‘National Dialog’ and Other Howlers

by Don Boudreaux on November 27, 2011

in Business as usual, Entertainment, Hubris and humility, Politics

Here’s a letter to the New York Post:

Annie Karni’s analysis of the neckwear worn by GOP presidential hopefuls during televised debates highlights the absurdity of the claim that democracy promotes reasoned, collective discussion of important issues – and, hence, it rightly (if unintentionally) exposes as laughable the suggestion that candidates’ utterances during these debates deserve serious attention (“GOP’s ‘tie’ game,” Nov. 27).

The great economist Frank Knight in 1944 wrote words that are wise, if unwelcome to democracy’s more dewy-eyed devotees: “Genuine, purely intellectual discussion is rare in modern society, even in intellectual and academic circles, and is approximated only in very small and essentially casual groups.  On the larger scale, what passes for discussion is mostly argumentation or debate.  The intellectual interest is largely subordinate to entertainment, i.e., entertaining and being entertained, or the immediate interest of the active parties centers chiefly in dominance, victory, instructing others, or persuading rather than convincing, and not in the impartial quest of truth.”*

A night manager at Wal-Mart competing with his counterpart at the nearby Target is far more likely to speak substantively and sincerely than is anyone vain enough to fancy that he or she is fit to exercise – or fit to instruct whoever will exercise – the powers that are today vested in the President of the United States.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

* Frank H. Knight, “The Planful Act: The Possibilities and Limitations of Collective Rationality,” in Knight, Freedom and Reform (New York: Harper & Bros., 1947), p. 349.

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{ 51 comments }

Greg G November 27, 2011 at 9:03 pm

You don’t need to be “dewey-eyed” about the virtues of constitutional democracy to believe that the alternatives are worse. I don’t see much discussion here of what alternatives you would prefer.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 27, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Don, being a follower of Mencken, would prefer a return to Charleston, SC, 12/31/1860 and slavery

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 27, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Sorry dude, no matter how much you repeat this, it isn’t going to fly, you’ve already revealed yourself to be a troll with no credibility.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 28, 2011 at 8:33 am

obviously dude, you know nothing about Mencken

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 28, 2011 at 8:45 am

just so that there is no doubt about the racism that Don believes and encourages, lets take a look at a few recent posts by his fellow travelers and racists:

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm
SmoledMan

And what is the reason?

REPLY
Invisible Backhand November 27, 2011 at 10:39 pm
And what is the reason?

Fewer blacks in American than in Africa. Gotta be.

You guys have to take into account the all-important racial dimension of all this.

REPLY
Cliff November 28, 2011 at 12:28 am
Well, I am sure a continent-wide average 65 IQ doesn’t help any

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

Funny how those pseudonyms just seem to emerge for a one-off hit, just in time to support your inane crap. What a pathetically transparent attempt to plant something in your own excrement.

In any case, Don’s quotation of Mencken isn’t an endorsement of everything the guy said or did no more than saying Jerry Sandusky was a great coach was an endorsement of his alleged criminality.

Funny how racism never seems to bother the left if its uttered by an approved party, say the President of the “typical white person” United States, and he’s a HARVARD man and we know how superior they are, right?

Invisible Backhand November 29, 2011 at 10:05 am

How dare you!!! I’m no fellow traveler with the comedy team of Boudreaux and Roberts!

I’m something you can only dream about becoming, Nikolai: a high-spirited, independent thinker — a visionary! I can out-think you with one brain hemisphere tied behind my back.

I meant every word I posted about the sad, sad plight of the Dark Continent. You should pay more attention AND more respect to the spittle of wisdom frozen on my goatee.

And — though I am an ardent (if a bit emotionally distant) admirer of yours — I do have to admit that I believe you have not fully lived up to your responsibilities of the proverbial White Man’s Burden.

(Wink, wink) Know what I mean, jellybean?

The Other Eric November 28, 2011 at 11:02 am

You’re a troll and not worth responding to.

SmoledMan November 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm

You must be a total troll.

Jon Murphy November 27, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Here’s an alternative:

I don’t like the idea of world leaders having buttons they can press on a whim that can vaporize unsuspecting citizens. So, to fix that, we’ll strap explosives to the back of every elected official and give citizens buttons that would detonate them. If we need a road or bridge built, we’ll just throw them a shovel and a towel, place one finger menacingly over the button and say “start working, guber.” Sure, this will reduce the prestige of the office of the President, but that prestige wasn’t doing much for me anyway.

