Knowing What’s Best

Pat Lynch

Have been consistently surprised and disappointed by the extended public and private mourning period the American left is wallowing in. The public hand-wringing over the values debate has obscured a more disturbing trend I’ve seen among Democrats – conceit.

Implicit in a lot of the complaints from the left has been the notion that “dumb” voters made the “wrong” choice. How dare they not see that more government sponsored economic management would be better than the values and tax cuts of the Bush administration? How stupid can people be to vote for a guy who can’t finish sentences?

Well this George Will column from Newsweek does a nice job getting to the core of those complaints. More generally, if you haven’t seen Jim Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds you should. And recommend it to any leftie friends you have. It might wake them up to the silly idea that people know their own best interest and are probably closer to getting things right any some group of blue state intellectuals.


14 thoughts on “Knowing What’s Best

  1. I have to second Pat’s recommendation of
    The Wisdom of Crowds — a must read for lots of different applications!

  2. But, Pat, you’re ignoring the central contention of the Left: that average people voted against their own best interests in voting for Bush. The key problem is that for the last 70 years the Democratic Party has been the party of Fordism and the Fordist compromise is breaking down under the pressures of ill-considered plans, inadequate management, and globalization not just here but everywhere.

  3. Interestingly, the reaction Pat Lynch decribes from the left in America is similar to the European view of the outcome of the US election. Americans in general are viewed as stupid and reactionary and, with this in mind, the press chalked up the Bush´s victory to an irrational fear of gay marriage.
    As the, I believe, only libertarian in Germany, I think people should be free to marry goats if they are bent in that direction but still, I think the european press over-reacted to this issue. Certainly it served to support the notion that Americans are too dumb to elect the right person. (right being defined as the person espousing the biggest-government platform)
    Sliding into the seventh year of nearly zero economic growth in Germany, the people here are honestly perplexed over the question of how such a stupid “Volk” could consistantly put up such strong economic numbers.
    Closer to the truth, I think an individual person and a “Volk” in general can posses intelligence in one area and be dumb as nine chickens in another. While the average German might know the name of the longest river in Peru, the average US voter (or the majority) might realise that slapping a draconian tax on energy to prop up a failing pension system may not be the best idea and that making self-employment illegal is not a good way to produce jobs.

  4. Interestingly, the reaction Pat Lynch decribes from the left in America is similar to the European view of the outcome of the US election. Americans in general are viewed as stupid and reactionary and, with this in mind, the press chalked up the Bush´s victory to an irrational fear of gay marriage.
    As the, I believe, only libertarian in Germany, I think people should be free to marry goats if they are bent in that direction but still, I think the european press over-reacted to this issue. Certainly it served to support the notion that Americans are too dumb to elect the right person. (right being defined as the person espousing the biggest-government platform)
    Sliding into the seventh year of nearly zero economic growth in Germany, the people here are honestly perplexed over the question of how such a stupid “Volk” could consistantly put up such strong economic numbers.
    Closer to the truth, I think an individual person and a “Volk” in general can posses intelligence in one area and be dumb as nine chickens in another. While the average German might know the name of the longest river in Peru, the average US voter (or the majority) might realise that slapping a draconian tax on energy to prop up a failing pension system may not be the best idea and that making self-employment illegal is not a good way to produce jobs.

  5. There is no proof that the moaning of the losing side is any more or any less than it has been in any previous election. Such moaning is possibly much more visible to the blognescenti, given the growing scope and scale of the blogosphere, but Mr. Lynch’s claims are little more than selective perception designed to bolster his previously existing partisan beliefs.

    Lynne:

    There are more than enough blogs where one can read posts “proving” that Democrats are poopy-heads (or vice-versa.) This blog, thankfully, was never like that. If it becomes as such, it will lose all the considerable utility it currently holds for me.

  6. At a Friday breakfast where most of the participantds were Democrats the moaning was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

    I thought the best was the guy with the printed tag pinned to his jacket that said Bushwacked (sic). I wasn’t going to correct the spelling of such a superior being.

    I was also pre emptively admonished, “You aren’t going to gloat, are you?” I hadn’t considered gloating but, I do appreciate the concern for guiding my public behavior expressed by that superior being.

    Conceit, indeed.

