Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Don’t just do something, stand there?

The more I ponder the current economic troubles, the more I am growing to think that it is quite possible that we understand the problem so poorly, and that we are so bad at guessing what the likely consequences of our actions will be, that it is entirely possible that there is nothing that the government can do that will make it better. Sometimes life is difficult. Sometimes the efforts to minimize the difficulty make it more difficult, and sometimes they don’t. The trouble is, we often don’t know which is the case until we’ve guessed at an answer, and perhaps not even then. In short, it might be that he root of some of our disquiet is a reluctance to admit that human intelligence cannot solve all of our problems. Politicians don’t like to admit that--it makes their job less important. But we’re all guilty, or, at least, most of us are.

Discussions - 20 Comments

I am arguing that very thing in a thread below. We are quarreling, Craig Scanlon and I, about government regulation for safety and some other things. He thinks government does not do its job well enough. I think what government tries to do is too often impossible for it to do, and its doing anything just complicates matters, without solving our dilemmas (or crises, as the case may be).

At our founding, we did not seem to think that any government could do everything for its people. There was no such expectation of the republic and certainly had never been any such expectation of any prior government. By Herbert Hoover, who I am studying, the expectation that government could do some things to make every individual's life better, was no longer enough. Government had to do more and government of the people could be the people's own benevolent dictator. However, even democratic authoritarianism or totalitarianism will not work. Could the conservative argument be that government is inept, because we ask too much of it?

I suppose your conclusion, that this would argue the ineptitude of human intelligence, is insulting to mankind. It is something of a refutation of evolution, too. If we are not better humans than our predecessors, then we are little better than Babel-ers.

Politicians have done quite enough already, thank you. They COMMANDED that the Too Big To Fail Quasi-Governmental mortgage entities and banks produce a Free Lunch. There is not now, nor has there ever been, in the entire history of the world, a "Free Lunch". We're living with the result.

"I'm From the Government and I'm Here to Run the Entire Economy Into a Ditch."

Obama is not trying to expand prosperity; he's trying to expand government. Choose one.

Richard Adams seems perplexed. I'm not.

"Obama is not trying to expand prosperity; he's trying to expand government. Choose one."

Noel is right. It's simple.

Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney destroyed american credibility the world over. Don't think that has played no role in this mess. I love it when conservatives mess up and then blame the limits of human nature or intelligence for what they caused.

Richard, this comes too close to Oakeshott for comfort. Waiting has the virtue of enabling one to gather facts. Consider Alan Reynolds, an economist I've always found insightful: http://www.nypost.com/seven/02212009/postopinion/opedcolumnists/the_foreclosure_five_156287.htm
He notes that the housing crisis as such is focused in five states and can be understood largely as speculators getting their just deserts. That isn't the final word, but like taking on any large project, it always makes sense to chop it into manageable parts.

"In short, it might be that he root of some of our disquiet is a reluctance to admit that human intelligence cannot solve all of our problems." Yes, prudence always rests on moral and intellectual presuppositions.

Ken. Points well taken. As a noted political philosopher once put it: S=2P.

Hey ren, what does American credibility have to do with too many people living in homes they can't afford? (I can't wait to hear this).

We seem to be freezing failure in place. It's like no one can go bankrupt anymore. That's how we always dealt with it in the past, and companies restructered and went forward or new companies took their place. But now we're going to prop up insurance companies, banks, car companies, Freddie n Fannie, homebuyers, etc. with no end in sight.

Harry Truman was a failed haberdasher. If Obama had been around then, Harry would have gotten a TARP bailout, stayed in men's hats and never gone into politics. Pinko VP Henry Wallace would have become president in 1944, we would have lost the Cold War to the Soviets and America would have a socialist president today!...Oh, wait a minute...

Well, the limit's of human rationality and will are accepted by most of the more popular "world views". The idea of limited government is of course part of the 'old republic', but it's place in the modern American empire is of course questionable.

As far as this particular "crises" being beyond rationality I think it is just a wee bit too early to call. The 3 factors of quasi-governmental loan agencies pushing moral hazard, Americans living beyond their means (both privately {trade deficit} and governmentally {gov deficit}), and failed money policies by the Fed/Gov are the known outlines and "cause" of the now important correction. It's not that we don't know what to do to fix these things, it's that we don't want to.

