Monday, July 28, 2008
  Polistra's dream, 5

Part 5 of Polistra's Dream.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4 first.


Ponca, June 1939. Polistra and Fran are still driving to the lake...



Polistra: Bye, Jimmy! See you later!

Jimmy: Goodbye, Miss Lister! Bye, Miss Fran!

Fran: Well, Jimmy looks a lot happier now. He finally got to test-drive his fine little automobile. Jimmy's family is struggling to make ends meet ... we'll visit them later on and you can see how it is.


Pol: Here's a thought. If real cars looked like Jimmy's car, sort of slapped together at odd angles, what would you think of the idea of cars in general? I'm not making fun of Jimmy, of course ... he's a kid, and this is helping him to learn carpentry. His next project will look better, I'm sure. But if the cars built by grownups looked like that, would you think cars were a good idea?

Fran: Well, of course not. Rhetorical question.

Pol: Yes. Okay, now if government actions, the products of government, were built like Jimmy's car instead of your Bantam, would you think government was a good idea?

Fran: Also rhetorical, but I'll play along. Hold on! The best part of this drive is coming up. Here we go....


Pol: Wow!

Fran: Snazzy, huh? Down into the spillway and up again, then we'll get to the boats.

Pol: Pretty fancy construction. Does this dam produce electricity?

Fran: No, the creek doesn't have enough flow. The idea here was mainly a reliable water supply for Ponca, and some beauty for everyone to enjoy. Most of all, the CCC provided useful work and training for the farm families who lost everything in the drought.


Pol: Well, as I was saying, a soapbox government is the problem we've got in 2008. The reasons are pretty complex, but we ended up with a government that does a bunch of things it doesn't need to be doing, can't find the will to do the things it desperately needs to do, and bungles horribly the rest of the time.


Fran: Good morning, sir! We'd like to rent a plain old rowboat for an hour.

Man: That'll be fifty cents, ma'am.

Fran: Here you go.


Man: Okay, you can take number three over there. Guess it's the only boat still in dock, so I don't really need to call it number three, do I? Have a pleasant jaunt, ladies!

Pol: That was easy.

Fran: Sure, why not?


Pol: Nothing is simple in my time. Everything requires identification and stacks of legal mumbo-jumbo. We'd have to sign forms to say we won't sue, forms to promise that we'll follow the safety rules, and so on. And on the other side, the rental man wouldn't dare smoke in public, and wouldn't dare pat you like that.

Fran: Well, there's not much chance of us stealing the boat ... he can see all of the lake from here. He wouldn't do much business if he acted distrustful all the time, and I thought his pat was reassuring. Actually I didn't even think about it until you mentioned it.

Pol: Yeah, but you're being logical and you're thinking like an American. Both of those qualities are gone in my time.

Fran: Gone? Entirely?

Pol: Well, okay, gone from the government, gone from the education system, gone from all the ruling institutions. Not entirely lost. But it doesn't matter if the people are mostly sensible, because the campaign experts have become so good at their jobs that they can basically order up a certain number of votes from the catalog. They don't need to bribe; nothing so crude or obvious. They just need to manipulate people very precisely. Result, politicians don't have to listen to the actual needs of their actual live voters. They can just pay the right experts and win. Which means they need lots of money for consultants and experts and advertising, and the money comes from a few rich contributors. Many of those contributors are foreign, or serving foreign interests.


Fran: Sounds a lot like the breakdown in business you were talking about before, the loss of self-sufficiency. Businesses don't need to worry about satisfying American customers or keeping American employees because they operate around the globe.

Pol: Exactly. I didn't make the connection. Thanks. The politicians themselves have changed too, or rather one side has changed. You'd recognize the Republicans, no problem. They're the same as Harding and Coolidge. The only purpose of government is to help their rich friends get richer, and a lot of their rich friends are Arabs, not Americans.

Fran: But didn't you say the Arabs are making war against you?

Pol: Yes.

Fran: And the Arabs are controlling the politicians?

Pol: Yes.

Fran: Well, that's familiar, I guess. We've got a lot of pro-German rich men now. Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Joe Kennedy.

Pol: True, but those pro-German folks stopped being pro-German after
the war started in '41. At least publicly. Our pro-Arab politicians continue
to take money from Arabs and kiss the filthy hems of those bathrobe things
that Arabs wear. Even the President does that, in the middle of a war that
the Arabs started.

Fran: Oh dear. I hope I don't live to see that.

Pol: Ack, I'm sorry. Let's don't dwell on that. Back to Jimmy's soapbox. For the Republicans a soapbox-car government is ideal because it looks awful, which persuades the voters that government is a bad thing. And then, even when a problem comes up that can only be solved by government, the people are ready to believe the claim that it should be left to the tender mercies of the stock market or the robber barons. So the government can't take over or even regulate in some areas where it's the only practical solution.

Fran: Sounds like Mr Harding, all right.

Pol: It's the politicians on the Left who have changed, who have lost track of Roosevelt's example. Their contributors are the weird Communists I keep talking about. Those contributors are rich too, but they claim to have a mantle of moral purity, and the press and TV help to reinforce that image. Most of those politicians and contributors are the sons and grandsons of gangsters and robber barons like Joe Kennedy and John D. Rockefeller.


Fran: Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.

Pol: Wonderful! Did you write that?

Fran: Wish I had. One of those ancient Greeks.

Pol: So these particular ignorant heirs drive their pet politicians toward pure chaos. They do it in the name of art and conservation and liberty and the Earth Goddess, so that it seems on paper to have the same purpose as Mr Wentz's projects or this lake. But the art is a cruel joke, the conservation doesn't conserve, the liberty amounts to encouraging crime, and the total result makes life tremendously harder for everyone who isn't a rich man's heir. These wealthy ignoramuses spend most of their time in other countries anyway, so they don't need to be anywhere near the mess.

Fran: Broken circle.

Pol: Yep.


Fran: Well, I can't imagine how we could have made it through this Depression with a government like that. Even if I take the cynical view that Mr Roosevelt is just a practical politician ... which he is, of course ... we're lucky that he decided his reputation and his party would be best served by fixing the country and preserving families, instead of destroying them.

Pol: For sure. And come to think of it, the CCC played an even bigger part than you know yet. Here in the '30s they're building dams and parks and buildings, giving the country a solid basis for advancement. In the war against Japan and Germany that will start in '41, many of the soldiers will be former CCC boys, and all of them will be relatives or friends of CCC boys. The CCC gave them skills, a sense of usefulness and purpose, and a head start on military discipline. Most of all CCC helped them to support their families, to save their families from starvation. So they'll fight with extreme loyalty and determination. They'll fight fiercely to protect their families and to protect the government that helped to keep their families intact.

Fran: I'm getting the idea that your situation is the other way around?


Pol: Yes. Our war is much smaller, and there's no draft. We're still able to recruit the sort of men who are natural soldiers and natural heroes, and we're lucky to have a few men like that. But if we had to recruit millions, it wouldn't work. The government has spent too many years protecting criminals, favoring the rich, making life hard for normal families, and favoring the enemy. That's no way to build up a reserve of loyalty. It's been good for the rich Republicans who want to get richer, and it's been good for the rich Communists who enjoy poking a sharp stick into the eyes of Christian families and hearing them scream. But it sure as hell hasn't been good for normal families.

Pardon my language.

Fran: You're pardoned.

= = = = =

Continued in Part 6 here.
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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