Announcing “The Open Mind”: Shrink vs. Scribe

by A. Jay Adler on October 1, 2009

The doctor will see you now.

One always needs to be grateful for serendipitous segues. (There are so many poor ones in life. Like losing your job, a common occurrence across the land the past year? Not a good segue.)

Not knowing that I planned to announce our little joint venture specifically today, Shrinkwrapped commented on yesterday’s post, about President Obama, “Are You Experienced?” You may recall that he wrote a post on his blog a few weeks back, in part about one of my posts, to which I responded. I first discovered SW’s blog in July, where I got into a little back and forth with one of his commenters. He began to check me out too.

So what have we chosen to do?  We’ve decided to see if we can open some minds. We do both deal with minds for a living. I try to teach them to think a little better. He tries to help shrink_l200906021032them cope when “issues” arise. Got a mind? We got you covered. I suspect I’m less expensive than he is, but I don’t take insurance. However, financial aid will get you into the class.

As a recurring feature of both of our blogs, we are going to take on the issues that bedevil relations between right and left, maybe even toss some wild cards on the table for the pleasure of it. We agree on very close to nothing. But we intend – we hope – to avoid the usual debate. We already know we think the other is wrong. You can seek the shouting and the name calling all day long on web and tube. What we hope to make the sharper focus of our effort is the attempt to understand, as SW so well put it, “how two reasonably bright, reasonably decent people can disagree so significantly in their perception of reality.” We have agreed to try mightily not to descend to the usual incredulous insult. We will, if necessary, discover the other to be regrettably mentally impaired rather than a sorry ignoramus.

The plan is that on an alternating basis, one of us will post on a topic, and the other will respond after about twenty-four hours or so. We will cross-post on each other’s blog so that post and response are viewable at both sites. Our valued readers are independent agents (and don’t we love it!) so you will, of course, do as you please, but it probably makes the most sense for comments to my posts to be made at the sad red earth and comments to SW’s posts to be made at ShrinkWrapped. Sometimes, if the spirit or argument moves us, we will follow up on our post and response – maybe, in part, because of your comments.

We hope for some intellectual pleasure, and even – dare I say it – some opened minds. Regardless, it’s worth considering, amid the Scribedifferences that roil us now, that at the very founding of the nation, Americans, all, argued about – would you believe it – how much power should be granted the federal government, whether there should be a national bank, and (contemplate this one) whether human beings should be trafficked and owned as slaves. Of course, they agreed about much more: democracy, the rule of law, the Bill of Rights, the freedom to pursue our individual destinies, and, you know, it is time to remember, and never forget – that all this land should be taken, through innumerable wars and countless deceits and abuses, from the people who first lived on it.

The Open Mind will start next week. I’ll post first. And yes, you do now know what we look like and how we live.

AJA


6 comments

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimmy J. October 3, 2009 at 7:08 pm

I am always amused by the argument that Republicans are the big spenders. I try to remind people that Presidents do not spend money, Congress does. Presidents propose budgets, but Congress actually controls the purse strings. Reagan’s budget deficits were the result of tax cuts (which increased tax revenue) but the Congress (Democrat controlled) had agreed to reduce spending. They did not.

George H. W. Bush could not rein in spending by a Democrat controlled Congress so he agreed to raise taxes, which doomed his second term.

Bill Clinton cut defense spending drastically, but goaded by a Republican majority in Congress (1994) he agreed to cut welfare as well. The result (as a bonus from the end of the Cold War)was a budget in surplus for a short time. And a military that was unprepared for Afghanistan and Iraq.

George W. Bush was not a big spender. He proposed reasonable budgets but was overridden by Congress (both Dem & Repub.) After the war in Iraq began he became a hostage to the Democrats. He needed their votes to keep the war funded so he accepted more domestic spending than was wise. Also, he bent over backward to be bipartisan and accepted the Medicare Drug bill. This was an entitlement that no true fiscal conservative would have ever been associated with.

W’s deficits were, however, mostly war related. Most countries expect to be in deficit spending during war time. (We went to 125% of GDP during WWII. Our mobilization turned us into an industrial powerhouse that allowed us to decrease that debt to a reasonable figure.)

This brings us to the present. IMO the TARP was absolutely necessary because it restored confidence in the banks. The Mortgage Backed Securities (MBSs) were an albatross around the banks’ necks. The shorts were floating rumors that all the MBSs were worth 22 cents on the dollar or less and were engaged in naked shorting that was taking all these institutions to near insolvency. Their equity worth was near zero and there was no way they could raise more equity in the normal markets. Without intervention, our financial system would have collapsed. (Many Conservatives do not believe this but they are, IMO, delusional.) The Stimulus Bill was written by Democratic special interests and was a mix of some infrastructure spending but mostly grants and payoffs to Democratic friends and programs. Because of its nature it has not been stimulative. Thank God most of it has not yet been spent.

