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July 19, 2010

Update 4: Brief Summer Book Hiatus With Final Excerpt From Introduction

Did I say "brief?"  I meant that ironically. 

Below is the final section of the introduction. I hope to make some real progress the next two weeks, and might have a near-final chapter outline to share within the week.

But then, we've already established that I'm a filthy liar. 

Introduction, concluded:

A few quick caveats:

I am not a conservative, although I share many common causes with conservatives, such as a preference for limited government, a fondness for low taxes, and a possibly unhealthy passion for good gin. Also, mediocre gin.  And in a pinch, bad gin, but only if there is no good and/or mediocre gin available.

Okay, I might have a gin problem. And by “gin problem,” I mean “I occasionally run out of good gin.”

Regardless, given the Sharks vs. Jets dichotomy of our national political dialogue, much of this book will draw examples that sit comfortably along the liberal/conservative fault line.   In most instances, when it comes to economic liberty, I’ll be sympathetic to the conservative view (if not necessarily the conservative practice).

I am also not a populist. 

The term “populist” has taken on some unfortunate baggage of late, much like “socialist,” “liberal,” and “MSNBC news anchor.” 

It is generally assumed (as by Brooks and Kristol mentioned earlier) that populists believe the average person in the street is gifted with wisdom grounded in hard work and simple pleasures, and if only he or she were granted dominion, our republic would flourish anew.

There is a problem with this view.

The average person in the street is an idiot.

But then, my argument is that the average person in the nation’s boardrooms, university faculty lounges and marble corridors of Washington is an idiot too.  The difference is those people don’t know it.

And here is where the average person in the street does have a leg up.  There is a certain humility born of a life spent on a rough and crooked road.  There is a sense of personal accountability that accrues to those who, while well aware that not all of life’s failings and fortunes are within one’s control, they are still one’s responsibility. 

Meaning your average person in the street at least has the wisdom to know he or she shouldn’t be telling everyone else what to do.

I am not a liberal. While perhaps obvious in this context, it might not be as clear if I were writing about the war against some drugs, or other social issues. For the record, though, I fully support the government sanctioning civil unions for straight people.  You want to get “married,” go to a church. You want to enter into a contractual agreement that will be governed by a body of law, go to the courthouse.  Now, can we please get back to important things like hysterical protests over Christmas crèches at public community centers?

I am not anti-intellectual.  I am in fact rather fond of intellectuals without whom my Amazon Wish List would be devoid of obscure narratives on Greek history I’ll never find the time to read.  I am however anti-faux-intellectual, and against the substitution of lockstep collectivist conformity for critical thought. And while I concede there really are “smart” people in the world (more to the point, people who are smart in areas I am not), I still don’t want them telling me what kind of light bulb I can buy.

Finally, I am not anti-government, much in the same way the Founding Fathers were not anti-government seeing as they went through a great deal of trouble creating one. Like the Founders, I recognize that government has an essential role, its only legitimate role, really, in securing individual liberty.  Also like them, I recognize its limits, and the hazards a powerful state poses to individual freedom. And yes, to those of you who maintain that any central government no matter how carefully conceived will inexorably consolidate power to the detriment of liberty, well, fine, you win that one. 

Anti-government zealots: 1
Me: 0

However, I try to stay in the realm of the possible.  The chances of our achieving some anarchic Utopia are about the same as the New York Yankees deciding that “you don’t need money to build a gosh darn good baseball team.”

So, what am I? (Aside from the obvious.)

I am a recovering libertarian with a drinking problem. 

Or a recovering drunk with a libertarian problem.

(I can never remember which.)

I believe retaining personal sovereignty should be a default position, and unless someone can make a really good argument as to why you should relent and cede decision-making authority to the government, just say no.

Foreign powers present an imminent threat to life and liberty? 

Okay, sure, sounds reasonable.

You think maybe I should lay off the salt and French fries? 8

Um, you know what? How about you leave that one to me.

A quick preview:

In Section 1, I review the ways in which those who fancy themselves to be gifted with superior intellect define “superior intellect” to include those people who demonstrate a unique talent for agreeing with them.

In Section 2, I address the ways in which this illusion is maintained and reinforced.

Section 3 explores the very real ramifications of allowing a small group of people who are not as smart as they think are, to run the country.

Section 4 attempts to take the first steps toward addressing this problem.  I say attempt because I admit up front that I don’t have all the questions, never mind all the answers. (Although, I have found “go easy on the vermouth” to come in handy on more than a few occasions.)

Besides, the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem.

J.

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July 19, 2010 at 12:46 PM in Books | Permalink

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Comments

Looking good so far.

So when are you going to finish it?

Posted by: EagerlyAwaiting | Jul 27, 2010 11:47:02 AM

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