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What Have We Become? - Part 1

As I suspect most readers of these pages will be aware, the son of Boston University professor of history and international relations Andrew Bacevich was killed while serving in Iraq. I'll not linger on the loss, which, like all such losses, is unutterably tragic, tinged in this case by the irony of the fallen hero's father's reputation as a critic of Bush's Mesopotamian misadventure. Our prayers must be with the Bacevich family as they mourn their loss.

The loss of a young officer, however, while an occasion for private grieving, is veritably pregnant with portents for the future of this nation, well beyond the polarization of our political discourse that would have the vilest of war enthusiasts penning letters to Prof. Bacevich to lay the blame for the loss of his son at the elder man's writings. For here it is not merely the nature of the loss - though even this alters its aspect when contemplated in light of the political setting - that arrests the mind, but the also nature of the political establishment itself. Though the sort of people who were rankled by the celebrated First Things End of Democracy symposium will likely bridle at the suggestion, it is all but incontrovertible that the response of the establishment to public opinion on the war (and on other matters, as we will see) indicates that the integrity of our ostensible republic of self-governing citizens has been compromised, perhaps mortally.

Professor Bacevich writes:


What exactly is a father's duty when his son is sent into harm's way?

Among the many ways to answer that question, mine was this one: As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen.


Prof. Bacevich, that is, strove to fulfill the duties incumbent upon a citizen of a republic, especially a citizen possessed of expertise and knowledge in a field pertinent to an issue of great public import, by delineating the bases of the Bush policy, and expounding upon the reasons that policy is, as he writes, "...dead wrong and doomed to fail." In so doing, he believed that his contribution would combine with those of many others engaged civically to precipitate something of a change.

This, I can now see, was an illusion.

The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."


To the obduracy of the President and the dominant faction of his party we might add the craven cynicism of the Democrats, who, terrified of appearing to be soft on 'national security' (although the argument that Iraq has much to do with our national security has never been other than a diaphanous lie over an illusion), and earnestly desirous of hanging the albatross of the war about the neck of the GOP for the 2008 elections, have scant interest in doing much more than posturing.

Bacevich continues:


To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.

Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing.


Now, some might wish to dismiss such allegations as nothing more than the paroxysms of grief and rage of a grieving father; others may wish to dismiss them as quasi-Marxist claptrap. To the former, I can say only that such crude personalizations of the political ought to be beneath the discourse of civilized peoples; to imagine that political disagreement either can or should be reduced to a matter of personal psychology is to recapitulate the tactics of earlier generations of , well, revolutionaries - and the reprise ought to be rejected as such. As regards the latter, it should suffice to note that conservatives in America would do well to reacquaint themselves - or, as the case may be, acquaint themselves for the first time - with the writings of James Burnham, who grasped that any governing establishment reposes upon an architecture of economic arrangements, which both secure and reinforce - and enforce - that establishment. It is no refutation of this observation to note the institutional drift of think tanks and organizations once founded for other purposes, but which now agitate for the policies of the duopoly: the surest path to relevance is often association with power and privilege, not their contestation.


Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels. It preserves intact the cliches of 1933-45 about isolationism, appeasement and the nation's call to "global leadership." It inhibits any serious accounting of exactly how much our misadventure in Iraq is costing. It ignores completely the question of who actually pays. It negates democracy, rendering free speech little more than a means of recording dissent.

This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works.

No, it is not a conspiracy. But what it is, is the senescence of republican government, the withering away of vital self-government, the attenuation of citizenship, and the alienation of the establishment and elites from the people they feign to represent. What the Founding Fathers feared, that mere factionalism would degrade our system of government, reducing it to the creature of an unrepresentative minority, has become our reality.

This is not merely a question of foreign policy; the disease is endemic throughout our republic. It manifests in the symptom of elite defiance of the will of the people on the immigration and national questions. It also manifests itself on matters perhaps dearer still to the hearts of many American conservatives, at least as we have come to understand that designation. Georgetown professor of government, and founder of the Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy, Patrick Deneen, draws our attention to a fascinating little piece in the New York Times discussing one Bryan Caplan's contempt for the will of the people. The author of that piece, Gary Bass, explains:


Now Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University, has attracted notice for raising a pointed question: Do voters have any idea what they are doing? In his provocative new book, “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies,” Caplan argues that “voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational — and vote accordingly.” Caplan’s complaint is not that special-interest groups might subvert the will of the people, or that government might ignore the will of the people. He objects to the will of the people itself.

Caplan argues that the aggregative function of democracy can only succeed in minimizing the effects of voter ignorance of what are regarded as technocratic problems if the distributions of errors, and votes cast on the basis of the errors, are random. Alas, as Caplan argues, begging a question or two somewhere along the line,


...voters make systematic mistakes about economic policy — and probably other policy issues too. (Emphasis mine.)

I do not wish to gloss over the momentous questions, which so occupied earlier generations of Americans, inclusive of the Founders, concerning the relationship of public opinion to the formulation of policy. However one might care to describe the process of representation and refinement of opinions and interests that ought to characterize a representative government, it remains that the division between elite and popular opinions on a spectrum of issues has seldom, if ever, been so marked, and the alienation of the elites so complete. A representative system of government cannot abide when the governing classes openly avow that the people, being "ignorant", must defer to the judgment of their betters and submit to the tutelage of those who think themselves wise.

Bass continues:


Caplan’s own evidence for the systematic folly of voters comes from a 1996 survey comparing the views of Ph.D. economists and the general public. To the exasperation of the libertarian-minded Caplan, most Americans do not think like economists. They are biased against free markets and against trade with foreigners. (snip)

If the public doesn’t know how to think, is there a solution? Caplan has some radical medicine in mind. To encourage greater economic literacy, he suggests tests of voter competence, or “giving extra votes to individuals or groups with greater economic literacy.” (snip) Most provocatively, perhaps, in an online essay Caplan has suggested a curious twist on the tradition of judicial review: If the Supreme Court can strike down laws as unconstitutional, why shouldn’t the Council of Economic Advisers be able to strike down laws as “uneconomical”?


And there one has it: in a managerial democracy, some votes are more equal than others, perhaps even quantitatively. One scarcely knows how to evaluate Caplan's fantasies. Perhaps Caplan is the sort of naif who, having finally decoded the esoteric texts of his teachers, rushes to disclose their meaning to the world, rendering the esoteric the commonplace. Or perhaps he is merely supercilious, believing himself, and those like him, possessed of a right of rule, and of authority and deference due on account of knowledge of the Mysteries. In the end, however, neither Caplan's analysis and anti-republican proposals, nor the representation of public opinion, are the issues. What is at issue is the alienation of the establishment from the people, from the nation, and the growing perception among them that they possess an inherent right of deference. Moreover, it is a presupposition of self-government that the electorate have the power to make "mistakes", even if elites err in considering these acts mistaken. A polity can no more be free without this power than a man can possess free will in this life absent the power to will evil. Acceptance of Caplan's doctrine would, with one stroke, abolish the Republic.

