In Defense of Being a Political Cynic

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

WilliamdriverflagI’m an easy mark for those who want to approach me emotionally. My own life, with the normal tragedies of living seven decades has let me be attuned to others pain and to view that pain with an empathy born of my own suffering. Working out my own problems via years of therapy in my twenties and thirties, allowed me to finally let myself cry at the early death of my parent’s years before. I had put a “bottleneck” on tears since a teenager, choking sad emotions by constricting my throat and being in intellectual denial of the mourning I felt at their loss. This is not to say that I had no emotional outlets in my years prior to therapy, but they were limited to events far outside the ken of my life. Thus I could identify with wronged characters in movies and could cry at the death of Marin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. In my personal life though, I acted out the role ascribed to me in my High School Yearbook “Mike thinks that life is just a snap of his fingers”. Therapy changed that and allowed me to let myself be aware of and be guided by my emotions.

Emotionally, I am as patriotic an American as you might find. I love this country and I love the fact that I’m a citizen of it. My tears well up at the playing of our National Anthem. The Constitution is a sacred document to me and the aspirations of our “Founding Fathers” seem noble and just. In sports I often find myself moved to tears when athletes or teams overcome adversity and triumph. My family knows this emotional side of me since I cry at movies like “The Little Mermaid”.  In personal relationships I am also ruled by emotion. People who treat me with kindness are not only repaid in kind, but I find myself rooting for their happiness and sad at their sadness. It is therefore quite easy to become someone I consider to be a friend and difficult for me to note imperfections in the friendships I’ve made. However, that is on an emotional level and as all humans, I am far more than just my emotions.  Intellect and experience play important roles in shaping who we are. On a personal level I have experienced betrayal by “friends” and lovers. In my career I’ve experienced betrayal by those I thought of as friends and co-workers. However, I think those “let downs” are merely a normal part of the human experience. We humans learn and grow from our social interactions, allowing them to inform our interactions with each other.

We humans co-exist though in a larger context than mere personal interactions and that is a society known as “country”. Through the norms and mores of that society we find that our emotions are stimulated by the commonality of our existence as part of a whole. We rely on that society to protect us from predators and from those from other society’s that would do us harm. We unite emotionally in times of crisis and we feel warmth and comfort from being part of the whole. The most emotionally jarring event of the past five decades was the attack on 9/11 that galvanized this country almost as one entity. We commemorated the twelfth anniversary of this overwhelmingly sad event this past week. I need not describe the effect of this event on all of us, since I know that we all have sharp personal memories of that day and the days of anger, fear and confusion that followed. The reactions politically that followed 9/11 has personally scarred those who lived through it and have done great harm to our country. People from all sides of the political spectrum feel betrayed by the events that followed 9/11. Some feel betrayed because the majority of the country no longer supports the military interventions that ensued. Others feel betrayed because there is clear evidence that our government “lied” us into a costly war against a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack. We have become then a nation of cynics when it comes to our government and I will explore why this can be either good or bad for the future of our country.When President Obama spoke this week about intervention in Syria: (transcript below) http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/running-transcript-president-obamas-sept-10-speech-on-syria/2013/09/10/a8826aa6-1a2e-11e3-8685-5021e0c41964_story.html  I felt myself sneering as the cleverly written propaganda came forth from his lips with the sound of great sincerity. Could he really believe this crap I thought? Is it just foistering of political propaganda used for him to save face in light of the overwhelming evidence that the people of this country don’t support his “targeted air strike” as a panacea for the use of gas in the Syrian Civil War? Does it really matter? As he explained that we Americans are war weary from more than a decade of fighting wars. These wars in the end were colossal failures and more importantly seem to have been fought for no real reason save for the enrichment of the Corporate Military Industrial Complex (CMIC) and most specifically the multinational oil industry. The President, even if obliquely, acknowledged the futility of this century’s military interventions and the cost borne by this nation’s troops and people:

“I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress. And I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.

This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.

Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular. After all, I’ve spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them. Our troops are out of Iraq. Our troops are coming home from Afghanistan. And I know Americans want all of us in Washington

— especially me — to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home: putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class.”

