The Right Question, the Wrong Criteria

HankP's picture

Eric X. Li, a venture capitalist from Shanghai, wrote an interesting editorial in the New York Times last week (NYT, reg. req.) In it he claims that the Chinese political model is superior to the American political model, and specifically attacks democracy (as in the consent of the governed) as the major weakness of American, and by extension Western, politics.


The editorial is quite poorly written and not persuasive in the least. Besides some outright howlers -


China is on a different path. Its leaders are prepared to allow greater popular participation in political decisions if and when it is conducive to economic development and favorable to the country’s national interests, as they have done in the past 10 years.


it's clear that he doesn't understand what establishes the success or failure of a political system. It is, quite simply, results. Not only the results as seen by the citizens of a country, but the results as they are seen by all countries. One thing that many Americans have seem to have forgotten is that the Cold War was more about setting an example than about military strength. Starting with Reagan, conservatives seem to have assumed that the American model was superior as a self evident truth, and spoke and acted as if military strength was a substitute for setting an example. This has been a shortsighted and dangerous assumption. We've managed to coast on our reputation for quite a while now, but the events of the past few years - specifically our response to the financial crisis and increasing political gridlock - are lessening our influence in the world at large. Even after years of ignoring this simple truth, we still have enough good will and success in reserve that the Chinese have a long way to go to catch up to us. But there's no guarantee that things will stay that way forever.


I'm sure Mr. Li, as a very wealthy man, has little to nothing to fear from the Chinese government as long as he doesn't question the foundations of the Chinese autocracy. He claims that the belief in democracy is a matter of faith but he couldn't be more wrong about that. It is clear that the idea of self governance coupled with individual freedom has produced the best results as long as the system remains functional, allows multiple paths to goals, and allows compromise in determining the most optimal solutions. Any individual issue can be looked at and in retrospect a "benign dictator" could have accomplished the same results with a more efficient usage of resources. But looking forward no such assurance can be assumed. Mr. Li throws up a grab bag of criticisms, none of which make much sense if examined. But not many people will take the time to examine them if the promises of growth and prosperity are front and center.


Mr. Li does get one thing right. The Soviet Union was too blinded by ideology to use the tools of capitalism to develop a sustainable system. The Chinese are far more adaptable and their autocracy is open to all kinds of changes that will work in the real world, with the single exception of challenging the primacy of the Party. The US and the West do face a large danger here, identified clearly by Marx over a century ago - if we can't tame the excesses of our system and provide continued prosperity for all (yes, even the poor), we will be seen as the failed system and the Chinese model will be adopted by more and more countries. That would be a very unpleasant future, and it would be entirely self inflicted. It's far more important than atavistic arguments about centuries old religious positions or capitalistic fundamentalism. I don't want the American epitaph to be "they lost by arguing about inconsequential bulls*&t".

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China and America are so different

mmghosh's picture

recently I went to our latest project site [there will be a diary on this] where they have met the government criteria of potable water - i.e. 1 handpump for 50 households. 50 households! 200 people to [i]one[/i] handpump - for drinking, cooking, washing cookware, washing clothes. And this, in a land with 15 cm of rain [i]daily[/i] in the monsoon! I suspect people in China are, or were, as indifferent to inalienable rights at least until the basics of life were met. Once the Chinese are as rich as Americans, Mr Li will find that democratic governance will naturally increase.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Speaking of American and Chinese systems

Bird Dog's picture

The Economist juxtaposes Jeremy Lin and Yi Jianlian, not to mention the difference between talent rising to the top and the top trying to figure out to develop talent.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009


Bird Dog's picture

The right criteria is the role of national government and its involvement in directing peoples' lives, both economically and politically. You can usually tell an article is propagandic bulls**t by the strawman in the first paragraph or two, and Li doesn't disappoint. But he does get credit for this:

The fundamental difference between Washington’s view and Beijing’s is whether political rights are considered God-given and therefore absolute or whether they should be seen as privileges to be negotiated based on the needs and conditions of the nation.

In Li's world, political rights can be given or taken away based on the whims of the Communist Party, by whatever they decide is the national interest. In effect, they recognize the existence of no inalienable rights.