Professor Deneen, in summation of his critique of Caplan and Bass, writes words that, while directed at the economistic hauteur of Caplan and Bass, are equally apropos of the controverted issues of the war and immigration:


The thought never crosses the mind of any of these academic elites that the people may be right: that what the populace seeks to endorse is reasonable stability in their lives and their communities, the creation and sustaining of a moral ecology, the chance to pass one's cultural inheritance from one generation to the next, the knowledge that one's children will not be asked to die for the country in wars of imperialism or to secure a steady flow of petroleum, and that one can live and die in communities where one's life will be remembered and honored. Democracy, thus stated, is neither about efficiency nor legitimacy, its aim is not economic growth or individual autonomy, but about living well within moral and humane limits. That such a thought doesn't remotely occur to our academic leaders is all the more reason why it would be better to be governed by the first 100 names in the Cedar Rapids phone book than by members of the faculty at Princeton or George Mason Universities.

What is most portentious in all of these symptoms is that Caplan's multiple-voting scheme is hardly necessary. The very structures of the political establishment, inclusive of the parties as coalitions of disparate interest groups, insure a high degree of immunity for the American elite. Perhaps, when by their actions, the hierarchies of the parties demonstrate that they believe "we have no other place to go", we should instruct them that we do, in fact, have other places to go, and that, sooner or later, with or without their consent, we intend to take them to those places. A crisis of legitimacy is aborning; the task of the hour is not to explain it away, but to learn how to wield it.

Comments (28)

We turned this corner long ago, when politics became a career, not a limited service, and granted the power to tax (and hence, feed and support Leviathan). No turning back now - only starting over.

I could have done without Bacevich's reference to "bellicose evangelicals." Does he really believe that, oh, perhaps James Dobson would have tried to insist that President Bush continue the war in Iraq had the President decided otherwise? I really, really doubt that. Most evangelicals are bellicose (if they are) _because_ the president they chose to follow, whom they chose to follow _because_ their leaders led them to believe he was their guy on _domestic_ issues, is telling them this is important. So please, let's leave out the evangelical (and thinly-veiled Israel) bashing, Prof. Bacevich.

Other than that, though, I agree that the hammerlock of the two-party system has been bad. Its worst effects have been on honorable, ordinary people who are now seriously considering voting for a President in Drag, a man who treated his wife infamously, who has nothing but contempt for nearly all of their most important beliefs, values, and concerns, _just_ because he's wearing an R on his shirt and his name isn't "Hillary Clinton." I've been really distressed by this.

I doubt myself that I'll be voting for either party in the general election. Heck, since Bill told me about Tancredo's crack about torture, I may not even be voting in the Republican primary.

But other than being willing not to vote Republican, what else do you suggest conservatives do when they feel their party and government is ignoring them entirely--be it on the war in Iraq or on domestic issues like immigration, abortion, whatever?

Well, I both agree and disagree that Bacevich's aside against "bellicose evangelicals" was inappropriate. I agree insofar as many evangelicals simply do not engage in any serious ratiocination over the questions of foreign policy, and act on the counsel of their leaders. I disagree, and that on the basis of my experiences growing up evangelical, insofar as many evangelicals who do consider foreign policy do so uncritically, embracing just about any policy perceived (rightly or wrongly) as supportive of Israel, regardless of whether it is truly in the interests of Israel, as opposed to Likud, whether it is ruinous for the region and the United States (Iraq, contemplated regime change in Syria, etc.), and whether it might be deleterious for Christians in the Near East.

As regards what I suggest conservatives do in response to the crisis of legitimacy? That's what we need to discuss, now, isn't it? I won't claim to have the answers to that question, but clearly, something must be done when the choices engineered for us amount to rotating four bald tires on one clapped out car.

I'd like to see if we can avoid having this thread be a discussion of Israel, on which I suspect we disagree, though perhaps the danger is my fault in mentioning that country. I grant you that many evangelicals are strongly pro-Israel on religious grounds. I was raised that way, too, just like you, and I know what you are talking about there. But now I'm strongly pro-Israel on other grounds.

But the subject in the context w/ Bacevich was, I thought, *the war in Iraq*. Now, I just doubt very, very much that any evangelical leader, any such leader at all, the most philo-Israeli such leader, up to and including Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell, would have urged Bush (whose ear the evangelicals had supposedly bought with money? huh?) to continue the war in Iraq on the grounds that it was good for Israel. I just don't believe that. People opposed to the war keep saying it's the neocon-pro-Israel axis that is keeping it going, but I just find it impossible to believe that either evangelicals generally or their most visible leaders believe the war in Iraq itself to be justified on some pro-Israeli grounds. If anything, they believe what Bush told them--weapons of mass destruction, war on terror, now that we're there we can't leave because that will look like we're running away, and so on and so forth. I don't think either the "evangelical on the street" or his lobbyists are favoring this war for reasons having to do with Israel, and I think they would, though a bit puzzled, trust Bush if he decided to withdraw from Iraq.

As to what to do, here's one thing I wish could be done: I wish that the religious right could send a very strong message that they will not under any circumstances vote for a pro-abortion candidate. Is that so hard? I gather Dr. Dobson _has_ come out with a statement to that effect, but I heard it only by hearsay and it's gotten hardly any press. If only the religious right were willing to present a unified front on this, it might make some difference to the all-too-cynically political Republican party.

People opposed to the war keep saying it's the neocon-pro-Israel axis that is keeping it going, but I just find it impossible to believe that either evangelicals generally or their most visible leaders believe the war in Iraq itself to be justified on some pro-Israeli grounds. If anything, they believe what Bush told them--weapons of mass destruction, war on terror, now that we're there we can't leave because that will look like we're running away, and so on and so forth.

Two comments. First, evangelicals' support for the war is, as you note, rooted in their acceptance of all the dubious grounds advanced for it by the administration and echoed by their leaders. For some of them, however, that the war may be interpreted (rightly or wrongly) as beneficial to Israel is a consonant reason for supporting it, a factor which acts to stabilize the existing commitment. Trust me. I work with such people.