To me there most glaring inconsistency in the President’s speech was that while making the case for intervention to stop the use of Sarin Gas, promising that no U.S. Troops would be used on the ground, describing Assad’s government as implacable, our President nevertheless contended that one “targeted air strike” would somehow make things better. The entire proposition seems nonsensical to me and I therefore distrust its sincerity, or as a fallback, the sanity of those who would pursue it.

As Professor Turley described in a blog this week 75% of the deaths in Afghanistan occurred after Obama became President: http://jonathanturley.org/2013/09/12/study-almost-75-percent-of-all-afghanistan-deaths-occurred-under-obama/ . This was of course the man who the country elected in 2008 to end the two wars. While it appears that the Iraq War has ended since most American Forces have been removed, we note that in August the Iraqi government began to plead for additional U.S. help since there has been an upsurge in violence and civilian strife. http://news.yahoo.com/iraq-seeks-help-us-amid-growing-violence-221052797.html . So perhaps the President’s claim is premature. As of January 31, 2012. 4,487 US Soldiers were Killed in Iraq and 32,223 were Seriously Wounded. This does not encompass the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s who died in that war.

The rationale for the Iraq War was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he had been somehow involved in the 9/11 attack. Both of those premises have proven to be untrue. We have spent about a Trillion Dollars on Iraq as shown by the following which gives a breakdown of the human/financial costs of that war. http://usliberals.about.com/od/homelandsecurit1/a/IraqNumbers.htm Is it any wonder then that the majority of the country distrusts our government and is suspicious of any suggestion that there is yet another country where we MUST intervene? Our attack on Afghanistan was not only premised on the belief that the 9/11 attack was executed by Al Qaeda leaders within the country, but was also meant to destroy the power of the Afghani allies the Taliban. We see though that the Taliban still has great power in Afghanistan and that our “greatest 9/11 enemy” Osama Bin Laden was living in Pakistan all along. The truth is that the U.S. originally armed Al Qaeda and the Taliban to fight against the USSR in the 1980’s, as that “great power” was driven from the country, as have been all Afghanistan’s invaders from time immemorial. Both these wars have been unnecessary debacles executed by the manipulation of American emotions stemming from 9/11.

How much a debacle those wars were was highlighted by two actions (admissions) by George W. Bush who bears the responsibility for them and consequently for the horrors that ensued. The first was his skit at The National Press Club where he pretended to look for “weapons of mass destruction” in a mocking manner. He was mocking those of us who believed the lies of his administration that caused us to attack Iraq. The second action was when he was asked if the U.S. knew where Osama Bin Laden was hiding. His response was that Osama Bin Laden was no longer important to him. If this was so then why the hell did we attack Afghanistan under the pretense that we were seeking revenge against Osama Bin Laden? Despite the beliefs of those who would rule us the entire country is not at all stupid and in the light of Bush’s actions should we wonder why people are so turned off to government and so cynical about it?

The germ of this piece has been gestating for years in my mind, but it came to the foreground this week in a reprise article from Russ Baker’s http://whowhatwhy.com investigative website. The article was from 2011 and investigated the probable involvement of powers within Saudi Arabia in funding and supporting the 9/11 attack. http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/09/11/classic-why-suppressed-saudi-911-story/  The background it supplies and the premise of Saudi involvement seems credible to me and fits in with the close ties of George W. Bush and his family to the powers that be in Saudi Arabia. Our current concern with Syria mirrors the Saudi’s constant efforts to attain hegemony in the Muslim world, where they are competing with Iran. Entwined in this is of course Oil, which has been for more than a Century the greatest motivating factor in international relations.

What all of this endless warfare has done has been to unite the majority of the American people, myself included, in a cynical view of our government and its entire doings. How can we trust government if it lies us into wars and wastes trillions of dollars? This cynicism leaks over into all areas of government endeavor. It unites those on both the left and the right of the political spectrum and it could lead to the ultimate destruction of our Constitution and even our country as we know it. Yet how can we argue against this cynicism? The truth is that in the experience of my lifetime government can’t be trusted. With this concept I find myself in unison with the “Tea Party” and simultaneously with “Progressives” in distrusting just about everything government does. Most of the many guest blogs I’ve written here through the years reveal this cynicism in one form or the other. Just type “Mike Spindell” into the search function above and you will see blog after blog expressing my cynicism and distrust of what is occurring in this country that I dearly love. While I am united with many on both the Right and the Left in distrusting the government and politics in general, my analysis of the problem of government is not as uniform.

