Thursday, June 18, 2009

People Who Speak for Me: Lewis Black

I had a heated debate today with a relative and her conservative friends on Facebook. They're all up in arms over how Obama's a Socialist who's wrecking the country. All in 5 months, so far, which is pretty impressive, I guess. Maybe he is the Antichrist after all. I mean, that's fast work.

A lot of them were clearly feeling threatened by the US Government, fearing infringement of their freedoms by an increasingly (perceived as) oppressive government. Am I just that oblivious? Because I'm not feeling it.

Late in the thread, I put in a link to this Lewis Black video bit, which makes the point, in true Lewis Black style, that government is not automatically the problem. Anyway, the thread-starter got offended by the language and distracted by the Palin shot at the end, so it probably flew over all their faces. Well, over the faces of the few that got to see it before she removed my post, claiming the offense to her sensibilities was too great. Isn't it ironic that the one who is afraid the government will oppress her is the same one who censored me?

I saw Lewis Black in person last year, and he delivered the goods. I just read his most recent book, and I'm about to go read his first one. I am a real Lew-o-phile. I'm sure that he would laugh at what happened to me tonight. I'm even more sure that he'd ask me, "What the hell did you think would happen? That's why I told those righteous types to put down my book, right there in my foreword! I told them I'd save them $15 and a lot of misery!" Which he did, 'tis true. In both books.

Anyway, I remember him repeating this point in his live show: "Government is people!" Good food for thought.


GrayBabyOracle said...

Lewis Black is really cool. I'll have to get some of his stuff. Thanks for reminding me.

Tomtuttle said...

I enjoy Lewis Black. I am not a conspiracy theorist. AND Obama has been very upfront about "redistribution of wealth" and nationalizing industry. I don't think it is inaccurate to say that many of his policies are inherently socialist in nature. I don't think that is "name calling", I think it is academic debate about the historical context of current events.

As to the whole "government is the people" thing, I'm afraid I am a bit of a curmudgeon.

Also, HL Mencken - "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Let's not forget that we're talking about both political philosophy and economic policy here. I don't think there is meaningful debate about the notion that America became a great nation - with the highest standard of living ever experienced by mankind - during the 20th century. That wasn't solely because of "democracy"; it was also because of Capitalism. So, is "Capitalism" broken or over? Was "America" more about war and natural resources than about Freedom and Innovation?

I don't know the answers, but without the motivational intelligibility of capitalism, aren't we just left with "the nature of man"?

I don't know, JP. I think it might be time to look skeptically at Obama's polcies and what their execution portends for future generations' ability to "be rewarded for hard work".

Tomtuttle said...

God help me, Reagan is the answer...

"The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would steal them away."

Like with teachers, it's all about compensation! Perhaps the reason that "the people" who are "the government" may not be appropriately stewarding "the people's resources" is that we're not paying them enough. Seriously, what kind of mental disorder would you need to run for public office nowadays?

"The taxpayer - that's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination."

I have found it very interesting that many times, Obama's mindset seems to be that the government will decide how much of my money I am allowed to keep. Allegedly historically significant economic factors notwithstanding, can you deny that "tax and spend" is what's going on?

"We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions."

Some people are just studpid. Some people are just criminals. We cannot collectively fix everyone and ensure a happy life for everyone. It's "the pursuit of happiness" that is guaranteed, not happiness itself. You cannot successfully tear some people down to lift others up.

BDBDBD said...

I think the question here isn't whether Obama is socialist. I think the question is here is what makes him any more socialist than the previous guy.

Someone -- might've been the Economist -- did a breakdown and pointed out that much of Obama's spending was approved under the previous regime. Perhaps one could argue that Obama should be doing more to get rid of that spending, but again, that would force us to rephrase the question.

Some of that spending -- under Bush AND Obama -- is due to be paid back. Some banks are already doing so.

That's basically it for Obama. Now on to Reagan ...

As an 11-year N.C. resident and an 11-year D.C.-area resident whose spouse is now a federal employee, I can say with some legitimacy that federal workers are no more or less talented than those in business.

What Reaganites have always failed to understand (well, they probably understand it but think this snazzy quote plays well to Middle America) is that the real problem in Washington is the douchebags the rest of the country sends TO Washington. I sometimes wonder if we should spy on all these bastards 24/7 -- we'd catch about half of them in embarrassing sex scandals so we could send them back to you in the disgrace they deserve.

As for crime -- we need to address the criminal AND the societal problems. A lot of kids are growing up in situations that should embarrass a rich nation such as ours. Not an excuse, no, and there are plenty of people who can afford nice things who go out and steal more. But there's no harm in trying your best to give these kids better options.

Note that I'm not saying *government* has to do that. But as a society, we should.

And that leads to the basic problem in all of this. I have a lot of libertarian sympathies. The problem is that such a system only works if we share our wealth somehow -- not just financial wealth, but medical knowledge, scientific advances, etc. I still think capitalism is the best system for doing so. But even Adam Smith didn't think it should do so unchecked. And when those Reagan-ballyhooed business minds fail as badly as they have, well, does anyone have any other solutions?