Two Top Notch Editorials

Sunday, November 27, 2005
James Q. Wilson and Michael Barone turn out two of the strongest editorials for the Wall Street Journal that I have seen in some time. The topics are dissimiliar yet at root is the conflict between stasis and dynamism.

Why do the 'progressives' have such a love affair with stasis? Death is a step toward perfect stasis (if such a thing were possible). What is 'progressive' about elevating security above liberty? Why does every 'progressive' ideal involve the exchange of freedom for an illusory security that time and nature will destroy as surely as the sun will rise?

Is fear of change the core of progressivism? Fear based upon lack of confidence in ones ability to face and overcome uncertainty? I've thought that the root of progressivism was the desire to achieve control without earning it by merit. Perhaps I need to reflect on that concept for a bit. Fear generates more activity than the desire for unearned position ever has. Taking the shield of faux altruism is practically cost and risk free. Is 'progressivism' just a cheap shield?


terrye said...


I don't think it is that simple. I think both progressives and conservatives have been known to use fear to press an issue.

Just look at the fear conservatives have of the entire concept of the right to privacy.

Jamie Irons said...


I loved both editorials.

This has nothing to do with your points here, but reading the introduction to Barone's piece reminded me of a conversation I had with my father in the early 1980s (at the time he was a high ranking executive in GE), about the dying off of the industries in the Rust Belt, where we both grew up. While he recognized the inevitability of such change, due to the dynamism of economic factors, it still saddened him and, as I recall, me, too.

David Thomson said...

“As John Kenneth Galbraith then argued, auto makers could induce consumers to buy as many cars as they wanted to sell by clever advertising.”

--Michael Barone

John Kenneth Galbraith is one of the most destructive human beings of the past sixty years. I literally suspect that he set back the American economy by a minimum of 25 years. And no, I’m not even slightly exaggerating. This is a man who did not have to earn what he got in life. The Harvard elitists attacked anyone who dared question his idiotic economic assertions. How silly is Galbraith? He was praising the Soviet economy---just about the time of its collapse.

Joseph Schumpeter rightly argued that a growing economy revolves around the principle of creative destruction. Jobs must be allowed to be destroyed so that new ones can be created. Sadly, many people will admittedly be hurt. The workers in the horse and buggy trades were devastated by the arrival of the automobile. Every year our economy requires fewer farmers. What is to become of them? There are often no easy answers. Nonetheless, their way of earning a living cannot be protected. The costs to the rest of the nation are too great. We must find other ways to help them.

terrye said...

I thought both editorials were very good as well.

But I think that many people would not agree with Barone here. I think that a lot of folks believe the hey days of the 50's were times we need to resurrect.

I would say that most Americans like to buy cheap and sell high.

David Thomson said...

“But I think that many people would not agree with Barone here. I think that a lot of folks believe the hey days of the 50's were times we need to resurrect.”

I’m sure that those employed by GM in an hourly capacity completely disagree with Barone. Unfortunately, the empirical data conclusively prove that the United States is overall vastly more wealthy today than in the so-called glorious 50s. Our poor take for granted the owning of a color tv set, an automobile for both married partners, and food only the well to do could once afford.

I will make it real simple for everybody: a vote for Democratic economic policies is a vote for an increase in nationwide poverty. Democrats are normally bad for your pocketbook---unless you are among the protected ones like union workers. When a GM employee is paid more than they are worth, others are made to suffer. They are compelled to pay more for their goods and services.

Rick Ballard said...


Wrt your observation of the use of fear as a political tactic, I would agree that both sides do use it. I tend to think that one side uses it quite a bit more but that might be an artifact of where I happen to stand.

I was trying to reach for a motivation rather than examine use of a tactic. Both sides fear change but one side knows that it is going to occur while the other engages in a pretense that it is controllable and subject to direction by the "right people" specially trained and operating out of pure altruism.

In general, I would argue that there is more to fear from stasis than from dynamism. Yearning for the good old days generally indicates a lack of appreciation of the true status of those in the two bottom quintiles.