The corruption of our political system and the failure of government to do its job is not the result in the inherent flaw of any government as the Libertarians and Tea Party suspect. Government doesn’t work because it is corrupted by those seeking power and wealth. Our Constitution is ignored by those who would manipulate the rest of us for their own personal gains. The “Isms” we are presented with as solutions to the vastness of human misery are merely the tools to distract us from the real “game of thrones” being played with us as pawns. My cynicism is well-deserved, as is yours the reader because our shared experiences have proven it to be correct.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” As Cassius laments in “Julius Caesar” this is the state of humans and humanity. It is the constant struggle for dominance engaged in by a few that disrupts and distracts government from its role as the manifestation of the ideals of our society. Whenever those who would see a different world try to change it, they must recognize that it is human flaws, rather than political systems, that distract the care and protection of the populace. Humanity, born of mutual cooperation in our pre-history, still also bears within it the residue of our predatory past. Therefore, even as we of good will who would seek to turn this world into the Utopia that is within humanity’s powers; we must use the cynicism of our intellect to distrust those who would offer simplistic solutions appealing to our emotions to get us to do their bidding. I remain a political cynic and often despair at the doings of the world around me. Yet I will not and the collective we should not, let ourselves give into that despair. In that direction lays the darkness of all the horrors of human history. We must fight on to remake ourselves and humanity into caring and compassionate beings, interacting with each other in harmony. Yet to continue that fight we must recognize the propaganda and mythology that leads us astray. We must view all calls for action through a cynical, skeptical eye, while maintaining our idealistic hope for a better future. It is a hard task, yet for those of us who were not to the manor born it is essential, or else we will continue to be pawns in the hands of the powerful that would destroy us and those we love without conscience or constraint.

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger.

149 thoughts on “In Defense of Being a Political Cynic”

  1. Another side bar note response to “What was the result”.

    Paul Traub became partners with fraudster Marc Dreier (doing 20 years) – Ponzi Schemer Tom Petters (doing 50 years) and unlawfully worked both sides of Okun 1031 Tax Group with his purported ex partner Michael Weiss handling Creditors/Trustee and Traub handling Okun.

    Okun was railroaded with 100 years
    (like me- he put all his eggs in one basket)

    But – I’ve got a cool secret pic of Traub and Biden;
    who was fined $219,000 by FEC

    For……..?

  2. Anonymously Yours;

    What gives with the misspell of names – 1st Your(s) and now mine’s

    Haas (not Hass)

    I might be one of those – but I don’t go around flashing the card.

  3. It is a good read – and it is proof that both sides are more political than honorable. Obama’s USAG should have scuttled this beast LONG ago….

  4. Meanwhile, here’s the beginning of the saga in the vernacular of a United States Trustee who had some sense of honor (before he chose discretion over valor and resigned).

  5. Anonymously Yours;

    I’ll post the email sent today, by me, to the autocrats;
    where I promised to wipe their crap eating grins off their faces.

    Will link it – when I do.

  6. Anonymously Yours;

    Today was a good day for federal venality benefiting the organized criminality benefiting Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital.

    Though it is testified in parts 19 & 35 that the parties were told by the federal police – NOT to do a Crime! They went ahead and did it in secret – AnyWay.

    Though this is extensively heinous & egregious assaults upon the Constitution of the United States by approved Officers of the Court

    the U.S. Trustee’s office and Chief Justice over eToys said its no biggie.

    Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital are Above the Law!

    That’s Unacceptable!

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/19/us-goldmansachs-etoys-settlement-idUSBRE98I0VL20130919

  7. Mike,

    Give me the NSA’s budget and a decade and I think I could solve that problem easily. I wouldn’t go for true AI, but instead I would favor automated analytical tools to greatly extend the ability of human analysts. In other words, not HAL, but an army of cyborg ninja analysts (ninja cyborg analysts?).

