July 29, 2008

Whale with barnacles

Time magazine, issue of July 21 2008, offers several nuggets to think about. Here are some.


"Life is never either/or. Decisions are complex, and there are always competing factors. To look for simple explanations is the bias of the human brain, but it doesn't correspond to reality. Nothing is ever as straightforward as it appears.

Mandela is comfortable with contradiction. As a politician, he was a pragmatist who saw the world as infinitely nuanced. ... As a statesman, Mandela was uncommonly loyal to Muammar Gaddafi and Fidel Castro. They had helped the ANC when the US still branded Mandela as a terrorist. When I asked him about Gaddafi and Castro, he suggested that Americans tend to see things in black and white ... Mandela's calculus was always, What is the end that I seek, and what is the most practical way to get there?

Richard Stengel, "Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership"


"It is tempting to think of libertarianism as nothing more than old-school Republicanism, but it's always been partially left-wing, drawing from a long history of American anarchism. The modern challenge is to unite those two wings. ... If the old [Libertarian] Party was cobbled together from hard-line strains of voluntarianism, propertarianism and paleolibertarianism, the new Libertarian Party is more likely to build off ... suburbanarianism.

And if that happens, voters ... may find in the Libertarians ... a gentle logic and a contagious enthusiasm for freedom in all its forms. Libertarians are getting ready for the mainstream, and mainstream America may finally be ready for them.

Nathan Thornburgh, "The (Not So) Lunatic Fringe"


"[P]ractically anything on the Web collects comments the way a whale collects barnacles. In theory, it's a great thing. We're giving the people a voice! But the reality is that commenting [on the Web] either attracts loathsome people or somehow causes ordinary people to express themselves in a way that is loathsome. ... [It's] a kind of communal game in which whoever is cleverest and pushes the most buttons wins."

Lev Grossman, "Post Apocalypse"

1 comment:

Gaurav said...

A few thoughts on the Libertarian article. Could be a longish comment. Hope you dont mind.

- I saw the Ron Paul revolution up close and was fascinated by it. Attended a few College Libertarian meetings and the excitement about Paul was refreshing. Prima facie, the guy seems like an over-the-hill doddering grandpa-at-thanksgiving types. But his sincerity and, for the lack of a better word, sweetness, was irresistible. On top of it, he possessed a 9-term voting record which was as consistent and ideologically coherent as ideally possible. It was interesting to see a grandpa leading a revolution of 20-year-olds.

- Bob Barr's nomination is a retrogressive step for the movement. He is as flip-floppy as Paul was consistent. Yes, Barr is polling at 6% nationally now, but that is primarily in the slip-stream of Paul's success. Once the conventions are done and campaigning begins in full earnest, that number is sure to dwindle. As election day approaches, the "why use for a guy who isnt going to win" syndrome grows stronger. To resist that syndrome, a Quixotic candidate must have the personal character and clear convictions of a "holier than the pope" nature that Paul possesses and Nader once possessed before being saddled with the blame for Gore's defeat. Barr just does not have what it takes to sustain the "revolution". If only the LP could have prevailed on Ron Paul to run as its nominee, there would have been a real stir. But remember, consistency is one of Paul's strongest suits. He had been saying before that he wont run again as a 3rd party guy, and he stuck to it.

- As for the larger question of whether libertarianism's time has come... I think the small proportion was always there. It's just that this time in Paul they had someone to rally around. From what little I have seen of America, the libertarian proportion does not seem to be more than 10%. And its time, as much as I would like to believe otherwise, has not yet come. Reagan's famed "conservative coalition" is still alive and kicking, albeit a bit injured after McCain's nomination. Too large a chunk of the population hates government intervention from democrats but still wants gay marriages banned, and roe v wade overturned. Another large chunks wants more government intervention. And the sizeable but small proportion of Paul-o-holics is still a minority.

Maybe a couple of decades hence, when these kids grow up and become influential, and have kids of their own, America will change. Gay marriages and abortion will seem like trivial issues. It is then that the libertarians could move in and run the Republican party. But that day is far off.

Until Fox News remains the #1 news channel, it is difficult to imagine the libertarian movement posing any real threat.

There is a wild card. Former MN governor, ex-pro-wrestler and ex-navy-seal Jesse Ventura, whose ideas are very libertarian-like. He has hinted that he might consider running in 2012. He possesses the charisma and consistency of Ron Paul, though not too much of the intellectual depth (I suspect). He might create waves 4 years hence. Let' see.