Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | May 9, 2012

You’re killing me, Mitt

As with so many Romney-related flaps, the one surrounding his observation that he could take credit for President Obama’s restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler has been confused and out of focus.  Well, maybe not out of focus, but focused narrowly, and with all the superficiality that can be mustered in 24 short hours, on Romney’s unconscionable triumphalism at Obama’s expense.

The temptation is strong to just let this one go.  But it’s actually a perfect example of where Romney is, um, challenged, and why my enthusiasm for him remains tepid.  The short version of my point is that the president has no business restructuring auto companies and trying to guide them through “recovery.”  He is not empowered by any part of the US Constitution to do this, and it’s a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea in any case.

If I want the services of someone who’s good at reorganizing auto companies, I’ll invest money in a private business.  That’s not what we elect a president for.  The president of the United States, our highest elected public official, needs to keep his paws off the management of private companies.  When he doesn’t, the window is flung open to cronyism, graft, bad business decisions, and distorted, uneconomic incentives.

The US auto industry keeps snuffling up to the public trough – has been doing so for 30 years now – because it is required by the government to operate under unprofitable conditions.  It is tended by the federal government as an interest of politically connected constituencies.  It has been artificially constrained and incentivized for so many years now that to say it has “recovered” is a wholly political statement, bearing no useful relation to the Big Three’s actual profit-loss or earnings picture, stock price, or any other measure of business health.

In fact, Chrysler’s much-touted “payback” of its taxpayer bailout turned out to involve a shell game in which the US Department of Energy is lending Fiat $3.5 billion so that Fiat can pay off its US Treasury loan and pump Chrysler with cash by exercising an option to buy Chrysler stock.  The Washington Times describes the transaction as follows:

So, to recap, the Obama Energy Department is loaning a foreign car company $3.5 billion so that it can pay the Treasury Department $7.6 billion even though American taxpayers spent $13 billion to save an American car company that is currently only worth $5 billion.

That’s government management in a nutshell.  Romney can’t manage the auto industry better – not from the Oval Office.  No one can.  If he wants to run auto companies, he needs to see if Ford, GM, or Chrysler is hiring.  If he wants to guide them through bankruptcy, he can become a federal regulator or get himself appointed as a bankruptcy judge – and in either case, follow the law on the matter as written by Congress, rather than getting creative and exercising powers the Constitution doesn’t give him.

When Romney speaks of the US auto industry recovering, he is speaking in the language of big, dirigiste government, accepting at face value the short-term effect of a bailout process that has served mainly to perpetuate unprofitable but politically entrenched conditions.  It guarantees that more subsidies will be needed down the road.  The taxpayer had to be billed for getting the Chevy Volt built and maintaining the political sway of the UAW, because those are special-interest mandates that no one would pay for voluntarily.  The bailout under Obama has simply been a pretext for expanding the unprofitable conditions that make the US auto industry unable to truly “recover,” in the sense of not continuing to need bailouts.

A president who doesn’t see this is hard to get excited about.  There is no point in claiming that Romney does see it, when he never speaks as if he does.  About the auto industry bailout, what he ought to say is that it was improperly handled by Obama through executive actions that must not serve as precedents; that it hasn’t turned out to be a good deal for the taxpayer; and that due-process bankruptcy without presidential intervention would have been the right way to proceed and should have been defaulted to.

Romney’s utterances on this topic indicate that he is a big-government politician.  Not only is he not offended by the bailout, he’s not offended by the Obama administration’s dirigiste approach to restructuring GM and Chrysler.  He’s taking credit for it.

In the sense that he would not engage in Chicago-style cronyism, I think Romney would be better than Obama.  (There are a number of other ways in which Romney comes out on the long end of the personal- and professional-integrity comparison.)  But in terms of improper autonomy in the executive, and structural opportunities for cronyism, he would probably either set or confirm some very undesirable precedents while in office.  He needs an active, curmudgeonly Congress to thwart him, early and often.

The president is not the nation’s CEO-in-chief.  Regarding domestic policy, he should talk principle, not business-reorganization specifics.  I’d like to hear more from him on foreign and security policy; on domestic policy, it is far more important to be courageous about the principles of limited government than to be knowledgeable about reorganizing businesses.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

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Responses

  1. “Regarding domestic policy, he should talk principle, not business-reorganization specifics. ”

    Are there any successful candidates that do that any more? I think we’re stuck with lowest-common-denominator politics.

    “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” H.L. Mencken

  2. Don;t be so critical of Romney, your tepid support is pathetic. He has labored tirelessly for years now and is our only hope at this crucial juncture. I had expected more of you, I thought you understood how dangerous Obama is, apparently you do not.

  3. Actually, FOOTSIE, I was originally undecided about posting this criticism. But I am certain that it won’t persuade anyone not to vote for Romney. The biggest and most important issue for the republic is replacing Obama, and voters who understand that are going to forgive Romney a lot in order to send Obama home.

