Cardboard Characters

by Don Boudreaux on April 27, 2009

in Myths and Fallacies

President Chavez gave a book to President Obama.  As Mary O'Grady explains in this article, Senor Chavez's reading list speaks volumes about his world view — a benighted view in which prosperous nations are seen to grow rich by "exploiting" poor nations — a fatuous view that sees events as being only struggles by good guys against bad guys — a tunneled view focused not on understanding reality but one that reveals to the viewer only that which enables the viewer to feel morally certain and superior (while, at the same time, saving the viewer any need to do real, serious thinking).

Persons with this world view find compelling the cardboard characters that inhabit books such as those admired by Senor Chavez.

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{ 27 comments }

indiana jim April 27, 2009 at 8:49 am

Obama is much like the above description:

He has:

1)"a benighted view [of himself] in which prosperous nations are seen to grow rich by "exploiting" poor nations" (hence his "world apology tour" of late)

2) "a fatuous view that sees events as being only struggles by good guys against bad guys" (hence, as he told Joe the Plumber, "we need to spread the wealth aroung")

3) "a tunneled view focused not on understanding reality but one that reveals to the viewer only that which enables the viewer to feel morally certain and superior (while, at the same time, saving the viewer any need to do real, serious thinking)" (hence he is the man with the plan; government, in his view, must "fix" the economy via unprecedented intrusions into the lives and liberties of U.S. citizens).

As soon as the text of the Chavez book can be modified and loaded into the Obama teleprompter, we will likely hear Obama calling upon America to take a lession from it (and beg forgiveness for being such an independent thinking, freedom loving bunch of self-interested torturers of terrorists).

Martin Brock April 27, 2009 at 10:17 am

Senor Chavez certainly sounds like one of the inferior bad guys.

Gil April 27, 2009 at 10:25 am

What is a polite way to ask – why are certain nations languish in poverty? It's good to see the way Singapore was transformed via the help of reaonably free trade with multinational corporations in a way that country went from dirt-poor to having one the highest standards of living in about two generations. So why are parts of the world where poor nations don't seem to enjoy that sort of growth? Is there any truth to the conspiracy notion that multinational corporations like oppressive dictatorships as they can keep the people down&out as a source of cheap, compliant labour? If multinational corporations do like them does that mean they are helping to conspire against the poor? Or is that Singapore and Hong Kong had something valuable to offer (as trading posts) whereas other parts of the world are just plain backwaters and the people who live there can only compete by being cheap.

indiana jim April 27, 2009 at 10:51 am

And here is a related link to a video from the WSJ (Obama in solidarity with Chavez, doin the "power" hand clasp; grins all round folks):

http://online.wsj.com/video/obama-among-the-dictators/2389E04B-693C-4868-B721-259C764E438C.html

Greg Ransom April 27, 2009 at 12:03 pm

If you've read Obama's memoir you know that this also represents Obama's own background — it was Obama soaked in at Occidental reading Marxist and neo-colonialist literature, Fanon,etc. it was the view Obama soak up at Columbia taking classes from Said and going to socialist / Marxist conferences, it was his mother's view, learned at the "little red church on the hill" on Mercer Island, it was the 3rd world view of his Indonesian childhood, it was the view of his the communist party mentor in high school, the poet Frank Marshall, it was the world view at his church in Chicago, and it was the world view of his leftist "Critical Racism" and "Critical Legal Studies" professors at Harvard law.

In terms of cartoon pictures in the head, the world views of Obama and Chavez really aren't that far removed.

Don writes:

"Chavez's reading list speaks volumes about his world view — a benighted view in which prosperous nations are seen to grow rich by "exploiting" poor nations — a fatuous view that sees events as being only struggles by good guys against bad guys — a tunneled view focused not on understanding reality but one that reveals to the viewer only that which enables the viewer to feel morally certain and superior."

tarran April 27, 2009 at 12:39 pm

It's also a great description of Ayn Rand's books (the simplistic worldview, the cardboard cutout characters etc). ;)

Sam Grove April 27, 2009 at 1:09 pm

…what economist and sometimes Reason magazine contributor Tyler Cowen says about The End of Poverty in a slashing review in The American Interest. The nub:

I can only report that The End of Poverty, narrated throughout by Martin Sheen, puts Ayn Rand back on the map as an accurate and indeed insightful cultural commentator. If you were to take the most overdone and most caricatured cocktail-party scenes from Atlas Shrugged, if you were to put the content of Rand’s “whiners” on the screen, mixed in with at least halfway competent production values, you would get something resembling The End of Poverty. If you ever thought that Rand’s nemeses were pure caricature, this film will show you that they are not (if the stalking presence of Naomi Klein has not already done so). If you are looking to benchmark this judgment, consider this: I would not say anything similar even about the movies of Michael Moore.

