Friday, July 18, 2008

The Stalins And Maos Are The Republicans

Kevin Drums excerpts some words of stupidity from David Brooks, and I respond:

Brooks is probably just trying to get people scared that if it's the Democrats who are responsible for all this broad legislation, they are going to end up implementing some kind of ridiculous, socialist authoritarian command-economy bullshit.

People don't need to worry- that's not how policy is made in America at the federal level nowadays (at least, it's not how Democrats make honest efforts to solve real problems). Instead, federal law-makers can get help from all kinds of think tanks, experts, and academics who can make specific policy suggestions or who can even be retained in teams to study a problem for months and years and come up with the whole diagnosis of a problem and comprehensive suggestions for legislation themselves. It isn't like a bunch of idiots fiddling around with trying to control everything about the country.

If conservatives and underinformed types want to vex about what wen wrong in the Soviet Union, they shold consider that the Soviet Union's leaders were a bunch of idiots, bullies, and bumpkins, a lot more like putting Bush, Rove, and the like in charge of a command economy than like putting modern democrats and the academics they form policy with in absolute control of a nation. The USSR was a bunch of hostile, amateurish people trying to make decisions they weren't qualified to make, but got to make because they were politically loyal. That's 8- or 9/10 of why their country failed so badly, not their communal ideology. The Republicans are trying to do the same thing- award decision-making authority based on political loyalty, not professional qualification. In countries like the USSR, it was the scum and the bullies who rose to the top in everything, not the smart people- the only difference between the USSR then and the USA today being, now it's the scum and the bullies who are rising to the top of a capitalist, not a command, system.

A better analog to look to to see who is more like the communist leaders, Republicans or Democrats, is Iraq. Iraq is a place where the Republicans have had a chance to rebuild a country almost from the ground-up. Even not counting the problems related to violence there, the Republicans have failed miserably (and done a USSR-worthy job). Same with the Katrina rebuilding.

In many ways, too, the Republicans are making our country more and more like a command system all the time, which (at least with this kind of leaders) will produce results more and more like the USSR did over time.

UPDATE: If you want to know the reasons the USSR failed, these are them (and these aren't some kind of subtle, esoteric reasons that somehow caused a gigantic failure of a huge nation, and that you need some kind of special degree to be able to discern; rather all it takes is some knowledge):

1) The USSR was a country that underwent generations' worth of ideological purges (people being sent away from the regular economy and community to slave-labor camps or political prisons, often for political reasons, but most definitely often only on political pretenses but in actuality for arbitrary reasons- like personal dislike, or they stodd in the way of an official's ambitions) of thousands at a time. This means that lots and lots of people who thought for themselves, were capable, and just weren't powerful, selfish or savvy enough to protect themselves from the KGB and the like were basically done away with-- or, they were smart enough to successfully flee these dangers for the west. This is why Russia today is a cesspool of crime where 13 year old girls whore themselves on the streets on Moscow. Smart and capable people do things like discover technologies, solve problems, start cool projects and initiatives, and make things nice. When you take them away, the people you have left by themselves (the ones who can't read) pick up guns and start shooting each other in the head. The easiest modern example of this is Iraq. All the worthwhile people high-tailed it out of there or were assassinated. This is not to say Russia lost all its good, smart people. But the ones who were leftover were far more likely to be less-smart nerds (and therefore less offending, or less capable of fleeing) or evil nerds (less ideologically rebellious, but also less public-spirited in actuality, and therefore poorer contributors to the community).

(2) A somewhat-relate point to the first one: The procedures and norms governing advancement in various party/state organization in the USSR were such that people were able to advance in their jobs more easily by attacking their peers instead of by doing their jobs well.

(3) The USSR was oppressive (and this ruined people's morale as workers and turned them, at least in some respects, against their nation and countrymen).

(4) Oppression motivated capable and intelligent people to flee the USSR just like the ideological purges did.

(5) A command economy does not meet consumer demand as effectively and efficiently as does a limited capitalist economy.

(6) A command economy does not provide as much of a spur to innovation in technology (nor to other kinds of achievement) as does a limited capitalist economy.

(7) Organized labor was not really powerful in the Soviet Union as it was in the Soviets’ promises to their people and to the world; it was more rhetoric than reality. The democratic balance organized labor could have played to the state and communist party leadership organizations did not really exist.

(8) The rest of the world was not so interested in spending money on going to the USSR as tourists, perhaps partly because of Soviet rule. Also, there was no hugely popular USSR-export, like something on the scale of Hollywood movies.

(9) The USSR faced opposition from the West. This is the usual hard-lefty's excuse for why many things suck / sucked in the communist nations, but it's just not a realistic explanation by itself for all the problems those countries had.

The conservatives usually focus on (3) and (4) and talk as if these were the only reasons communism failed (they might throw in (2) to give themselves some credibility in a liberal's eyes, but they really do not refer to it to much, and the reason is that they are not per se against oppression, and would like to do it to the extent they can get away with it themselves) however, as you can see, there are plenty of other reasons why that nation came apart.