Indeed, the trend is to every more government sucking up ever more % of GDP (local/state/fed government passed the 40% this year). Wait until “Universal Health Care. What all this is leading to is an Argentina style take overs of private wealth (think Roth IRA) and the American government (and thus the dollar) defaulting. That's when the REAL depression will occur, but that's not for some time as the Asians have not learned yet to live with out us, but they will...;)

Oh, and PLEASE do not respond to "ren" - it's pure flame bait...

Ken Thomas:

You asked a question about Orthodoxy on another thread that I never got to answer. There is no differences between the Russian and Greek Churches (or the remnant of Christians left in Lebanon, etc.), they are simply local manifestations of the Church. They hold to the same Dogmatic and ecclesiology and correctly express it when they are not being persecuted by the communists or followers of Mohamed. They are in full communion. The Armenians church on the other hand is a very early heresy - they don't accept the 4th ecumenical council (of seven) if memory serves, but practically they are much closer in practice to the Orthodoxy - indeed they may soon end up uniting.

The Roman Church and of course the Protestants (which is a purely western phenomenon), are quite different in dogma, ecclesiology, and practice. We all my be something called "Christian" - which is a pretty elastic term - but we all are defiantly not all part of the same church. Of course, as an Orthodox I believe the Orthodox Church is the one true Church....

Hey ren, what does American credibility have to do with too many people living in homes they can't afford? (I can't wait to hear this).

Don't feed the ren. It makes Scanlon seem like an intelligent commenter.

In short, it might be that he root of some of our disquiet is a reluctance to admit that human intelligence cannot solve all of our problems.

The idea that government and "the experts" can never possess sufficent information to run everything properly was one of the key insights of the conservative movement in the 30's, 40's and 50's. Sadly the influx of "neocons", meaning basically liberals, has almost extinguished that knowledge on the right.

Perhaps the people at Ashbrook could spend less time fawning over that idiot Jaffa and take at stab at reading serious thinkers such as Hayek. The Fatal Conceit would be a fine start.

The idea that human intelligenge cannot solve our problems is a cop out. I think you just don't want to look at who is benifiting and ask did they do things that brought this about and are they now doing more things to ensure that it gets worse. Anyone catch Crazy Kasinich or however he spells his name on fox business channel saying that he had evidence that the SEC was called off the stanford furnd over two years ago by "a shodow government entitity" This sounds almost as good as the FBI being called off the 911 hijackers.

I think you just don't want to look at who is benifiting and ask did they do things that brought this about and are they now doing more things to ensure that it gets worse.

This really is not rocket surgery. the "who benefits" of current easy money policy, unlimited deficits, and unlimited government growth, is almost everybody. Most everyone in society benefits because of the (unsustainable) artificial economic growth and (temporary) prosperity benefits everyone, rich and poor alike. The politicians (of BOTH parties - yes even the "conservative" GOP) benefit because they deliver (unsustainable) entitlements and growth to the peasants.

Who "benefits" from the current correction is, well almost everybody. However, it's a tact to a sustainable pricing (i.e. housing) structure and realization of risk (i.e. no more loans to those how can't afford them). It is being driven NOT by the government but by private capital who correctly realized the risk in credit markets. The government on the other hand is trying it's hardest to get us back to the status quo - short term gain at the expense of long term viability. That is to be expected however, as look around you: people think this is a real "crises" that needs to be fought with Keynesian myths.

In other words, this is not a conspiracy of any sort but yet more evidence that this country has crossed a line in the sand - the one that leads to an Argentinian collapse, or at least a Great Britain like long decline...

"Perhaps the people at Ashbrook could spend less time fawning over that idiot Jaffa and take at stab at reading serious thinkers such as Hayek. The Fatal Conceit would be a fine start."

I am no more "people at Ashbrook" than you are John. At the end of the day there is no better way to know what those folks are focusing upon(and willing to share) than to follow the topics they post upon.

I happen to know that Schramm enjoys both thinkers, being from Claremont and the London School of Economics...expected? Ken Thomas seems to know Jaffa well, in this post he and Christopher are interested in the state of the church...Brutus thinks that the human intelligence line is a cop out, and I don't disagree with him per se. In fact I don't see how his disagreement with the human intelligence cop out, and Dr. Adams apparent agreement with it are contradictory.

At the end of the day, it depends upon where your focus or attention is drawn. Because one cannot think or follow all trains of thoughts simultaneously, because one must focus upon something particular, for this reason alone(among others I am not presently able to focus upon) Human Intelligence is flawed.