In this movie, the causes of poverty are oppression and oppression alone. There is no recognition that poverty is the natural or default state of mankind and that a special set of conditions must come together for wealth to be produced. There is no discussion of what this formula for wealth might be. There is no recognition that the wealth of the West lies upon any foundations other than those of theft, exploitation and the oppression of literal or virtual colonies.

dg lesvic April 27, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Greg Ransom,

You've hit the nail on the head. Obama doesn't need any books from Chavez. He's already been indoctrinated.

And that's who's going to defend this country.

We're in big trouble.

Let's see how much hue and cry there will still be against torutre when an atom bomb goes off in one of our cities.

And, no Adam, I don't have proof that that will happen. But, by the time I do, it will be a little late.

Sam Grove April 27, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Let's see how much hue and cry there will still be against torutre when an atom bomb goes off in one of our cities.

Why do you think an atom bomb will go off in one of OUR cities (as opposed to, say, in Israel or South Korea)?

dg lesvic April 27, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Where did I say the one but not the other?

By the way, completely agree with your posting below about mathematics in economics.

Martin Brock April 27, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Let's see how much hue and cry there will still be against torutre when an atom bomb goes off in one of our cities.

Like the hue and cry is relevant to the efficacy of torture.

And, no Adam, I don't have proof that that will happen. But, by the time I do, it will be a little late.

Gee. Let's give dg a trillion bucks to protect us, pronto.

dg lesvic April 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Martin,

I'll take it.

dg lesvic April 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm

And put Dick Cheney in charge of it.

Methinks April 27, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Like Nasser and Castro found Khrushev, Obama and Chavez found each other. Like-minded folk. Aren't we lucky?

Methinks April 27, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Khrushchev

RL April 27, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Persons with this world view find compelling the cardboard characters that inhabit books such as those admired by Senor Chavez.

They also enjoy speeches by George W. Bush on "us vs them" and "axis of evil".

Patrick April 27, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Martin,
Multinational corporations do not love dictatorial governments as the agreements set forth by those governments are only around for as long as the dictator. Strong rule of law, and transparency is what attracts multinational corporations. If you have any question about the truth of this statement just look at Indonesia or many of the African countries in regards to mining law. Companies are starting to tighten the purse strings there simply because they have no idea what will constitute a law next month. It's hard to justify spending billions to develop a project if it might be nationalized just as it gets completed.

Michael Smith April 27, 2009 at 6:20 pm

tarran wrote:

It's also a great description of Ayn Rand's books (the simplistic worldview, the cardboard cutout characters etc). ;)

You’re entitled to your opinion, and so am I — so I’ll state mine: Atlas Shrugged is the greatest work of fiction in world history. It has a sweeping theme, a dramatic plot and its scope touches on virtually every aspect of human existence.

Its cast of characters, including Wesley Mouch, Eugene Lawson, Dr. Robert Stadler, Dr. Floyd Ferris, Mr. Thompson, Fred Kinnan, James Taggert, Orren Boyle, Ivy and Gerald Starnes, Paul Larkin, Lillian Rearden, Francisco D'Anconia, Ragner Danneskold, Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggert, Ellis Wyatt, Eddie Willers, Midas Mulligan and yes, John Galt, are hardly "cardboard cutouts" — rather, they are men of many different philosophical premises whose personalities and character reflect the fundamental logic of those premises.

There is a reason why the book remains a best-seller over 50 years after its publication, and why a Reader’s Digest survey found it the second most influential book in history, trailing only the Bible in people’s statement of what books most affected them.

You may dismiss Rand’s work as “simplistic” if you wish; there are millions of us who disagree.

P.S. — Obama is exactly like Mr. Thompson, the man who was Head of the State at the end in Atlas Shrugged.

