Magical Thinking Versus Reality — George Savage

 

Americans exited the 20th century the triumphant torchbearers of classical liberalism—communism on the ash heap, the era of big government officially over–yet by the teens of the third millennium we find ourselves rejecting logic and experience to embrace the politics of magical thinking. How did this happen?

First, consider some examples of the phenomenon. This headline from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, for example: “Electric cars can go only half as far in freezing weather, AAA finds.” After untold billions showered on Obama donors far-and-wide and a $7,500 per car direct federal tax subsidy for the Master of the Universe with a yen for a new Tesla, we now find a flaw: batteries don’t do well in the cold. Who knew? Apparently, our federal masterminds never consulted any automobile mechanics or high-school chemistry students before legislating alternative-energy nirvana.

I hope AAA at least got a federal subsidy for publishing this earthshaking slice of common sense.

Obamacare_limits_cancer_care

Then we have this AP headline: “Obamacare limits cancer care: Many of the best hospitals are off limits.” Could this mean that contraceptives aren’t actually free after all? Only someone blissfully ignorant of the history of state-directed health care systems could be surprised to discover politicians siphoning healthcare dollars from the seriously ill in order to dispense largesse on more numerous healthy voters.

But we judge “healthcare for all” aficionados by their stated intentions and not by results.

And despite the most brutal North American winter in decades, following the “sixth-least-active Atlantic hurricane season since 1950,” ladled atop a 17-years-and-counting “pause” in global warming, we are told by noted climate physicist and Secretary of State John Kerry that “climate change,” whatever the term may mean this week, is “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” I don’t know about you, but I am more worried about Peter Robinson’s dog. You should see the damage Crusoe can inflict on a shoe.

How do magical thinkers deal with contrary climate data when not manipulating it (c.f., ClimateGate)? Inverting normal human reasoning is one way to get there. This Washington Post headline gives you a flavor for the trick: “A pause in global warming does not disprove a human role in climate change.” Well, alrighty then. Leftist politicians tell us that Armageddon is a scientific certainty unless we abandon post-enlightenment notions of individual sovereignty, personal liberty, and limited government to enthusiastically embrace the statist full monty, but the burden of proof is on those who resist fundamental transformation rather than those who propose it.

These folks act as if “scientific socialism” was something new.

Mind-bending sovereign debt—$17 trillion on the books with $100 trillion more in unfunded liabilities—is the new normal. As long as we believe that this is all investment, it seems okay. What could go possibly go wrong?

The problem is that we are living in a world where the average voter is more familiar with Harry Potter than Harry Truman. Mr. Potter, you will recall, can work magic if he recites his spell with the proper emphasis. In a similar vein, Neo, hero of The Matrix, triumphs over reality by expunging all doubt to embrace his messianic nature. The genre goes back further, but used to influence just a few lonely sci-fi nerds like me, not define American society generally.  In the Original Star Trek episode Spectre of the Gun, Spock employs his Vulcan mind meld to brainwash Kirk and the rest of the landing party into total, absolute, unquestioning belief that an upcoming gunfight is a dream—a life-saving bit of mind-control.

I bet Spock could turn out some really convincing Obamacare Navigators!

This backdrop helps us understand why a conservative questioning a destructive fantasy—a Ted Cruz taking on Obamacare, for example—takes infinitely more flak than the liberals responsible for the predicament or the Republicans who go along to get along. Opposition destroys pure and total belief and eliminates the possibility of society moving as one mass and with one voice. Therefore, the very existence of opposition is a vital threat to statist designs. Conservatives have even been blamed for Obamacare failing because—wait for it—they oppose the law.

Resistance is futile, but only if there is universal acknowledgement of defeat before the battle is even joined.

Reality can be denied for only so long and “facts,” as John Adams pointed out, “are stubborn things.” My question: What will it take to convince our fellow citizens to embrace a reality-based politics once again?

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  1. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    My question: What will it take to convince our fellow citizens to embrace a reality-based politics once again?

    First you have to convince me that citizens ever embraced a reality-based politics in the past.

    • #1
  2. George Savage Contributor
    George Savage
    @GeorgeSavage

    Misthiocracy:

    First you have to convince me that citizens ever embraced a reality-based politics in the past.