In two places, Li infers that democracy is a religion. Ironic, particularly for a nation that tried to get rid of religion for decades, and tried to supplant religions with communism. Even today, the regime cannot reconcile the two. His piece was quite dutiful, demonstrating that he is an obedient lapdog for the regime. I'm sure his communist masters will give him a cookie for his docile behavior.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Not a Word About Inalienable Rights


in the US Constitution.


Just a bunch of amendments, easily amended away.

Oh, it doesn't take an amendment

HankP's picture

just cowardly jurists.

I blame it all on the Internet

Torture, rendition, internment without trial.


These make your last paragraph ring hollow. I think it is good to set as a constitutional cornerstone the concept of inalienable rights. An article of faith. Since a right has no substance it's existance beyond our assertion is immaterial. Without the laws and behaviour to back it up the hypocrasy just starts to smell up anything else good about the system of government.


HankP's picture

the reason I hate hearing empty words like these is that they devalue the actual work that went into creating and maintaining a liberal society. It makes it sound like that how things are and will stay no matter what choices are actually made.

I blame it all on the Internet

He's actually right about that

HankP's picture

there is no such thing a a "God given right", at least there's never been any enforcement of those rights throughout history. Actually retaining and exercising those rights takes hard work and attention. One of the big questions is whether Americans still have the will and desire to demand and fight for those rights politically.


Now I happen to think that for a lot of reasons, it's important to act as if those rights do exist and are real. But unless we find a way to marry those rights to something like Roosevelt's four freedoms, we're in for a very unpleasant future.

I blame it all on the Internet

No, he's not

Bird Dog's picture

But from a communist/atheist perspective, understandable. Given his standing, I trust that Li is a member of the Chinese community party, so must reject all other religions but communism.

There were two parts to his comments about rights, God-given and inalienable. The former is arguable, the latter not. I used the term "inalienable" for a reason, as did the drafters of this (I do believe a Roosevelt played a key role in the creation of that document). If the right to free speech can be excised at will by the government, then they aren't rights, they're privileges granted by the government if they're feeling magnanimous enough. I reject that premise.

It would be interesting to see the Chicoms' response if a Chinese citizen penned an opinion piece in the Beijing Times on the United States' superior political model.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

What does it matter

HankP's picture

to claim a right that isn't enforced or allowed? And rights certainly are "alienable", travel to China and protest against the government and see what happens. Rights are only granted and exercised when a large enough group of people band together to demand that it be so and are willing to fight to defend them.


BTW, communism is not a religion.

I blame it all on the Internet

Thank you for...

Bird Dog's picture

...pointing out where our views diverge. The Chinese people, or any people for that matter, have the inalienable right to free speech, free press, freedom of worship, etc. The problem is that its government infringes on those rights, as so many other governments do. You seem to think that rights only flow from government, which doesn't make sense because if that's the case, then they're not really rights in the first place, just little morsels of privilege meted out as granted. I reject that theory.



"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

What good is a "right" if you can't use it?

HankP's picture

if the Chinese people won't force the government to let them exercise their rights, they have no rights. In their situation, rights do only flow from their government because they haven't demanded anything different.


You seem to feel that the situation in this country and other liberal democracies is some sort of natural state. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's not that common and very new in historical terms. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get and maintain an open society. There's nothing natural or inevitable about it. If the Chinese can get together and establish a government that honors individual rights, then they'll have them. If they don't then they won't.

I blame it all on the Internet

Indeed. For the first time in a couple of centuries

mmghosh's picture

the world's foremost economic power will be a non-democracy.

I'm not sure anyone is clear on how to deal with that embarrassment to liberalism, and a Whig interpretation of history.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

It's not an embarassment to liberalism

HankP's picture

using either the traditional or modern definitions. It's the result of faith based belief in a fairy tale version of capitalism and enough corruption to allow the system to be captured by corporate interests.

I blame it all on the Internet

I'm not sure how you arrive at the conclusion


I'm not sure how you arrive at the conclusion that communism is a replacement of religion in China. Communism is a political philosophy and religion is a set of beliefs and practices for communicating with the world beyond.

I dont understand how one would substitute for the other. Moreover, Chinese dont either. You'd be surprised how many Chinese are practicing some religion, and this has always been the case. It's not a new phenomenon.