    Then for an encore I’ll invent psychohistory. 😉

    1. So Laserhaas my web friend,

      Those that usually do are kept obtuse so that those that know can be assured that they will do….what they do….

  8. Tony,

    The things that you mention would be the goals of what I’m suggesting—in other words, I think we need to find innovative means of achieving those goals in a incremental manner starting at the grassroots level.

    I don’t regard this as impossible as it is essentially what the alliance between the fundamentalist evangelical Christians and the neocons already did and, if anything, the advent of social media makes such efforts more effective now.

    Mike,

    We all have confirmation biases which accentuate the distortions in our perception of the world. It is hard for people like you and I to step outside our bubble and view ourselves with any kind of objectivity. I would imagine that the same thing would be nigh impossible for any modern POTUS. I would also note that the POTUS, at least theoretically, has access to more information than any other person on the planet, but this does not mean that they are the “best informed”. That is a function not of the amount of data collected nor the amount of information mined from that data, but rather of the amount of useful intelligence gained from analysis of such information.

    I think this is a point that is very poorly understood in the whole Snowden mess—the data collected by the NSA really isn’t what’s important (the data is out there and can be obtained one way or another by anyone who wants it badly enough and has the resources), it’s what the NSA is able to do with the data that is significant—and the Constitution is mute on the issue of data analysis. You saw what I could do by collecting just some of the data freely distributed to anyone by the servers of this very blog and subjecting it to some very mundane data mining and analysis. By how many orders of magnitude do you think the NSA’s capabilities and resources exceed my own?

    We all leave a wake of metadata strewn behind us like garbage and just like the police don’t need a warrant to look at someone’s garbage, I don’t think there is any Constitutional protection for the privacy of metadata and I’m not at all sure that there should be.

    Sorry to veer off topic here, but I’ve been meaning to say something about this for a while now and this seemed like as good a place as any…

    1. Slarti,

      You raise an interesting point re: metadata, but I’m traveling and limited to an IPhone. I will say though that the problem with all this data is that it overloads human powers of anlysis and thus like statistics can be skewed. Is trustworthy AI ready…Hal?

  9. Side Bar to my immediate above comment.

    There are many things that I would love to put my foot up the arse of our commander chief for – as being so very disappointing thereof.

  10. Our POTUS has a “colored” history beyond the surreal.

    Of his true history and nature, I’m a student.

    Be that as it may, the POTUS, his Administration and handlers, are of exceptional, extra-ordinary talent. They poked through the white man’s veil in superior fashion; beating the powers that be at their own game. Making Hillary the Sec of State to assure she wouldn’t divide the party in 2012 was genius. The Administrations handling of the bigot Bush’s leaving a disaster already made, with an even greater disaster on the horizon

    Brilliant!

    That being said, the supposition that we need many Captains’ of the ship is absurd in the extreme.

    All military machines, governments, businesses, non profits and such – must have a decision maker. You can have a Board, a Senate, a Committee, the populace – or who you – pick that decision maker. But it MUST be a sole authority commanding. Could you really envision a co-President Obama, Biden and Hillary?

    Really!

  11. Mike S: As in corporations, I am not so sure we need a president or CEO.

    For example, it is possible to organize a company such that the top of the pyramid is flat; there is no single executive decision maker, period.

    In fact, most corporations are technically organized this way: The CEO answers to the Board of Directors and is subordinate to them, and can be fired by them. There are rules within the Board for making decisions, by majority vote, and for breaking stalemates, and so on. (for example, in a tie vote it may be the status quo prevails; i.e. there is no change made. Or the tie may be decided by net seniority or Time in Grade. Or the votes “For” a proposal can break the proposal into parts to be separately voted upon, and so on).

    I see no reason a Board could not have more than one subordinates, and I have seen that done in a company that had two locations in different states.

    A country could be run by a Congress, with subordinates like our fifteen existing Cabinet level officers. There would BE no Commander in Chief, that would be the title of the Secretary of Defense.

    In both a large corporation and in the government, there is almost never a need for an instantaneous, gut-level decision. If there is, provisions can be made for the appropriate Secretary to make such a decision (like the Chief Operating Officer of a corporation often has leeway to make emergency expenditures and decisions beyond their budget if a crisis occurs (like a factory explosion or a health risk with their product)).