     Ronald Reagan had a fair amount of success.  The economy rebounded and the Evil Empire collapsed.  So influential was the Reagan-style of reality-based politics that Bill Clinton was compelled to triangulate, announcing in his 1996 SOTU address that “the era of big government is over.”  

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    George Savage:

    Misthiocracy:

    First you have to convince me that citizens ever embraced a reality-based politics in the past.

    Ronald Reagan had a fair amount of success. The economy rebounded and the Evil Empire collapsed. So influential was the Reagan-style of reality-based politics that Bill Clinton was compelled to triangulate, announcing in his 1996 SOTU address that “the era of big government is over.”

    Persuade me that Reagan’s success, politically and electorally, were the result of “citizens embracing reality-based politics”.

    The fact that a politician is successful is not IMHO evidence that citizens aren’t irrational when making political choices.

    • #3
  4. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    George,

    Whoops.. batteries don’t work very well in the cold.  Whoops..there is no Man Made Global Warming.  Whoops..the Arab Spring is an Arab Nightmare.  Whoops..Obamacare is a rolling disaster that appears to be a bottomless pit of ever worse performance.   Whoops..reset with the Russians is reset suicide for Europe.

    Whoops..dropping the sanctions gives Iran the Bomb this year.  Whoops..the Dems are swept out of the Senate and lose even more in the House.

    Whoops the 44th President of the United States is impeached.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #4
  5. Whiskey Sam Member
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    Disaster has a way of focusing the mind, and unfortunately, I think something massive is going to be necessary to shock us out of our torpor.  We saw a glimpse of this after 9/11, but we pretty quickly went right back to what we were.  Generally, there has not been a generation in America to know want for half a century.  It’s hard to maintain clarity and a hunger to excel when everything comes easy to you.

    • #5
  6. Nick Stuart Member
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    We got Obamaphones and SNAP. My pet unicorn thinks that’s plenty.

    • #6
  7. katievs Member
    katievs
    @katievs

    I fear Whiskey Sam is right. Disaster or an act of God.

    • #7
  8. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    James, you’re using the wrong word.  It’s “unexpectedly.”

    • #8
  9. Pilli Member
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    The last two “Whoops” are only hopes and not all that likely to happen.  Remember, Republicans can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with the greatest of ease.

    • #9
  10. MJL Member
    MJL
    @MJL

    Navigating through the media cacophony in pursuit of the knowledge necessary to embrace reality-based politics is full time work.
    In the timeless words of Sweet Dee, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”  
    One shortcut is to jolt people’s natural skepticism of all political promises, something Obamacare is accomplishing better than any Conservative effort has in my ‘millennial’ lifetime.

    • #10
  11. flownover Member
    flownover
    @flownover

    Well, I am getting plenty of big hard bites in my behind from the general conditions of the economy, healthcare insurance, and energy costs . When can I start passing the bite on to the neighbors ? I just don’t see any of the MSM crying the blues in the public forum . How do we telegraph the situation to a culture that has traditionally gotten the news from the press ?

    Because that is what it always takes : a big hard bite in the ass. Addiction to good news can only be cured like any addiction – hitting bottom and starting again.

    • #11
  12. George Savage Contributor
    George Savage
    @GeorgeSavage

    Whiskey Sam:
    Generally, there has not been a generation in America to know want for half a century. It’s hard to maintain clarity and a hunger to excel when everything comes easy to you.

     I think you are onto something important here.  Many Reagan Democrats lived through the Great Depression, an economic calamity characterized by need of a sort unknown in our day–poor people were thin in those days.  World War II was a global conflagration that America might lose–in fact, seemed likely to lose given the massive territorial gains made by Hitler and Tojo before we entered the war.  Even the Cold War could have gone the other way–we were fighting against the “inevitable” tide of history leading inexorably to “scientific socialism.”

    Today, America is the only super-power, dominant and therefore complacent.  We back the world’s reserve currency and can print money without feeling much of the inflation we export.  But all of this is only true until one day it isn’t.  In the medium-term, even on a relative scale, American economic might and military capability are variables, not constants.

