Monday, July 21, 2008

European Attitudes

CNN and other news outlets are reporting that Europeans prefer Obama to McCain by a 5:1 ratio.
CNN: Cafferty File

Why do we care do much about European opinions? These people don't have a single popular leader in their own nations. France's president is below 30% in the polls, Number 10 is (ironically) between 10 and 20% favorable, and even Germany, with a decent economy, doesn't give majority approval to the chancellor.

So, these are relatively unhappy people, politically. They are beyond cynical — they're just plain unhappy.

Part of the problem is that when you have a parliamentary system, the leaders in power seldom win leadership posts with a clear majority. You can cobble a parliamentary majority together with a 30% plurality and a dozen smaller, usually more radical, political parties. The end result is that no one is content.

But, there is a larger reason: their systems, which they resoundingly claim are better than the U.S. system and our economic model, have problems: high unemployment, entrenched unions, tethered corporations.

Universities in France are literally crumbling, but they won't change anything for fear of "Anglo-American" influence. (See: Crumbling French Universities Look for Help/)

In other words, the Europeans hate what they have, but fear change even more. They'll defend their systems, while complaining about them.

And we care what these people think? They can't even organize themselves without skirting the public will.

Maybe Obama will be an okay president, but I think he's more likely to be torn apart within a year of winning. No one can match this level of hype. Even Europeans might sour on him within a year or two.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Downside to 'Conservative'

The downside to being a classical liberal (or libertarian, or whatever you wish to use) is that you find yourself grouped together with social conservatives by liberals who don't know any better and with socialists by conservatives who don't have a clue.

I am not a social conservative, at least not in most ways. I am definitely not a socialist.

Why people can't understand something in the middle is beyond me. Why do so many people the world to be "right/left" or "fundamental/atheist" in nature? What's wrong with complexity? Nuance? Questioning?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Reality is Not Liberal

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias" seems to be a common response to complaints of liberal bias in the media and academia.

Let us state the obvious: reality has no bias... how people react to it does.

We hate suffering, especially the closer it is to "home" and our own situation. But, hating suffering does not make "reality" liberal. In fact, it makes reality absurd, cruel, and indifferent to human emotions.

Floods, fires, famines, diseases, and other disasters have no political agendas. How we react to them does.
Rhetorical flourishes that try to naturalize political beliefs are silly. If one political or economic model were "natural" and inherent in humanity, why has it not dominated? In fact, the only "natural" order I can see is that people try to protect themselves and their closest group -- regardless of what political or economic model might work at a given moment.

Reality is unpredictable. It requires flexibility. It is not one thing... unless you try to define "liberal" in the classical sense, which would mean humans need to adapt to this absurd universe.