Friday, December 24, 2004

Coturnix Does Not Quail

My state-mate Coturnix does not quail* from the truth, at least as he sees it. He claims "conservatives are crazy and dangerous." All of them. I'm pretty sure he means, me, too.

As we say in the South, "Bless his heart." (Or, Bless his heart, again)

On the other hand, as a recent ex-Republican myself, there is some truth to the central claim, if not the NCSU birdman's bizarrely aggressive ad hominems. I just finished reading "What's the Matter With Kansas?", which I expected to hate. But Thomas Frank makes some uncomfortably accurate observations, stuff I had never thought of, but recognized immediately.

Ick. I hate it when hateful liberals are right.

I think I'll go read Ann Coulter. She is NEVER right. But apparently she shoots well. (Nothing like an anorexic blonde fascist fondling high muzzle velocity firearms to get KGrease's heart beating fast. Yummy.)

* Yes, that was a gallinaceous joke.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, that Thomas Frank is one insightful guy. Here's a typically insightful analysis, from his website:

"And then think of the political changes that this sappy stuff has helped to sell: Privatization. Deregulation. Monopolies in every industry from banking to radio to meatpacking. The destruction of the welfare state. The beatdown of the labor movement. The transformation of the Midwest into the rust belt."

What privatization is he talking about? The postal service? Amtrak? The TSC? Is private trash collection really that big a threat to Kansas?

And where is it exactly that deregulation has created monopolies? Airlines? (I seem to recall Ted Kennedy taking a lead role in that cause, so blame him if you don't like flying cheaply.) It's true that we used to have about 10,000 banks in the US, as compared to about 5 in any other developed country, but I get a lot more services from my bank at lower cost than I used to get under the good old days when banks couldn't compete across state lines. As for radio, I find it amazing that people can say with a straight face that eliminating government regulation of the political content of broadcasting reduces freedom. I think they just don't like the fact that, given the choice, about ten thousand times as many people listen to Rush Limbaugh as Al Franken.

What caused the decline of the Rust Belt? The US auto industry once consisted of badly managed companies employing ludicrously well-paid union workers turning out godawful cars. Who could have foreseen the collapse of THAT? Personally, though, I pin the largest share of the blame on the advent of central air conditioning.

And much as I'd like to see the welfare state greatly modified, I find it hard to square the assertion that it's been "destroyed" (by Clinton?) with even the most casual look at government spending data. Or is an appeal to empirical evidence a pathology of the authoritarian conservative mentality?

Frank and his buddies ask what happened to middle-American progressivism. If by that they mean Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, AFDC, student loans, the EPA, NHTSA, the Department of Education, and the rest of the federal alphabet soup of intervention, the answer is that we've tried it extensively. Some of it has worked, and some hasn't. Much of it has proven to be staggeringly costly and therefore in need of reform. Intellectually honest debate over reform of Social Security, for example, naturally includes a discussion of private savings accounts. But to people like Mr. Frank, open discussion is a threat to their cause. Indeed, so great is their fear of debate that they denounce those who disagree with them as mentally ill or stupid. And they wonder why they keep losing elections!

Mungowitz said...

Dude, you're killin' me.

Yes, Thomas Frank, and for that matter Coturnix-my-psychotic-pal, are largely goofy, paranoid leftists. All I said was TF makes "some" claims that rang true. I expected not to find one thing in the whole book that smacked of logic or evidence.

Sure, the bit about social security is right, and there are dozens of the other examples where the left simply dismisses arguments for (essentially) religious reasons. But the debate you want to happen is not happening on EITHER side. The right is becoming like the left.

Sure, that is not Frank's thesis. He says that the right is becoming hide-bound, anti-intellectual, and reactionary. I actually think he is right. Now, that just means that the right is now moving toward the style of argument the left has used for three generations or more. But isn't that a bad thing?

Anthony said...

For an arguably more academic and less biased account of American conservativism, check out John Micklethwait's and Adrian Wooldridge's "The Right Nation." Two Economist guys that took a fair stab and the trends in American politics.

Mungowitz said...

Yep, I've got THE RIGHT NATION and Kevin Phillip's AMERICAN DYNASTY queued up as next to read.

Right after I finish CHARLOTTE SIMMONS. First things first.

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