    I hope we wake up soon, before another “massive” event gets our attention.

    • #12
  13. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    “. . . we now find a flaw: batteries don’t do well in the cold. Who knew?”

    So, we need electric cars to prevent global warming but we need global warming in order for our electric cars to work? 

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Vance Richards:
    “. . . we now find a flaw: batteries don’t do well in the cold. Who knew?”
    So, we need electric cars to prevent global warming but we need global warming in order for our electric cars to work?

     There you go again with the non-magical thinking.

    • #14
  15. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    I agree that we will need to hit some sort of bottom in order to change course, but I do not think there is much evidence that hitting bottom will necessarily produce that change.  The older I get, the more I find I must face the fact that much of the time we don’t face facts, even very hard facts that bite us in unmentionable places.  

    What it will take to begin to turn us around is a particular kind of leadership, of course.  Fortunately, Americans in general are not fatalists or self-loathing, so a leader who can paint a clear picture of the problems we face, while providing a believable, practical solution has a chance of success, especially if he himself has a good track record, which is why we are more likely to vote for a governor the next time around.

    • #15
  16. George Savage Contributor
    George Savage
    @GeorgeSavage

    Vance Richards:
    “. . . we now find a flaw: batteries don’t do well in the cold. Who knew?”
    So, we need electric cars to prevent global warming but we need global warming in order for our electric cars to work?

    My nominee for Ricochet observation of the day. 

    • #16
  17. user_423975 Coolidge
    user_423975
    @BrandonShafer

    So does Elon Musk now owe the NYTimes reporter an apology?

    • #17
  18. user_280840 Member
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Things aren’t bad enough yet.  

    At a certain point, things will be bad enough that the intelligent and realistic people will come together and act.  They’ll be forced to.  Crisis has a way of focusing people enough to fix problems.  Until we get there, people can deny the problem.  That’s when we’ll get a fix.

    But right now, the political will doesn’t exist to actually fix things.  We’re still in the “Cowboy Poetry Festival” phase.  We need to get to the “Atilla the Hun is coming” phase.  When we get there, the politicians will be forced to act and the problems will be dealt with.

    (Or they won’t, everything will go to hell, and a new order will emerge more closely aligned with reality.)

    • #18
  19. HVTs Member
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    Fred Cole:
    We need to get to the “Atilla the Hun is coming” phase. When we get there, the politicians will be forced to act and the problems will be dealt with.

    Yes, fear is the most reliable motivator.  Unfortunately, it leads to panic and reactions based on panic are typically both ugly and unproductive.

    Leaders find a way to inform about dangers yet inspire corrective actions before drastic measures are the only options.  The accumulation of fantasy-land policies would seem to provide ample grounds for a leader to emerge who can identify the problems and come to symbolize the solutions.

    It always comes down to leadership.  The problem is our political system is skewed toward Washington, DC-led “solutions”, where Senators & Congressmen often have lifetime appointments due to the enormous advantages of incumbency (and Judges do too, only by outdated design). We have to drain the swamp—remove the advantages of incumbency and detox the political eco-system.

    That means term limits for Congress, the Courts and repeal of the 17th Amendment.  That’s a tall order, to be sure.  But if half-measures could work, George wouldn’t have had to write this excellent post.

    • #19
  20. raycon and lindacon Member
    raycon and lindacon
    @rayconandlindacon

    Whoops.. Jim Gawron goes from reality to fantasy in a single comment.

    • #20
  21. Lavaux Member
    Lavaux
    @Lavaux

    I agree with those who say a catastrophe affecting most of us will have to occur before we as a polity pull our heads out. Reality must come calling in a big way.

    • #21
  22. George Savage Contributor
    George Savage
    @GeorgeSavage

    Brandon Shafer:

    So does Elon Musk now owe the NYTimes reporter an apology?

     Thank you for the link.  The Times article says it all about the trade offs inherent in any all-electric vehicle. If the FDA regulated automobiles–God forbid–this piece would probably be a required part of the Tesla label. 