Second, while I think it by now undeniable that at least some of the neoconservative war hawks had in mind the interests of Israel, the primary inspiration for the war seems, in my judgment, to have been an attempt to vindicate the strategy of global openness that America represents, and which constitutes the ethos of her hegemony. For an American establishment which believes America to incarnate the End of History in democratic capitalism and global free trade, inclusive of the free movement of all peoples, the notion that any culture, say, that of Islam, could be such as to preclude convergence upon that ideal of openness cannot but stand as a rebuke. An intolerable counternarrative of particularism and refusal. That the ideals of openness happen to coincide with the material interests of the American establishment is the point: the vindication, through incorporation, of the peculiar American imperium.

And yes, it would be wonderful if Christians would actually exercise their civic responsibilities as Christians, staying home if confronted with a pseudo choice between degrees and expressions of evil.

Lydia,
I've read Andrew Bacevich's piece several times and don't detect any bashing of Israel, veiled or otherwise.

My only exception to "bellicose evangelicals" is that it should've been broadened to include Catholic "neo-cons". Who can forget how they stood on their heads to defy the Pope, while christening a leader of our secular state with a "charism" in regards to his exercise of "War Powers".

Among the many ramifications this war holds is the profound damage done to the pro-life cause in particular and to "conservatism" in general. A more powerful "seamless garment of death", as someone else coined it, will soon hold sway in our corrupt halls of power.

As a simple matter of conscience, our bargain with Ceasar and his sated minions is no longer tenable. Maximos has captured the moment perfcetly. We must prepare ourselves, our families and our communities for the rupture that is coming. Chesterton once quipped it is not really hope, until it is hopeless. Many of us our filled with Hope.
Kevin

Bacevich's "money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing" strikes me as evasive disdain. What allies, in the plural, could he be referring to who actually want us to stay in Iraq, or who approved our going in in the first place? As to evangelicals, about whom I know little aside from that generalized support for Israel, a reason can be "consonant" without being sufficient. I support their support, by the way, in the sense I am committed to that state's integrity against the forces that would exterminate it. Our presence in Iraq doesn't, or shouldn't, affect that commitment one way or another.

Regarding the post's main point, you're probably right. I heard Tancredo's remark by accident, and did not catch enough from the other candidates (except McCain, Giuliani, and Romney) on that torture issue, McCain the only one making what sounded like a protest against it. My question is: are McCain and Brownback, strong pro-lifers, unsupportable because of their support of the current immigration bill? And is support of that bill of sufficiently pressing moral concern as to cancel out their pro-life bona fides?

I don't know what to think about McCain's pro-life credentials (and Maximos, don't let me hijack your thread, if this is too OT). I have some questions about them but nothing absolutely clear. Apparently there was no question about them until after the rift between McCain and the NRLC over McCain-Feingold. Now M-F was unconstitutional in my judgement, and I don't think I would support him for that reason alone. But the NRLC really fell out with him over it. The irony was that Bush then signed it, after having spoken out against it in his 2000 campaign, but NRLC was already dead set in support of Bush. This was very embarrassing for them. They actually managed in their issue after M-F was signed to decry its passage while *not mentioning* that Bush had signed it for several pages, slipping it into one sentence later in the article. And of course in 2004 they were just as pro-Bush as ever, while their relationship with McCain had been irreparably damaged years before. But here's the thing: Since then McCain has done nothing much to burnish his pro-life credentials, and as I have some reason to think of him as quite an opportunist and a politician to the bone marrow, I'm not surprised. Is his pro-life position more than skin deep? Oh, and *let's not forget* that he was one of the "gang" that prevented the "nuclear option" on judicial filibusters. That should make a big difference to any expectation we would have of his appointing constitutionalist justices, because after all, that was what that fight was all about. So I don't think I can find it in me to vote for McCain.

Brownback is big on the immigration bill, eh? Shucks. I think I knew that before but conveniently forgot.

As to bellicose evangelicals, I continue to believe taht they are being led in their support for the war, not leading. And could be led in a different direction.

About Christians voting as Christians, I don't know if that's the problem per se. The last disappointment I had on this issue came thusly: I was eating dinner with some _very_ conservative good friends, a home schooling couple with 10 children! They seemed to be indicating that they would vote for Giuliani (though they didn't say so outright) if it were he or Hillary, because they were so afraid Hillary would pass the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but Rudy "wouldn't be pushing it." Now, heck, I'm not even sure if that latter statement is true, but what a _poor_ argument! And I yield to none in my detestation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Nonetheless, in a weird way, they seem to be thinking of this as "voting as Christians." Voting against Hillary is voting as Christians to them. I don't claim to understand, but an appeal to Christianity isn't going to work practically with people who think that way, I'm afraid.

Clearly Bacevich is referring to Israel, but does that really qualify as "disdain" of the Jewish state? His point is that a well-financed few can trump the desires of the majority and that the Iraq War is the latest, most obvious example of a sickness eating at our form of government.

He supports Israel's right to exist, but probably believes she sometimes acts against her own best interest. Bacevich is a good man. Wish we had more like him shaping our nation's foreign policy.

As to evangelicals, about whom I know little aside from that generalized support for Israel, a reason can be "consonant" without being sufficient.

"Neither necessary nor sufficient" was what I had in mind when I elected to use the term "consonant". But is it there.

For the record, I have no difficulty avowing my support for that certain Near Eastern nation, though I will not equate "support" with "whatever might be desirable for that nation in the abstract".

My question is: are McCain and Brownback, strong pro-lifers, unsupportable because of their support of the current immigration bill? And is support of that bill of sufficiently pressing moral concern as to cancel out their pro-life bona fides?

I have, despite something of a reputation as a hard-liner on the immigration question, agonized over this very dilemma, only to arrive at the (settled) conclusion that voting for pro-life candidates cannot stand as the limit of my political responsibility. Look, whatever my warm feelings about ethnic diversity personally - and my parish church is nothing if not diverse in this sense - no government can be legitimate if it deliberately and with malice aforethought engineers the dispossession of the native born population, precluding them from preserving the culture and way of life handed to them by their fathers, and essentially enjoining them against meaningfully transmitting it to their children. The present immigration flows will transform America into a society structurally akin to the stratified societies of Latin America, into an altogether more Hobbesian place. And I believe that I have an obligation towards my children, an obligation I cannot shirk, to resist this.

Besides, the evidence now suggests that the recent Latin American immigrants are assimilating to underclass norms of personal morality, and their own political traditions suggest that they'll not be voting for the conservative party, as they will be voting on the basis of economic and ethnic self-interest. I would that it were not so, but statistics are not always something worse than damned lies.

but does that really qualify as "disdain" of the Jewish state? Yeah. If he meant Israel, why didn't he just say so? There's something insulting about not referring to someone by his name, as though by doing so you'd lend to it a legtimacy you didn't think it possessed.

