Thursday, August 28, 2008
  Derb's latest

Derbyshire's latest short column at NRO is important.

Every age has its characteristic follies, and those follies have their correctives. The folly of the present age in America is a facile, infantile optimism, that recognizes no limits to human abilities or the wonders that can be wrought by politicians, bureaucrats, and generals. The corrective is a firm, measured pessimism. ...

Optimism helped build this nation. Yes, we can clear the forest, tame the prairies, fight off the Indians. Yes, we can build heavier-than-air flying machines, land on the Moon, defeat fascism and communism. Yes, we can prosper without the horror and indignity of slavery. I am sure there were pessimists who said those things could not be done. They were wrong; and thoughful persons, including thoughtful pessimists, knew at the time that they were wrong.

Some children will be left behind. You cannot "remake the Middle East" or "defeat evil." The poor will always be with us. Black and white will never mingle together in unselfconscious harmony. Corporations will not research and explore without hope of profit. Russia will not become Sweden. Forty million immigrants speaking a single language will not assimilate.



I'd add one point. When our gov't, schools, military and corporations are kept busy trying to accomplish things that are physically and logically impossible, they don't have any time or resources left to accomplish the things that ARE possible.

And it's not just a one-to-one displacement of effort, because the glorious goals always run into the realm of diminishing returns.

When you are stuck in fantasy -- or required to implement a fantasy -- you won't notice when the proportion of cost to benefit has dropped below the break-even point, and you'll keep working harder and longer to reach the smaller and sparser signs of success.

Trying to teach an unteachable child costs ten times as much as teaching a normal kid. So the futile attempt to reach one subnormal kid removes service from ten normal kids.

Trying to eradicate every molecule of asbestos costs vastly more than simply compensating the few thousand Johns Manville workers who were genuinely injured by negligent managers. It bogs down every single building and remodeling project, for no benefit at all. (How many people are needlessly miserable and unhealthy because they can't afford to improve their houses? How many people are homeless because the cost of building new apartments or improving old ones has become prohibitive, making it cheaper to replace old buildings with parking lots?)

Trying to cool off the earth by eliminating CO2 is the worst fantasy of all. The other goals have an addictive quality: seeking an ever-receding but always visible rainbow. Global warming is a totally false theory at every step. We won't even see tiny signs of success, because the effort has precisely zero relationship to the problem, and the problem doesn't exist in the first place.

Trying to democratize Arabs will take an infinite amount of time, and by damn we'll keep our Army there for a hundred years, a thousand years, however long it takes. Thus making the Army weak, tired, and unavailable for the tasks where military effort stands a chance of success.

With most of these goals, the hand of Stalin is easy to see. In the areas that fall under the broad umbrella of "diversity", you can specifically identify the Stalinist judges, anthropologists and sociologists who set up the requirements in the '50s and '60s. Same with the environmentalist purposes. Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich and their disciples were devoted to the Soviet cause.

I'm puzzled about the military part, though. Is it just a mindless extension of the same failure to understand proportion? Or can we trace Putin's revenge in a more explicit way? It certainly looks like a precise echo, a perfect mirror-image, of Reagan's takedown of the Soviet Empire.
 


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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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