    But the “temporal breadth” for top level officer decisions is typically on the quarterly or even annual judgment level; and there would be time for debate by the Congress for setting even longer term guidance for their Cabinet level subordinates.

    I think many of the issues (like the ones you bring up) caused by a concentration of power can effectively be addressed by figuring out how to diffuse the power; that would also have the effect of making the offices less attractive to megalomaniacs and sociopaths.

    1. Tony,

      I agree that having one person as Top Dog might have better alternatives. As I quoted in my piece “the problem is not in the stars…….”. Many with authoritarian personalities long for a strong leaders and too many others long to be strong leaders.

  12. Slart: If a method by which people can achieve incremental benefits in politics can be devised it should be able to outcompete the current corrupted paradigm.

    The problem is not invention, it is my job (and yours and basically all research scientists) to invent new things that work in the real world. The problem here is getting something into production.

    The scheme I devised above might work, alternative “ranking” voting systems proven to better satisfy voters might work, laws on government transparency might work, laws against lobbying might work, laws against politicians becoming lobbyists for, say, the duration of their last term in office might work (2R,4P,6S years).

    Unfortunately I see no way to get any of those into production without raising many, many millions of dollars.

  13. Tom says: … is your real name Winston Smith?

    I am an independent thinker and my thoughts are my own, I subscribe to the philosophy of nobody else, living or dead, although on specific points I do agree with the reasoning of others.

    Tom says: I also wonder if you are projecting onto everyone else your desire to control others through violent means (which you seem to be proud of and consider to be just plain common sense).

    I think it is common sense; if you don’t think so you think like a pouting child.

    There are only a few ways to defend against predators that would use force to get their way. (I don’t count surrender or compliance as a “defense”.)

    1) Talk (Reasoning, persuasion, diplomacy, bargaining). But some predators reject talk and just take what they want.

    2) Thwarting, escape, or passive defense. Making it difficult for the predator to just take what they want. One can build fences, or refuse to work until a change occurs, or run away or hide, because those make the job difficult.

    3) Threats. Similar to (2), with humans we can often make predators back off with threats of consequences, financial or physical. But if a predator does not respond to (1) or (2), the threat must be plausible to the predator.

    4) Violence. Fight back.

    If (1) and (2) and (3) fail, and they often do, then using force to defend against predators is the only way to stop the predation. That is life. Talk doesn’t always work. Passive defenses do not always work and sometimes running away is the equivalent of giving the predator whatever they want. Threats do not work if the predator believes they are empty threats.

    There is a reason for war and violent revolutions (like our own), sometimes the predator (like King George) will not respond to (1) and there is no effective way to implement (2) without losing everything or becoming effective slaves. Sometimes the only options are surrender or fight.

    Tom says: It never ceases to amaze me that statist voters don’t understand that there is blood on their hands.

    I understand that. So what? As long as the blood is the blood of predators, they got what they deserve. In cases where it isn’t, we are the predators and should pay reparations, in the case of honest mistakes, or somebody should get what they deserve, in the cases of intentional harm.

    Tom says: For the benefits of the few worthwhile things government does

    I reject that characterization; it isn’t a “few,” it is life preserving.

    Tom says: (that could be easily achieved through entirely voluntary associations with small groups of people),

    I reject that premise as well. Just like the Aynish you are incapable of adult reasoning and understanding that the outliers of human psychology are the problem, there are people that will only be thwarted by force. And despite being a tiny percentage, it is easy for them to find each other and gang up with a leader in their own self-interests, and when the gang is large it profits greatly by applying overwhelming murdering force to your “small groups,” often by ambush or in opportunistic strikes that do not lose them any men, and taking everything they have. Your small groups cannot defend against the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan.

    Tom says: the statist is willing to tolerate massive criminality and the degradation of the human race by government.

    No, we aren’t. It is thrust upon us, just as you think government is thrust upon you. We are no more “willing” to tolerate it than you are “willing” to tolerate the government under which you live. You and I both DO tolerate it, because there is no viable alternative for us; but we do not do so willingly.