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Jon, the President is merely a public servant. It is time that all our public servants start acting as such. BTW, I like you idea.

Sam Grove November 28, 2011 at 12:54 am

I’m sorry, but your ability to envision has been constrained.

The conclusion is simple, but comprehending why it is the conclusion is not.

vidyohs November 28, 2011 at 7:01 am

It would be nice to have the government the Constitution demands, that is a decent alternative to what we have now.

Greg G November 28, 2011 at 7:12 am

vidyohs

As I recall, it is the state of government and liberty at least “fifteen decades” ago that you really prefer.

vidyohs November 28, 2011 at 7:39 am

I believe that is what I just said.

Greg G November 28, 2011 at 8:09 am

vidyohs

So you believe the country was more free when we had slavery and women could not vote. Good to know.

Sam Grove November 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Freer in some ways, less free in others.

The Other Eric November 28, 2011 at 11:06 am

Greg, do you really think your passive-aggressive note is worth anything? Start your own blog and create your own discussions.

Greg G November 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm

The Other Eric

Start your own blog and you can exclude the commenters that you want to exclude.

Jon Murphy November 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm

“Start your own blog and you can exclude the commenters that you want to exclude.”

That’s what I do!

http://www.thecurioustaskofeconomcs.com

/shameless selfpromotion

Sam Grove November 30, 2011 at 12:02 am

You put a .com instead of .org at the end.

W.E. Heasley November 27, 2011 at 9:21 pm

“You can tell a lot about a man by his tie — and what the Republican cravats tell us is that Herman Cain is eccentric, Newt Gingrich is conservative and Mitt Romney just wants to be noticed.

Former pizza honcho Cain sports a signature flashy gold necktie at every GOP debate. His campaign spokesman, J.D. Gordon, said the bold choice is a significant part of the candidate’s image. “Mr. Cain is a firm believer in the ‘Gold Standard,’ ” said Gordon. “His selection of ties reflects that philosophy.”

Former Speaker of the House Gingrich has opted for a drab maroon tie at nine debates, while Gov. Rick Perry wore a bright, solid red tie — the iconic color of the Republican Party — four times consecutively“. – Annie Karni

“Annie Karni’s analysis of the neckwear worn by GOP presidential hopefuls during televised debates highlights the absurdity of the claim that democracy promotes reasoned, collective discussion of important issues – and, hence, it rightly (if unintentionally) exposes as laughable the suggestion that candidates’ utterances during these debates deserve serious attention (“GOP’s ‘tie’ game,” Nov. 27)”. – Donald J. Boudreaux

-Or-

“All television, regardless of content, is first and foremost entertainment”. – Don Luskin, Trend Macro

Dan November 27, 2011 at 9:25 pm

I believe Don’s thesis is that there is no human on earth today or ever lived who is fit to exercise the power that is currently vested in the office of President of the United States. This is true regardless of the nature of the charade the national political parties and the media impose on the citizenry.

The alternative is to return to the original meaning of the constitution. There are American adults able to manage the enumerated powers of the Federal Government. Perhaps there should be a debate to see which of the candidates understands what these are.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 27, 2011 at 9:30 pm

what BS and tripe

the Powers of the President aren’t vested; they spring from the history we are all living.

Dan November 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Funny, I don’t recall the President of the United States swearing an oath to the “History” of past presidents. You seem to be the one blind to your own blindness.

Jon Murphy November 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm

“the Powers of the President aren’t vested; they spring from the history we are all living.”

So, these powers sort of… spontaneously emerge? They aren’t created by some governing body?

Sam Grove November 28, 2011 at 12:57 am

The enumerated powers are vested, but the assumed powers are as you say.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 28, 2011 at 8:40 am

a lack of presidential power only creates a vacuum; if left unfilled, others will enter the space

First graders learn this lesson when they study the history of Rome, its Senate, Pompey, and Julius Caesar.

Institutions that do not adapt are crushed by the demands of History

Sam Grove November 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm

The history of the Roman Empire?
The one that eventually collapsed?
Say, we could learn something from that.

Jon Murphy November 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Indeed. Like how Caesar was able to secure the popularity of the people by promising them land and giving them money, allowing him to become a popular dictator.

The Other Eric November 28, 2011 at 11:11 am

Dan, I will disagree that it is the parties that cause this. Without the game show mentality of the media’s “American Idol- Political Edition” we would have actual journalism describing events in detail. in segments lasting more than 1 minute, 22 seconds. The parties play the game, but they suffer as much as they gain from it.

And it keeps getting more expensive, which they clearly don’t like.