Jeff (and Lydia), I saw McCain on one of those Chris Matthews' townhall things a few years ago answer the question "Do you want to see abortion outlawed?" with a firm, unhesitating "yes." It was a refreshing moment, but I don't know if anything's changed since. Maggie Gallagher at marriagedebate.com documented his wobbliness on gay marriage. (Against the federal amendment, I believe, in favor of states deciding.) I also saw him interviewed a couple of nights ago by,um, somebody, and he gave no clear answer on the difficulties you mention above - the demographic and cultural shift, the probable destruction of conservatism as a political force. Perhaps most importantly, he could give no assurance that, from this point forward, the border will be sealed. I also wonder what will happen if the many millions being offered a "path to citizenship" (a path McCain says will take 13 years to trudge) decide they'd rather stay hidden than sign up? What then? Because those many millions have to get in line behind other immigrants who came here legally. It's interesting how this country likes to let problems get so huge that they become virtually insoluable.

I'm not as 'settled' as you are. Voting pro-life is not the limit of my responsibility, but it's certainly the minimum. I will give it much greater weight than any other. And yet...

I want to add a contrarian remark, which is in no way intended to detract from Jeff's fine essay, and then a couple practical suggestions.

Though these nostrums of "multiple voting," and the Supreme Calculator, Economist and Sophister Court are almost comically revealing of a plutocratic mind -- yet I must say that in principle I have no problem with restricting the franchise.

The plutocrats would give themselves more votes, or even a sovereign veto power; I would take away votes based on principles of Equality. Let a prospective voter successfully repeat all Six Purposes from the Preamble of the Constitution before he may vote. Or let him give a brief account of the bicameral legislature. Simple civics. In English.

Russell Kirk often spoke of "weighing" votes. A man with a large family ought to be given an incremental larger share of the vote, given that his investment in the future of the nation is incrementally larger.

As even the philosopher of Open Society Liberalism, J. S. Mill, argued: Let anyone (save soldiers and law enforcement) who derives his income from the state, be stripped of his franchise, on the grounds that corrupt voters form a real problem in a republic.


As for the question, What Should be Done? -- I would begin with the recommendation that Conservatives and Christians do what many of them already do: invest in your local community. The smaller the better, but recall that the several states are not yet impotent in our form of government. My own Georgia and Colorado, God bless them, have written the strictest laws against illegal immigration in the country -- one law written by a GOP-led legislature, the other by a Democrat-led one.

A likely effect of the disintegration of American national sovereignty will be the expansion of the importance of the states and localities. The plutocrats may think they can rule all of us from New York and London, but they cannot. The disintegration of the Roman Empire produced an explosion of diverse localism. Could this process not be repeated?

We ought to prepare for it. It is possible that the disintegration of the empire will come faster than we think. A crisis in the oil industry alone might be enough.

"It is possible that the disintegration of the empire will come faster than we think. A crisis in the oil industry alone might be enough." You're right, this will usher in the welcomed development of "an explosion of diverse localism." But, not without the great pain,suffering and unrest that will accompany the dissolution of the "American Way of Life".

Some will turn to "The Man on the White Horse". And the Islamic threat will require persons better suited to statecraft than those produced by our current ruling class. They are in our midst. May they rise up when we need them most.

"We ought to prepare for it." An active prayer life, frequent reception of the Sacraments and a sense of humor are essential.Our countrymen have never been here before, but our Fathers have. Let them guide us to a better place.
Kevin

As a group, you are all basically sympathetic with the views expressed by Professor Bacevich. But are those views correct in a factual sense?

To wit, Bacevich makes the following claim:

"The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."

The main factual claim in this statement seems dubious at best. To claim that the 2006 midterm elections "signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament" suggests that every contested open seat for Congress in 2006 was won on the basis of attacking President Bush's Iraq policy or presumably for Bacevich won on the basis that we would immediately withdraw all our troops from Iraq. This is simply not true and in fact, there are specific examples of anti-war candidates who lost their races (Exhibit A is Ned Lamont) or anti-war candidates who might have won for other reasons. In short, that statement suggests that Professor Bacevich's own visceral antipathy for the war in Iraq clouds his judgment on what the 2006 elections signify (if they can be said to signify anything).

Bacevich goes on to decry the influence of money on politics. This complaint is hardly new or revelatory...but it does seem to be the default fall-back position of those who don't like the results of our political process. In other words, when the voters wind up supporting a policy I don't like, it can only be because they were duped by our elites into voting for 'obviously' wrong positions. Never mind that the "elites" are a diverse bunch and I'm skeptical of anyone who claims to know the mind of the elites (more on this later). Why can't the voters simply disagree with your judgment? Or to put it differently, what makes Bacevich so sure that voters actually support his position on Iraq?

This raises the question as to whether or not Maximos is correct to say "...it remains that the division between elite and popular opinions on a spectrum of issues has seldom, if ever, been so marked, and the alienation of the elites so complete." As I said above, it isn't clear to me how one defines elite opinion in the first place. Yes the editors of the "WSJ" are one example of elite opinion, but what about the editors of "The National Review"? Or the legislators in Colorado and Georgia that passed tough illegal immigration laws as mentioned by Mr. Cella? And it is unclear at this point if an immigration bill is even going to pass, so maybe the democratic process can work after all if the people really want our government to get tough on illegal immigration? In addition, once we look at the "spectrum of issues" suggested by Maximos, do we really find massive division between elite and popular opinion and does this division translate into public policies that favor the elites or the masses?

I raise these questions because without additional evidence or analysis it appears to this humble reader that a lot of the "argument" related to our elites (or the "establishment") being out of touch with the people (were they ever in touch? were there not serious disagreements about policy in 1790?) or our "system of government" being "degraded" seems like nothing more than sour grapes. If your favored public policies have failed to be implemented by the government (in your city, state, or country), for whatever reason, does it always then suggest that the government is 'broken' or could it suggest that your ideas weren't persuasive to those in power or those with power (in the case of republican government those in power derive their power through elections, so I really mean those who vote)?

I certainly would agree that the "elites" come in very anti-war flavors, judging especially by university professors and other intellectuals.

Speaking for myself, I admit that I'd never heard of Prof. Bacevich until Jeff put him in this piece and that I'm still deciding whether I like him or not. I'm against the war in Iraq and favor a much more isolationist foreign policy, but frankly I often find the rhetoric of some others who are against it boring and shallow. "Moneyed interests, blah, blah, big oil, big business, blah, blah, neo-cons, blah, blah, Israel, blah, blah" and now the one that provoked me--"bellicose evangelicals." The truth is, I strongly suspect (and here perhaps Maximos would at least partly agree) that we are in Iraq out of misguided idealism, not out of some sort of cynical bowing to moneyed interests.

