American Elephants

Politics and Human Nature Are Often at Cross Purposes by The Elephant's Child

Think back to the birth of our nation, the 1770s, revolutionary times. News traveled on horseback, and was disseminated in the larger cities by town criers, or fliers from the printing press – if there was one. For seaside towns, maybe by boat (sailing ship). Motorized anything was far in the future. People probably didn’t find out what happened until many days later. The famed Pony Express didn’t begin until 1860.

People who had never met George Washington had no idea what he looked like until they saw a reproduction of a painting or a bad sketch. What must it have been like to know only the name of the president of the United States?  Or was it not really important in those days?

Did you watch the Democrat Debates at all? How many of the faces at the little podiums were you able to identify? We are clearly entering a time when you can just enter a name and get a picture of the person, without their being well-known or important. China apparently has everybody’s face documented, so they can be tracked.

We have, not all that much noticed, entered into a new age. Many, if not most, people have cell phones in their pockets or purse. And can instantly take pictures. Not everybody is at the stage of recognizing the importance of getting a shot, but it’s coming. Immediate case: AOC after her accusations of “concentration camps for children” didn’t go over too well, apparently flew down to the border to prove it, and was photographed weeping while she clung to a chain link fence, the concentration camp barrier. Except somebody had their cell phone. The concentration camp fence that brought on the tears, surrounded an empty parking lot that her careful picture didn’t include.

There’s a lot of that going on these days, and those who publish pictures are completely aware of the possibilities of propaganda, and of subtly arranging what you will see to promote what they want you to think. Or perhaps you remember the Greek columns on the stage when Obama was running for office, or in the Democrats’ first presidential debates, the “impression” of the front of the White House in the background (incorrect because it’s illegal to use a real one) The Presidential seal (altered because it’s illegal to use a real one) will appear, podiums will attempt to look like those actually used by the president. All intended to give you the subtle idea that the candidates belong.

The “founding fathers” (a term from McKinley’s speechwriter) had no idea of the inventions to come that would alter our perceptions of our government and those who were chosen for high office., but they were thoughtful men and recognized the imperfections of human nature. That once you put a bunch of people in charge and let them collect taxes to do stuff, you are setting up great opportunity for the impure of heart. We read reports often of teachers who have sexually abused students. The Catholic Church’s celibate priests aren’t always. Large sums of money convince some that some of it will never be missed. Whatever you can think of in the way of cheating, abuse, stealing, appropriating, propagandizing, lying, whatever, will take place because we are all members of the human race.

We form governments to make laws, and we don’t assign any one person to the job but lots and lots chosen by all the people. And out of that we get some winners and some vast disappointments, and we probably don’t know the half of it. That’s why we have locks on our doors in spite of all the laws and regulations. And why we have an Electoral College for our votes, and why we try to keep those who chose to come here illegally, and not by the legal way, who never took the oath of citizenship from voting in our elections. And why those who would have their chances of winning improved by having a lot of illegals voting, want to do away with the Electoral College. Or in a different field, why when you buy a plastic carton of strawberries at the store, the pretty ones are at the top and the unripe ones at the bottom with only the red part visible.

Be aware of human nature, and do notice that Elizabeth Warren is promising to take your health insurance away and replace it with an enormous bureaucracy to tell you what care you can have and what medicines and what doctors and what treatment, and when you can’t have any because it costs too much.

An “Oldie” Worth Remembering by The Elephant's Child

As long as I’m doing Constitutions and what people believe, here is an oldie but goodie, with the late Milton Friedman explaining the most basic facts of Capitalism to Phil Donahue, who, of course, doesn’t get it at all. Always worth a refresher on what is important.

I particularly like John Steele Gordon’s  An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, which beautifully describes how Capitalism and a free people who can act on their ideas and dreams have brought forth a powerful and wealthy nation that is the envy of the world.

The Liberal Faith In the Perfectibility of Politics by The Elephant's Child

Perhaps it all starts with a childish whine “It isn’t fair.” Some mothers respond that life isn’t fair, and set their offspring on the path of conservatism, and others ignore the whiny brat or give the kid a hug and a cookie (rewarding the child for the whine) and tell him yes, that’s really too bad and raise a little liberal.  That may be a bit fanciful, but what is clear is that a goodly portion of young people have grown up with the idea that America is not fair, and needs fixing.