    What I won’t do is pretend that big-governmentism is something acceptable when a Republican talks it up and takes credit for it. It’s not. I won’t be electing Romney to be an even better auto-industry reorganizer than Obama has been, and no one else should either. I do not buy into Romney’s stance on government interventionism: it’s bad, destructive, and will put the final nail in the coffin of our liberties if we don’t oppose it.

    Meanwhile, “I wrote the blueprint for Obama” is not a winning electoral strategy anyway, and Romney needs to get off it quick.

    • WAKE UP AMERICA, SUPPORT ROMNEY IN THE ELECTION, HE NEEDS OUR HELP

      • No.

        I will vote for George Allen. I will vote for Keith Fimian. (Both will probably be the Senatorial and House nominees for me.)

        I will vote for Conservatives only. I will not vote for Liberal Democrats masquerading as Republicans.

        Romney is a phony, and has no intention of governing any other way than the Statist Liberal polls tell him to govern. The only thing that you can say about him that makes him different from The Obummer Puppet is that Romney is a Liberal Democrat circa 1960, not a Marxist perpetually stuck in 1968.

        He’s a weathercock. And the GOP was collectively STUPID enough to stack the deck for him. Just what we need to do.. vote for last time’s loser. Great strategy there.

        The dirty little secret of the leftsie, rightsie in the 2008 GOP nominating race is that McCain won to Romney’s right. He won on his fiscal issues, and national defense. I would have rather had Huck win the whole thing… at least we’d have gone down fighting, not on the Wah-wagon.

        But then they don’t call the Grand Old Party, the STUPID PARTY without good reason to do so.

        If Obummer loses (looking more likely) it won’t be because Romney Won. I fully expect him to begin reversing positions and promises within his first 100 days, and by the end of his first year on office, the Tax Collectors for the Welfare State will be bellying up to the bar, with Romney holding the spoon.

        The government is too far gone to save. We WILL hit bankruptcy. Social Security and Medicare WILL fail. It is over, and it was over the minute George W. Bush lost the Social Security partial privatization fight.

        Europe will slide off into oblivion first. The smoke and teargas will waft across the Atlantic in just enough time to see our cities do much the same.

        The proverbial car was driven off the cliff in 2006… The 2008 election of the Marxist Ham Sandwich only meant that we were going to “stand on it”… Republican arm flapping isn’t going to make the plummeting hooptie fly.

        We haven’t reached bottom yet.. the panic isn’t apparent because the ground rush hasn’t started.

        It will.

        -with sadness for the loss of a once great Republic… John

        • Second.

          • So, tell me, John, what do you really think of Romney and the state of the ex-republic?
            :-)

            rafa

        • Very well said TMF..
          Ultimately responsibility for our decline is not the fault of politicians though, but our own. After all we put them there in the first place. If History is an example, any attempt at fundamentally reversing a Nation’s/Civilization’s direction/decline usually ends up with massive conflict. The options are either that, or discovering new sources of substantial wealth and/or resources, regardless of who happens to be in power.
          Maybe our scientists will show the way, since our politicians cannot.

  4. Romney is simply following the contemporary corporatist/mercantilist scenario to which American business is now committed. The tax and regulatory structure imposed by the state makes them partners in both the profit and operation of corporations. This is the definition of fascism. Neither Romney nor his advisers find anything out of whack with what he’s said because that’s the norm as they see it, and so it is with a significant portion of the electorate they’re trying to engage. This is America 2012, not Grover Cleveland against Benjamin Harrison.

    My favorite junkyard has a poster with the names of American auto marques that are no longer manufactured, such as Auburn, Cord, Duesenburg, De Soto, Hupmobile, etc. There are over 2400 of them.

  5. Please, folks. I’m as conservative as anybody here, and I detest Romney’s willingness to engage in things that are not the proper concern of the national government. But that does not mean I will not vote for President.

    Mitt Romney, for all his big-government tendencies, would not do any of the following:

    (1) force US gun shops illegally to sell weapons to drug runners, in the hopes that the guns turning up in attacks on US border guards could be used in sound bites against gun ownership.

    (2) Appoint a criminal to Attorney General who would choose whether to enforce laws or not by the melanin content of the perpetrator’s skin.

    (3) Formulate policies specifically to enrich his campaign’s donors, and financially to ruin his opponents.

    (4) Deliberate inflame the envy of citizens against other citizens in an attempt to foment Marxist-style revolution in American streets.

    (5) Ignore even the tepid boundaries that modern jurisprudence admits the US Constitution places on the Executive.

    (6) Quite a few other impeachable offenses, too numerous to name here.

    Mitt Romney is a big-government Republican; that’s bad. Barack Obama is an immoral, narcissistic, Marx-inspired criminal. That’s the death of the Republic.

    There is a difference, and your vote matters.

    • philwynk — profound apologies that your comment went to the spam queue. I see no reason why it would have, so can only apologize.

      I agree that we must replace Obama and Romney is the only option for doing that. From a pragmatic standpoint, I prefer to do everything I can to avert a break with our history of constitutional government. Romney can’t fix America, but he won’t actively try to destroy us. We would gain breathing space by electing him.

