Monday, July 20, 2009

Optimism Vs Pessimism*.

On the subject of the nature of optimism and pessimism in political outlooks, John Derbyshire is promoting his forthcoming book with the cheery title 'We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism'. His interview at the Economist's Democracy In America blog is worth reading. His policy proposals include:
Abandonment of "nation-building" exercises. Abolition of the federal Department of Education. A 1924-style immigration freeze. Repeal of No Child Left Behind. End of all federal subsidies to "community groups". End of all federal subsidies to arts and culture. End of all foreign-aid programmes that are not plainly and obviously bribes for pro-American behaviour. Restart construction of neutron bombs. Full-bore federal-subsidised research on missile defense. Withdrawal from the UN, followed by razing of all UN structures on American soil and sowing the ground with salt.
I don't agree with them all but it is refreshingly frank and also enjoyable to watch the reaction by the Economist's commentators. As Derbyshire says himself after responding to some of the objections they raise in the comments:
I've shot fish in a barrel before, but dealing with commentators is more like shooting tortoises in a glue trap
* I prefer the term 'realism' to 'pessimism'. By being realistic about what can be accomplished genuine improvements can be made.


asquith said...

America missed its chance to sort immigration out decades ago. There was simply no reason to let in such a huge number of Mexicans. The industries they work in should have been left to wither on the vine or forced to offer better wages & conditions by labour shortage- boith good for workers & for economic efficiency.

Then, quite apart from the cultural impact (which I think isn't massive as Hispanics are European in culture, if a little uncouth & too socially conservative for my tastes) you've got the environmental factor. States such as California are buckling environmentally (what with water shortages, etc) & socially, & economically.

In my thinking on this topic, I decided to blame the right for the most part. Yes, there are ideological pro-immigration at all costs liberals. But more important is the constituency of wealthy Republicans who want cheap labour & are oblivious to the social consequences or the base's views.

The likes of John Derbyshire must know that hitching themselves to the GOP is a waste of time. I actually think Dems are more likely to restrict immigration... if it's even possible any more.

Ross said...

Widespread immigration is largely supported by the establishment's of both US parties although I believe surveys suggest that the membership of both want less.

"The industries they work in should have been left to wither on the vine "

Yes a lot of immigration is for the agriculture industry, which in Europe and the USA is heavily subsidised, so workers are being imported to help produce stuff we are already producing too much of.

asquith said...

Yes- I believe this were dealt with by Christopher Caldwell in Reflections on the Revolution in Europe.

Indeed, ordinary Democrats & Republicans alike are opposed to open borders just like Labour, Conservative & in fact most rank & file Lib Dem voters are uneasy abour our immigration situation. I really think the Dems can gain by opposing immigration... or could have done if they'd tried it a few decades ago, but now there are so many Hispanics that it's no longer feasbile.

Shibley Rahman said...

I am glad you have posted on this. This optimism vs pessimism aspect is very relevant to one's feeling of wellbeing, I feel. I often thought in the 1980s that the reason that Margaret Thatcher was potentially electable in the 1980s was because of the 'feel good factor', until recession struck and it felt that every social group had been systematically alienated.

Currently, I feel that we are going through yet another 'feel bad factor', except this time we are shamelessly chucking out the baby with the bathwater, i.e. it does not matter it seems that we are stripping arts funding to the bones, whilst cutting SureStart etc. Repeat is indeed repeating itself, and will cause in my opinion serious problems for the electability of both parties constituting the coalition!

Great blog btw! My own blog would appreciate any votes for the Total Politics Blog Award 2011; for details, please see I am definitely voting for this one.