American Elephants


Ignorance of the Past Leads to Folly in the Present! by The Elephant's Child

Investors Business Daily has a column today suggesting that the burgeoning theme in Washington, quietly whispered among the power brokers is — the “new normal.” I recognize that one.  We’ve been here before.  The American Dream is over, Japan is Number One.  Oh wait — that was way back in January, 1990.

I have seen articles suggesting that unemployment is destined to remain high—permanently. Manufacturing will continue to shrink. A home is not a good investment. There will be no more high paying jobs (well, except in government of course, where all the bright people are).   The U.S. is not going to be a fast-growing superpower, and we need to stop acting like one.  We need more government agencies run by the best and brightest  to take care of all the people who are displaced by the ‘new normal.’  It is unfortunate, but we must resign ourselves to double-digit unemployment.

The world is running out of energy, so we must live more sustainable lives. We must use less energy, less precious water.  We can no longer afford to squander space and energy and wealth on strip malls and suburbs. We need more sustainable communities and more  sustainable lives in more compact sustainable cities. All stuffed in there, cheek to jowl. That’s “the new urbanism.” Another lefty dream. See this interesting graph!

China could pass the United States as the world’s largest economy as early as 2016.  The International Monetary Fund said that back in April.  This assumes that if China is growing at 10% today, it will always grow at 10%.  China made a big mistake with its one child policy.  By 2040, China’s elderly population will exceed the total population of Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Japan. Every elderly person will be supported by two workers. Good luck with that. Will they dispose of their elderly as they have disposed of those unfortunate girl children? And what about all those young men who cannot find wives? Will they fill up their empty cities?

This is straight line thinking. If unemployment is high today, it will always be high.  If we are short of energy today, we will always be short of energy.  Nothing will ever change. You will notice that men are still wearing powdered wigs and writing with quill pens. The ships that ply the ocean are propelled by canvas sails, and it takes a long time to get anywhere.  And we are still a small nation of 13 states.  Nothing will ever change.

We have an unusual number of people invested in predicting the future, not only in silly media columns. They have devised computer models to predict the climate in 50 years and 100 years, and are busily trying to make regulations and laws to prepare for the future predicted by their computers. Odd, when our best weather forecasters have trouble predicting the weather for the following week.  Seven days is about their limit.

America was settled by people who had the courage and independent spirit to pack up and cross a vast ocean in a voyage that lasted months rather than days. They knew little about the wilderness that awaited them.  They built their own communities and made up their own rules.  And once the towns got too big or the rules too onerous, they packed up and moved on to where they could again build their own communities and make up their own rules.

Because it was a new country, they had to find ways to adapt, to create and  invent to cope with a new land and new surroundings.  There was no heavy hand of government to spell out what they could and could not do. They started out trying to create what they already knew, and as they changed the land, the land changed them. American exceptionalism derives from that creative, independent spirit.  How odd that our current president should see this country as no more exceptional than any other.

How very strange that the left insists that the American Dream is to be found in “the new normal” and in “the new urbanism.” Have to stamp out all that independent spirit! The government will nurture the creativity, we just need an agency to direct it into the correct path.

Ignorance of the past leads to folly in the present. Freedom and democracy require a modicum of truth to survive. I like these lines from Bruce Thornton’s Plagues of Mind:

The importance of history lies in its ability to give a sort of visual depth to our expectations and ideas, to place them in the only context that matters—the dense and intricate record of what humans have thought and attempted and experienced, their successes and failures, their nobility and pettiness.  History gives us ideals to strive for and failures both practical and moral to avoid. By familiarizing ourselves with the record of humanity’s deeds and crimes, we achieve a critical distance from the manifold passions and interests of the present, and we win a calm space in which we can judge with a cooler eye, the hectic novelties and temptations bombarding us.  Without that, we fall into the trap of judging everything from the standards and “knowledge” of the present.



There’s a Lot of Misguided Thinking Going On Here! by The Elephant's Child
July 18, 2011, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, History, Humor, Liberalism, Literature | Tags: , ,

There is a disturbing tendency among many towards straight-line thinking.  If the stock market is down today, it will only be down more tomorrow and we’re all doomed.  I just saw an article claiming that a house is no longer a good investment now or in the foreseeable future.

A bad food crop means world starvation and a slight warming trend means catastrophic global warming. Peak oil falls into the same category. This only seems to work with negative events. Nobody seizes upon a wonderful day and writes about it’s being the harbinger of constant wonderful days. Is it just a gloomy disposition?

President Obama has been insistent upon comparing his recession to the Great Depression.  Whether that’s because he wants to be compared to FDR, or wants people to understand the terrors he faces, I don’t know. The actual recession is far less serious than the Great Depression, and has only been made worse by administration ineptness, and adherence to discredited economic policies.

Then there is the problem of confusing cause and effect. The New York Times’ David Leonhardt goes off on the real culprit — consumer spending.  Discretionary spending on restaurant meals, entertainment, education and insurance is down in this slump almost 7 percent, when it’s never fallen before more than 3 percent per capita. It’s all the consumers’ fault.

I have been rereading a wonderful essay by Tom Wolfe from the 1970s — Radical Chic which describes the courting of romantic radicals like the Black Panthers, striking grapeworkers and the Young Lords by New York’s socially elite.  He focuses particularly on one symbolic event: the gathering of the radically chic at Leonard Bernstein’s Park Avenue apartment to meet spokesmen of the Black Panther Party, to hear them out and talk over ways of aiding their cause.  The players and the event have changed, but the strange phenomenon continues.

You had Jane Fonda celebrating the brave Viet Cong peasants, and heroin chic in which fashion decreed that the in look was that of an addict on the street.   Everybody is wearing Sadat’s keffiyeh, We have torn jeans, worn-out jeans, clothes that look that they came from your grandmother’s ragbag.

Destroyed cotton t-shirt , Balmain, $1,624, collection at Jeffrey, NYC.  Canvas shorts, Bottega Veneta $590.  Shell earrings, Celestina, $780.  Webbing Belt, Burberry $325.  Ribbon ID bracelets, Mianstal $120 each. The Look : total cost $3,559 (plus tax).     (Photo and prices from American Digest)
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Diversity reigns on the nation’s campuses, which oddly seems to mean only color of skin and ethnicity — which are only the most diverse things about a person according to those who are deeply fixated on race.  The rest of us think that two people of whatever color and ethnicity who are both Army brats probably have a lot more in common than two people who happen to come from different parts of Africa.  A couple of young moms who had their babies on the same day in the same hospital probably care more about that fact that about the difference in the color of their babies.

I don’t venture to connect all the dots, nor to pose some philosophic truth. I’m just noticing that there’s a lot of fuzzy thinking going on.




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