      • The spam queue? Shouldn’t it have gone to the lunatic queue?

        • The inmate calls the guard a lunatic.

    • OK. Let me see if I have this right…

      We have been reduced to having to choose between the lesser of two, count them, two evils. Or, if you prefer, the lesser liberal.

      Right?

      rafa

      • gee, and all along I was thinking that folks regarded the restrictions on liberty imposed by governments to be a necessary evil.

  6. I really needn’t argue the point about the bailout of GM. The President made the right call, and the overwhelming majority of Americans agree. A strategic industry employing many thousands of Americans needed a loan to get it through a crisis. The private banks, ruined by greed, hubris, and the consequences of ideologically driven degegulation, couldn’t and wouldn’t provide the bridging capital. Our auto-industry is now working its way back to health and the money is being repaid. Autos are being made and sold, and consumers who want to buy American have choice and competition. This may be ideologically distasteful for the far-right, but much less so for most Americans than the fruits of the driven financial de-regulation which precipitated the general economic crisis that brought the auto-industry to its knees.

    (Whether a former career public-servant – presumably enjoying a humungous taxpayer funded pension on terms that are unavailable to private-sector employees – is the sort of person who should be decrying the use of public money to help save the jobs of less fortunate or protected Americans is another “distaste” issue entirely)

    But the argument about the unions doesn’t hold up either. German auto-makers BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes are also fully unionized. Why, if a unionized labour-force is so debilitating, are these companies doing so well in world markets? (You might also ask why Germany and the Skandanavians – the nations with the most lavish welfare on the planet – have come through the recession with low unemployment and in rude health).The general answer is organization, and a training and education system that values manufacturing and innovation. High gas-prices in Europe have also driven the development of innovative fuel-efficient vehicles which the US industry, too long cosseted by low energy prices, didn’t try to compete with until it was too late. We are now having to play a catch-up game.

    Most Americans live in the real world, not an ideological construct. In the real world, saving capitalism from itself can sometimes be a necessary option.

    As for Romneycare: Not only does he lack convictions, he doesn’t even have the courage of the convictions he lacks. You are welcome to follow him into political oblivion in November.

    • From Steve Landsberg’s book, “The Armchair Economist”:

      “The Iowa Car Crop

      A thing of beauty is a job forever, and nothing is more beautiful than a succinct and flawless argument. A few lines of reasoning can change the way we see the world.
      I found one of the most beautiful arguments I know while I was browsing through a textbook written by my friend David Friedman. While the argument might not be original, David’s vision is so clear, so concise, so incontrovertible, and so delightfully surprising, that I have been unable to resist sharing it with students, relatives, and cocktail party acquaintances at every opportunity. The argument involves international trade, but its appeal is less in its subject matter than in its irresistible force.
      David’s observation is that there are two technologies for producing automobiles in America. One is to manufacture them in Detroit, and the other is to grow them in Iowa. Everybody knows about the first technology; let me tell you about the second. First, you plant seeds, which are the raw material from which automobiles are constructed. You wait a few months until wheat appears. Then you harvest the wheat, load it onto ships, and said the ships eastward into the Pacific Ocean. After a few months, the ships reappear with Toyotas on them.
      International trade is nothing but a form of technology. The fact that there is a place called Japan, with people and factories, is quite irrelevant to Americans’ well-being. To analyze trade policies, we might as well assume that Japan is a giant machine with mysterious inner workings that convert wheat into cars.
      Any policy designed to favor the first American technology over the second is a policy designed to favor American auto producers in Detroit over American auto producers in Iowa. A tax or a ban on “imported” automobiles is a tax or a ban on Iowa-grown automobiles. If you protect Detroit carmakers from competition, then you must damage Iowa farmers, because Iowa farmers are the competition.
      The task of producing a given fleet of car can be allocated between Detroit and Iowa in a variety of ways. A competitive price system selects that allocation that minimizes the total production cost.* It would be unnecessarily expensive to manufacture all cars in Detroit, unnecessarily expensive to grow all cars in Iowa, and unnecessarily expensive to use the two production processes in anything other than the natural ratio that emerges as a result of competition.
      That means that protection for Detroit does more than just transfer income from farmers to autoworkers. It also raises the total cost of providing Americans with a given number of automobiles. The efficiency loss comes with no offsetting gain; it impoverishes the nation as a whole.
      There is much talk about improving the efficiency of American car manufacturing. When you have two ways to make a car, the road to efficiency is to use both in optimal proportions. The last thing you should want to do is to artificially hobble one of your production technologies. It is sheer superstition to think that an Iowa-grown Camry is any less “American” than a Detroit-built Taurus. Policies rooted in superstition do not frequently bear efficient fruit.
      In 1817, David Ricardo—the first economist to think with the precision, though not the language, of pure mathematics—laid the foundation for all future thought about international trade. In the intervening 150 years his theory has been much elaborated but its foundations remain as firmly established as anything in economics. Trade theory predicts first that if you protect American producers in one industry from foreign competition, then you must damage American producers in other industries. It predicts second that if you protect American producers in one industry from foreign competition, there must be a net loss in economic efficiency. Ordinarily, textbooks establish these propositions through graphs, equations, and intricate reasoning. The little story that I learned from David Friedman makes the same propositions blindingly obvious with a single compelling metaphor. That is economics at its best.”