My agreement here is principally with Maximos's implication that conservatives should be very tired of being told to shut up and lump whatever the Republican party dishes out. This is linked to my concern that the present working of the two-party system in the U.S. has messed up a lot of good people as voters who feel a confused civic duty to vote for an "electable" candidate in every major race, especially presidential.

As a matter of simple aggregative political analysis, yes, many of the discrete electoral campaigns were waged and won on issues other than the war. Nevertheless, one of the overarching themes of the campaign, indeed, the preeminent theme of the 2006 cycle - and one that was decisive here in SE PA, was simply the war - its conduct and the (in)competence of those leading the nation. The war was the meta-factor which influenced most of the races in the nation; to be certain, the results varied with the composition of local electorates - Lamont lost, for example, because Republican jingoes decided to vote for Lieberman as a rebuke to war opponents, despite the fact that Lieberman is a reliable hard-left vote on cultural issues. But the notion that the war was not the decisive factor in losing the Congress for the GOP is just revisionist fantasy, even more fantastical than the notion that immigration restrictionism cost the GOP.

As regards the matter of elite opinion, that opinion may be defined, formally, as the complex of sentiments and convictions that motivate those who actually exercise the power of decision in a nation. Or, perhaps, as the ideological expression of the interests of those who decide on policy and exceptions to policies. There is a profound, bipartisan consensus concerning the architecture of American foreign policy, a consensus that transcends the dog-and-pony show of campaign rhetoric; if any one doubts this, let him inquire as to who, in the halls of power, whether inside or outside of government, opposes American led economic - and in Europe, political - integration. Let him inquire as to who repudiates the notion that America should function as the guarantor of such openness and the concomitant values of democratic capitalism. Let him inquire, turning to economic policy more narrowly, as to why treaties such as NAFTA are enacted in the teeth of 70% plus opposition. Let him inquire as to why the express will of supermajorities of the American people concerning immigration is never enforced, even where their preferences have been formally enacted.

Examples could be enumerated almost without limit, though it ought to be obvious that considerations of mammonpolitik are, more often than not, decisive, and are all but certain to be decisive in cases where the pecuniary interests of the involved parties will redound to the geopolitical interests of an establishment wedded to interventionist foreign policy generally. Even American idealism is inextricably bound up with calculation: the narrative of democratic capitalism as the End of History, and the United States as the primus inter pares of the integrated global order, was directly challenged by the indigestible mass of Islam. To resist the idea was to resist the economic system and vice versa. This, incidentally, is what accounts, in part, for the abiding hostility towards Russia, and for the resistance of Russia and many Latin American nations to the neoliberal international order headed by America.

To attribute responsibility for the failure to see certain policy preferences enacted to the electorate is to make two related errors. First, it is to fail to recognize that modern political parties, at least in the United States, are coalitions of interests, and that within these coalitions, there are clearly-defined hierarchies that determine who receives what, in what order, and in what degree. In both American political parties, the neoliberal internationalists who are invested in globalization, mass immigration, and interventionism stand at the top of the hierarchies, which is why Clinton thumbed his nose at the union base that helped him secure his office, and why the GOP elites continue to thumb their noses at the base of the party on immigration, among other issues.

The more serious of the two errors is to imagine that a two-party system can function in any other fashion. A two-party political system presupposes a high degree of fundamental agreement within and among the electorate as to the nature of order; it will not always function in this manner, but that is the presupposition. That there were bitter disagreements between Hamiltonian Whigs and Jeffersonian Democrats, and between Republicans and Democrats at the time of the Civil War, for example, proves only that the intended structural stability of the system can, when circumstances are propitious, be unsettled. The structural logic of the two-party system is to create a deep consensus around certain basic objects of politics; this, in fact, is precisely what we observe on the issues most likely to roil the activist cadres of both political parties, inasmuch as their particular commitments are being slighted by the consensus.

The logic of a two-party system may not be, or may be less, problematic in a more politically, culturally, and, yes, ethnically homogenous state; but in a nation as sprawling and diverse as the United States, that system acts as a constraint upon the possibilities of politics. This, more than anything, is the reason for the failure of popular preferences, even those garnering in excess of 75% support, to see the light of day: the system privileges a type of consensus politics, and our form of that consensus happens to be neoliberalism, which mandates immigration, economic integration (often followed by de facto political integration), and interventionist foreign policy. The notion that we, the people, are principally responsible is, at best, a quarter-truth, at worst, a form of political blame-the-victim analysis. Yes, we were asking to be dispossessed, presumably by failing to accord certain personages and institutions the submission due to them.

Duncan Hunter? Go on, tell me the bad stuff about him that I don't know.

A basic rule of argumentation and analysis should be that we all agree on our facts.

When arguing with Maximos, I'm afraid I find myself often reading his rather portenous sounding statements of fact with a skeptical mind and today I did some "googling" of these statements and found some interesting facts that do not support the claims Maximos makes.

First, a minor quible. Maximos says that the war "was the decisive factor in losing the Congress for the GOP". I'm willing to accept this analysis, but then it does not follow that what the voters were voting for was an "unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament." I have read instead that many Americans would support our efforts in Iraq if they believed we could be successful. So they are (were) open to the idea that with better management we could salvage a victory in Iraq or at least improve the situation over there so that we could pull back our commitment of money and troops. But these are ambiguities which Mr. Bacevich refuses to acknowledge. In addition, I should point out to Maximos that although the GOP lost control of Congress, there are still many Americans who voted for Republican candidates and/or candidates that supported keeping troops in Iraq. Control of Congress does not mean, necessarily, majority support for any specific policy associated with the party in control. Which again suggests that the supposed disconnect between voters and the results of the election seems suspect.

But when it comes to international trade and specifically NAFTA, I found three different sources that suggest there is substantial support for both NAFTA ("In 1994, half the public agreed that NAFTA was "mostly good" for the U.S. economy, compared to a third who saw it as "mostlty bad"...see this link: http://digitalarchive.oclc.org/da/ViewObjectMain.jsp;jsessionid=84ae0c5f82400c5a1ed0513d401cbcc7d2122b862ef0?fileid=0000020402:000000988808&reqid=349)

and global trade in general (see both of these links:

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brlatinamericara/161.php?nid=&id=&pnt=161&lb=brla and
http://www.wilsoncenter.org/events/docs/Global_Views_2004_US.pdf).

The first link above is a study that is especially interesting because the study has lots of data that actually supports Maximos' contention that the general public has opinions that differ from the elite (or what the study calls "leaders"). But it still suggests (and the other studies linked to above suggest) that the difference is not as dramatic as Maximos suggests and that the opinion of the so called "masses" is much more varied than Maximos suggests and is much more supportive of the "neoliberal interventionist" position.

