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November 27, 2012

Suggestion for Time's Person of the Year: The Vagina

A commenter suggested this and it sure seems to cut to the heart of the matter.

Not really related, but kinda-sorta, is this article about the natural political advantage of Democratic "solutions."

Through the eighties, and nineties, and naughts, liberals were fond of claiming that Republicans won elections only because their messages were so simplistic and easily-understood by dummies. This is always the reason offered as to why conservatives thrive on talk radio, but liberals fail: Well, you see, it's because conservatives' messages are so simple they lend themselves to fifteen second sound-bites. Whereas liberals' messages are so dashed complex they couldn't possibly be explained in a verbal format (even in a three hour radio show!); no, they're so impossibly complex they can only be explicated in thick academic volumes with lots of charts and integrals.

Which always struck me as precisely ass-backwards: Conservatives like Limbaugh were talking about very indirect, and thus abstract, benefits of capitalism. Capitalism doesn't directly put money into your pocket the way AFDC does, but by creating an environment of economic vigor, it creates more jobs, and hence creates a Seller's Market for labor, thus increasing wages and also increasing worker's bargaining power, and so on.

Meanwhile, liberals' messages were all about a very simple Kindergarten concept -- fairness -- and very direct effects. Vote for this guy, he'll give you the Life of Julia.

You don't need an argument to explain how a government check in your name increases your wealth. It's quite a direct process, requiring no elaboration at all. Your Government-as-Father send you a check, you deposit it. You have more money. You need no more explication or argument about this concept than a college kid needs regarding the getting a loan from Dad to pay for "books."

The benefits of capitalism, on the other hand, are indirect and mostly unseen; Adam Smith had to create a metaphor with tangible form and heft -- "the Invisible Hand" -- to explain this. If something is complicated and abstract enough it can only be explained via metaphor, it's not "simple."

This article discusses that advantage in simplicity of messaging.

Let's concede that those who are pushing to expand government have one huge advantage. Their advantage is that their solutions are immediate, direct and easy to explain.


Being correct, however, isn't the same thing as being persuasive. The conservative is rightly concerned with incentives and the long-term effects of any government program for relief, which are vital concerns for workable policy. The liberal is far less abstract: Here are some food stamps so your children don't go hungry tonight.

Never mind the long-term costs and consequences of these solutions. Yes, the education loans that supposedly make college "affordable" actually drive its costs up faster than normal inflation. Yes, housing subsidies have saddled people with homes they cannot afford. And, yes, minimum-wage laws price the people who can least afford it out of the job market. The dilemma for those of us who oppose big-government solutions is that the true costs of these "solutions" are seldom clear until it's too late.

So what's a Republican to do?

Surely not to embrace higher taxes for the rich. Leave aside the impact of higher taxes on investment. The political problem is that raising these taxes does nothing to challenge the larger liberal narrative about government. Conservatives' top priority should be promoting an alternative—that in a highly competitive, global economy, the only real economic security for ordinary Americans is the security of opportunity.

The writer mentions Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose" as the sort of thing we need to start doing again.

I have one depressing thing to say about that, though: "Free to Choose" aired on PBS. In 1980, while PBS was in fact liberal (of course), it also took its mission of presenting a lively exchange of under-reported ideas seriously. PBS gave wide exposure to another one of America's best-known rock-star conservative intellectuals (William F. Buckley, of course).

Now, in 2012, does anyone imagine PBS has any interest in airing something like Free to Choose? Or a William F. Buckley style tony conservative discussion show?

No. Liberalism has become, slowly, pure leftism. That is, while liberalism would consider it a positive political virtue to air contrary viewpoints, because such contrary viewpoints have an indirect, but real, salutary effect on our politics and discourse, the leftist mindset is much cruder and much more fixated on direct, immediate results. And that means that the old liberal idea of "balance" or "exchange of ideas" and "lively discussion" are idealistic follies, and the right course of action is simply direct and relentless propagation of the leftist message.

So while the author is right, partly, he understates the dimensions of the problem; it's not just about providing solid conservative content, it's now about finding any media through which to disseminate it. Doors once left slightly open in a liberal (classical sense) spirit are now shut tight, as crude, results-oriented leftism has displaced the last gasps of a more enlightened, process-oriented liberalism.

Today's PBS would laugh at the naivete of 1980's PBS permitting persuasive conservative voices to be transmitted on "our air."

Of course you see this same pattern -- enforced even more ruthlessly and remorselessly -- in academics. Whereas once it was at least thought that having the occasional conservative professor might be good provoking debate and keeping the intellectual climate vital and frisky, leftists have decided they no longer want to be in the same room as conservatives, do not want them spreading their lies in "their institutions," and have all but purged them.

The problem, as I keep saying, is larger than simple messaging, or about content, or about politics, even. It's about the complete capture of idea-transmitting institutions by the Gramsciite left and the almost complete blacklisting of any contrary voice.

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posted by Ace at 01:14 PM

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