    • One seldom gets an opportunity to peruse 5 paragraphs of pixels composed of more deluded misinformation than you’ve somehow managed to peck into your keyboard. The wisdom of “saving” failing car manufacturers (or any other business, including banks) has been rebutted by both historical experience and logic. We needn’t expand on it.

      Chinese workers are also unionized, as are Mexicans. There’s nothing wrong with free people combining their efforts to achieve goals, we live, after all, in the United States, saved by the Union Army. The problem for the TWO car manufacturers in this case was the nature of the contracts signed between themselves and the unions, which establish certain work rules, wages, seniority, retirement, health benefits and so on. Those contracts are not the same as the contracts that bind the European manufacturers and their employees together. The management of the car manufacturers signed these contracts with the union representation. Perhaps they made a mistake. The unions themselves bear some responsibility. Those
      who do not bear any responsibility are the US taxpayers.

      We do live in a real world. That’s the problem. Real people eventually have to give up their own property to satisfy the ideological musings of lunatics.

      • The evidence is that the bailout is working just fine, profitability and financial health is restored, and your money is being repaid. The employees are working productively rather than claiming benefits paid by the taxpayer.
        Not all bail-outs are merited or successful, but some are. Its a matter of circumstances and judgment. The President got it right – as he has in most of his other decisions.

        No doubt Mexican auto-workers are unionized. But it rather proves my point. Mexican lack of organization is the crucial issue that defines Mexican productivity. Chinese auto-workers aren’t unionized in any meaningful sense of the word. Chinese workers are compulsorily enrolled in state-controlled and managed “syndicates”. Nowdays in advanced democracies unions are confined almost exclusively to the public sector and traditional industries. They are almost absent from the “new economy” both here and in Western Europe.

        • Your point is that Mexicans are disorganized?

          • They do not have the same quality of physical and administrative infrastructure or rule of law (i.e. organization) that we and the Western Europeans have.

            • “Quality of physical and administrative infrastructure”? You’ve been taking lessons in gibberish again, haven’t you? How, by the way, would you measure such a thing? By the thickness of the concrete in divided highways? By the number of spokesmen the attorney general of a state might have? By the number of different cops you would have to pay off to operate a business? During my extended winter stays on the Pacific coast of Mexico I’ve witnessed the disorganization of the Mexicans in person. A prime example is their winter league baseball. You never know, when a batter hits the ball, if he’s going to run to first or third base or just stand there. And when a fielder catches the ball it’s impossible to predict to what base he might throw it. Often the umpire calls a batter out on the second strike. They’re just too disorganized.

    • Ok…Ok…so “choice”, at least in the socialist jargon, is properly and frequently used to support the issue of a woman’s “choice” to abort a viable baby. It’s also OK to use that justification to support other culture-killing stuff like same sex marriage, immigration and such.

      Yup, you guys support “choice” when it comes to ending life, having sex and crossing borders ilegally. But, and let’s be clear about this, in what ammounts to an enormous display of blatant hypocrisy, “choice” should not be allowed when it comes to being forced to “join” a union in order to be able to work or peaceably earn a living. Nor can the membership of that union be allowed a “choice” as to what party or political liberal/socialist dung heap their dues are funneled to.

      rafa

      • Forgotten to take our meds again, have we?

        • Meds…? Meds…? Oh, I see. Got ‘ya, didn’t I…?

          rafa

    • Says the little boy, whistling past the graveyard.

  7. “The wisdom of “saving” failing car manufacturers (or any other business, including banks) has been rebutted by both historical experience and logic. We needn’t expand on it.”

    Au contraire. We certainly do need to expand upon it because, when times are difficult, most voters don’t base their votes on either experience or logic, but on whomever seems to offer the most hope and whose promises of beneficial change most resonate with them.

    Just as 75% of buyers make emotion based decisions, selecting a leader is an emotional decision for the majority. Only 25% vote based on intellectual considerations.

    Romney is a RINO, which is far from a leftist like Obama. His comfort level with ‘saving’ GM and Chrysler is due to a lack of vision. Doing nothing and allowing bankruptcy to take its natural course is a formula for Presidential failure with the public, if he’s unable to effectively communicate how that shall lead to better results. Currently, no politician is offering an explanation that emotionally resonates.

    Republicans stating in effect that, “things are going to be really tough, many will not survive but for those left, eventually things will be better and stabilize, allowing for sustainable growth” is not a message that will find more than a minority of adherents.

    Deliver that message and the majority of the public will vote for Obama who’ll label that message “scare tactics and patently false”.

    So Romney plays the game positioning Obama with as little ammunition as possible to attack him. Once elected, if Romney has a workable majority, he can produce conditions favorable to economic recovery. If not, there’s precious little he will be able to do.

