Monday, January 14, 2008
The hopelessness of political 'hope'
Ridiculous, tired, populist rhetoric.
Please spare us the insipid drama. No wonder most people hate election cycles and decline to vote. Politicians pandering to any and every interest group with themes as dumb as the next 'Dumb and Dumber' movie, are an insult to the collective intelligence. 'Vote for me I am for change and hope' they intone! Change to what, for what, why, how and when one might ask? Hope for who, why, and how a befuddled knave might question? Is this all these people can come up with?
There is a mathematical formula which can be applied to politics. The amount of lying and deceit is equal to pi times the number of times change, hope, and a better world are used in candidates speeches. For many candidates the circle of deceit is larger than the Tar Sands complex in Alberta – the world's largest industrialized strip mining complex. Cheap sloganeering is simplistic politics. In a complex world, we need plans, policies, history and experience – not pop-culture feel good rallies with Hollywood shticks exhorting the crowd to cry over change and hope.
In Europe and Canada and other left-wing statist nations, the pandering during elections is state-funded, state-managed and by consquence, rather dull and muted. All you get in the largely statist nations, is variations of grey. Socialist grey, conservative grey, green-grey, gay-grey, gang-grene grey – in fact all the greys one can handle. These elections are cruelly dull. Given the ennui pervasive in these societies the average voter could care less about who wins or loses as long as some gruel of gray is served up for their political dinner. It makes Johnny and the election process very dull indeed.
The US is a little different. Since most people view Americans as toothless, shoeless rednecks lynching blacks, it must be rather curious, that only the Americans have such a wide array of people vying for the hottest seat on the planet. Only in the US do we have a Mormon, a Preacher, a Black, a Female and a Big Business tycoon all running for control of what is left of civilisiation. In no other nation-state would you find this diversity except for perhaps Holland which has an exotic array of eco-freaks; gays; fembots and a wide melange of communists to choose from, with the token right wing white guy thrown in for good measure, to serve as the EU media whipping boy. All good statists need a fascist or two to hate.
But even the Americans are falling prey to political-simplisme a la Europe. Listening to the Democrats or the populists in the Republican party is to be reminded of the pandering done in ancient Rome by Senators and rich families to buy off the mob. The greatest populist of them all – Julius Caesar – was of course the most conniving and dictatorial of personalities, who controlled politics by controlling populist passion. Little has changed since 44 B.C. Now in the US we have the empty, air-headed rhetoric of Hussien Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mike Huckabee, and even John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Populism swings both ways and is party neutral. So what is the logical outcome of populist surges?
If history is any guide populist politics does two things. First, whoever wins with a populist message will inevitably do the opposite of implementing 'change and hope'. They will soon discover that political and institutional constraints and realities make changing anything appear hopeless, and politically dangerous. So they will fall back on the populist campaign of more programs, more spending, more government and ergo more inertia, incompetence, and more resistance to change. They will repackage economic stagnation, government control and marxist policy setting as 'values' and 'change for our children's, children's green future', or some such tripe.
Second, in order to appeal to as many of mob as possible, the free-bread-and-circuses-show will inevitably replace free markets, capital mobility, labor mobility and any notions of supply side economics with government regulated messes. Populism always means a hatred of the military, market capitalism, business, profits and supply side economics. Ergo eco-cult policies; limitations on trade; and a reduction in military power. In marches the Keynesians, the snivelling bureaucrats and the very concerned statist regulators – full of ideas to manage, control and monitor everything from your dishwasher usage levels, to your thermostats, to your 'speech' which may offend some ultra-sensitive and disadvantaged minority group [Jews excluded].
Republican populists are moaning about using government to solve the non-existent climate crisis and create jobs for any and all who might have lost their jobs. For populist Republicans, change means more government, more spending, guaranteed jobs, business and farm subsidies and ever more compassionate concern. Note to the supposed conservatives. Jobs are created by markets, capital, investments and trade. These are stimulated by tax cuts, spending cuts, less government, less preaching and more open trade. Environmentally-friendly technologies are formed by supply and demand forces not government subsidies, handouts and inane decrees that people should drive vegetable-oil powered cars.
Democratic populists utter base profanities so vapid, that one can only assume they come from a black comedy or the outpourings of yet another dysfunctional and crazy Russian writer. The urge to change, instil hope or create an America 'we can all be proud of', is so mind-numblingly annoying it punishes the ears to hear it. For the Democrats the brave new world of change is to reverse progress and regress back to EU styled socialism and irrelevance. Economics, military power, trade, and innovation will be sacrificed on Caesar's altar of populist paganism – to appease the God of multi-cultural piety one supposes, or at the very least, the earth-mother who has a fever and is very very angry.
It is the low politics of the least intelligent and the lowest denominator. Instead of standing on the forum steps and haranguing the angry mob, the current crop of Caesar adulates, stand on stage in sharp suits surrounded by vacuous crowds, mouthing banalities and platitudes until your eyes pop out of your head, and you fall to the ground and beg them to stop. Emotional populist and pop-culture psychology might feel good, and might even make a good entertainment event, but serious politics and seriously intelligent it is not.
According to sundry polls the average voter demands 'leadership' and 'straight talk' and is deeply concerned by the lack of honest, straight-talking politicians and public figures. Funny. Given the massive support for populist politicians, with their Hollywood styled pop culture campaigns, emitting their lighter than Co2 messaging, one would have assumed the opposite. It seems that most people like to be be pandered and lied to.
They should however be rather frightened of potential Caesar's bringing tidings of joy and offerings of sacrifice to the Gods of hope and change. With populists there is nothing more except the unchanging hopelessness of rhetoric and vote-buying sure to satisfy the child in all of us.