So until I see evidence to the contrary, I suggest that Occam's Razor applies here to what Maximos calls the "profound, bipartisan consensus concerning the architecture of American foreign policy" -- namely, the simplest answer as to why the U.S. government does what it does is because the people, in a very broad and general sense, support this bipartisan consensus.

It seems to me that the goal of Bacevich and the gang over here at this blog is to convince the American people that they are 'wrong' in supporting this consensus and get them to change their minds.

If we're going to introduce polls and surveys to this discussion, then this one should be of interest;

"In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?"
Satisfied Dissatisfied Unsure
25 73 2
http://www.pollingreport.com/right.htm

As regards the war, it ought to be evident that an editorial of the type penned by Bacevich is going to contain generalities, which is to say, from a different perspective, ambiguities. If anything, the salient fact about the 2006 election was that the control of Congress shifted to the Democrats; it would be radically counterintuitive, then, to argue that voters disenchanted with the management of the conflict, yet persuaded that it could be won with the right combination of strategy and determination, voted for Democrats, of whom there were precious few campaigning on a platform of muscular interventionism. Such voters would vote Republican. Furthermore, while it is indeed true that control of Congress, and even majority support for the party controlling Congress, does not entail that any particular policy position also receives majority support, there are also stubborn facts such as those contained in recent polling reports, which find that upwards of 60% of Americans regard the war as an error, between 55-60% supported the Democrats' gambit in the recently concluded funding standoff, and roughly 57% or so want a defined timetable for withdrawal.
So, if Bacevich overstates the implications of the 2006 election, what he nonetheless captures is the public sentiment in favour of winding down the debacle.

Public opinion is, ahem, not entirely consistent on the matter, just as it is not on most matters; but clearly one cannot spin a 60% favourable response to the statement that the war has not been lost as wholly contrary to the 57% support for a definite end-date. The war might well not be "lost", but this depends upon the specification of "defeat" as well as of "victory". People can easily come to believe that while the war has not been lost decisively, it is likely to drag on interminably to no good effect, and should therefore be concluded.

As regards public opinion on NAFTA, I will have to plead guilty to overstatement; I will confess that in this instance, the veritable welter of incoherence that public opinion often becomes tripped up my memory. As detailed in this paper, among many others, public opposition to NAFTA spiked at just over 50%, and hovered in the low to mid 40% range consistently during 1993. Only during a brief span of a few days in mid-November of that year did support eclipse opposition. What is baffling to the observer who at least occasionally expects some measure of coherence in public opinion (a perilous expectation, to be sure) is that the data reported in one of the pieces Mr. Singer links, including 69% reporting that low-wage foreign competition is a threat, 83% reporting that the protection of American jobs is an important priority, and 60% support for certain protective tariffs, are inconsistent with the simultaneous expressions of increased support for NAFTA. However, incoherence of this type is fairly common.

Explaining these incoherences, along with the shifts in public opinion on NAFTA in the months leading up to its eventual enactment, is beyond the intended scope of my present efforts, fascinating though the subject remains. Much scholarly effort has been expended upon the set of questions, and a few representative analyses can be found here, here, here, and here. The gist of the analyses of the public debate concerning, and campaign for the passage of, NAFTA is that, confronted by a public in which majorities were either opposed or undecided/indifferent, the political and economic establishment organized a concerted public relations campaign to shift public opinion and ensure passage. Some scholars will emphasize the propagandizing on behalf of free-trade dogmas, while others will emphasize the invocation of public myths and symbols and the efforts to associate opposition with the instability of Ross Perot. Underlying the entirety of the PR campaign was a subtext according to which opponents were not merely misguided, but malignant.

As despair spread, President Clinton, who had affected an almost diffident stance toward his own treaty, shoved his poker chips into the center of the table, assumed leadership of the campaign, and went all-out. (snip)

Closing ranks behind Clinton were the ex-secretary of state (Henry Kissenger), the congressional leaders of both parties, the Heritage Foundation and Brookings Institution, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commmission, the New Republic and National Review: all the king's horses and all the king's men. (And, I might note, a striking demonstration of elite consensus existing over and against the people.) (snip)

The New Republic even sniffed out demonic roots in the anti-NAFTA coalition. In an cover editorial, it declared, "It may not be too great a flight of rhetoric to say that at this crossroads of post-cold war history, Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot represent the cause of evil."

In other words, the scholarly analyses do not so much refute Pat Buchanan's narrative of the struggle over NAFTA as add interpretive depth.

What ought to be arresting in all of this is the curiousity of the establishment and political institutions of an ostensibly representative republic engaging in public relations campaigns (in undemocratic societies, we would deem this domestic propaganda, yes?) to secure the assent of a reluctant public to controversial policies, particularly policies which create a type of path dependence away from the sort of society majorities of Americans still indicate, however inconsistently, that they desire. The inconsistency of American public opinion concerning trade does not logically yield all-in commitments to neoliberalism as policy outcomes, and yet this is what we have. What does yield those commitments is elite selectivity regarding the segments of the electorate that will be accorded approbation, and elite manipulation of the side of an inconsistency that will yield the desired object. The political and economic establishment can repose upon the security afforded their interests by the structure of the two-party system, and the internal structures of the parties themselves - two considerations which complicate, and ultimately render impossible the application of Occam's (usually misguided) analytical tool to the question of the relation of public opinion to policy outcomes.

The bottom line of all of this is that the actual history of the debates surrounding NAFTA and its eventual ratification confirms the thesis of an alienated elite. The principal question of American politics during the consideration of NAFTA did not concern the deliberate sense of the people, but rather whether the people would assent to policies proposed by an elite - a quite different dynamic. And, speaking for myself, my goal is to persuade as many as possible that the civilized and humane ends they have set for themselves cannot be attained if neoliberalism retains its hegemonic status in our discourse. These policies are the condition of the impossibility of any sort of meaningful conservatism, and, if nothing else, the European Union is a fine illustration of this reality; the unbidden transformation of American society, culture, and politics will be another.

Housekeeping: The two paragraphs beginning with "Closing ranks..." and "The New Republic...", respectively, ought to be indented as quoted text. I have checked the html for the comment, and though the end-blockquote tag appears to be properly located, the text does not so appear. Oh, well.

