Sunday, August 23, 2009

The gift that keeps on giving

Paul Krugman (and others) have taken to task some oh-so-superior-sounding-I'm-a-real-journalist at the Atlantic for saying that the right thing to do was to go along with Bush because hoocoodanode that things like the terror alert colors were just political theater?

But I’d like to return to one point: even after retracting his statement about people who correctly surmised that terror warnings were political being motivated by “gut hatred” of Bush, he left in the bit about being “reflexively anti-Bush”. I continue to find it really sad that people still say things like this.

Bear in mind that by the time the terror alert controversy arose in 2004, we had already seen two tax cuts sold on massively, easily documented false pretenses; a war launched with constant innuendo about a Saddam-Osama link that was clearly false, and with claims about WMDs that were clearly shaky from the beginning and had proved to be entirely without foundation. We’d also seen vast, well-documented dishonesty and politicization on environmental policy. Oh, and Abu Ghraib was already public knowledge.

This is basically the admission I want out of people who were war supporters, and, to state it dramatically, I think it's the essential key to avoiding fascism.  We have to call people out when they behave like a crowd.  It happens to all of us sometimes, and some of us all the time, and if we aren't at least made to feel silly about it afterwards, it becomes all the more ingrained the next time around.  Somewhere, somehow, we have to make it more difficult for people to give up personal responsibility for their decisions, rather than making the deference to authority or experts of whatever type constantly easier.  Consider that we had two giant asset bubbles over this same time frame, and you'll begin to see that we had a more systematic problem.  Our current reaction seems to be pulled from the shot-and-a-beer for breakfast genre -- now we are supposed to just trust them to work things out with healthcare, the deficit, financial reform, etc ... We're getting a lot of "trust me" and not a whole lot of concrete new mechanisms that would force people to think for themselves. 

The centralization of political and economic power that took off under G-dub has only accelerated with O-bam, and (worldwide I hasten to point out) we are making it constantly easier for individual actors to keep the benefits and pass off the costs, with the whole system held together on the naive assumption that the same technocrats who presided over the freeing of the horse will now have the good sense to shut the barn door.  And that's the non-conspiracy-version of the hypothesis.  So, I completely agree with P-krug that it was perfectly rational to suspect that Bush was full of shit, and those who chose to overlook this should be made to face their own knee-jerk kowtowing, but I also think those who are making the same mistake now with Obama should take a hard look at their reasoning -- so far, Obamanation is just doubling down on the Armageddon Put.

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