The Will of the people

Will Wilkinson has a good libertarian analysis of the US election result.

Some parts I particularly liked:

I have always thought that the symbolic or cultural value of an Obama victory would be enormous. The dramatic reaction last night confirmed that. I understand why so many people are elated, and part of me is elated, too. I find it hard to see how you could not be. There is no denying that an election can be culturally transformative. It means something profound that a black man was elected to the most visible, high-status position our society offers. …

But, frankly, I hope never to see again streets thronging with people chanting the victorious leader’s name. …

romance in politics is dangerous, misplaced, and beneath intelligent people. Were we more fully civilized, we would tolerate the yearnings projected on our leaders. Our tribal nature is not so easily escaped, after all. But we would try to escape it. We would discourage and condemn as irresponsible a romantic politics that tells us that if we all come together and want it hard enough, we’ll get it. We would spot the dangerous fallacy in condemning as “cynicism” all serious attempts to critically evaluate the content of political hopes.

18 thoughts on “The Will of the people

  1. I can see the symbolic value of the result, especially if it means that there is no longer any excuse to play the victim card. But what about the race card? I think we are still short of the point that Martin Luther King wanted to reach, where a man is judged on what he has to offer, not the colour of his skin. Can someone convince me that the solid black vote for Obama was based on a critical appraisal of the alternative policies?

    Like

  2. Rafe – does it matter? The US government is designed to fraustrate presidential populism. It remains to be seen whether Obama is fundamentally different from many other US presidents – while there will be some differences, I don’t reckon there will be many.

    What this does is silence the numbnuts who are forever carrying on about US racism.

    Like

  3. Rafe – If we condemn voters for not critically appraising policies, than most of them stand condemned. Given the history of the United States, I would rank voting for Obama because he is black well above voting for McCain because he has shown courage and strength of character. The problems of the African American population are in part psychological and cultural, which are notoriously hard things for policy to get at. If this victory changes the sense that African Americans have of what is possible for them that provides an excellent reason for an African American to vote for him.

    Like

  4. “What this does is silence the numbnuts who are forever carrying on about US racism.”

    And a fair chunk of the rest of the world, for that matter, if you look at how the rest of the world would have voted if they had the chance.

    Like

  5. rafe, have you ever had a look at some data on the economic position of African-Americans? Unless you are a true racist and believe in innate white superiority you have to agree that their position is still both dire and unjust. After what they’ve gone through you can’t seriously blame them for being jubilant.

    And that jubilation is not all about race, either – Colin Powell when he was considering running would never have generated that level of enthusiasm, and it’s rational anyway for poor people – most of whom are black – to celebrate victory for “the redistributionist in chief”.

    Anyway, no doubt if he was of Italian extraction then he’d have got the Italian-American vote, and if Irish the Irish-American vote (as Kennedy did).

    As for decrying lionisation of politicians generally, I agree (“whoever you vote for a politician gets in”). But the condemnation would be more impressive if people like Wilkinson didn’t idolise Saint Ronald.

    Like

  6. “What this does is silence the numbnuts who are forever carrying on about US racism.”

    These are the same numbnuts who have been elated about an Obama win. They really do believe their bullshit about how racist the US is. The victory of Obama to them represents a paradigm shift in attitude, whereas to anyone who’s not a moron it just confirms what we already knew: The level of racism in the US is overstated and has been for decades.

    Like

  7. I think some “romance” is OK in politics. Party allegiance is an obvious example, as is patriotism. But every charismatic leader has some kind of “gut” appeal, so unless you want bland bureaucrats as heads of state, get used to feelings having a role in elections. This statement is clearly false:

    He is not your leader, any more than the mayor of your town is your leader. We are free people. We lead ourselves.

    If people of any category deserve to be called leaders, it those in government. “Leading ourselves” is a semantically bizarre phrase — it’s as though Wilkinson doesn’t really believe in leadership at all.

    Apparently it’s a romantic fallacy that “if we all come together and want it hard enough, we’ll get it”. But it’s an unromantic fallacy that “if we all just think things through disinterestedly enough, we’ll each individually get it”.

    Romance can go over the top — e.g. the cultish “yes we can” mantra; or the idea, based on the romantic notion of an individual head of state, that Australia should have a president — but it has its place.

    Like

  8. ‘Romance’ is important for motivation, but bad for judgment. This suspension of critical thought is functional in personal life (eg creating enduring marriages) but much less so in politics. If Obamamania lasts it won’t be healthy, though I doubt it will – given all the factors working in favour of any Democrat candidate Obama’s victory wasn’t that large (52%-47%) and soon his lack of power to perform miracles will become apparent.

    Like

  9. Sinclair – do you really think that the election of a black President will silence the numbats? They will twist the facts till they get the story they want. There is a part of me that is still amazed by their intellectual gymnastics.

    Like

  10. johno – nothing will ever silence the numbnuts in total, but they will have to find something else to carry-on about. I’m always impressed by the sheer genius they display.

    Like

  11. “Can someone convince me that the solid black vote for Obama was based on a critical appraisal of the alternative policies?”

    It makes perfect sense on economic grounds for blacks to vote Democratic.

    What makes no sense is why poor whites, especially in the south, vote Republican. They vote for the party that keeps them and their family poor in the hope that voting Republican will stop women they don’t know from getting abortions, and gays they don’t know from getting married.

    Go figure.

    Like

  12. voting Republican will stop … gays they don’t know from getting married.

    Those people live in California and vote democrat 🙂

    Like

  13. ‘Romance’ is important for motivation, but bad for judgment. This suspension of critical thought is functional in personal life (eg creating enduring marriages) but much less so in politics.

    Hmmm … I think there’s a distinction to be made between having feelings and being controlled by them. But in my understanding of human psychology, reason doesn’t frame emotion; instead, reason is motivated by and couched in emotional-instinctual responses. I guess I would argue that judgment is always motivated by something, but motivations aren’t always judged by reason.

    Like

  14. The funny thing about the successful Californian campaign to ban gay marriage is that it was funded by the Mormons.

    Because Mormons, as everyone knows, are all in favour of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

    Happily it appears that the California referendum was unconstitutional so the marriage of Ellen de Generes and her spouse is not over yet.

    Like

  15. I hope not – some Californian counties are no longer issuing licences while others still are – irrespective of how it all ends up, it is untenable to have situation like that.

    Like

  16. Wasn’t the proposition meant to change the Californian constitution?

    I was raised Mormon and I’m now gay. The hypocrisy of Mormon followers pisses me off. One of the fundamental beliefs in the Mormon church is “free agency”, another core belief is “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and render unto god that which is god’s”. The church leaders accept gay mormons in the church and allow them to keep on living as members of the church provided they do not sin (actually have gay sex). Yet then they fund this?

    Fucking hypocrites. For a religion that has been persecuted for centuries and even had their leader murdered you’d think they’d be more tolerant of alternate viewpoints. I don’t even know where all this comes from, because it isn’t what I was taught when I was in the Church.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s