We could cancel the rest of it and come up with a real stimulus plan. How about this: Reduce taxes for small businesses (50 or fewer employees), cut capital gains taxes to 0 for real estate investors who buy foreclosures to turn them into rentals, encourage utilities to build nuclear power plants to supply clean energy, open all off shore areas and ANWR to oil and gas exploration, and encourage those who are qualified to go to Medical school by offering to pay for their education if they agree to serve as Family Practicioners for ten years. These moves would signal a belief in the power of private enterprise to solve many of our problems and show that government understands how to encourage the business sector.

The Omnibus Spending Bill was a plan for redistributing income and increasing social spending while decreasing military spending by 25%. The Obama administration and a Democrat controlled Congress have increased our deficit tremendously in less than 10 months. Many people are alarmed by this. I know I am. There are two ways to decrease the deficit. Cut spending or increase taxes. Evidence shows that increasing taxes results in less income to the government, which would increase the deficit. Explain to me how we resolve this.

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Morton Doodslag October 3, 2009 at 10:23 am

Laughable.

A mere four posts below the open-minded announcement that made me first aware of your non-post modern non Marxist non-relativist site is this:

“The Dominating Mentality of Conquest”

This phrase, in your own words: “bespeaks a manner of, in this case postcolonial, academic jargon I disdain.” Disdain it if you must, deny it if that makes you happy, yet there it is. Only a moment ago you asserted “I am not remotely Marxist, or am I by any definition postmodern in my perspective, theorizing, or practice.”

“by any definition”? Really? More facile, tongue-in-cheekiness, no doubt.

Questions arise after reading this classic post-modern red meat later in your commentary:

“the people of the United States… live as if they have an inherent, rather than a circumstantial, right to be here, without any consideration to the exceptional and invisible nature of Native American life.”

Exactly how many generations must pass before the right to live in the USA by citizens of the USA becomes “inherent”?
Exactly what makes the “right to be here” of “the people of the United States” circumstantial?
Is the phrase “the people of the United States” your code for “white people”? If yes, then why not say “whites”, or “white people” or “white people of European descent” or whatever PC catch-phrase is popular in your circle?
If not, then exactly who are you referring to when you say “the people of the United States”?

More questions:

Is the “inherent” right of the Native American Indian which you assert proportional to the purity of their blood? If yes, then how do you apportion his “inherent” right?
Who does the apportioning?
If not, then on what basis do you assert that a completely non-Indian American has any more or less, or to put it in your terms, “inherent” vs “circumstantial” right to live here?

What historic parameters do you use to distinguish the cutoff point between those “inherent” and “circumstantial” rights?
Was it the closing of the Bering Sea land bridge after the last Ice Age which represents the cut-off point for your distinction between one group and another?

If I could somehow prove direct descent from an ancient Nordic traveller that lived for a span of years in the Great Lakes region a thousand years ago, but whose ancestors then returned to Europe, would I have some sliver of claim to be an “inherent” dweller?

After all — in “The Dominating Mentality of Conquest” you earnestly want to visit the benefits of historic occupancy through genetic legacy upon one population of humans (Native American Indians), while visiting the sins of the fathers upon another population of humans mysteriously labeled “the people of the United States”.

Why? To what purpose?

This all begs the question about “reparations” to the oppressed peoples of the earth — another famously non-Marxist non-post-modern non-revisionist specter haunting the fervid halls of the Leftist Extremist Academy. That really is the real agenda behind the “Social Justice” scheme embodied in your “The Dominating Mentality of Conquest”.

Don’t you have any mirrors where you live?

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Morton Doodslag October 3, 2009 at 8:04 am

Forget about Monday — you’ve packed enough Marxist dogma, revisionist selective history, and post-modern evangelization into your announcement to warrant a discussion.

Begin with this:

“…I [Scribe] try to teach them to think a little better. He [Shrink] tries to help them cope when “issues” arise…”

Are we talking about your respective blog audiences? Jay, why did you use that particular phraseology? Upon examination, is it a bit loaded? Are you subtly (or not so subtly) making a disparaging comparison between those who might agree with you and those who might agree with Shrink? Are you suggesting that your blog constituents actually “think”, whereas Shrink’s readers can only “cope”? Surely after an honest reading of your choice in words subtle as they may be, bely a bias towards close-mindedness on your part before this experiment even begins. How open-minded are you?

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A. Jay Adler October 3, 2009 at 8:26 am

I am not remotely Marxist, or am I by any definition postmodern in my perspective, theorizing, or practice. Revisions in perspective, on the other hand, are part of the practice of a critically thinking mind. But now that you have tossed out the bitter jargon at your disposal, maybe you will begin to read me in the context of what I say and argue and not through the – I must say – emotional filter of your prejudgment about me.

