Thursday, October 23, 2008

A conundrum

One of the frustrating things about politics is how difficult it can be to distinguish actual liberalism from parodies of liberalism. Case in point: Is this Slate article, "Date Local: The Case Against Long-Distance Relationships" a clever satire of the environmentalist drive to subjugate every aspect of human life and slaughter them all on Gaia's altar, or is author Barron YoungSmith actually serious?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sheep's clothing

As the old Vulcan proverb says, only Nixon could go to China. His reputation as a devoted Cold Warrior meant no one could plausibly accuse him of being soft on Communism for opening relations with China, whereas a dove who attempted it would have been.

I was put in mind o that by the recent $700 billion dollar bailout passed by Congress. The bailout had more support from Democrats than from Republicans. Barack Obama voted in favor of it, as did McCain. If the economic situation gets worse, the next president will be in a position to further expand the state's role in the economy, perhaps significantly so.

I wonder if Democrats felt more comfortable giving hundreds of billions of dollars away to banks precisely because of the public perception that Democrats are opposed to powerful business interests (something even many opponents of the Democrats believe.) Consider Obama himself: he's been accused of being an extreme liberal, a Marxist, a terrorist sympathizer, and a secret Muslim, but how often does anyone accuse him of being a tool of powerful business interests? To the overwhelming majority of the American people, the idea is too absurd to even entertain, even among people who hate Obama.

Thus, I wonder if a Democratic president and legislature might actually be more prone to being a tool of politically connected plutocrats than Republicans would be. To a great extent, legislation intended to aid particular economic interests can fly under the radar, because almost everyone (conservatives included) buys into the myth that interventionism is bad for big business. People might attack a proposed regulation for being innefectual or misguided, but the idea that regulation might be what the major players in the field being regulated want is quite foreign to most people. Nevertheless, being excessively blatant about it can still make people notice, as the public's anger over the bailout shows.

A Democratic government could probably push the envelope farther than the Republicans could- the widespread presumption that Democrats are hostile to the wealthy and powerful would mean that the Democrats would have to get really blatant about it before people started asking questions and catching on, whereas everyone expects the Republicans to be on the side of big business.

On the other hand, the false perception of McCain and the Republicans as devoted supporters of free markets- promoted by the dishonest and the ignorant on both sides of the political spectrum- would provide Republicans with cover as well. After all, if even the Republicans think that the government should intervene, you know something needs to be done!

I'm not sure which factor would be stronger in an economic crisis. I should note that the Democrats' image as enemies of plutocracy would probably make it easier for them to get away with passing genuine pro-market reforms- not that it would ever actually come up, of course.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

It never ends...

I was in a fairly good mood until I found this article, via Psychopolitik:

Too busy playing video games to watch presidential ads on television? Barack Obama has found you, too, by becoming the first presidential candidate to buy ad space inside a game.

Nine video games from Electronic Arts Inc., ranging from the extremely popular "Madden 09" football game to the street racing "Burnout: Paradise," feature in-game ads from the Obama campaign. The ads — they appear on billboards and other signage — remind players that early voting has begun and plug a campaign Web site.

I doubt it was intentional, but the way the lede gives the impression of a relentless hunter-"Barack Obama has found you, too"- seems wonderfully appropriate. The hunter being not Obama in particular, but the overwhelming importance of politics and the state in American life.

This apparently will apply mostly to sports games, where it's much easier to fit ads for real products into the game setting, and I'm mostly an RPG/strategy guy, so it doesn't reach me directly. Still, it frustrates me that there are ever-fewer places in our culture where one can avoid this crap.

Ayn Rand once remarked (quoting from memory, probably not exact), "I'm interested in politics so that one day I won't have to be interested in politics." That's always resonated with me. The need to guard against aggression is never-ending, and would remain so even in a fully free society, but the maddening thing about our current situation is that it feels as if there is never a moment's peace- the state and it's machinery of legitimation never stops poking, probing, trying to work its way into everything.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

A grim legacy

You know, if "hockey mom" becomes a permanent part of the American political lexicon, I am going to be really pissed. The whole "Sport+Parent" method of describing supposed voting blocs has got to be one of the most annoying innovations in political rhetoric of the last decade.

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