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July 09, 2011

With "Elites" Like These, Is It Any Wonder We're Screwed?

The Wall Street Journal has a couple of hilarious pieces on the opinion page this weekend. I would say unintentionally hilarious, but they've published a couple of howlers lately (like this one by a Chicago labor attorney on the NLRB/Boeing flap), which makes me wonder if this isn't part of a slick new marketing strategy by the eevilll Rubert Murdoch.

First up, this one from Bob Herbold, former COO of Microsoft, entitled: China vs. America: Which Is the Developing Country? From new roads to wise leadership, sound financials and five-year plans, Beijing has the winning approach.

You don't even have to get past the subhead for the first "WTF?" moment. Five-year plans? Are you fucking kidding me? In the article, he elaborates (without any sense of irony):

In every meeting we attended, with four different customers of our company as well as representatives from four different arms of the Chinese government, our hosts began their presentation with a brief discussion of China's new five-year-plan. This is the 12th five-year plan and it was announced in March 2011. Each of these groups reminded us that the new five-year plan is primarily focused on three things: 1) improving innovation in the country; 2) making significant improvements in the environmental footprint of China; and 3) continuing to create jobs to employ large numbers of people moving from rural to urban areas. Can you imagine the U.S. Congress and president emerging with a unified five-year plan that they actually achieve (like China typically does)?

Head, meet desk. I'm sure Herbold's a smart guy and all, but you'd think he'd be a little suspicious of this. First, when I hear "five year plan", I think of the Soviet Union's endless series of them. Well, endless until the USSR dissolved, anyway. Oh, this is China's 12th such five-year plan, you say? I rest my case.

Also, these five-year plans seem to lead to the building of a lot of ghost cities and deserted railway terminals. Chinese Potemkin Villages with high-speed rail ... wherever Tom Friedman is, I bet he just sprung a woody.

Wouldn't you think that having communist party drones pitch you the exact same line about their wonderful five-year plans on no fewer than eight separate occasions would set off some alarm bells? Oh, and they typically achieve these plans? Yeah, and Oceania was always at war with Eastasia, too.

But wait, there's more. In his continued laundry list extolling the wonders of modern China, he highlights this contrast in views on human rights and free speech:

In this area, our American view is that China has a ton of work to do. Their view is that we are nuts for not blocking pornography and antigovernment points-of-view from our youth and citizens. (emphasis added)

This is some kind of virtue? On the other hand, it sheds a little light on the stunning success of those five-year plans, doesn't it. Read the whole thing to gain some insight into why MSFT has been dead money for the last dozen years.

If that was bad, though, this is worse because it comes from someone nominally on the home team ...

Former Reagan administration national security adviser Robert "Bud" McFarlane writes: The Easy Alternative to Fuel-Economy Standards We could break OPEC's monopoly by mandating that cars run on fuels other than gasoline—like Brazil does.

That high-speed whine you hear from the general direction of Simi Valley, California, is The Gipper spinning in his grave.

Once again, if we want to "break the OPEC monopoly" the best thing we could do is drill our own proven reserves so much they look like a pincushion with all the pumps sticking out of them. So parse these two paragraphs for me:

As in Brazil, a government mandate is crucial to bringing new investment into methanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel production. Without a mandate, it's difficult if not impossible to convince the majority of serious investors that alternative fuels are going to be entering a viable market.

Don't misunderstand, I am by no means anti-oil. We need oil and will for generations to come. Our country is blessed with huge oil reserves that ought to be developed for the benefit of all. But we need to make sure it competes in the marketplace like any other product, thus neutralizing it as a strategic commodity. ...

Say what? We need to mandate yet another foray into a "green" replacement for oil to "make sure [domestic oil] competes in the marketplace"? What he really means is that instead of fixing the artificially distorted marketplace that exists today because we refuse to drill our own reserves in places like ANWR and the OCS, we should layer on additional command-and-control from our benevolent solons in DC. Again, read the whole thing.

What these two pieces have in common is a view of the role of government that is completely antithetical to individual liberty. C.S. Lewis described it thusly:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may 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.

Whether it's slobbering all over the wonders of China's autocratic "efficiencies" unencumbered by any of that nasty old free speech or pining for even more regulation from DC on what type of car we drive or how it is powered, big-government elites have the answer to all our problems. More taxes. More spending. More laws and regulations. Enough!

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posted by Andy at 05:06 PM

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