Meanwhile, Daniel Larison has a succinct statement

concerning the relationship of public opinion to the duopoly:


With respect to the parties, we are not very divided at all. When you look at the constituencies of those parties, I think we are more divided, but not so radically or fundamentally as some might claim. The duopoly is tolerated by the public to some degree, but it has also become such an entrenched system that it prevents the real representation of roughly one-fifth of the electorate on each side of the spectrum, which makes the country appear to be more of one mind that it really is. There is absolutely no national consensus behind many of the bipartisan “consensus” positions on trade, foreign policy and immigration, to touch on three favourite points. Culturally, the country is surprisingly sharply divided considering the tremendous homogenising effects of mobility, television and other mass media.

Housekeeping: The two paragraphs beginning with "Closing ranks..." and "The New Republic...", respectively, ought to be indented as quoted text. I have checked the html for the comment, and though the end-blockquote tag appears to be properly located, the text does not so appear. Oh, well.

Fixed this for you.

What a bunch of great comments. I should pay more attention to politics.

I think I'm going to vote for Alan Keyes. I'll write him in on the ballot.

Maximos,

Thanks for the thoughtful response to my comment. A couple of closing thoughts:

1) "So, if Bacevich overstates the implications of the 2006 election, what he nonetheless captures is the public sentiment in favour of winding down the debacle. "

Well said. I guess more than anything I was reacting to Bacevich's obvious emotional tone, which I thought clouded his judgement. Lydia reacted negatively to his inclusion of "bellicose evangelicals" in his original list of trouble-makers, I object to the whole list because no evidence was adduced to support the list. In short, coming "on the heels" of Cindy Sheehan's recent public statements about the corruption of the two party system and our country's descent into a "fascist corporate wasteland", the claims about money corrupting everyone and screwing up the country rang hollow to my ears.

2) "The bottom line of all of this is that the actual history of the debates surrounding NAFTA and its eventual ratification confirms the thesis of an alienated elite."

Again, based on the actual polling evidence, this seems like a stretch at best and at worst a case of sour grapes by those like Maximos that think NAFTA is bad policy. Coming back to Maximos' original post in which he took the time to deride Mr. Caplan's arguments about the myth of the rational voter, I am struck by how the polling evidence around globalization and international trade reflects exactly the irrational thinking that Mr. Caplan wants to do something about (although here I’m with Maximos, we should not be taking away the people’s right to make irrational economic policy) .

To wit, Americans express the desire for cheap consumer goods and the desire to sell American goods abroad, but don't want to suffer the obvious consequences of international trade, namely job loss for certain industries and individuals with certain skill sets. Trying to honestly educate the public about the trade-offs associated with global trade and then asking them whether or not they still support trade could be instructive, although if anyone was paying attention to the debate around NAFTA, they would have heard the pro* and con arguments and could have in theory weighed the pluses and minuses associated with NAFTA and voted for their representatives accordingly. I have no idea if they did actually deliberate these issues as they voted (and of course, other issues would have impacted their votes) but I’m not sure how we can even judge that the debate around NAFTA failed to “concern the deliberate sense of the people”.

[By the way, why does Maximos characterize supporters of NAFTA as waging "public relations campaigns"...weren't opponents doing the exact same thing?]

3) "The inconsistency of American public opinion concerning trade does not logically yield all-in commitments to neoliberalism as policy outcomes, and yet this is what we have. What does yield those commitments is elite selectivity regarding the segments of the electorate that will be accorded approbation, and elite manipulation of the side of an inconsistency that will yield the desired object."

Again with the "elite manipulation", which suggests somehow that the will of the American people is routinely subverted or denied. And again, a confident statement about reality that doesn’t comport to the facts as I understand them (i.e. as free as American trade is today, it is a far cry from the “all-in commitments to neoliberalism” that neoliberal policies would suggest…in other words, we still_do_ impose tariffs on goods coming from certain countries, we still_do_subsidize agriculture and certain industries, we still_do_restrict immigration even though we have done a lousy job of it lately, etc., etc.)

In the end, when Maximos says “And, speaking for myself, my goal is to persuade as many as possible that the civilized and humane ends they have set for themselves cannot be attained if neoliberalism retains its hegemonic status in our discourse”; this seems like a better and potentially more fruitful course of action (using argument to persuade) than concluding the people are dupes manipulated by the elites for their (elites) nefarious ends.

4) A final hypothetical question for Maximos and all those who are troubled by global trade: image two cities in the state of Ohio that each have a factory (factory A and factory B) that produces a widget we’ll call W3TW. Each factory employs 100 people and they compete with one another but neither can command the loyalty of the entire market. One day an engineer at factory B comes up with a great way to produce more W3TW with less people. Factory B soon fires the unnecessary workers (let’s say a total of 20 people) and soon due to factory B’s lower labor costs (the process isn’t immediate because presumably factory B had to invest capital when implementing the engineer’s efficient idea) it is able to charge less than factory A for W3TW. As a result of these lower prices, factory B soon finds itself selling to all of factory A’s customers and factory A goes out of business, meaning 120 people are now out of work. In your scheme of things, would you even allow factory B to sell its cheaper W3TW? Does it matter that factory B is also in Ohio to considerations of whether or not we should allow factory B to sell its cheaper product? Why are political decisions about whether or not factory B can sell its cheaper products impacted by the fact that it is located in the same state as factory A? Would our political decisions be different if factory B was located in a different state? Why?

You see where these questions are leading you…I guess I’m ultimately interested in how political decisions about these two factories should be made if we accept the premises behind the notions of private property and capitalism. Because it seems to me hard to accept the premises behind capitalism and at the same time reject global trade. But if you reject capitalism, what takes its place?

the polling evidence around globalization and international trade reflects exactly the irrational thinking that Mr. Caplan wants to do something about

Well, yes, exactly. But this is precisely the point. The public do want lower prices and resist job and industrial losses, and given the logic of globalization, this is manifestly incoherent. The policies actually implemented simply affirm one half of the contradiction and wave the other half away with Lake Wobegonesque prating about education, retraining, and "better jobs", without mention of the fact that the better jobs carry a de facto entry requirement of an IQ comfortably into the upper half of the Bell curve.

A legitimate public relations campaign would involve contending factions presenting their respective cases to the public, with the representatives of the public attending to the debate in an effort to determine the contours of public opinion, the shape of the deliberate sense of the people. What actually transpired was that economic and political elites negotiated a treaty, signed it, and then sent it to the representative institutions of the nation for passage. In light of the latter fact, what actually happened was of the order of, "We're going to do this thing anyway, but we understand that ordaining such epochal alterations in our way of life might raise questions about the status of the democracy; so, in order to preserve the useful fiction of consent, without which there cannot exist the appearance of legitimacy, we will propagandize the public on behalf of this proposal until a percentage sufficient to preserve the illusion of consent concur in our determinations." In other words, there is a qualitative difference between Pat Buchanan waging a PR campaign against NAFTA and the political establishment itself waging a PR campaign for NAFTA.