    • The statement is a fact, presented by me, who is not running for any office, to an economic illiterate. Romney, Obama and Nancy Pelosi can say whatever they wish. It doesn’t bear any relationship to reality. Which moves us to your 75%-25% decision making ratio. Nobody can come up with a number like that. It’s probably even worse. But that’s what happens when the government runs the education system.

      • I didn’t arrive at that ratio arbitrarily. Sales long ago established that 75% of people primarily base their buying decision emotionally, while only 25% base their buying decision primarily through intellectual analysis. As bad as a government influenced educational system is, that ratio exists independently.

    • I don’t know about all that.

      You are quite right that voters will make emotional decisions as if they were buying a shirt or a cell phone instead of electing a president. Most of them either don’t care about the “bigger picture” or have been fully converted into self-serving narcissists and only care about the “what’s in it for me” angle. That they just don’t or won’t take the time to do due diligence is a fact as well.
      So far I fully agree with all that. However…

      The differences between Romney and Obama lie in their level or their amount of leftism but both their socio-political philosophies are pointed in the same general direction. Obama has his foot on the socialist accelerator and willingly stomps on it much more than Romney seems willing to but, given enough time, they will both get to the exact same spot.

      So, Romney is not really a RINO at all. Actually, he is a pretty accurate representation of a current Republican.

      This has been true now for a long time. Both parties have embraced big government, bailouts, big uncontrolled federal spending,exsesive regulations, etc. and both parties would rule us as queen bees rule their workers and both parties would expect pretty much the same level of servitude.

      The fact is that only the thickness of a ballot form separates the GOP from the Democratic party and the Obama vs. Romney results will likely resemble this inter-party hairbreath difference to a great degree. Mostly, it will be a matter of speed like I said above.

      I actually think it’s a joke for the GOP to try to present itself as the fiscally conservative party. Fiscally conservative? Why? Because they grossly overspent the nation’s budget by less than the Democrats did and only had time for one little bailout…? What a joke!

      I guess fiscal conservatism is now defined by the number of trillions in debt. Perhaps rape should be defined by the inch as well…

      All that doomsday stuff coming from the GOP pundits telling us that an Obama re-election would be the end of life as we know it forgets to mention that a Romney election would only slow that train down some miles per hour but that both are riding down the same set of tracks and in the same direction. The major dommsday event might come to the GOP elite who would not gain power but the nation, we, the people, will likely end up in the same train platform sooner or later.

      The democratic system has seen to that because, as you say, anyone that expects to get elected to anything a bit more powerful or impacting than dog catcher, has to play the game, look for votes and pay the constituents back as quickly and as often as possible. The rest is all a political dog and pony show. The Republic was once the competitive way The Founders hoped to check our politician’s temptation for selling out but, ever since the advent of the socialist federal democracy, that hope is now just something we talk about whenever it is convenient. The Republic has become the talk, not the walk. After all, that our current system tends to prostitute politicians is an understatement and that sad fact has been more than amply proven by our present situation and over our relatively short history.

      rafa

      • The country would be much better off with 320 million ” self-serving narcissists” than what it has now. Read Arthur Koestler’s thought-provoking work “Janus, A Summing Up”. He explains why self-assertive individuals are no danger to society while self-denying ones have led to the deaths of millions.

        • Sorry but your fast moves from self-serving to self-assertive to self-denying threw me a bit. Would you care to expand on that a bit?

          rafa

  8. Page 77, Arthur Koestler, “Janus, A Summing Up”, Random House, 1978.

    ” No historian would deny that the part played by crimes committed for personal motives is very small compared to the vast populations slaughtered in unselfish loyalty to a jealous god, king, country, or political system. The crimes of Caligula shrink to insignificance compared to the havoc wrought by Torquemada. The number of people killed by robbers, highwaymen, gangsters and other asocial elements is negligible compared to the masses cheerfully slain in the name of the true religion, the righteous cause. Heretics were tortured and burned alive not in anger but in sorrow, for the good of their immortal souls. The Russian and Chinese purges were represented as operations of social hygiene, to prepare man for the golden age of the classless society. The gas chambers and crematoria worked towards the advent of a different type of millenniuim. To say it once more: throughout human history, the ravages caused by excesses of individual self-assertion are quantitatively negligible compared to the numbers slain ad majorem gloriam out of a self-transcending devotion to a flag, a leader, a religious faith or political conviction. Man has always been prepared not only to kill, but also to die for good, bad, or completely hare-brained causes. What can be a more valid proof for the reality of the urge towards self-transcendence?

    Thus the historical record confronts us with the paradox that the tragedy of man originates not n his aggressiveness but in his devotion to transpersonal ideals; not in an excess of individual self-assertiveness but in a malfunction of the integrative tendencies in our species. I think it was Pascal who said: man is neither angel nor devil, but when he tries to act the angel he turns into a devil.”

    • Thanks for clarifying that.