About rights, if you want to argue that they are god-given, I'd love to see it.

I dont understand about inalienability. If I clock into my job, I have alienated many of my rights. How does this fit with inalienable rights? (I also think alienating your time by selling it to others should be avoided.) 

You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it. - Ho Chi Minh

Like I said,

Bird Dog's picture

arguable. If you're a Christian, then you may very well believe that certain rights are God-given. Around nine in ten Americans believe in God.

As for what you do or say on your job, you still have inalienable rights, but depending on your employment contract, you may or may not have a job after exercising them on the job.

As for religion and communism, people need to believe in something. There are atheists who believe in their atheism with religious fervor.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009


mmghosh's picture

[quote]around nine in ten Americans believe in God[/quote] . If I had to put a figure on it, I'd say 10 out of 10 al Qaedists believe in God, too.

Just 1 in 10 Americans are modern ? Surely not the case.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Yes, really!

Bird Dog's picture

Pew Research does a good job of laying out the affiliations and non-affiliations.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Apparently. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .it depends on how you categorize "nothing in particular" in cases where the person doesn't consider themselves agnostic or atheist.

And "modern"? That's almost as bad as "brights."

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Heh. "Modern" is now a pejorative?

mmghosh's picture

Modern medicine, physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics - apart from all else - cannot be unimportant, surely.


Why else do you think/know yourself superior to us?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

In The Context I Was Referring To, Yes

M Scott Eiland's picture

Suggesting that being a non-believer is the "modern" alternative is--like the "bright" label I linked--condescending, and--given that atheism has existed for as long as religious belief--not supported by reality.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Atheism does need some branding/marketing help


"Brights" is certainly a terrible idea, but I wonder what's better.


"Moderns" is the best I've heard so far. It highlights the idea that old religious ideas and institutions are irrelevant in the present day, which could be an attractive point.

I'd like a cite on that

HankP's picture

I haven't heard of atheism existing before about 500 BC. Far more common was state religion, where fredom of conscience wasn't exactly a major concern.

I blame it all on the Internet

500 BC Would Be Enough To Make My Point

M Scott Eiland's picture

Beyond that, I'm making an educated guess based on human nature, and one that is impossible to prove or disprove. Obviously, *open* atheism was not something that most sensible people practiced before modern times.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).


HankP's picture

if your point was that up until ~500 BC atheists could think there was no god but were killed for stating that they didn't believe in god, then sure. But I'm not sure that's much of a point. And there's ample evidence of religion going back to the very beginning of written history.

I blame it all on the Internet

Up through the 19th century in many parts of Europe


you could be fined for not attending services on Sunday. Atheism has been criminalized far more often than it has been tolerated in the western world (and much of the rest of the world) throughout history. Being able to live openly as an atheist is a feature of modernity (and is hardly universal even now). Examples before the 18th century are vanishingly rare. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I can't think of an explicitly atheist 'great'

mmghosh's picture

philosopher, off the top of my head until Schopenhauer [?atomists]. I know the Buddha was agnostic, but his followers sneaked in all manner of gods and devils.

In any case, before modern biology, physics and chemistry and the allied sciences atheism did not stand on firm ground. I mean, even today, even after the dissemination of all this info, a simple majority of the world's population, apart from the educated West still believes the world was created out of nothing a few thousand years ago.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

It's thorny


Avoiding the charge of atheism — in its various meanings in the Classical, Christian and Islamicat eras and places — was a precondition of maintaining one's life and liberty, so not advocating atheism isn't necessarily sufficient ground to withhold the atheist designation.


Spinoza, for instance, talks about God all over the Ethics, but he was called an atheist by his philosophical and political opponents throughout his life and after.  Do we deny he's an atheist because of the god-talk?  Do we take the pantheist interpretation, and pronounce him a "god drunk man?"  A lot of ink's been spilled on that case alone.


The fact that there aren't many (or any) explicit atheists in the West until the mid-to-late 1800's might be a matter of sociology and politics, rather than having anything to do with the philosophical question of a/theism.