    Tom says: It is a complete failure of imagination of narcissistic control freaks and the total denial of the poverty, suffering and wholesale killing created by governments that has brought us here.

    No it isn’t, we do not deny poverty, suffering and wholesale killing. The lack of realistic imagination is all yours, you think you can get by without government. But there are places in the world without effective governments, like Somalia, and they are awash in poverty, oppression, unanswered violence, what we would call criminality and even slavery. Your imagination of how “people” would act without a government is just an unattainable fantasy. The truth is when most people get hungry or desperate and feel like their only alternatives are severe losses (like starvation or losing a child or losing their home or property) or violence, they will employ violence.

    Others jump straight to violence, because without a credible threat or worry of retaliation or punishment, violence works to get what they want.

    Tom says: What kind of human being is so concerned about being protected from harm that he tolerates the mass murder of innocent people by his “protector” merely because this “protector” is supported by war profiteers?

    Presuming you are an American or Brit, You. What have you done to stop that? Nothing, and certainly nothing effective. You are “tolerating” it. What is your motivation for “tolerating” it? Protecting yourself from the harm that would result as a consequence of your refusal to “tolerate” it, I presume.

    In general I reject the premise, we do not “tolerate” it, it is thrust upon us. Government is not answering to us. That does not mean government is a bad idea, it means our current form of government has flaws in it that are resulting in corruption by the rich.

    What you fail to understand is that “being rich” is just a form of power and coercion. Anarchy won’t work because there will always be a top 1% in terms of predatory inclinations, and there will always be a bottom 10% in terms of being easy prey, and if the 99% do not have rules to prevent the predation, backed up by threats of violence, and when necessary actual violence to prove those threat are real, the predators will consume their prey from the bottom up, getting stronger with every bite, until the predators present an overwhelming force that rules everybody; a dictatorship.

    We do not tolerate it; we have a problem, without any easy solution, that we have not addressed. Anarchy is not the answer, the endgame of that has been played out many dozens (or hundreds) of times in the past few thousand years and we know where that path leads.

    Tom says: And people who believe in self-rule (as opposed to minority or majority rule), voluntary associations and non-aggression are naive idiots who secretly want to kill and be selfish?????

    One or the other. I suspect you are naive. You refuse to detail how your anarchic society is going to deal with the sociopaths, or defend themselves against them. Without a plan on how to defend against roving gangs of violent predators, you have no plan. When we look at the “society” in places like Somalia, that is exactly what we see: roving gangs of violent predators. Because even if YOU reject government, they do not, there is strength in numbers, and they can take more from victims together with less risk than they could ever take alone, so they submit to their own internal government that punishes violence and disobedience amongst themselves, in order to reap the rewards of cooperative predation.

    The only way to stop them is to present a larger force, which has to be organized. That organization is “government.”

    Tom says: Thoreau: government is best which governs not at all; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

    That is a fantasy. Men will never be “prepared” for that, they wouldn’t be human if they did. Some people that deserve a loss refuse to accept it, that is human nature, and to prevent the loss they engage in predation or violence upon others. That is human nature.

    Some people suffer a loss at random or by accident, through nobody else’s fault, but blame others for it, and retaliate against them. Heck, sometimes they retaliate even though their loss was not the fault of the person they retaliated against. That is human nature too. (for example, if Adam kills Bill in clearly fair self defense, and Bill’s brother Colin then assaults or kills Adam, for being the cause of Bill’s death.)

    Men will never be ready for no government, that will never happen, there will always be predators among us, there will always be the 10% of people least able to defend themselves against the predators (mentally or physically or ideologically), and there will always be a need for an organized collective defense against the predators.

    The solution to a bad, corrupt, or violent government is not zero government, it is a different form of government, one more responsive to the people with effective restraints against overstepping its purpose. Exactly how we do that is something to figure out, in my view government is still evolving and the best solutions have not been found; but we are better off (less predated upon) with an imperfect government than with none at all.

  14. Tony C. said: “This is, in the political sense, another form of market failure; because the elections are winner take all and personally expensive to win. The market fails us here because the rewards are not incremental: A little involvement does not produce a little win, a little more involvement does not produce more of a win. A job has the potential of incremental rewards; work a little harder, learn a little more, and you are a little more valuable and get rewarded. Develop skill and expertise in an area, and become even more valuable.