      There are two sub-types of self-transcending or idealistic mayhem. The one that tries to impose an idea or ideal upon others by force which would be the aggressive type, and the one that defends the right to not accept an imposed ideal, also by force if necessary, which would be the defensive type. But, to be clear, both amount to pretty much the same thing. Particularly since one group will more than likely always defend the righteousness of their own point of view.

      So, at the end of the conflict, the validity of either side’s moral justification lies mostly in the hands of whoever achieves the most decisive victory.

      But that, in a nutshell, is and allways will be the true nature of man’s struggle against man. In the end, what becomes very important to us benefitting from a final resolution to a conflict is to belong to the group that is more adept at killing the other side.

      What is really unacceptable from any moral point of view, however, is to actively participate, either by cause or by reaction, in the distribution of large-scale suffering without any real intention or real commitment to actually win something decisevely.

      rafa

      • How is the defensive type; “that defends the right to not accept an imposed ideal, also by force if necessary” just the flip side of those willing to impose their ideology upon the unwilling?

        • They are both driven by ideals, albeit contrary to each other. One says: “Accept ‘this’ or we will kill you” the other says: “NO! I won’t accept it and, if you try to force me to, I will kill YOU first”

          rafa

          • “What can be done against force, without force?” Roman statesman Cicero

            Self-defense requires meeting force with a superior amount of force. Only in the movies can aggression be successfully overcome, while allowing the aggressor to determine the level of force that will be used.

            If someone is willing to kill you in order to impose their ideals upon you and will not be dissuaded, what other recourse to remaining free is there but a willingness to kill the other before they can kill you?

            In the interests of clarity and to make my point, I’m slightly paraphrasing you: The Nazi’s said: “Accept ‘this’ or we will kill you” the democracies said: “NO! We won’t accept that and, as you are determined to force us to, we will kill YOU first”

            You appear to be stating that when the act of self-defense rises to killing another, they are being driven by the “ideal” of self-determination…rather than for their survival as free men.

            If that is your intent, then I profoundly disagree; no one has a right to deny our right to self-determination and if they seek to use material power to impose that submission upon other men, then they have a perfect right to defend their freedom with lethal force. Liberty is not an artificial construct, it is a fundamental, existential condition of being.

            “The object of war is not to die for your country, it’s to make the other s.o.b. die for his country!” George Patton

            • First of all, and I know I’ll regret saying this, self-determination is either a myth or it is grossly overstated. Society cannot survive with the application of true self-determination. Whatever determination is ALLOWED to us is certainly not of the “self” kind but of the collective type of determination. That said, let’s move on.

              Self-defense, true self-defense is an element of natural law. Much stronger and more telling than any man’s law. But, it applies mostly to “self”. What happened against Nazi Germany was not so much an act of SELF defense as it was a clash of ideals both of which tried to impose their will on the other and ended up fighting a war in order to survive each other. This happened because the Nazis made the world a take it or leave it proposition and we said “Leave it!” The ideals of Nazism and Democracy went to war or, at least were the pretext to war.

              I say that “Democracy” was the pretext because, in the end, democracy, as we all know, did NOT reign supreme in Europe. So, if democracy was the real objective of WW II then Poland, Hungary, Germany and the rest of those poor souls would have been insured their own democracy. But, they were not, so that would be the end of that silly little theory as the real reason for WW II.

              But men are moved by emotions and ideals. It used to be “for King and Country” and now, the more modern version is often “for democracy”, which has replaced “for freedom” and, certainly, “for liberty” both of which seem to be a bit dated and old fashion. This new cry to arms seems to be quite valid even when we go to war in defense of Tyrants, Dictators and other vermin. It’s OK to be a dictator as long as you are OUR dictator. That rule, by the way, works well whether you are a democraticon or a socialisticon or a communisticon. It is true even if you are a Jihadisticon. Actually, the socialists love to invoque democracy because it is very beneficial to them. Comunists and jihadists are a bit more hard core and don’t give a knat’s you-know-what about democracy…

              I am, however in full and total agreement with what you say about defending yourself with lethal force. That principle applies to the individual as well as to nations. Sadly we have forgotten the rule and we have substituted it, or tried to, with some very silly stuff that sounds more palatable to the more sensitive modern attitudes.

              Finally, when you say “no one has a right to deny our right to self-determination” what you are stating is an ideal, my friend.

              rafa

              • Self-determination is neither a myth, nor it is grossly overstated.

                Society can survive with the application of true self-determination because in a society, ‘true’ self-determination is balanced by other absolutes. My rights stop where your rights begin and vice versa.

                “Whatever determination is ALLOWED to us is certainly not of the “self” kind but of the collective type of determination.”

                That is untrue, though it can certainly appear to be the case. America’s foundational premise is that our rights are inalienable because they are granted to mankind by the creator of the universe and are therefore irrevocable by any man made edict. That presupposes that no collective agreement is relevant to the granting of or retention of our right to self-determination.

                “What happened against Nazi Germany was not so much an act of SELF defense as it was a clash of ideals both of which tried to impose their will on the other and ended up fighting a war in order to survive each other.”