As for some of the other examples, it doesn't make matters much clearer.  It's hard to call Socrates an atheist simpliciter when his Apology has him explicitly invoking the Oracle at Delphi and the theology around it.  Plato's theology is a massive headache, thanks to a maddeningly complex dialectic between myth and philosophy at work in his dialogues; it's hardly as simple as nyoos makes it out to be.  Aristotle's got a classic example of the 'God of the Philosophers' in Metaphyics L; does that count as theism?  You can make a case either way.  Then you've got the Epicureans, the Averroists, the Spinozastreit, etc., etc.  

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.


I'd Say That. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .the most important thing is whether the structure a philosopher came up with would be useful to someone trying to cultivate an atheist or agnostic mindset, rather than whether it constituted a fully realized and functioning system that was explicitly atheist or agnostic, since--as several here have observed--the latter would have gotten one killed in most parts of the world until very recently (and would still do so in an appalling number of places). To point out a parallel thought--the US Constitution's greatest value was not how it functioned right out of the Convention, but that it was readily improvable through the amendment process without blowing up the whole thing and starting over.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Thank You, Manish! (Buddha was agnostic...)




...I've been spending some considerable time recently in Buddhist Temples and with practicing Buddhists.


And heaven and hell and the tortures & demons therein are very real to them...surprisingly me.


If only because I also thought the actual Buddha was an agnostic.


I need to go back to work on this.





Of course I take risks what with all these profesionals about


but Plato seems to thing that religion is a handy tool for duping the rubes and I doubt Aristotle believed in any meaningful way.

Socrates was executed for impiety

HankP's picture

although whether that corresponds to what we consider atheism is not clear to me.

I blame it all on the Internet

Manish I am disappoint

HankP's picture

from your own homeland, even.

I blame it all on the Internet

It's an insult to conservatives

HankP's picture

not so much to rational educated individuals.


You see, Manish, there's a strange affliction among conservatives in the US, they reflexively oppose anything that liberals support, even if it's something they all agreed was a good thing just a few years ago.

I blame it all on the Internet

This is the second time


This is the second time you've said it was arguable and the second time you haven't made any such argument.

If you're a Christian, then you may very well believe that certain rights are God-given

is a statement not an argument. And

Around nine in ten Americans believe in God

is an argument but a fallacious one. Augumentium per bucal factum.


About the inalienable rights, I'm not satisfied. I think we agree that people as a matter of course alienate their rights in the workplace out of fear of losing their livelihood or never gaining one in the first place. Now how does this square with your previous assertion (which as well worded and reasonable) that  

the role of national government and its involvement in directing peoples' lives, both economically and politically

Not squared very well, I suggest. I would expect more from a government than to sit around on its ass watching as its citizens' inalienable rights are routinely alienated as they enter the workplace. 


Out of curiousity, is communism unique among political philosophies requiring belief? I think that if one is to prosper, regardless of the political regime, one has the appropriate set beliefs, even if one is unaware of the fact.

You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it. - Ho Chi Minh


Bird Dog's picture

I'm not arguing God-given. I am arguing inalienable. I'll just note that you missed my point about employment contracts. Beyond that, this conversation has moved somewhere from tedious to yawn-inducing.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Words have meanings:


inalienable: unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor:


There isn't a right anywhere on God's Green Earth that a government can't take away, including the good ol' US of A. If you recall, we used to have a 4th Amendment. In the aftermath of 9/11, 4th Amendment rights have pretty much evaporated. If the government can place a gag order on a party in a lawsuit, and it can, then the right to free speech isn't "inalienable." The government also frowns on the use of peyote as a sacrament. So much for the inalienable Freedom of Religion.

If your position is that certain rights shouldn't be up for argument, then I'd agree with you wholeheartedly. But in the real world, we all have as many rights as those in power allow us to have. Saying otherwise is like arguing against the existence of gravity.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

You're right

Bird Dog's picture

Words do have meanings, but what would a guy like Thomas Jefferson know about inalienable rights. To be more accurate, governments don't take away rights, they infringe. They exist no matter what. Hank and others seem to think that government hands out a set of rights, and they could takes them away whenever they feel like it. In effect, their position is that we don't have inalienable rights whatsoever. Instead, we're just doled out a few conditional privileges, all emanating from government. Sounds quite fascist to me, and I couldn't disagree more with that concept.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

First of all, it's unalienable rights

HankP's picture

Secondly, where in the Articles of Confederation or the Constitution is "unalienable rights" mentioned? I'll save you the search, they're not. So when it came time to actually draft the law of the land, they were nowhere to be found.