Irving Kristol once wrote “In every society the overwhelming majority of people live lives of considerable frustration and if society is to endure, it needs to rely on a goodly measure of stoical resignation.”

Liberals have never been ones for stoical resignation. They want to fix things. Republicans are inclined to oppose Big Government, and ascribe most of our country’s problems to  Liberals’ fondness for Big Government. I think this is incorrect. Liberals want desperately to be in charge. They want to win. They want to defeat Conservatives utterly and so completely that they will never again be strong enough to annoy or compete. But Big Government or burgeoning bureaucracy is a result of their policies, not their initial aim.

I saved this quote from a 1999 Wall Street Journal editorial.

The error behind all these failures is the liberal faith in the perfectibility of politics. Liberals believe that the next law, or next federal agency, will somehow make up for imperfect human nature. But America’s founders understood that politics could never be perfected precisely because men weren’t perfect. So they designed a system with a minimum of bureaucratic and legal control in which disputes could be settled by political debate. They did not want to rely on lawyers or experts who could maneuver around or through a maze of campaign and ethics laws. It’s taken us twenty years of picking through the ruins of liberal reform to relearn how right they were.

The next law will make up for imperfect human nature. One of liberals’ most persistent desires is to eliminate poverty. They worry a lot about the gap between the rich and the poor. They have earnestly tried to fix that ever since Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and his War on Poverty. We have spent $15 trillion of other people’s money and currently have more people on food stamps than ever before in the nation’s history. The EBT card is a combination of food stamps and cash benefits. The Tsarnave brothers apparently bought their bomb supplies with their EBT cards. We could give each person in poverty a yearly check for $69,000 and save money.

We need fixes for fat people, fixes for standard lightbulbs, fixes for cars not getting high enough mpg, or just using gasoline, fixes for home appliances, fixes for fat kids, fixes for unaffordable college, fixes (again) for infrastructure, fixes for bullies, fixes for transgendered people’s bathroom needs, fixes for women who don’t want to pay for their own contraceptives, fixes for people who try to capture rainwater, fixes for farm dust. So many, many annoyances.

The most evident case is, of course, the best health care system in the world. It must be fixed because government regulation is driving up the cost. (Never mind that the cost was declining). The British have  National Health Service, which is socialized medicine. Horrible system, but it’s “free” at the point of service, and people are afraid to lose it and apt to continually vote for Labour to keep it. Note the important phrase. So they kill off a lot of their older people with neglect and denied care, but it’s “free at the point of service.”

Lots of new regulations, so providers have to expand their bureaucracies. And on top of the expanded health care system, comes a vast federal bureaucracy to control, deny, regulate, manage and expand. Liberals look at this diagram of the needed new bureaucracy with thousands of  highly paid, unionized employees, and are absolutely convinced that President Obama’s promises about keeping your own doctor if you like him and keeping your own insurance and it will all cost less— “bend the cost curve down” was the phrase— are absolutely true and will come to fruition just as he says. It is and was an enormous lie.

So Democrats don’t go into a political campaign saying they want bigger government. Republicans accuse them of it, but it is obviously not true. We will get Big Government because that is the inevitable result of liberal faith in the perfectibility of politics. You have the perfect example before you this week in the machinations of the Internal Revenue Service. Mark Steyn recounts the travails of Frank VanderSloot, whose offense was that he decided to donate money to the Romney campaign. After audits of his return, his business return, and  a Department of Labor investigation of his cattle ranch , the government could find nothing on Mr. VanderSloot, but it has cost him $80,000 in legal fees to fend off the bureaucrats. A big bureaucracy thinks it’s fine to demand that an evangelical group report in writing what they pray about. Anybody have relatives running for office?

It has often been said that every Liberal has a tyrant inside, struggling to get out. They don’t like studies. They’re uninterested in consequences and baffled by the idea of incentives. They need to be in charge so they can fix the things that aren’t fair.

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