Keeping those nasty facts at bay
Posted by aogFriday, 02 July 2004 at 11:44 TrackBack Ping URL

Random Jottings is complaining about the penny-wise and pound foolish attitude of our governmental bureaucracy with regard to spending money in Iraq. He sums it up with

It means we are spending billions to provide extra military force in order to save millions in possible “waste and overcharging.”

I certainly agree with this point, but it’s not just an effect of the invasion of Iraq. It’s a trend that’s been evident for decades in the leftist approach to government.

One need only consider the effects of welfare programs on the poor to see this in action locally. Those programs have never been about results with regard to the poor. Supporters have been, in general, actively resistant to any measures of performance other than money spent and people involved. Note also the proliferation of forms, requirements, rules, regulations, obtensibly to “help” the poor. Dealing with the welfare bureauocracy is only somewhat more pleasant than the INS or DMV. It doesn’t seem like something people who actually cared about the poor would do to them.

Or consider campaign finance “reform”, which sacrifices transparency and citizen participation in favor of massive regulations and endless paperwork. Again, not something people who cared about a vibrant political environment would support.

It’s a symptom of what I call logo-realism, which is the belief that words are a more fundamental reality than actions. With a bit of solipsism, you get the related syndrome moral narcissism which causes the suffer to value only his own moral posture. I.e, what one says is the most important criterion on which to judge moral status. As PJ notes greed for power is another contributing factor because it’s a lot easier to justify one’s actions if posture is all that matters.

Ultimately, the push for proper form in Iraq is very similar to the support for unionization in the Department of Homeland Security. Because the basis for supporting the proper form is ultimately linguistic and not pragmatic, any situation in which facts trump words calls in to question the entire construction. If we don’t need all the rigamorole in Iraq, maybe we don’t need so much of it here, either. At that point the argument switches to a fact based one (“is there a net win from the regulations?”) from a linguistic one (“evil contractors! Halliburton!”) and that’s not a battlefield on whcih the left wants to fight.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
pj Friday, 02 July 2004 at 22:52

Logo-realism is an interesting hypothesis but I incline to the view that leftism is not a belief system, but rather a bargain. It matches those who seek power and view themselves as an elite who ought to rule with those who are motivated by greed and fear and are attracted by what powerful rulers can give — protection from others and an opportunity to exploit others. This is why the Democrats don’t offer reasoned arguments or state principles to believe in, but rather appeal to fear (of white racism, of cuts to Social Security) or greed (opportunities to live off the taxpayers with lifetime tenure, or to get windfall legal awards), and attack their opponents. The Democratic base consists of the people who are willing to enable Democratic rule in exchange for preferential treatment.

Therefore, the reason it doesn’t matter whether these programs ‘work’ (for their stated purposes) is that they do work - for the true purposes of the leftists. Welfare may not make its dependents better off, but it’s not intended to do that — it’s intended to (a) maintain a class of government bureaucrats in a position they’ll vote Democratic to maintain and (b) put welfare recipients in a position of dependency that they’ll vote Democratic to maintain. The measures of performance of “money spent and people involved” are precisely the measures that matter to the left - because they measure how many people have been induced to vote for the left. No other measures do matter.

pj Friday, 02 July 2004 at 22:57

What I’ve just said reminds me of a related thought. I was surprised in the ‘80s when the Democrats abandoned the word “liberal” which had seemed to be so important to them - they were so proud of continuing the liberal tradition - in the 1970s. Looking back, I think that sometime previously the Left had triumphed over the Liberals and driven liberalism out of the Democratic party, and by the late 1980s the word liberal could be dropped without regret. And that was also when the Democrats ceased to argue for humanitarian purposes.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 03 July 2004 at 07:36

Good points. It may be that logo-realism is simply the morphine by which liberals resign themselves to the dominance by the Left.

pj Sunday, 04 July 2004 at 15:23

Great insight. I think you’re right there. At least they can console themselves that their intentions are good and that materially they’re doing well, as they surrender their ideals in practice.

End of Discussion