                That is an historically inaccurate assertion. Neither England nor the US desired war with Germany. England’s Chamberlain (with majority support from Parliament and public opinion) at the Munich meeting with Hitler clearly stated his willingness “to live and let live”; “We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analyzing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will.

                I cannot believe that such a program would be rejected by the people of this country, even if it does mean the establishment of personal contact with dictators, and of talks man to man on the basis that each, while maintaining his own ideas of the internal government of his country, is willing to allow that other systems may better suit other peoples.” –Neville Chamberlain, explaining Munich [my emphasis]

                We have never gone to war in defense of Tyrants, Dictators and other vermin, we have gone to war and supported vermin because it stopped a greater predator.

                “Finally, when you say “no one has a right to deny our right to self-determination” what you are stating is an ideal, my friend”

                No, its much more than a mere ideal and here is why; it was and is the founders foundational principle and premise in describing reality. It denies the assertion that might makes right. It denies the assertion that rights are determined by collective agreement.

                This is much more than mere semantics, for if there is no beneficent creator, then all our ‘rights’ are merely collective agreement and totally subject to revocation whenever those who would use the law of the jungle, gain the strength necessary to impose its will upon the majority.

                To deny the founders premise is to ultimately, support the law of the jungle.

                • I said: “Whatever determination is ALLOWED to us is certainly not of the “self” kind but of the collective type of determination.”

                  You responded: “That is untrue, though it can certainly appear to be the case.” And my answer to that is this: No. That IS true, although it can certainly appear that this is NOT the case. In fact, democracy IS the will of the majority within the collective and nothing is allowed to be outside of that collectively imposed will. When you state that “my rights stop where yours begin” you are leaving out an important part of the formula which is that the final arbitrator of that stop-go line is the government and its legal institutions. So, even your “rights” have to be acknowledged, changed or approved by the collective. Whether you believe that they come from God, as I do, makes no difference to the often arbitrary actions of the collectively elected politicians and their appointed bureaucrats. Again, in real life those rights, yours and mine, contrary to what you stated, are either recognized by the democratic collective or they are decreed null and void by the laws, rules and regulations designed and approved by the democratically elected will of “We, The People” which is a good, friendly name for “The Collective”.

                  Then, going back to our discussion, the reason Nazi Germany attacked and the reason we defended is because we were in complete and total disagreement with what they had in store for us. One pushes, the other resists. While you like to see this as a pure and simple act of self-defense, and I certainly agree with the fact that this might well have been the initial mechanics of the conflict, we must also be ready to answer these few key questions: Why did Italy and Japan not join us in the struggle against the Germans? Also, if that rather heavy hint fails, what would have happened if we had agreed with Hitler’s dream of National Socialism at the time? Or, if Mussolini, instead of a Fascist, had been something completely different and more in line with our own thinking, on who’s side would he have fought? Finally, we should also ask: If we had agreed with Hitler, would the conflict have been divided as it was? Would we have entered on the side of the “Allies” or on the side of the “Axis” or would we have entered at all?

                  You see, my point is that every conflict is fueled by the discrepancies and the opposing positions of the antagonists. And those, I remain steady on this view, are the socio-political ideals that drive the rulers of nations when they finally decide to go to war.

                  “We have never gone to war in defense of Tyrants, Dictators and other vermin; we have gone to war and supported vermin because it stopped a greater predator.” Well, that version does sound much better, I agree. But, after a cold analysis of the facts, the end result that is being sought, the eventual survival of the Tyrant, Dictator or vermin, is one and the same. Politicians will shine the bitter pill until hell freezes over; that’s their job. But our job (I should hope so!) is to take that entire pot of politician’s BS with a grain of salt.

                  So, just to see if I have you right, you are saying that we helped Uncle Joe Stalin and his merry band of Russian Communists because they were “the lesser predator” to Hitler? Well, sure…maybe. But, again, after a cold look at what actually happened, that is not really true if the answer were to come from, say, a Pole or a Hungarian that lived and died during the next fifty or sixty years under the USSR’s rather strong and unyielding rule. Come to think of it, the East Germans that were hung up at the Berlin Wall’s wire had the unmistakable look of “look out for the predator!” when they were machine gunned down trying to cross over to West Germany. They, the victims, know about predators better than you and me. But, we are the victors and we can write history any way we want to.

                  By the way, your predator assertion would also be found lacking if we had the opportunity to ask the millions of victims that have died or endured untold savagery world-wide because of communist aggression. I guess a predator is much more dangerous in the eye of its prey.