As to the lines you quote, they were a facile, tongue-in-cheek (I’m prone to it) reference to what Shrink and I do for a living. I’ll look into assisted reading devices for the tone challenged. (By the way, “Paul is dead.”)

As to how open-minded I may be – based on the evidence so far, I’d say considerably more so than you.

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Jimmy J. October 2, 2009 at 7:04 pm

You are right about the debate that has raged since the founding on the size and scope of the Federal government. Since Alexander Hamilton was the major advocate of a powerful, intrusive Federal government and a national bank I like to call those who advocate for such, Hamiltonians. And since Jefferson was a major advocate of a smaller, less intrusive Federal government, I like to call them Jeffersonians. It is not proper to use those terms when debating such things as social policy (Gay rights, abortion, religious displays, etc.), foreign policy (advancing freedom, standing against aggressors, talk versus action, etc.), and existential national guilt (the defeat of the Indians, our support of Israel, our former colonies [the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, American Samoa, Puerto Rico], etc.) because, though Hamilton and Jefferson would have had well-formed opinions on all these issues, they have all cropped up and become a part of the debate since their days.

The issue between Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians is the size and power of the Federal government as it relates to our everyday life. It is, much to my dismay, a debate that the Jeffersonians have been slowly losing, lo these many years. In fact, I’m sure Hamilton would be most pleased if he could see how far his ideas have come since the founding.

All that said, I am most interested in learning why a powerful, intrusive government that taxes as much as it possibly can and spends more that it can possibly raise through taxes, is good for the nation as a whole. I have listend to Robert Reich, Paul Krugman and others who advocate this and, IMO, they show no convincing evidence from history or economics that it works. I can point to both Chile and Peru as nations that have spent far more than they took in and created economic crises that beggared their populations.

Maybe a better example for us would be Japan. They have been in the grips of deflation and poor economic results for many years in spite of the fact that they have spent far more than they took in and gone deeper and deeper in debt. Much as we seem intent on doing. Just wondering if you have any ideas on the subject.

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A. Jay Adler October 3, 2009 at 8:12 am

Jimmy, thanks for your multiple comments. I have no discomfort acknowledging I would have been a Hamiltonian. It is worth pointing out about Jefferson, though, that in the Louisiana purchase he contradicted his own constitutional philosophy regarding federal and executive power, and he made an expenditure beyond that which many others thought the nation could afford. He was also, earlier, an admirer of the quite radical French Revolution. Reality is full of these contradiction, as I know you know. Increasingly over the years, the founder I have most admired is tried and true George.

On the fiscal matters you raise, I will say what many will not when they opine in a variety of areas, which is that I am not an economist, and that when I might argue with Nobelites Krugman or Friedman, for instance, I engage in a level of pretense. I’ll argue a little closer to home and point out how you load the question: “why a powerful, intrusive government that taxes as much as it possibly can and spends more that it can possibly raise through taxes, is good for the nation as a whole.”

You’ll notice how much language I’ve emphasized as prejudicing the proposition. I do not, nor does any liberal I know, argue from that premise. It is also worth acknowledging on all sides that the differences that are really at issue here are those of social organization and the government role in that organization. These issues are, of course, connected deeply to economic matters, and lead to arguments directed at economics, but just as I believe, and pointed out here, that many on the left cover a disbelief in the moral legitimacy of using American military force with practical arguments regarding the possibility of success, many on the right further dress their dislike for active government social policy in practical arguments that we cannot afford a government role. One of the causes of distrust on right and left is what is perceived as convenient inconsistency of principle. In the matter of budget deficits and consequent national debt, while it is true that there have always been those warning against the size and ultimate consequences of both (and economists, like Krugman, who considerably downplay those concerns) the extent and intensity of those concerns has varied. It is simply, factually, unarguable that nearly all of the national debt has been accumulated over the past four decades, overwhelming under Republican administrations (yes, I know, the congress was mostly a Democratic Majority – but it wasn’t Tip O’Neal pushing for those massive budget deficits in the early Reagan years), and while those budget deficits and growing debt were funding increases in defense spending (which I support) and, through beneficial tax policies, unparalleled disparities in wealth and wellbeing, the concern among only some on the right was subdued and civil. Now, under economic circumstances quite extraordinary in nature, when the budget deficits are otherwise directed – not primarily at defense, not to further enhance the wealth of the already wealthy, but to aid, in part, those more needy, to expand the government role in assuring minimums of social and economic justice – suddenly the concern over deficit and debt, under a Democratic president, is brought to an hysterical pitch. These circumstances simply deplete arguments from the right about budget deficits and national debt of any credibility and force for those on the left.

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