It's simple, if the people demand these rights of government then they have them, if they don't then they don't. I suppose you could say that if they don't demand them then their rights were surrendered out of apathy, but whatever the reason they are not exercisable. Just ask a citizen of China or Burma what unalienable rights they have. Or even better, you could ask a Palestinian.

I blame it all on the Internet

Are Americans free to sell themselves into slavery?


Are Americans free to sell themselves into slavery? I believe there must be some rights that the government takes seriously. Not speech or religion maybe, but surely the government must be prepared to draw the line somewhere. Otherwise, the comparions to the Chinese are not very illuminating.

You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it. - Ho Chi Minh

Not the argument

HankP's picture

the argument is that there are rights that people have that no government is capable of taking away. It sounds good, and is certainly a good thing to aspire to, but doesn't reflect reality.

I blame it all on the Internet

not a government but a people


I'm not really making an argument here, and it's not about government being capable of taking away rights that I'm interested in.

What I find interesting is that we have not a government but a people, due to conditions in the society, who seem hell bent on renouncing the rights which the government is sworn to protect. I'm refering to the lack of freedom of speech in the workplace. If the government doesnt feel the need to do anything about freedom of speech, perhaps, I thought, there were other rights that merited government action.

You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it. - Ho Chi Minh

A contract

HankP's picture

can have as one of it's terms a voluntary surrender of certain types of speech. Confidentiality agreements do it all the time. So I don't get your point, employees voluntarily give up complete freedom of speech when they accept employment.


Also, "at will" states construe the employer-employee relationship as entirely voluntary on both sides. So you can say whatever you want, but the employer can thenm decide that the content of your speech makes your continued employment against their best interests.


Any other interpretation quickly leads to ridiculous situations, like grocery clerks haranguing customers about abortion or auto salesmen complaining to customers about military spending. So I don't see what your point is in the real world.

I blame it all on the Internet

I'm not sure it is ´voluntary'


I'm not sure it is ´voluntary'. Bird Dog and I both agree this is because those who sign away those rights do so because they fear losing their livelihood. If it were voluntary, one would expect some employees, maybe those who treasure their rights more than the averate, to negotiate contracts which allow them not to alienate their rights. I dont this happens.

You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it. - Ho Chi Minh

There's no constitutional guarantee

HankP's picture

of employment at a particular company. And you (and I) have no idea how often people quit jobs because they feel that their rights are being infringed, as far as I know nobody tracks that.

I blame it all on the Internet

warranted protection


I know that the constitution doesnt guarantee employment at any particular company. I am suggesting that the situation, where it is commonplace to sign away constitutionallly guaranteed rights, points to some problems with those who sign, those who request the signing away, and the government whose duty it is to protect these rights.

I think those who wrote the constitution had high regard for rights of free speech, and thought that they were a personal liberty, but also beneficial for society as a whole. They warranted protection. Is enough being done to protect them? The situtation of today suggests no, not enough is being done.

You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it. - Ho Chi Minh

Do you have


any specific examples of a contract requiring employees to sign away their constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech?  Because all the constitution guarantees is that the government will not punish you for your opinions.  I've never seen a contract that says "as a condition of working at XYZ Corp., I agree to accept imprisonment by the US Govt for inappropriate speech".




It is not the system which fails...


My advice: dont post when you are bored. You need to keep on your toes. You have fallen into the same trap as the supporters of Stalin. It is not the system which fails, but the people who fail the system. You probably havent read much in the way of communist apolgetics, but this is a typical argument in defence of communism. You are using here in defence of a system where workers in a capitalist economy routinely sign away their inalienable rights out of fear of losing their livelihood. These contracts are freely entered into, so if their rights are diminished, they have nobody but themselves to blame. Cant you recognize this line of argument? You go to the trouble of comparing communism with capitalism, so you cant be totally ignorant of such defences. You never heard that quote from Berthold Brecht about Parliament dissolving the people and electing a new people? This is what you are echoing here.


