Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Saturday Afternoon!

with 4 comments

* I was going to offer this post from Matt Yglesias on Weber’s “Politics as Vocation” as a potential intervention in the argument Vu and I have been having over the last few comment threads. But upon reflection I don’t think “compromise vs. compromised” is quite what we disagree about after all; it’s really a much smaller dispute about the efficacy of adopting an aggressive negotiating posture when you’re playing Chicken with sociopathically indifferent ideologues. The bad actors will always win such a fight, because we care about outcomes and they don’t. What we we need to do, therefore, is direct our attention away from mere political affect toward structural reform, wherever possible, of the various political institutions that give these bad actors final say.

* The Wonk Room compares the original health care bill to the (presumably final) manager’s amendment, with more on the new CBO score from Steve, Ezra, and TPM. I have to say this post from mcjoan on making sure doctors don’t take away our precious guns made me smile, as did the follow-up on mandates from the comments. So did Benen’s Botax/Boeh-tax bit.

* Stupak launches another desperate bid to be thrown out of the Democratic caucus.

* More ‘Flopenhagen’ analysis from Mother Jones, MNN, Wonk Room, Kevin Drum, and immanance. One’s level of happiness/sadness and optimism/pessimism on Copenhagen continues to strongly correlate with the extent to which one thought a genuinely successful agreement was ever possible at Copenhagen in the first place.

* ‘In the Shadow of Goldman Sachs': Trickle-down economics on Wall Street. Via PClem.

* Jack Bauer interrogates Santa Claus. Via Julia.

* Captain Picard to become Sir Captain Picard.

* And very sad news: Influential film theorist Robin Wood has died.

4 Responses

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  1. hooray, patrick stewart!

    Kate

    December 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm

  2. the Yglesias and the Weber pieces are both typical caricatures of the left.

    Yglesias: “The problem is that what’s needed, from a humanitarian point of view, is a foreign policy that does in fact make conditions around the world better not a foreign policy that expresses high ideals and a grand sense of purpose.”

    this is the standard pragmatist anti-ideology line, where the pragmatist, disgusted with the distance between ideals and outcomes, decides to make an ideology out of results. the purpose of these results is left to an ill-defined because ‘natural’ good. because what is good is both obvious and unattainable in its pure state, we can just focus on making sure we’re making ‘progress,’ taking it for granted that that progress will be incremental (arc of the moral universe, blah blah blah). but it’s plain that a generalized ‘good’ is no less a “grand sense of purpose” than something more specific (i.e. libertarian syndicalism, communism, direct democracy, etc.) and involves just as sweeping rhetoric from leadership (obama).

    the problem with this, as i see it, is that anyone who wants to accomplish anything has to be pragmatic. it’s common sense. turning it into an ideology cuts off discussion of ends by taking them for granted, and monopolizes the virtue of practicality, blinding the pragmatist to the possibility that their opponents are after different things — ideological enemies are always impractical, irrational, too emotional, etc. pragmatist emphases fluctuate between process (‘wonks’ and conservatives) and the vague ‘good’ (banal humanism), depending on the situation. conformism and beautiful-soulism occur along this axis. and the ‘ethic of responsibility’ is what happens when there’s no way to tell the difference between political actors (we all want the same things, after all), so that ideological opponents of any kind appear ‘irresponsible.’

    Vu

    December 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm

  3. a common consequence of this is that liberal democratic pundits typically can’t understand why conservatives would disagree with them — they must be ‘idiots,’ ‘ill-educated,’ ‘anti-scientific,’ ‘superstitious,’ ‘misinformed,’ ‘immoral,’ ‘sociopathic,’ ‘hypocrites,’ etc. meanwhile conservative republicans, also pragmatists, are equally confused by liberals. and for both, the world’s poor are only different aesthetically (‘people we have to save’ for liberals, ‘unreasonable others who want what they didn’t earn’ to conservatives).

    Vu

    December 19, 2009 at 4:13 pm

  4. the problem with this, as i see it, is that anyone who wants to accomplish anything has to be pragmatic. it’s common sense. turning it into an ideology cuts off discussion of ends by taking them for granted, and monopolizes the virtue of practicality, blinding the pragmatist to the possibility that their opponents are after different things

    Yeah, that can be true in any given case, and it frequently is. And I agree with what you say in your follow-up post. This is why I’ve softened, to some extent, on my contempt for Naderites.

    But, (1) the opposite is frequently true as well (i.e. folks on the left frequently attack others on the left with whom they disagree as simply being compromising whores, as opposed to being after different things), and (2) in the specific case of health care reform, it is hard to know what it is, exactly, that the disgruntled left is after that is not accomplished, in some measure, by this legislation. If you can’t engage the policy issues in any kind of coherent fashion – and I’m pretty confident that, e.g., Matt Taibbi can’t – then you don’t have much room to gripe about this kind of disrespect. If the make-or-break on this is a Medicare buy-in for the age 55-64 cohort, then it’s hard to be taken seriously.

    Shankar D

    December 21, 2009 at 3:33 pm


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