                  Look, we can go all day with the “you said, I said” debate style that is so often used in these discussions but I’m afraid you will not change my mind nor I yours. Suffice be it to say that, in my opinion, you have what amounts to your own idealistic view of what this country still is. Then, again, perhaps I misread you and your views and arguments are more meant to describe what this country should still be. If I did misread you, I apologize. And, to be clear, while I have reached my own sad conclusions of what this nation has become, politically speaking, of course, I, like you, wish it weren’t so. The reason I argue these points is because you and many others seem a bit too quick to quote the Founding Fathers and the “Original Intent” as justification for your arguments while, again in my sincere opinion, you fail to realize, perhaps, to recognize and admit, that this is all it was: an “original intent”. Sadly, and while I do agree it would have been better for all if it had remained that way, the “Original Intent” does not seem to be the “current intent”. And a sad commentary indeed is the fact that there is nothing happening out there right now or even recently to support the lofty claim that the Original Intent remains aloft and waving proudly.

                  Finally, I am not at odds with you, particularly in sharing the ideals that you so eloquently profess. Actually, if there were a victory prize for winning this argument and, most specially, if that prize carried with it the ethical and idealistic controls that you favor in order to turn the world into the place you obviously hope it was, then I would gladly concede the victory to you and tap out right here and now. I say that sincerely because, if I am the one that’s right, then the world is a sorry place and we are headed into a very dark age.

                  Best to you,

                  rafa

    • If Pascal is right then how does he explain Buddha and Jesus? Saints who none accuse of being devils…

  9. Less harm does not equate to harmlessness.

    Mankind’s powerful impulse toward self-transcendence arises out of our need to reconnect to the divine. The power of that impulse coupled with mankind’s “knowledge of” good and evil without however, the ability to consistently and accurately distinguish between right and wrong leads to the horrors of which Koestler speaks.

    If the divine actually exists and we have in fact lost our ‘connection’ to our creator, then no amount of anguish or frustration will resolve the problem. Rather resolution can only lie in a deeper understanding of the human ‘condition’.

    • “Mankind’s powerful impulse toward self-transcendence arises out of our need to reconnect to the divine.”
      _________________________________

      That doesn’t make sense on any level. Self-transcendence, as explained by Koestler and others, can be illustrated by the likes of devout Lutherans, Republican voters, Milwaukee Brewers fans, patriotic Argentines, tattooed Harley-Davidson owners and Michael Bolton groupies. It has zero to do with the divine. The impulse is to receive personal affirmation through group membership, which involves adoption of the group values. For instance, patriotic Americans vigorously defend the concept of democracy, despite the fact that it’s never been present in the history of the American political experience. Even its advocates admit that democracy as such is unworkable in even the smallest of social groups and must be augmented by “republican representation” but it is nonetheless embraced by the self-transcendent willing to give up individuality in exchange for membership in a group devoted in this particular case to a form of government that’s been more effective at commandeering sufficient resources to blast its opponents into eternity than its competitors.

      • Everyone filters information through the perspective of our beliefs, which is why my statement makes no sense to you.Yet billions of people who subscribe to the biblical ‘revelation’ (adam & eve & the fall) that offers an explanation describing the essential condition of mankind, would agree that my assertion makes perfect sense.

        Koestler and others views are merely their opinion.

        “The impulse is to receive personal affirmation through group membership, which involves adoption of the group values” yes, in its less aware manifestation. Reconnection with the divine however does not imply abandonment of our individual identify but integration of our individual identity with the eternal principles of the divine.

        • I guess you’re right. The Crusades were simply a medieval version of door-to-door proselytizing. Islam’s advance across north Africa and into the Iberian peninsula was accomplished by well-reasoned arguments and was halted in Frankish territory by the intellectual arguments of the mayor of the palace.

          Wikipedia’s description of Oliver Cromwell includes: ” After undergoing a religious conversion during the same decade, Cromwell made an independent style of puritanism an essential part of his life. He took a generally (but not completely) tolerant view towards the many Protestant sects of his period. As a ruler he executed an aggressive and effective foreign policy and did as much as any English leader to shape the future of the land he governed. But his Commonwealth collapsed after his death and the royal family was restored in 1660. An intensely religious man—a self-styled Puritan Moses — he fervently believed God was guiding his victories.”

          Left to his own devices, Cromwell would have lived out his life as a religious eccentric. Unfortunately, he was in a milieu of dissatisfaction with the Stuart monarchy that led to the death of many and the impoverishment of even more, through the devotion of his fellow Puritans.

          • The Crusades were a response, NOT unilateral aggression. Islam did {and still does} commit unilateral aggression. Certainly history and human nature support the assertion that men will often commit aggression based in ideals but defense in response to aggression is not just the other side of the same coin.

            Cromwell did fervently believe that God was guiding his victories but as you yourself pointed out was generally tolerant of differing views, which is not the act of a man wishing to impose his ideals upon others. Cromwell’s hostility toward Catholics was a response to the Catholic church’s insistence upon papal and clerical authority and willingness to use violence to impose that view upon anyone who disputed it.

            War always leads to the deaths of many but, had Charles I continued to reign unchallenged, liberty’s birth might well have been delayed for after Cromwell’s death, the restored Monarchy of Charles II lacked the primacy Charles I sought to retain.

            Cromwell’s commonwealth was an important step in the process that led England to its Monarchy becoming a Constitutional Monarchy with the ascendency of Parliamentary democracy and which in turn, led to America’s Republic.


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