12.9.06

IN PRAISE OF EMERGENCE? Betsy Newmark, latter-day Baby Boomer, lays some smack on David Broder, the Face of Silent Generation Indecisiveness. First Mr Broder.
It is not that Americans have lost their self-reliance, he said, or their willingness to help their neighbors. But the bigger institutions on which they once thought they could rely -- the government, their employers, their unions -- are now either unreliable or entirely absent. When federal, state and local officials left the victims of Hurricane Katrina stranded in their flooded homes for days, it symbolized a fundamental breach of trust. When giants such as General Motors and Ford laid off thousands of workers while other companies walked away from the pensions they had promised retirees, it removed another prop to confidence. And when unions increasingly lost their ability to organize and represent workers, the sense of isolation became even stronger.
Now Ms Newmark.
People may indeed feel that large institutions are not as strong as they once were, but I'd argue that if people ever had a sense of security based on the power and competence of large corporations, government, or unions, they were deluding themselves and it might be a good thing that people are not placing their faith in large bureaucracies with their own agendas. The people who escaped Katrina did so because of their own initiative and not because of the government. That's a lesson we should all benefit from remembering.
Indeed. Is Mr Broder that nostalgic for the Old New Industrial State, or has he forgotten the mostly self-organized powerboat evacuation of Downtown Manhattan's stranded office workers on a sunny afternoon five years ago?

Law professor Kenneth Anderson's daughter is, if anything, even more skeptical of Wise Experts.

"Liberals," she said, presumably referring to her endlessly politically correct private school (the same National Cathedral that hosted ex-president Khatami last week), "always want to tell you what to do and what to think, but then they don't even keep you safe."

Democratic Party politicians might want to reflect on that awhile. They think of themselves as defenders of freedom, protectors of civil liberties. To my daughter, however, they are merely authoritarians who tell you what to think, but then, when push comes to shove, these liberal authoritarians don't even protect you from existential risk. In my thirteen year old child's political imagination, smoke from the burning Pentagon and the wreckage of the plane continues to rise. Does it in yours? Does it in theirs?

Ah but how many geese were noodled for the pate that was probably served at at least one function for Herr Khatami? There is a risk-assessment problem here: are you more likely to die of overeating than of terrorism? Harder question: are the food-preparation methods of fancy restaurants and caterers so affected by a public interest as to merit a ban? Harder question still: How many conventions of international law and due process apply to people who choose to operate outside the constraints of a state actor?

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