Monday, August 24, 2015

You May Say I'm A Dreamer

Megan McArdle, a friend (well, acquaintance), has a piece on how Democracy works, and she's not thrilled.  Things are never perfect, so voters demand change, over and over, figuring if they could just get the right guy in office, everything would be okay. Hence, Donald Trump .

She has a point.  Many people believe the reason politicians don't get the results the public wants is because they're beholden to special interests, or just don't have the will to face down the threat.  It's hard to accept that the problems themselves are very complex and impossible to fully solve, and that people disagree on what they want and so (especially in a democracy) the solutions we do get are almost always filled with compromise.

But does she go too far in condemning those demanding change?

Faced with the unhappy reality that their desired outcomes are simply not achievable in the current political landscape, they embrace extreme, destructive measures that have no chance of succeeding. The only thing that can be said for many of these ideas is that they haven't been tried yet. The same can be said for picking up this fork I happen to have sitting next to me and jamming it into my brain stem.

She's mostly right, but is she missing something?

It's true even radical politicians in power can only do so much.  (Who's radical? Well, among our Presidents, both Reagan and Obama were fairly radical compared to the political landscape of their time, though even they were able to operate within the normal constraints of the system and achieve success before becoming top man.)  And even when they get what they want, they can only change things so much.  On the other hand, slight changes, like compound interest, can create massive change over time.

But that's politicians. What about the radical ideas?  It's true, most of the out-there concepts you hear--from Donald Trump among others--are not only not achievable, but dangerous if attempted.  On the other hand, almost everything we now believe was at one time considered radical, or nutty.  The tremendous successes of the Civil Rights movement for African-Americans turned around the very assumptions of the average citizen in this country.  Yes, it took a slow, steady and generally serious and rational manner of argument to effect this change (how much radical action helped along the way is a matter of debate).

Another modern example is gun rights.  Not that long ago, the idea that the Second Amendment conferred individual rights was not taken seriously by the courts, but that's completely turned around.  Or gay rights.  A couple generations ago, homosexuality was criminal and considered a mental illness.  That changed, but even a generation ago, same-sex marriage seemed like a pipe dream.  Now it's a guaranteed right.  (Note I'm discussing ideas that don't break the laws of physics, or even economics--that's a different class of nutty idea.)

But how do you tell the difference between crackpots and dreamers with true vision.  I don't suppose you can, but a good rule of thumb is they're usually crackpots. (And sometimes they get their way, which is not a good thing.)

Robert F. Kennedy famously said: "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?"

A fine line, but we should remember he's paraphrasing Shaw, who put that line in the Serpent's mouth in the Garden Of Eden.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A second war between the states?

2:50 PM, August 24, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be the third?

4:30 PM, August 24, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd call it the fourth.

6:15 PM, August 24, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, do you suppose at some point it's going to dawn on Trump that he can actually be president?

7:22 PM, August 25, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No matter how crazy he sounds, I don't think he's that crazy, and I know the American public isn't that crazy.

7:44 PM, August 25, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never underestimate the craziness or sheer cussedness of the American public

8:24 PM, August 25, 2015  

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