All posts by Rand Simberg

Brexit And Trump

What do they have in common with Rob Ford?

I think this is right. I wish very much that I didn’t think this is right:

…for the people living through it, as with the World Wars, Soviet Famines, Holocaust, it must have felt inconceivable that humans could rise up from it. The collapse of the Roman Empire, Black Death, Spanish Inquisition, Thirty Years War, War of the Roses, English Civil War… it’s a long list. Events of massive destruction from which humanity recovered and move on, often in better shape.
At a local level in time people think things are fine, then things rapidly spiral out of control until they become unstoppable, and we wreak massive destruction on ourselves. For the people living in the midst of this it is hard to see happening and hard to understand. To historians later it all makes sense and we see clearly how one thing led to another. During the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme I was struck that it was a direct outcome of the assassination of an Austrian Arch Duke in Bosnia. I very much doubt anyone at the time thought the killing of a minor European royal would lead to the death of 17 million people.

My point is that this is a cycle. It happens again and again, but as most people only have a 50–100 year historical perspective they don’t see that it’s happening again. As the events that led to the First World War unfolded, there were a few brilliant minds who started to warn that something big was wrong, that the web of treaties across Europe could lead to a war, but they were dismissed as hysterical, mad, or fools, as is always the way, and as people who worry about Putin, Brexit, and Trump are dismissed now.

Then after the War to end all Wars, we went and had another one. Again, for a historian it was quite predictable. Lead people to feel they have lost control of their country and destiny, people look for scapegoats, a charismatic leader captures the popular mood, and singles out that scapegoat. He talks in rhetoric that has no detail, and drums up anger and hatred. Soon the masses start to move as one, without any logic driving their actions, and the whole becomes unstoppable.

That was Hitler, but it was also Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, Mugabe, and so many more. Mugabe is a very good case in point. He whipped up national anger and hatred towards the land owning white minority (who happened to know how to run farms), and seized their land to redistribute to the people, in a great populist move which in the end unravelled the economy and farming industry and left the people in possession of land, but starving. See also the famines created by the Soviet Union, and the one caused by the Chinese Communists last century in which 20–40 million people died. It seems inconceivable that people could create a situation in which tens of millions of people die without reason, but we do it again and again.

But at the time people don’t realise they’re embarking on a route that will lead to a destruction period. They think they’re right, they’re cheered on by jeering angry mobs, their critics are mocked. This cycle, the one we saw for example from the Treaty of Versaille, to the rise of Hitler, to the Second World War, appears to be happening again. But as with before, most people cannot see it because:

1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future

2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally

3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views

Trump is doing this in America.

Yup. Read the whole thing, despite how depressing it is.

It is similar to people who think that the climate is going crazy, because they didn’t live through the 30s, or the 50s. Let alone times farther past.

Star Trek

…is far from libertarian:

The Federation isn’t just socialist in the hyperbolic sense in which some conservatives like to denounce anyone to the left of them as socialist. It’s socialist in the literal sense that the government has near-total control over the economy and the means of production. Especially by the period portrayed in The Next Generation, the government seems to control all major economic enterprises, and there do not seem to be any significant private businesses controlled by humans in Federation territory. Star Fleet characters, such as Captain Picard, boast that the Federation has no currency and that humans are no longer motivated by material gain and do not engage in capitalist economic transactions.

The supposed evils of free markets are exemplified by the Ferengi, an alien race who exemplify all the stereotypes socialists typically associate with “evil capitalists.” The Ferengi are unrelentingly greedy and exploitative. Their love of profit seems to be exceeded only by their sexism—they do not let females work outside the household, even when it would increase their profits to do so.

The problem here is not just that Star Trek embraces socialism: it’s that it does so without giving any serious consideration to the issue. For example, real-world socialist states have almost always resulted in poverty and massive political oppression, piling up body counts in the tens of millions.

But Star Trek gives no hint that this might be a danger, or any explanation of how the Federation avoided it. Unlike on many other issues, where the producers of the series recognize that there are multiple legitimate perspectives on a political issue, they seem almost totally oblivious to the downsides of socialism.

You don’t say. That episode TNG did on cryonics was extremely off putting to me.

Hillary

What does she want?

She became a senator from New York as a final tribute from a Democratic electorate to her husband. The man who preceded her in office, the great Daniel Patrick Moynihan, wryly saluted her “Illinois-Arkansas enthusiasm,” Hillary and New York being as much a marriage of convenience as Hillary and Bill. She was a legislative nonentity in the Senate, because she was running for president from the day she was sworn in. (A few of the 2016 Republican contenders know a thing or two about that.) When her moment came, she was outdone in the Democratic primary by an even bigger legislative nonentity in the Senate. It was funny, in a cruel way, and people laughed at her, in a cruel way.

Barack Obama condescended to offer her the scrap of a Cabinet position, which she botched, doing great damage to his administration and the country in the process. She was one of the most inept chief diplomats in memory. Bill Clinton had found a place on the global stage through his close relationship with Tony Blair while Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright minded the shop. George H. W. Bush before him had in a moment of Middle Eastern crisis shown himself to be a true master of the game. Mrs. Clinton’s State Department had the nation, including its Democrats, longing for the steady-handed confidence of the Carter years. She was bad enough that John Kerry was considered an improvement.

When her moment came again, she was put through the wringer by a dopey socialist from Vermont whose young, idealistic partisans — the people people like Mrs. Clinton like to think of themselves as — still don’t want her. They’ll take her over Donald Trump, of course, and they’ll feel a little like the man who hears: “You’re responding reasonably well to the chemo.”

RTWT. It’s cruel, but fair.

[Update a while later]

Link is fixed, sorry.