Streetwise Professor

October 26, 2009

Excellent Observations From a Couple of My Faves

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:47 pm

The always excellent Richard Fernandez at Belmont Club echoes a theme that I addressed in my post on the Critical Review’s special issue on the financial crisis, to wit, how government regulation tends to impose a variance-reducing standardization that by reducing diversity perversely increases systemic risks:

One of the arguments for centralizing power in government is that it reduces variance. People get ‘standard’ care, which is ‘equitable’ and predictable. This is contrasted with the wider distribution of outcomes when the same decisions are left to individuals. In the health care debate for example, there are people who obviously get great health care and others who get relatively bad insurance. Wouldn’t it be better if the variance were reduced by a government program?

Left out of this argument is the idea of systemic risk. Leaving decisions to individuals makes it unlikely that they will all get it right but it equally implies they almost never get it all wrong. Society based on individual choices has a diversified portfolio of outcomes. In contrast if a government gets it wrong, it goes spectacularly wrong. Let’s forget about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for a moment; turn our eyes away from Barney Frank and look across the Atlantic to the UK’s ironically named  Office of the Public Guardian.

Just so.

Mark Steyn poses a question that I’ve thought about too: what explains the disconcerting contrast between the Obama administration’s Alinsky-esque heavy-handedness in confronting its domestic opponents (or is it enemies?) and its  pusillanimity in dealing with avowedly anti-American regimes abroad?:

Who are the real “Untouchables” here? In Moscow, it’s Putin and his gang, contemptuously mocking U.S. officials even when (as with Secretary Clinton) they’re still on Russian soil. In Tehran, it’s Ahmadinejad and the mullahs openly nuclearizing as ever feebler warnings and woozier deadlines from the Great Powers come and go. Even Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize is an exquisite act of condescension from the Norwegians, a dog biscuit and a pat on the head to the American hyperpower for agreeing to spay itself into a hyperpoodle. We were told that Obama would use “soft power” and “smart diplomacy” to get his way. Russia and Iran are big players with global ambitions, but Obama’s soft power is so soft it doesn’t even work its magic on a client regime in Kabul whose leaders’ very lives are dependent on Western troops. If Obama’s “smart diplomacy” is so smart that even Hamid Karzai ignores it with impunity, why should anyone else pay attention?

The strange disparity between the heavy-handed community organization at home and the ever-cockier untouchables abroad risks making the commander-in-chief look like a weenie — like “President Pantywaist,” as Britain’s  Daily Telegraph has taken to calling him.

The Chicago way? Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight? In Iran, this administration won’t bring a knife to a nuke fight. In Eastern Europe, it won’t bring missile defense to a nuke fight. In Sudan, it won’t bring a knife to a machete fight.

But, if you’re doing the overnight show on WZZZ-AM, Mister Tough Guy’s got your number.

Not one of Steyn’s best columns (admittedly compared to a very high standard), but a fair point nonetheless.

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  1. Mark Steyn is an excellent example of what I like to call Western chauvinism.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — October 27, 2009 @ 2:25 am

  2. As opposed to, say, Russian chauvinism (via Berkeley)? Yes, he is a Western chauvinist, but he makes the case forcefully and with humor. Far better than multi-culti, po-mo mush.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 27, 2009 @ 11:02 am

  3. It is so much Russian chauvinism, as the general nationalism of the oppressed. Third World nationalism. Having been raped and looted for so long by Western imperialism – and today, neo-imperialism – the only way the Third World can regain its dignity is through a cathartic outburst of violence against, and resolute rejection of, its millennial oppressors. To be accompanied by ceaseless culture war against racism, sexism, fascism, hypocrisy, value judgments, etc, in the West itself so that its tyranny crumbles forever.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — October 27, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  4. The previous comment is a good illustration to something I have been thinking for a while. There, in essence, is no Islamism, Third-World nationalism, Russian chauvinism or anything like that; what we are facing are various faces and forms of the same tried-and-true ‘take away and split equally’ ideology, just under different colors and under different masks.

    What we are facing is neocommunism, plain and simple. Joe McCarthy is smiling at us, sarcastically. Some people cannot just steal, they need a scientifically-sounding ideology to feel good about stealing.

    As lessons of 1945 teach us, ideologies are defeated by physical termination of ideologues. I see no reason why would it have to be otherwise this time.

    Comment by LL — October 27, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

  5. And by the way: sometimes it takes a jester to tel the truth to the King (as it was written by that insignificant dead white man… what was his name? shake something? whatever).

    So there:

    Comment by LL — October 27, 2009 @ 9:41 pm

  6. As lessons of 1945 teach us, ideologies are defeated by physical termination of ideologues. I see no reason why would it have to be otherwise this time.

    I agree 100%. As Michael Vilkin, a commentator on this site correctly observed:

    You don’t have any roots in this country.
    You are like one of those weeds that do not develop deep roots;
    they grow everywhere and are native nowhere.

    I hope I get renditioned by the CIA and torture-murdered for my treason.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — October 28, 2009 @ 3:23 am

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