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Sunday, May 18, 2008

P.J. O'Rourke on Politics

Many years ago I got into reading P.J. O'Rourke, it started with "Parliment of Whores", and I ended up reading many of his books. His appeal was not only that he's conservative, but as a conservative, unafraid to bash the right along with the left when he see's them veering off course.

The fact that satire is his preferred method of delivery helped hook me. Unlike William F. Buckley and George Will, who are brilliant writers, but end up being dry and lecturing, O'Rourke's mix of humor with fact made it easier for me to follow him, and led to a better understanding of the Will's and Buckley's of the world.

At the Cato Benefactor Summit, O'Rourke was at it again. The text of his speech in the spring volume of Cato's Letter, (pdf file) and he hits both sides, though he saves most of his ire for the Democrats.

A lot of conservative bloggers are picking up on one of the big quotes from the speech:

Two substantive political issues are the federal budget deficit and the war in Iraq. Now, if you’re electing Democrats to control government spending, then you’re marrying Angelina Jolie for her brains.
This leaves the Democrats with one real issue: Iraq. And so far the best that any Democratic presidential candidate has been able to manage with Iraq is to make what I think of as the high school sex promise: I will pull out in time, honest dear.
We've already seen with the broken promises on earmark reforms, and the attempted expansion of SCHIP to cover folks making $80,000 a year that the first part of the quote is right on target.

The second part is pretty easy for folks to get if they understand the folly of the Murtha "redeploy to Okinawa" strategy, or Obama's "reintroduction of troops, if needed" thoughts. The problem is, to understand the folly of either of those strategies, you have to have a good understanding how both militaries, and abandoned countries work.

The left has a bunch of folks who understand the latter, and promptly ignore it. What they've learned from Rwanda and Somolia, Viet Nam, etc. has no bearing (to them) in Iraq. They have a serious lack of understanding of the former, with a few mouthpieces like Wesley Clark and Tony McPeak, who refuse to bring their actual military knowledge to the conversation because it completely contridicts their political agendas.

Another great quote from the speach is this one on the problem of politics:

The key ingredient of politics is the idea that all of society’s ills can be cured politically. It’s like a cookbook where the recipe for everything is to fry it. The fruit cocktail is fried. The soup is fried. The salad is fried. So is the ice cream and cake. And your pinot noir is rolled in bread crumbs and dunked in the deep fat fryer. It is just no way to cook up public policy.
He is slightly off on this quote though. I actually enjoy fried ice cream, and most Mexican restaurants serve it. His lack of fine dining knowledge doesn't really diminsh the quote, though.

To see his point, you have to be willing to look at the areas where public policy was going to fix a problem, and made it worse instead. One of the most recent examples was the Democrat's "fixing" of the problem of student loans last fall, after the '07-08 school year loans were written.

Big bad banks were making too much money on servicing them. The (political) solution of course was to change the way the program worked, limit the returns banks could see on loans, and limit their options on dealing with defaults.

That "solution" drove a large number of the biggest student loan lenders to leave the business, and now for the 2008-2009 college year, there is a lack of lending available for students. Now Congress is once again "fixing the problem", and we'll see how bad they screw it up this time.

O'Rourke also spends time speaking about the most important number in politics, not votes but the lowest common denominator, to make everything fair.

No matter how foolish, irresponsible, selfish, grasping, or vile everyone may be, politics seeks fairness for them all.

Then goes on to give the example of his 10 year old daughter, who complains when things aren't fair:

“Honey, you’re cute; that’s not fair. Your family is pretty well off; that’s not fair. You were born in America; that’s not fair. Honey, you had better pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you.”

We'd all better hope that things don't get made more "fair" for us, as most of Europe has proven, fairness only leads to brokeness for the majority. But at least it's fair that everyone's broke.

You'll have to go back to the link above and read the whole speech to find out who the Seven Dwarf's are, what Canada can teach us, and when price fixing is a good thing.

(H/T to Charlie for leading me to this piece)

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