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Dan, that is an excellent idea!

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 27, 2011 at 9:41 pm

A night manager at Wal-Mart .… is far more likely to speak substantively

what tripe

For starters, why is Don the exception to the rule he says exists. Who picked him.

Moreover, everyone hear, including Don, wrapped themselves in Steve Jobs’ funeral shroud, and he was no night manager for Wal-Marts.

Daniel Kahneman just observed:

“We’re blind to our blindness. We have very little idea of how little we know. We’re not designed to know how little we know. Most of the time, [trying to judge the validity of our own judgements] is not worth doing. But when the stakes are high, my guess is that asking for the advice of other people is better than criticising yourself, because other people are more likely – if they’re intelligent and knowledgeable – to understand your motives and your needs.

“I’m not a great believer in self-help. The role of my book is to educate gossip, to make people more sophisticated in the way they think about the decisions and judgments of other people, which is easy and pleasant to do. If we have a society in which people had a richer language in which to talk about these issues, I think it would have an indirect effect on people’s decisions, because we constantly anticipate the gossip of others.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/were-blind-to-our-blindness-we-have-very-little-idea-of-how-little-we-know-were-not-designed-to-6267089.html

Don is the person around here with blindness, who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 27, 2011 at 11:11 pm

If drivel was art, you’d be Rembrandt.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 28, 2011 at 8:41 am

obviously, you too are as blind as Don, unable to see the great art arising from my key strokes

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 28, 2011 at 11:32 am

unable to see the great art arising from my key strokes

Nah, I sensed it, but I think there’s a “F” missing from the sixth word above.

Jeffrey Neal November 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

Do you have a point, or do you show up just to pretend you are superior? Did the professor say, as your post insinuates, that ONLY Walmart night managers have anything wise to say? Of course not. Indeed, I suggest that your reply makes his point very clearly.

Sam Grove November 28, 2011 at 12:57 am

Moreover, everyone hear

Aaaargh!

Patriotic American November 27, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Don Boudreaux’s next letter will be to Highlights for Children claiming it lacks sophistication.

So, had you never heard of the New York Post or what?

SmoledMan November 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm

another hit & run troll.

Jeffrey Neal November 27, 2011 at 11:56 pm

I often wonder why people want to let government – even democratically elected officials – help them define what is or isn’t moral.

I elaborate here>
http://wp.me/p1jTK0-av

vidyohs November 28, 2011 at 7:06 am

“Peace will come to this Earth when her peoples have as much as possible to do with each other, their governments the least possible.
Richard Cobden

Ken November 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Believe it or not, JFC Fuller (British general and historian) expressed similar sentiments.

Ubiquitous November 29, 2011 at 9:54 am

Except that JFC Fuller was closely associated with Sir Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, as well as being a rank mystic and disciple of that pervert Aleister Crowley.

Aside from that, he was a very insightful guy.

rhhardin November 28, 2011 at 8:36 am

The point is to find a sound bite that undermines the soap opera narrative, or even starts a narrative with more of an element of truth.

I don’t know that you’ll ever get more than potshots, but the good ones work.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 28, 2011 at 8:39 am

“Peace will come to this Earth when her peoples have as much as possible to do with each other, their governments the least possible.
Richard Cobden

That’s a utopian fantasy. There never has been peace on this earth and to assume that it is a function of governments exercising wisdom they cannot posess (statists) or restraint they neither want or will accept (the utopianism of the other side) is fantasy. We can only hope to minimize the misery, but death and taxes are inevitable.

Becky Hargrove November 28, 2011 at 10:48 am

Here’s what I don’t get. Some among the media seem to have a vested interest in making the candidates look as stupid as possible and themselves, as smart as possible (all possibilities of stupidity notwithstanding). Maybe they should be the ones running for president.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 28, 2011 at 11:35 am

“Maybe they should be the ones running for president.”

Are you kidding, they know how much easier it is to quarterback on Monday morning than it is on Sunday afternoon.

Randy November 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I’ve noticed that too. Their sense of self importance is almost too much for me sometimes. The height of it is when they do stories about themselves – stories about how the media is responding to the story of the day.

david stinson November 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Amen. Reminds me of similar sentiments expressed by Leonard Read.

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Excellent letter, Don! It is not what a candidate wears around his neck that is important. What is important are the candidates principles, beliefs, and likely policies if elected as President. It won’t be long before Ms. Karni or some other idiot will ask the question we all want to know — does the candidate (excluding Ms. Bachman of course) wear boxers or briefs.

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