    • #22
  23. George Savage Contributor
    George Savage
    @GeorgeSavage

    from Breitbart, seemingly on cue:

    President Obama delivered his weekly address this morning, following up on the themes of last week’s: namely, pressuring Congress to raise the minimum wage. This week, however, the president insisted that the minimum wage was a women’s rights issue, because “women hold most lower-wage jobs in America.

    If only we command our employers to pay more for low-skilled labor–and believe in our leader with all our might–then we will usher in a new age of prosperity for women, minorities, union workers, and every other Democrat constituency.

    • #23
  24. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Fred Cole:
    We need to get to the “Atilla the Hun is coming” phase. 

     Rome was already doomed when Attila showed up.

    • #24
  25. HVTs Member
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    George Savage: from Breitbart, seemingly on cue: President Obama delivered his weekly address this morning, following up on the themes of last week’s: namely, pressuring Congress to raise the minimum wage. This week, however, the president insisted that the minimum wage was a women’s rights issue, because “women hold most lower-wage jobs in America. If only we command our employers to pay more for low-skilled labor–and believe in our leader with all our might–then we will usher in a new age of prosperity for women, minorities, union workers, and every other Democrat constituency. ____________________________In fact, has anyone asked Obama why the half-measure on minimum wage?  I mean, if he’s right about how this all works, why not raise it to $20.20 (instead of the $10.10 he wants) and instantly make burger-flippers into middle class wage earners?  Bend the class curve up, as it were!

    BTW – R2.0 stinks for posting comments, and is even worse for editing comments once posted.

    • #25
  26. user_423975 Coolidge
    user_423975
    @BrandonShafer

    &blockquote>George Savage: Brandon Shafer: So does Elon Musk now owe the NYTimes reporter an apology? Thank you for the link. The Times article says it all about the trade offs inherent in any all-electric vehicle. If the FDA regulated automobiles–God forbid–this piece would probably be a required part of the Tesla label.  
    Even without the label I doubt there are very many people who believe that EVs offer a viable solution for more than a commuter car, and the market responds accordingly.  The vast majority of the alternative energy sector involves pretending that green solutions are adequate replacements for traditional energy, and in most cases that simply isn’t true.

    • #26
  27. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Great post and excellent comments.  I have to admit that when I saw the title, “Magical Thinking vs Reality,”  I thought that it had to do with the rollout of Ricochet 2.0 . . . 

    I don’t know what it will take to shake people out of their cocoons.  9/11 worked for a bit, but it wasn’t long before the forces of political correctness squashed any possibility that we might band together and save the West from itself.

    A Disaster with a capital “D” might do it, but I think it is going to have to be something that refreshes itself on a regular basis.  One Disaster, once we have passed beyond the 24-hour news cycle, and moved on to the next obsession-du-jour, just isn’t going to do it.  Sad though it is to say.

    • #27
  28. Trajan Thatcher
    Trajan
    @Trajan

    “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville

    Add the media, AKA The 5th column of Alinsky ‘liberalism’ that breeds/disseminates inanity , stupidity etc. and you’ve got the numbers to formulate the  required voter base to continue as we are…….

    The formula is simple- needing only to get to 51%,  each ‘side’ starts with 30% of the folks who vote straight party line, leaving 40% up for grabs.  I’d guess,  maybe half of that 40%  actually know whats really what and ‘sees’ reality, so, that only leaves a sliver of the voting pop. to convince to  go your way to get to that 51%, the parenthetical to consider is  EIC and those living the Life of Julia…and  viola’.

    • #28
  29. Freesmith Member
    Freesmith
    @Freesmith

    George

    Do you want to put an end to magical thinking with one single act? Mandate that the Federal Reserve can no longer “buy” US Government securities and non-AAA rated debt instruments. 

    The illusion of zero interest rates will disappear overnight, and with it the phony economy which monetizing US debt sustains.

    But I bet you don’t want that little piece of reality one bit. Better the magical thinking of a non-recovery recovery and a 16,000 DJIA – right?

    • #29
  30. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    raycon and lindacon:
    Whoops.. Jim Gawron goes from reality to fantasy in a single comment.

     RC & LC,

    I’m going to stand pat with my comment.  It has an intrinsic flow.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #30

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