    I agree that this is a failure of the political “market”, but I would also point out that it is also an untapped arbitrage opportunity. If a method by which people can achieve incremental benefits in politics can be devised it should be able to outcompete the current corrupted paradigm.

  15. Jill said: “You write: “I believe that President Obama is a good man who honestly tries to do the right thing”.

    As I tried to make clear above, I give everyone the benefit of the doubt on motive (which would include Castro as well as President Bush—I try to extend the same courtesy to war profiteer Dick “The War Criminal” Cheney, but I mostly fail on that one). I don’t do this out of naivete, but rather, as I said, for pragmatic reasons. That President Obama is a good man (in addition to assuming his intentions are good) is my opinion, but again it is a pragmatic opinion rather than a naive one.

    By levying hyperbolic attacks on the President from the left, I believe you play into the hands of the right-wing demagogues (who, as I said, never miss an opportunity to game the system) for whom the argument “President Obama is for it” is sufficient cause to oppose anything. These actions seem naive and shortsighted to me, but I don’t doubt that you have anything but the best motives for doing so. I don’t expect you agree with my reasoning, but I don’t think that anything I’ve written would support the conclusion that my view of President Obama or any other leader is pathological. My views are logically consistent, take into account all of the facts that I am aware of, and they are not hypocritical. By making a straw man of my position and belittling it, you do nothing more than illustrate to many of the people here (who know I’m not the unprincipled simpleton that you try to make me out as) your own bias and lack of judgement.

    I’ll willingly admit to President Obama’s faults, but that doesn’t change the fact that I think that our nation is substantially better off because he is president rather than George Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, or, god forbid, Sarah Palin.

    I think that people like you who demand ideological purity, whether on the left or the right, doom themselves to irrelevance by taking a position which denies any possibility of consensus or compromise.

    Gene,

    I didn’t expect you to agree on that point. I just don’t think that it is worth debating people’s motives (especially in the face of their actions), nor do I think that motives form the foundation for a strong political argument. I’d much rather judge a politician by their quantifiable actions and the results of those actions than to try and establish what someone’s motives were—I think they all pretty much boil down to acting in the perceived best interests of oneself and whatever groups one feels affinity for.

    Mike,

    I, too, am a product of my training and my training doesn’t tell me squat about motive. It does, however, give me insight into predicting the sort of results that might be achieved by various actions as well as a desire for arguments to be decided on their quantitative merits rather than more qualitative standards.

    On the issue of leaders believing themselves better informed, I would point out that while they may have access to more information, they also have their perception of the world warped by the layers of bureaucracy around them. It is axiomatic that the President of the United States has the most distorted view of the world of any human. Very few leaders, in my opinion, take this into account.

    1. Slarti,

      I agree that this, or any President has an extremely distorted view of the world. My assertion though is that their tendency would be to believe themselves the “best” informed and there is the basis of the errors they make. Then too the sycophants that surround any powerful leader tend to laud their wisdom and thus further muddy the waters.

  16. Tony C, is your real name Winston Smith?

    I also wonder if you are projecting onto everyone else your desire to control others through violent means (which you seem to be proud of and consider to be just plain common sense).

    It never ceases to amaze me that statist voters, Democrat or Republican, don’t understand that there is blood on their hands. For the benefits of the few worthwhile things government does (that could be easily achieved through entirely voluntary associations with small groups of people), the statist is willing to tolerate massive criminality and the degradation of the human race by government. It is a complete failure of imagination of narcissistic control freaks and the total denial of the poverty, suffering and wholesale killing created by governments that has brought us here.

    What kind of human being is so concerned about being protected from harm that he tolerates the mass murder of innocent people by his “protector” merely because this “protector” is supported by war profiteers?

    And people who believe in self-rule (as opposed to minority or majority rule), voluntary associations and non-aggression are naive idiots who secretly want to kill and be selfish?????

    You better go burn some books at the local schools, like Civil Disobedience by Thoreau, lest some youngsters get the crazy notion that:

    “government is best which governs not at all; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have”

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