Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Depressing, Scary Read of the Day

Lynn Parramore of the Institute for New Economic Thinking delves into the shadowy work of James Buchanan, who she identifies as one of the primary driving forces behind America's steady lurch toward oligarchy. 

4 comments:

Jeff Shyluk said...

Aaargh.

Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

I second Jeff’s “aaargh” and add a plaintive moaning wail: oooOOOooohh...

Not too often I read something that makes me feel obliquely guilty for fathering children.

Jeff Shyluk said...

Thinking on this, I agree with Mr. Buchanan and Ms. Rand that the foundation of Western politics is sentiment. Is it possible to define how the Democrats or Liberals are different from the Conservatives or Republicans? Would America be better off with Mrs. Clinton in power? Think back to the legal abolition of slavery in the United States: in President Lincoln's time the Democrats and the Republicans had flipped their allegiances compared to how they are today. The only thing that has changed is sentiment.

I further agree that economy-based classes are also based on sentiment. We know what the very top and the very bottom strata look like, but can anyone definitively separate the middle classes? Who is bourgeois or proletarian in the Internet age?

We have institutionalized the political party system where in reality there is no operational distinction between the parties. We have red, blue, green, and orange factions, but all of them share a commonality: money is colour-blind. All parties follow where the money goes.

It's fiction, but it's highly prescient social commentary as well: read or re-read PKD's Valis series, Ubik in particular. Mr. Buchanan asserts that the drive of both politics and economy is personal venality, and I won't disagree with that. However, I do believe he grossly underestimates the individual's willingness to ferret out fine details that have been overlooked by the greater powers, as well as the capacity of the Universe for love. PKD spent his life studying the bars of the Black Iron Prison, and through personal salvation, God, pink light, pharmaceuticals, his ghost sister, genetic abnormality, stroke, space aliens, or any combination of the above or more, he reasons that the message of hope we seek won't come trumpeted from on high, but is collected within the little things we keep around ourselves and barely acknowledge: a heart-shaped oil stain on a concrete floor, the image of a smiley face in a rotting orange peel, a spraycan that contains in itself a universe, a soft light in the sky that has no source or explanation other than it is pretty and at the same time complete in its understanding of God.

Which isn't to say that out world is perfect and free of suffering, pretty much the opposite. We come into the world blind to nature and we all agree to keep our blinders on as much as possible lest we discover ourselves to be rolling around in the cosmic gutter. PKD reminds us that the gutter collects the refuse, but left alone long enough, it also becomes the medium for new and unexpected growth. The universe (I prefer God) doesn't speak to us through high-powered special effects but in everyday miracles.

As another lesson, I listened to a topic on the supernatural aspects of Jesus' life. The Bible covers a very wide time frame, and many events are condensed. Many stories of Jesus attribute to Him uncanny powers. I believe that Jesus made powerful things happen, and that it's also possible that in telling these stories the supernatural was invoked. I don't disbelieve the paranormal, either. However, a simpler explanation of many of Jesus' actions could be that He simply was very good at encouraging people to help Him. Changing water to wine is dramatic and a quick story beat. Another likelihood is that Jesus simply knew a friendly wine merchant and quickly got some help because let's face it: Jesus was a really nice person and it probably felt great for any of us to do Him a "solid". Sorry, Ms. Rand.

Put another way, we can look to see blockbuster revelations in the sky, but we probably won't. What we do have, though are a nearly endless series of daily mundane man-made miracles, something the Buchanans and their paid police can't take away from us. Maybe we're sitting in our glaring white jail cells awaiting re-Ned-ification, but the wrinkles in our prison uniform today resemble a happy cat trying to eat a cheeseburger.

Miracles in the gutter.

Earl J. Woods said...

Jeff has it exactly right, I think; it's the everyday miracles, like Steve's two daughters, who will may just save us from the Buchanans of the world. My experience has shown me that not only are most people good, most people are awesome, each in his or her own special way, and most people want a better world for everyone - or at the very least, they're not actively engaged in building a worse world. The killer elite, to steal a phrase, are a distinct (though powerful) minority. In the end, those everyday miracles (secular or divinely driven) will pull us through. Fingers crossed.