That we do not maintain a regime of absolutely free trade really does not contradict the thesis so much as complement it, inasmuch as each one of the deviations from an hypothetical (and forever abstract) regime of pure free trade serves the interests of specific elite economic constituencies, just as the regime as a totality benefits the establishment as a whole.

As regards your own hypothetical, on the one hand I'm inclined to state that as it concerns economic developments within one state, that nothing whatsoever would be done to inhibit progress, if such it is. Though I'd not object overmuch if the people of such a state determined that this ought to be a matter of public deliberation, inasmuch as unfettered progress often engenders economic concentration, itself a less than desirable phenomenon. On the other hand, I'm not certain that it is germane, inasmuch as the question of globalization implicates the conviction of the traditionalist that we have obligations towards our countrymen that we do not have towards foreigners or that abstraction, economic efficiency. Unless we are discussing radical decentralization, I am uncertain of the relevance of an example concerning developments within a single state.

Because it seems to me hard to accept the premises behind capitalism and at the same time reject global trade.

If one accepts as the premises of capitalism per se the presuppositions of the integrated regime of global free trade, yes, this follows as a matter of tautology. But there have been countless differences between earlier forms of capitalism and the present form, most notably in the modes of comparative advantage alleged to obtain, the structural organization of corporations, and the tax regimes under which trade has occurred. Only if one defines capitalism at a high level of abstraction, as the pursuit of economic efficiency and the highest possible returns to capital, does capitalism, as a form of logic, entail globalization. In other words, even under the conditions of capitalism as a modern economic system, there have been divergent understandings of the nature, conditions, obligations, and limits of private property. Private property, though an aspect of the natural law, does not logically entail anything so specific and concrete in detail as the system under which we now live, for this is not in the nature of the natural law. Hence, this is not a matter of replacing capitalism - I would term the distributism I favour a situated and ethically circumscribed capitalism, if we really are so wedded to the word 'capitalism', though I am not - so much as a matter of determining what sort of capitalism we will have. A matter, that is, of rejecting the reified, totemized notion of The Market in favour of plural markets, operating under conditions suited to the places in which they operate.

Maximos,

Thanks once again for (another) thoughtful response. I find engaging you in these discussions educational and enjoyable and I appreciate your keen insight into these matters.

I thought your description of your ideal economic policies ("the distributism I favour a situated and ethically circumscribed capitalism") particularly useful in understanding your arguments. It still seems to me that this vision could in fact be realized by education and retraining and if not "better jobs", then similar jobs (e.g. the housing boom over the past 20-25 years has offered all sorts of opportunities for skilled carpenters, plumbers, electricians...jobs that seem suitable for those on the lower end of IQ distribution, if not the very bottom).

I guess my only remaining point of confusion arises in your description of a "legitimate public relations campaign" as one that would "involve contending factions presenting their respective cases to the public, with the representatives of the public attending to the debate in an effort to determine the contours of public opinion, the shape of the deliberate sense of the people." I'm not sure what you are saying here and/or how one would measure this, particularly when the "contours of public opinion" are so often muddled. Or to put it another way, if the public was so outraged by NAFTA and/or globalization, why weren't the "representatives of the public" thrown out of office in 1994 or 1996 for passing NAFTA? And if our system is so unresponsive to public opinion, why do appeals to "fair trade" and/or proposed limits to globalization seem to be gaining so much ground these days and politicians espousing such policies seem to be doing well?

Clearly there is an increasing sense of economic insecurity and public sentiment seems to want the government to take action to alleviate this insecurity and any associated economic hardship. What is unclear to me is what the people really want the government to do to help the situation. My guess is that some form of increased social welfare spending on education and/or health-care coupled with higher taxes on the rich to pay for this spending, is both what the people want and what will eventually get implemented as policy. But perhaps when readership of this blog hits Daily Kos-like levels, both the people and their elected representatives can be persuaded otherwise ;)

Well, I understand the arguments that exist for retraining and the shifting of employment to housing construction; nevertheless, I do not find them persuasive. Retraining, and the economy which imposes this necessity by the nature of its operations, entail instability and insecurity, things inimical to that institution for the sake of which the economy exists: the family. Now, we could simultaneously strengthen unemployment provision, and so on, but this strikes me as little more than a compensation for a what amounts to a fundamental, structural problem. Is it not better to heal a man's legs rather than telling him that he can always push himself around in a wheelchair?

As regards construction employment, I can think of few things more injurious in the long run; the glut of development not only consumes inordinate quantities of land and open space - a misallocation of resources that will be revealed as one of the most costly and ruinous once the peaking of oil production - somewhere down the line - and rising affluence in the developing nations of Asia combine to make energy much dearer than it has ever been (though this is to say nothing of the aesthetic and stewardship concerns raised by development) - but facilitates the further consolidation and abstraction of the economy in ever more arcane instruments of debt.

...particularly when the "contours of public opinion" are so often muddled.

Then don't enact NAFTA. Such epochal changes in a nation's way of life ought to be supported by supermajorities, not bare, shifting pluralities, and often confused ones, at that.

Or to put it another way, if the public was so outraged by NAFTA and/or globalization, why weren't the "representatives of the public" thrown out of office in 1994 or 1996 for passing NAFTA?

1. The muddled state of public opinion.
2. The two-party system.
3. The internal hierarchies of the parties, and the coalitions that constitute them.

This, I think, is poli-sci 101.

And if our system is so unresponsive to public opinion, why do appeals to "fair trade" and/or proposed limits to globalization seem to be gaining so much ground these days and politicians espousing such policies seem to be doing well?

Pay attention to the arguments advanced by the new populists of right and left. But pay greater attention to the party hierarchies, the political establishment, and what actually happens. The real impetus on the political left is actually for an acceleration of globalization, on the assumption that radicalizing the process will (by immiserating the global masses) rekindle the romance of the international labour movement, and perhaps the Internationale, anyway.

My guess is that some form of increased social welfare spending on education and/or health-care coupled with higher taxes on the rich to pay for this spending, is both what the people want and what will eventually get implemented as policy.

People will say that they desire these things, because many people are indeed foolish, but also because no alternatives are permitted to arise from within the establishment. We will likely receive all of these "blessings", none of which actually addresses the structural imbalances of globalization, and all of which function as compensatory confidence games. Which is why they will happen.

Estate Planning for the Middle Income Client Table of Cases Table of Statutes Table of Statutory Instruments 1 Introduction - Basic Principles 2 Inheritance Tax - Introduction 3 IHT on Death 4 IHT on PETs 5 Overview of the Taxation of Trusts 6 IHT on Creation of Trusts Apart from....

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