Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Smart People, Foolish Notions

     The political trenches are heavy with commentators who write smart, literate pieces but who are utterly filled with folly. Folly, as Barbara Tuchman once wrote, is knowing better but doing worse. Persons who promote follies typically refuse to heed the lessons of the past. At least, that’s the most common form of folly in politics and political advocacy.

     Here’s a sample of current relevance:

     One of the big fears that some conservatives have about Republicans doing the simple thing that they were elected to do by confirming a conservative Supreme Court justice is that Democrats would respond by packing the court. As such, they are proposing a "compromise." The idea, first put forward by Adam White in a thoughtful piece, is that President Trump nominates somebody, but Republicans agree not to vote until after the election (and to not confirm a nominee in a lame-duck session if they lose) as long as Democrats agree to not pack the court. The idea has gained adherents, including David French and Jonah Goldberg.

     I don’t know anything about Adam White. I know little more about David French, other than that he’s a foaming-at-the-mouth NeverTrumper. But I followed Goldberg’s essays for some time, and I own one of his books. I have no doubt that he’s a smart fellow, his aversion to President Trump notwithstanding. However, these three persons are united in a folly of monumental dimensions: They believe the Democrats would keep a promise when violating it would be massively favorable to their interests.

     The Democrats do not keep promises. The record is quite definite on this subject. Why, therefore, would the GOP’s Senate caucus trust the Democrats to do so in this supremely important matter – a matter the Left has been talking about for years?

     Do I hear someone in the back rows nattering about “collegiality?” Where was collegiality during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings? Where was it during impeachment hearings and the Senate trial of President Trump? Where is it today, when prominent Democrats routinely slander President Trump as a dictator and anyone who supports him as either stupid or evil?

     Given the open, venomous viciousness of the highest-placed Democrats at this time, why would anyone believe, against the historical evidence, that “this time it will be different?”

     Folly, pure and simple.

     Now and then, I’ll encounter a smart fellow in a comment section. As often as not, such a person is riddled by folly. A recent case arose in the comments to this story about the Congressional campaign ads of Kim Klacik.

     I commented there much as I expressed here. But note the reply I received:

     I would rather my federal tax dollars go towards fixing an entirely broken city, one that is so broken that the local government can't fix it alone, so it can become successful enough to, once again, thrive on its own. Every city where a Democrat gains and keeps control is in danger of descending into squalor. So, how do we prevent such a thing from happening in Baltimore again after it has been fixed? By showing the citizens that it was a Republican who finally stepped up and fixed everything, by showing the citizens that voting red is what made a difference, and by showing the citizens that as long as they keep voting red, there is no limit to how successful their city can be. Doing all of this could create long-lasting memories of how it was actually the Republicans who cared for the black communities enough to fix things, memories that would be passed down from generation to generation. Kind of the same effect the Dems "party switch" lie had, but without the lie. I think such a thing is worth my federal tax dollars.

     Folly of the first water. Why believe that the residents of Baltimore, once bailed out of their own mess – a mess they created for themselves! – would care any better for their city afterward than they did beforehand? Simply because “it was a Republican who finally stepped up and fixed everything” -- ? Memories of good deeds done to the undeserving aren’t “passed down from generation to generation;” they aren’t even perpetuated for a year! Does no one else remember that just last year, when volunteer Scott Presler led a group to Baltimore to clean up one of its worst trash-filled alleys, after which the Baltimore Sun questioned Presler’s motives – then claimed that the rest of us owed it to Baltimore to clean it up for them?

     Collectivists never accept responsibility for anything. Whatever the “problem,” it’s always someone else’s fault, and someone else’s responsibility to correct. They certainly don’t feel an obligation to keep their promises. The Democrats are collectivists. As we mathematical types are wont to say at such times, quod erat demonstrandum. But people resolved upon promoting a foolish notion will never accept that.

     It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you’re unwilling to look at the objective facts, or unwilling to draw the moral they present. I speak with some authority on this, having fallen into various kinds of folly on several occasions, including some recent ones, out of a desire to believe something that clashed with the observable facts. Those follies have cost me time, money, emotional distress, and hunks of my willingness to trust the newcomer by default. I’m not quite to the point of turning my back on others, but I’ve come close. Certainly I no longer accept rosy-glassed claims or piteous plaints without checking the evidence.

     The descent into folly is almost always because one has forgotten – or has decided to ignore or dismiss – an important bit of knowledge about people and the laws of Nature: i.e., a sturdy wisdom. Here’s a brief, non-exhaustive list:

  1. Life is short.
  2. Debt is a form of slavery.
  3. Men and women are different.
  4. There is no such thing as casual sex.
  5. Governments never return seized rights or money.
  6. He who won’t help himself doesn’t deserve your help.
  7. He who wants power over you is inherently untrustworthy.
  8. To get a man to do something, you must get him to want to do it.

     Post that list over your computer. Refer to it often. It’s a handy way of averting the descent into folly – and take my word for it: you’re not so smart that you’re immune to folly’s lures.


Jess said...

I've never understood the reserve by Republicans. They think of the Democrats as civilized, and willing to be honorable. They aren't. Their morals parallel those of a pack of jackals, and should be treated as such.

Michael Stone said...

I printed it out and stuck it to my monitor.

Wish I'd known those things 20 years ago...


It's a question I've screamed for at least a decade: "How many times do you GOP fops need to get backstabbed by the Left before you grasp they have no honor?"

Bill said...

I think Trump is much smarter, and more importantly cares more for our country than most Republicans, so I expect him to do all he can to get a justice approved. I don't believe it is "collegiality" that makes Republicans bend over in front of Democrats, they are playing for the same team.

Linda Fox said...

I might add:

Children need protection from predators - which is a PARENTAL responsibility.

Bear Claw Chris Lapp said...

I just want to borrow french's ice chest