Mike Farmer April 27, 2009 at 7:43 pm

I would think corporations like a properous people who can afford to buy things and improve their standard of living. In free countries where labor attempts to get as much as it can and businesses pay as low or as high as it takes, a balance is reached and everybody has a little folding money in their pockets. The truth is that if America was less hampered by government intervention, more people would have better jobs and more folding money in their pockets. I don't know how this squares with grand, abstract ideas of justice and equality, but for the real person in the real world, it's nice to have a good job and a little folding money.

vidyohs April 27, 2009 at 9:40 pm

"But Mr. Galeano remained an icon of the revolutionary left and a rich source of ideological hatemongering. Chilean novelist Isabel Allende wrote the foreword for the 25th anniversary edition, bemoaning the fact that her cousin Salvador's effort to convert Chile into another Cuba had been thwarted.

Equally amazing was Ms. Allende's praise of Mr. Galeano's "stupendous love of freedom." Of course, not for those engaged in voluntary exchange."

It is ever thus, the true idiots of the left alway remain as icons, no matter how devastatingly terrible the result of their work, no matter how wrong the real world proves them to be, no matter how cruel (think Abimal Guzman) and deadly they show themself, in the end the idiot leftwingers still consider them icons. Look at Che Guevera, in reality a nothing, a killer, a fool, a latin idiot, and there are baby boomers to college kids in the USA that would die to bring his body back to life.

Obama, time will tell, but it isn't looking good.

indiana jim April 27, 2009 at 10:04 pm

vidyohs, are you engaging in large understatement with your "Obama, time will tell, but it isn't looking good"?

If so, OK; if not, you are not who I think you are.

vidyohs April 28, 2009 at 6:47 am

IJ,

I think my consistency speaks for itself.

The question left hanging is not will he do damage, but just how severe will the damage be?

indiana jim April 28, 2009 at 7:51 am

vids,
OK, you were understating; that is what I thought.

vidyohs April 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm

à plus tard!!

Posted by: INAXIABED | Apr 28, 2009 4:27:43 PM

Is this guy calling us large stools?

adam April 30, 2009 at 8:52 am

It is true that rich countries did not become rich by exploiting poor countries.

But here's my question:

Is it not possible that rich countries have indeed done bad things to poor countries?

Just because the US did not get rich exploiting Latin America does not mean that the US never did anything bad in Latin America. The reality, unfortunately, is that it really did. And this is not just Pinochet, it is everywhere. And not just in Latin America.

Libertarians must recognize that just like their government can do bad things at home, it can do bad things abroad. In fact, it can do far worse things abroad, because the people it does those things to cannot vote in American elections, and people who vote in American elections do not care so much, and are usually defensive and demonizing of any foreigner criticizing America.

But if they stopped being defensive and demonizing of foreigners long enough, they would actually realize that a lot of the world has been wronged by America, in some way or the other.

indiana jim May 1, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Adam wrote: "But if they stopped being defensive and demonizing of foreigners long enough, they would actually realize that a lot of the world has been wronged by America, in some way or the other."

Of course the policies of the US that restrict trade hurt other nations. Of course the farm subsidies in the US hurt Latin America's ability to benefit from its comparative advantage.

Governments are all bad; it is only that some are less bad than others.

Americans have been demonized just as much as foreigners, more probably due to envy of the success that America has had because of embracing captialism in large part and the rule of law.

Adam must realize that just because Latins got poor without being exploited by Americans doesn't meant Latins won't out of covetousness demonize America.

TrUmPiT May 4, 2009 at 6:48 pm

There are serious economic issues here, but of course Dr. B. misses them entirely. He's always looking for a broken window, or a hole being dug to China, so he can slam somebody for economic ignorance and for waste precious time and money through political misdoings. He should look in the mirror before it cracks due to poor manufacture; he'd never blame it on his own looks. It's called ego preservation.

If the road to a wealthy society demands specialization or specialized workers' skills then what happens when those skills are no longer in demand perhaps by a sudden change in consumer demand or because of some technological development that renders those skills essentially worthless? YOU want to have your cake and eat it. YOU want US to specialize to make the division of labor work to make capitalists rich, and perhaps incidently give the worker a livelihood, but you don't give a flying f**k what happens when WE are no longer needed as cogs in the economic perpetual- motion machine or required as an input factor by a cruel capitalist-driven society that believes in Social Darwinism as its anti-humanistic religion. Where is YOUR compassion? Have you been genetically altered to make you hopelessly cruel. I think your empathy got lost in a river of broken glass, shovels and mud on the way to China through a black rabbit hole that admits no light or reason. Shed a little light on the ironies and paradoxes of your supply and demand graphs that have no soul and shed no tears, will you? Have a heart and a soul, for one day in your life. Why don't you let a little love into your heart?

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