What Ma Says ...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

... vs. What She Does

Two articles illustrating just how dangerous a failure to grasp fundamentals among the public can be have come to my attention this morning.

First, fellow Objectivist blogger Brian Phillips, who is fond of calling Houston's new leftist mayor "Ma Parker," makes the following observation regarding a letter she and some other officials sent to the chairmen of United and Continental. The two airlines may merge and Ma Parker obviously would like the new company headquartered in Houston, where Continental currently is:

I agree that Houston is generally more pro-business than other cities. However, Ma and the gang at city hall are just playing cheerleader--they are telling the chairmen one thing while telling the citizens of Houston something entirely different. While pleading for jobs they present Houston as a utopia for businesses; while begging for electoral support and appeasing constituents they bash local businesses.
Agreed, but I'd carry the metaphor even further. Which of these audiences can change the very playing field? The constituents, by virtue of the ballot box. In that sense, Ma Parker is also a coach.

It's as if Houston were a huge football team that's on a roll and about to score. Coach Parker's trying to convince the quarterback to run the ball in across the goal line. The problem is, some of his teammates have dug a huge pit in the end zone and camouflaged it. Parker knows about the pit and plans to dig it even deeper at halftime. She knows how to get her team motivated and feeling good about doing that, too. She has them thinking that the pit will help them score.

Sure, Ma might get the quarterback to increase the score on this play, but what good would it really do Houston to injure its quarterback? And, assuming he survives the next play, what about next time, if, amid the deafening roar, he runs straight into an even deeper pit?

The world is full of cheerleader-coaches like Ma Parker. Syndicated columnist Froma Harrop is another. Here's how she gets the boys to work those shovels just a little bit faster. This time, she's hoping to get the team to dig a new pit, in the form of land-use regulations:
The best news, though, is that despite the city's reputation for being "ugly, flat, polluted and hot," the great majority of metro residents really like the town, ...


Houston doesn't offer fine beaches, mountains or clean air, but it does boast a friendly, open and entrepreneurial spirit. Can Houston build an urban environment in which nomadic information workers will choose to live in the 21st century? Sure. But the bigger question is: Does Houston want to?
Actually, this makes me think of a far better metaphor: Froma Harrop is like a popular, but insecure prom queen giving dating advice to a friend who is plain and flat-chested, but has a great personality. The guy her friend likes already sees something there and will probably come around in time, but Froma tells her to get a boob job, dye her hair blond, and start acting a lot more outgoing and superficial, like all the other popular girls.

The problem is, if the "ugly, flat" girl goes through with it, she'll lose her man in the long haul, because topography is a lot less important than what she has to offer over everyone else. I know, because I fell for her once, even though Houston was "ugly, flat, polluted, and hot," and a part of me will always want her back.

When people do not think in terms of essentials, they lack confidence because they do not understand what success really takes. This insecurity is what makes them fall prey to package deals of self-defeating "solutions" and the (incompatible) results they truly want. What Houston really needs is to keep doing what has made it successful (and do more of it, more consistently), and for more players on the team to learn something about the nature of capitalism. I'm glad to see Brian Phillips working on that.

Bone-crushing pits in the end-zone hurt quarterbacks, banality scares the good ones away, and central planning in whatever form will kill Houston's golden goose.

-- CAV

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