  7. Pat Lynch:

    I should say that my purpose in this post is to get people on the left to ask themselves – are they assuming everyone’s best interest rather than listening? To me, the demise of a viable left-wing party in the U.S. would be a huge set-back for the system (even though I am a libertarian and don’t vote for it). They need to stop complaining and start listening – hence the book recommendation.

  8. Pat Lynch:

    I should say that my purpose in this post is to get people on the left to ask themselves – are they assuming everyone’s best interest rather than listening? To me, the demise of a viable left-wing party in the U.S. would be a huge set-back for the system (even though I am a libertarian and don’t vote for it). They need to stop complaining and start listening – hence the book recommendation.

  9. On gloating and learning.

    Yes Pat, I’d hope that the “Left” and that “Right” learn and get nervous from this election.

    Long ago, when my daughter asked me what made America so strong I had told her that besides the natural resources themselves (which would only have gone so far), that what was SO important was that the people came from all over, acknowledged their differences, agreed to be different and even agreed to argue. But at the end of the day, the decision making had to result in a country where we were all pulling together and that our energy was spent making things better for all of us. Contrast this with contries where people have spent centuries doing nothing but fighting over their differences.

    For us this has historically meant that we made huge cities, interstate highways, utility grids, and powerful infrastructures. And we did this mostly with a 2 party system that could fight like dogs during the day, make a decision and then make sure that the needs of the nation were what took place.
    MOST of the time, this happens from compromise. Sometimes (not very often), it’ll happen when one side completely gets their way. There are few cases were the best interests of the whole are served by the extreme proponents fighting it out to the last man standing, and I don’t know of a natural reason for this to be a strongest system in the long haul. If we ever lost the benefit of the multiple inputs and ability to argue, we’d be in deep trouble.

    In the past 15-20 years, the Gov’t has functioned more as a Winner-Loser / pendulum swinging kind of system than as one where opposing sides bring inputs in, fight, then compromise. What this brings is protracted distrust, the maneuvering for “my turn” or stalling and inaction, lowest common denominator performance that we’ve been watching.

    Although I think that much of Clinton’s economic “success” was like foam on the beer -kind of overblown, his centrist work does show evidence of what that can get you. (And he also did cash in Security capital for fun money).

    So, the Democratic Party got their butts kicked. They “deserved” it, because they were more focused on how much they hate George Bush than how to help the country. But if the Democrats reaction is to gear up to fight all the harder -sharpen their Hard Left weaponry all the harder, then the Hard Right will steele up harder.

    But it wasn’t the Democrats who “Lost” so much. It was the American People. Now the pendulum has swung to the Right, and we’ll have a whole bunch of problems from THAT. (Don’t get me wrong, Kerry HAD to be defeated. Between the two, he would have been a disasterous endorsement of the European passive submission to terrorism. But the Democrats could simply have put up a moderate candidate).

    But no-one has anything to “Gloat” about. We have a major crisis to hold off excessive ideologies from both extremes. THOSE ideologies have been trashing this Govt for too long.

    What we’ll really see is if both sides can learn to come to the center and cooperate like their employers (us taxpayers) expect them to. If not, and they can’t act like adults then I think we’ll have to replace even more of them next cycle.

  10. I agree with Pat. If some lower middle class whites and working class whites are voting what they perceive to be their interests (and those are the people who voted in Bush who used to vote Democrat) and this contradicts what the Democrats think are their interests then isn’t that an indication that the Democrats are out of touch with these people and their self-perceived interests? Or is it that the Democrats simply do not want to cater to those interests? I think a fair amount of the latter is at work because elements of the Demo base oppose those interests very strongly.

    I think this election was like a market where some big sclerotic corp tries to sell the customers something and gets indignant that the customers do not like what is on offer. The lesson the sellers of the rejected product ought to remember is that the customer is always right.

  11. I agree with Pat. If some lower middle class whites and working class whites are voting what they perceive to be their interests (and those are the people who voted in Bush who used to vote Democrat) and this contradicts what the Democrats think are their interests then isn’t that an indication that the Democrats are out of touch with these people and their self-perceived interests? Or is it that the Democrats simply do not want to cater to those interests? I think a fair amount of the latter is at work because elements of the Demo base oppose those interests very strongly.

    I think this election was like a market where some big sclerotic corp tries to sell the customers something and gets indignant that the customers do not like what is on offer. The lesson the sellers of the rejected product ought to remember is that the customer is always right.

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