Hayek
Kevin Williamson writes The Unmanageable Man in The National Review.
The scientific study of complex adaptive systems such as markets has taken Ludwig von Mises’s philosophical critique of central planning and developed a formidable body of knowledge that suggests a much more general and sweeping understanding of Mises’s underlying principle. Even a relatively simple economic activity — say, the cultivation and sale of wheat — is far too complex to be comprehended, anticipated, or managed by any bureaucracy, agency, or committee, no matter how intelligent and well-meaning its agents, no matter how well-equipped and incentivized they may be.
F. A. Hayek warned us against the “pretense of knowledge.” But the fact is that our public-policy debate is broadly organized around that very pretense, which is practically an article of faith.
Reality is remorselessly wearing away at the planners’ pretense. In 2008, the best and brightest in Washington, who believe themselves to be among the most intelligent and powerful men and women in the world, stood by helplessly as their ambitions were done in by the very houses in which we live, like cells turning against the body as cancer. Washington’s response was to apply to health care the same effective management it had brought to housing policy, executing its program with approximately the ineptitude that one might have expected.
from The Unwisdom of Barak Obama from the Wall Street Journal by Peggy Noonan:
Mr. Obama can see the trees, name their genus and species, judge their age and describe their color. He absorbs data. But he consistently misses the shape, size and density of the forest. His recitations of data are really a faux sophistication that suggests command of the subject but misses the heart of the matter.
You can run down the list. His famous “red line” comment was poor judgment. He shouldn’t have put himself or his country in that position, threatening action if a foreign leader did something. He misjudged the indelible impression his crawl-back would make on the world.
Last month it was the “I don’t have a strategy” statement on the Islamic State. That’s not something an American president attempting to rouse the public and impress the world can say. But he didn’t know.
ObamaCare top to bottom was poor judgment. It shouldn’t have been the central domestic effort of his presidency, that should have been the economy and jobs. He thought his bill could go forward without making Republicans co-own it, thought it would be clever to let Congress write it, thought an overextended and undertalented federal government could execute it. He thought those who told him the website would work were truthful, when he should have been smoking out agendas, incompetence and yes-sir-ism. He shouldn’t have said if you like your doctor you can keep him. That was his domestic red-line comment. It was a product of poor judgment.
But none of this looks clever. It looks like poor judgment beginning to end.
He is bright enough to discuss concepts, to teach a class. to weigh simple decisions. But he is bereft of wisdom and that is required for the judgement this office requires. Such wisdom requires a depth of experience and study, broad and strong personal relationships, intellectual diversity, and most of all humility. He is sorely lacking on all of these fronts. He may have the intelligence to be a great advocate or community organizer, but he lacks the wisdom, judgment and strength of character to be a decent president in the times we are in.