The shining vision of the yeoman farmer is rather neglectful of the fact that in many cases he sweated his children worse than slaves in order to achieve a surplus. The vagaries of weather make farming a riskier undertaking than most people of sound judgement would undertake. Likewise, in many instances those small shop keepers forced out of business by the opening of a Wal-Mart or a Costco are sweating family to keep the doors open.

Whether the "good old days" were actually good in any real sense depends entirely on your position and ability to sentimentalize a particular situation based on the level of actual ignorance of its reality. Life has always been good for the top economic quintile in the US. As David points out, it's better for the two bottom quintiles than it has ever been in history anywhere.

Progrssives share some responsibility for that achievement but their current efforts are directed toward general immiseration rather than toward truly ameliorating economic disparity.

Julian Biggs said...

It strikes me that this issue would greatly benefit from less hyperbole. Most rational people would agree, i think, that there is much to be said for "security and leisure and restrained good taste."
Too often, however, the argument fails to grapple with the fact that, as David says, one man's security may come at the expense of another's prosperity. Yet measuring one against the other and effecting proper trade-offs is by no means simple. As Terrye rightly implies, many people wonder why their greater economic prosperity does not seem to have brought them greater peace and satisfaction. We are free to pursue happiness, but is the state of having found it simply an illusion? A carrot before the donkey, as it were?

As rick points out, the great lie is the effort to impose a static template on a world economy that is anything but, coupled with the failure to admit that this has resulted in misery whereever it has been tried . That the world economy is dynamic, that change is inevitable, that static-state security is an illusion, all these things should be givens so that we can focus attention instead on developing creative ways to minimize the pains that inevitably follow. Such pains are not trivial for those who end up dealing with them, and just because the left's 'solutions' only make problems worse doesn't mean that nothing need be done to improve things.

David Thomson said...

“As Terrye rightly implies, many people wonder why their greater economic prosperity does not seem to have brought them greater peace and satisfaction.”

Staying with the same company for thirty years is not likely for the graduates of 2005. Job hopping and employment insecurity are increasingly the price that must be paid for a growing economy. And yes, once in awhile one may be placed in harm’s way. You could indeed wake up one morning and wonder how you are going to earn a living. Did somebody promise you a rose garden? Well, it wasn’t me. You will, whether you like it or not, have to shrug your shoulders and go with the flow. Prosperity comes with this nonnegotiable price tag. The odds, though, are significantly high that you will find a better job in a dynamic economy.

Syl said...

Speaking of using 'fear', I contintuously laugh at the moonbats who say Bush and the right-wing are using fear to make people support Iraq, while at the same time they themselves use fear as in 'Iraq is a distraction from Fortress America.'

Also they claim Bush uses fear, but also use fear to claim Bush is creating more terrorists, but they're not afraid of terrorists, no, not them.

It hit me the other day when thinking about BDS as displacement, that the Left's obsession with Cheney is really their belief that Cheney could protect us better than ChimpBush.

terrye said...

I wasn't really talking about just the economy.

The right uses fear in regards to effecting social policy.

It always has.

Just look at the response to Griswold. To hear prolifers tell it there is no difference between denying a 14 year old girl an abortion without notifying her parents and denying a married couple the right to use birth control. They claim there is no such thing as a right to privacy.

Talk about counterproductive. They always have me on their side until they try to scare me into thinking the Supreme Court really screwed up when it overturned Griswold. No nuance at all, not when you are on the side of angry and avenging God.

And then there is the deficit. I don't think anyone even knows what it really is. I know that when Clinton left office the GAO revised all the figures which made me wonder if Slick Willie was cooking the books.

But to hear some people tell it if we do not cut spending in a big way right now western civilization will cease to exist.

And illegal immigrants are going to take over the country and rape and pillage their way across the nation and bankrupt the border states.

After awhile the only people that respond to that kind of talk are the zealots and their minds are already made up.

I farmed for years and I would not do it again on a bet. It is someone else's turn to feed America...I quit. But to a lot of people all those farmers hanging themselves from the barn rafters were just bad managers. The fact that they were losing everything they had in the world meant nothing to the economists or for that matter the free traders.

This does not mean I don't support free trade, I think it is inevitable, but it would be dishonest to say that when people are shoved out of the way it does not look like dynamism to them, it just looks like ruin.