6.4.17

EXTREMES, RATHER THAN COMPROMISE.

With the Senate voting today to eliminate filibusters on Supreme Court confirmations, that sad expectation is likely to continue to play out.  But we still have two systems of belief about who the extremists running roughshod are.  At the second inauguration of Barack Obama, Paul Buchheit was warning readers of the extremist cult of capitalism.  I suspect his first paragraph is a bit of heavy irony.
A 'cult,' according to Merriam-Webster, can be defined as "Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work..(and)..a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion."

Capitalism has been defined by adherents and detractors: Milton Friedman said, "The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm, capitalism is that kind of a system." John Maynard Keynes said, "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone."
In the first paragraph, he might be dinging the people who viewed the Obama adulation as a noxious manifestation of the Cult of the Presidency.  The second invokes a subtlety of political economy.  Under some conditions, the incentives of market competition produce efficient outcomes.  But because the practitioners of trade might be more interested in their own gain than in the efficient outcomes (or a social setting in which their continued existence is not controversial) we get rent seeking.  Thus the cult to be feared is the cult of capitalists.  "It is devoted to the ideals of privatization over the common good, profit over social needs, and control by a small group of people who defy the public's will. The tenets of the cult lead to extremes rather than to compromise."  Terms like "common good," "social needs," and "public's will" sound highfaluting, but in practice they might be meaningless, incoherent, or better achieved by emergence.

But just before the second inauguration of Mr Obama, Chicago Boy David Foster made an observation that might be as true of the current president as it was of Mr Obama.
The overwhelming growth of government would…for the reasons explained in the above two links…tend toward creating social toxicity even if the President were a thoughtful individual who genuinely wished to foster a climate of mutual respect. With a leader such as our current President, a man who encourages demonization and regularly engages in demagogy, the process is much more rapid.
Trade unites, politics divides, and political division is in the saddle.  John Hayward of Human Events saw where that was going, and it was nowhere good.
When the government controls everything, there is no constructive relief valve for all this pent-up tension.  It all boils down to a “historic” election once every couple of years, upon whose outcome everything depends.  They’re all going to be “historic” elections from now on.  That’s not a good thing.  It’s much better to have the freedom to choose your own collaborators on the voluntary journey to mutual prosperity.  If you think they’re doing it wrong – if you don’t like the services they render, or the compensation they offer for your efforts – you can find other partners.  It’s relatively painless, you don’t have to wait two years to make a change, and you’re not setting all the parameters of your life with every individual decision you make.

In politicized America, on the other hand, we’re asked to make hundreds of major life-altering decisions with a single vote… and many of those decisions boil down to our selection for the increasingly powerful office of the presidency: a decision we only get to make once every four years, choosing from only a tiny handful of plausible candidates – and that’s assuming the primaries are particularly lively.  You might have noticed a good number of Democrats – from officials and pundits down to average citizens in social-media forums – making the case that the 2012 election permanently settled various issues, and demanding the other side meekly submit.  One vote every four years, and if you lose, shut up and obey!  That’s not a recipe for social harmony, especially since we know everyone currently espousing such views will instantly change their tunes ten seconds after the next election they lose.

Of course the character of this politicized nation is growing more sour.  How could it be otherwise?  We make too many decisions by voting for other people to make them for us.  We communicate through force instead of persuasion – a one-way transmission of absolutes, rather than a productive exchange of ideas.  Instead of actively testing and improving solutions to our own problems, we yell curses and shake our fists while waiting for political champions to emerge from Washington’s bloody arena, carrying the latest thousand pages of badly-written central planning as trophies.
That's before the nastiness that has become social media manifested itself, and the same people who were so sure the 2012 presidential settled everything are now doing everything they can to ensure that the 2016 presidential establishes nothing.

Perhaps the best outcome will be for the health insurance exchanges to collapse without any replacement being determined by our political masters.  Then we might see the mother of invention offering up numerous improvisations, some of which might be solutions.  If in that, the cults of the CEO and the Wise Experts and the Presidency are all tarnished, perhaps we will have an environment more conducive to getting along.

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