Quick Roundup 308

Monday, March 03, 2008

Perfect Middle = Perfect Storm

The Software Nerd offers his thoughts -- and a good way to visualize them -- on the emerging political consensus that so many people are foolish enough to be excited about:

Many "independent" voters do not hold much of an explicit political philosophy. They aren't like Objectivists who have strong views on an ideal political system, but do not like either party. Rather, the typical "independent" has accepted the principles of current status quo. He thinks that the problems lie only in implementation (i.e. bad politicians), not with political philosophy. [bold added]
John McCain's crusade for campaign finance "reform" is a perfect example of how this type of thinking can make our problems far worse even in the process of attempting to solve them.

A failure to question the prevailing wisdom is bad enough, because any changes will still be based on the same bad political philosophy that got us into our mess in the first place. But as more people gravitate towards the middle, the counterbalance between the two "extremes" has a smaller effect:
[E]ven though the center-of-gravity remains unchanged in the middle, the more people there are crowding around the middle, the faster and more likely such policies will get enacted at all. As long as enough people from both sides are far from the middle, they will delay and fight changes, and government is slowed down a bit.

This annoys the typical independent "in the middle", because they see the bickering and the "gridlock" and think it's bad. They want their politicians to stop fighting, and meet at the middle.
And this is just one more thing that makes McCain especially scary to me. He'll save us from the frying pan of gridlock by casting us into the fire of a consensus of statists.

A Building is Not an Argument, Either

And speaking of statism and efficient government, China has opened the world's largest airport terminal -- which measures two miles in length -- as a means of impressing the world in preparation for the 2008 Olympics.

Too bad that in this obsequious news clip, even the Beeb notes that the government has displaced a million people from their homes in preparation for the Olympics. "In return for not having no say, the people of Beijing get a brand new, modern airport." I would rephrase that: The Chinese government gets a brand new, modern airport.

This building, built with wealth confiscated from the Chinese people, some of whom were forced to get out of the way by vacating their homes before it was built, is an attempt to make the ruling kleptocracy look good in the eyes of the rest of the world. Too bad that, as Leonard Peikoff once put it, a "picture is not an argument". This building is nothing more than an attempt to distract anyone who passes through it from the knowledge that China oppresses its citizens and from any conception he might have of the vital importance of individual rights. It is thus like the pictures used in lieu of coherent arguments we see all the time by pro-lifers or animal "rights" activists.

As with the broken window fallacy, we can see the admittedly magnificent building built on the orders of the Chinese government, but we can't see how all that money might have been used otherwise. We will not see the millions displaced so China's leaders can look good. And we cannot see the abstractions of moral and political philosophy which show how immoral and impractical it actually is for a government to push its citizens around.

We can only see what the state was able to build thanks to the unseen effort it took to create the wealth that built this terminal, and the ingenuity of countless men, thinking as individuals around the world and over the centuries that it took to develop all the scientific and technical expertise that went into that enormous building. The Chinese government is just as much a parasite of the West as it has been an exploiter of its own people, but its efficiency is all we will see. And it will not be clear to most people that this is an efficiency of thuggery and parasitism. Too bad.

The Chinese government hopes that the West has forgotten the values that made it great, and enough that we will be fooled by the magnificent wrapper containing this package deal. We are to feel awe -- and we do thanks to the genius and effort of those who built this terminal -- and then falsely ascribe it to the practices of the immoral political system in place in China.

Related: Save the Humans -- which recently re-launched as a blog -- has proposed several mascots for the Olympics. I vote for Timmy the Tank.

We've Got Your Consensus Right Here, Al!

Mike N discusses some interesting polling data that indicate that, apparently America's unwashed masses have somehow figured out what many of its academics haven't: That "consensus" is a political -- and not a scientific -- term.

Three More Roundups
  1. Bo's latest submarine blogger roundup.
  2. Objectivist roundup #32.
  3. The William "Effin" Buckley Death Party Roundup.
Facets of Ayn Rand Online!

I probably heard about this over email first, but Andrew Medworth reminded me to add the memoirs of Charles and Mary Ann Sures to my list of links (where it is listed as Facets of Ayn Rand under "Publications" in the right hand column).

-- CAV


Daniel said...

There are four free audio recordings hidden away on the Facets of Ayn Rand website. They are under "About Ayn Rand" and then "Additional Resources." The recording with Mary Ann Sures includes most of her interview from the book, so I'd recommend listening to that before reading the book.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the tip, Daniel.