Hayek himself considered The Fatal Conceit and the Road to Surfdom as less serious, but necessary work. In fact he was worried that focus upon these works would compromise his standing as a serious quantitative economist. Even for Hayek then it was a difficult question when it came to splitting his time and mental energy between political economy and economics proper. Of course Hayek was a proud liberal eager to rehabilitate liberalism itself on classical liberal grounds. So is someone who wrote an essay entitled why I am not a conservative a conservative?

Who cares?(more of a rhetorical than disrespectful intent)

So we are smarter than the elite power brokers because we can see the future and they can't? Do you benifit from short term prosperity? I'm more interested in the long term where it looks like much of the middle class will be lost. Does that not benifit some, money is not that important when you have zillions of dollars. Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, and the power vaccum from the decline of a middle class will go up I think. I doubt that the increasing poor will inherit it. Even Limbaugh has an add from Bob Chapman for G. Edward Griffin's Creature from Jekyll Island running during his show.

I am no more "people at Ashbrook" than you are John.

I never said otherwise, JL.


So we are smarter than the elite power brokers because we can see the future and they can't?

Brutus, you mean well, but once again you are having a different discussion from everybody else. Nobody is saying that some politically connected rich people have not done well for themselves here.

The philosophical argument is over whether or not the state can "make everything better for everybody" if it chooses to do so. The conservative answer is that no, it cannot, because it must lack sufficient knowledge.

That is not to say that some people cannot game the system to their own advantage, as happened here.

how the Orthodox Church can be one, yet divided by nationality.

Think of this way: How can a Roman Catholic in Africa and Canada be "one" when they are divided by nationality (and by language, culture, geography, etc.)? How can a Methodist in China be "one" with a Methodist in England? These are rhetorical questions of course. I think you are confusing nationality with Dogma and Ecclesiology. Are you Roman Catholic? The East (and the Roman church before the papal claims got started in earnest in the middle ages after the Schism of 1054) has always held your local bishop is your "pope" and the Church is one due to the fact that he is in communion with all the other bishops of the Church (who in turn hold each other in check on Dogma).

How do American Russian (or Greek) Orthodox view Putin's accommodation of Orthodoxy?

Does not have much to do with theology, and more to do with politics true. Largely however, there is some sympathy because there was in fact a sort of "canabilization" of Russian Christians by the Roman church to a small extant, and by protestants to a much larger due to the communist persecution. For example, the baptist came in right after the Soviet break up, built churches that looked exactly like Orthodox ones, and hold eastern services! They would slowly introduce their novel dogma on an unsuspecting orthodox believers. Real underhanded stuff, so it flows both ways.

I think to the rest of your question the west has always seen more accommodation in the East with the government than there has in fact been (Russia of the 1700-1917, Byzantium, etc.). These have always been more of a take over and persecution than a partnership. The first things the Russians did after the over thow of the Czar was form synod in the ancient style. Of course Lennon had them all killed in less than a year. Where would the Greeks have been as far as "political freedom" if the Church had not been there during all those years of Ottoman (Islamic) persecution? The West has a certain understanding of it self (due mainly to the protestant revolution) that IMO realizes the role of Christianity in the development and creation of political freedom, but overstates the particular form of that Christianity (Protestantism) in said development...

Thanks, Christopher. I'll have to find out more about the Armenians, too, I see. I don't understand, though, how the Orthodox Church can be one, yet divided by nationality. How do American Russian (or Greek) Orthodox view Putin's accommodation of Orthodoxy? That has nothing to do with theology, but theological doctrine and historical/political tradition are not always separable. I would think this has some bearing on whether the Orthodox church(es) can assist in the development of political freedom throughout the world (resisting Muslim and other oppression is a first condition, of course). I appreciate your thoughts.

I don't understand though, John, why we even spend time debating the merits of big government when it has failed so many times throughout history? I think there is a tendency to get caught up in the theoretical because its an easy argument to win. I know I am discussing a different topic more or less but its just the way that I have come to vent my frustrations. Sadly, I'm just looking for signs of hope. I see some mainstream commentators: Glen Beck, the long haired guy on fox bussiness have started speaking in similar terms to what I am seeing. Arguing that it can't work is foolish. It's like spending hours arguing with someone that john edward does not really talk to dead people. I think a more productive course is to talk about how things can get better. P.S. The GOP winning elections is not getting better.

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