About the arguability of god-given - my point is that nobody argues whether or not these rights are god given. Nobody would take them seriously. Instead they argue these rights are natural or common sensical.

You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it. - Ho Chi Minh

Still stuck...

Bird Dog's picture

...on the difference between legal and natural rights (link). It baffles that so many liberals are so down on inalienable rights. Thomas Jefferson would have been seriously disappointed.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I'm not a liberal and I'm not


I'm not a liberal and I'm not down on inalienable rights. I want to point out that free speech rights are not practiced for most American people during most of their working lives. That should concern someone who treasures free speech and their right to practice it. Especially if one points to these rights as an important distinction between the two countries. The Chinese constitution also has some fine sounding promises, but it is how they are respected in practice that is the point.


You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it. - Ho Chi Minh

Thing about Li's reasoning is that


it (like the PRC itself) is superficially appealing to a whole lot of people.  People to the right love the PRC because it represents a world in which labor only organizes in tame unions, there's no political pressure to not dump heavy metals into the groundwater, and economic liberty flourishes.  People to the center-left love the PRC because they can do things like build high-speed rail without having to go through all of the democratic procedural BS that happens here in America.  People in the center love the PRC because they can build nuclear power plants without the NIMBYism that's a part of democracy.


Basically, China is a great big Roarschach test for people who say, "Man, wouldn't it be great if we were governed by Smart People Like Me instead of having to deal with all of this democracy bullsh*t."  What I find deeply discomforting is that opinion makers and Outlets for Terrible Ideas (cf. Friedman, Tom) in the national media tend to buy into it.

Kind of

HankP's picture

unless there are a lot of people who agree with the ridiculous corruption in their system - or ours, for that matter. There's also the fact that endless arguing with no resolution is not a way to run a country. At some point the losing side has to concede defeat.


I don't think any current political/economic model is ideal, but I think the American model has a lot more to recommend it than the Chinese model. But if we don't find a way to tame the raw power of capitalism and the endless wars of ideology we may be in for a very nasty future.

I blame it all on the Internet

Hank, Andrew is right


There are entirely too many issues where our country is better off for the losing side not having conceded defeat. 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

I'm not talking about slavery

HankP's picture

I'm talking about every single thing that government does, even trivial things. The Republicans are engaged in obstruction of everything, every policy, every appointee, even challenging every off hand comment. They're making the country ungovernable.

I blame it all on the Internet

"At some point the losing side has to concede defeat."


Does it?  Much of what drives American politics forward is a dialectic between visions of how to run the country that, in practice, looks like squabbling special interests unable to agree on anything. 

Eventually, yes

HankP's picture

or you run into the problem of not being able to react to events. Not everything done by government is an ideological issue involving different world views, usually they seem to be about which group of wealthy interests can claim the biggest share of assets.


I've seen it here (the Seattle area is not so monolithically liberal as people are led to believe). In one case there was a decision to widen I-90, a major east-west highway. When I moved here it resembled a typical highway from the 1920s or 30s, and was a major impediment to shipping and a big restraint on the Port of Seattle. It had already been widened and modernized through almost the entire country, when we travelled I think there was one town in Idaho where it still went through Main Street, everywhere else it was a modern interstate. Everyone knew that it had to be widened and modernized. But it ran through Mercer Island, one of the wealthiest suburbs in the area, and the residents were against any changes to it in true NIMBY fashion. The legal battels began before I moved here in 1983, there were "ghost ramps" in Seattle - access ramps to the highway that had been started but never completed since there was no highway to connect them to. Finally, after years of lawsuits, the "compromise" was to spend over a billion dollars a mile for the portion that went through Mercer Island to mitigate sound, vibration, etc. I don't think anyone can look at that process and see it as optimal in any way except for the homowners in Mercer Island.


Another example was the Seattle Monorail project. It had five different votes over eight years, finally being dissolved after spending over $120 million. And we have other examples involving sports stadia, where the fix was in from the beginning and losing votes were ignored. I do think that contesting issues like this for 5, 10 or 20 years does show a weakness in our system.

I blame it all on the Internet