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America's Institutional Health
You Can’t Fix Stupid?

The changes wrought by scientific-technical innovation are far outrunning the capacity of our temperamentally conservative institutions to keep up with them.

Published on: April 2, 2018
Adam Garfinkle is editor of The American Interest.
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  • D4x

    Utopian Smackdown: Edward Bellamy’s 1888 “Looking Backward: 2000-1887” from Chicopee Falls, MA vs. the 1890 anti-Bellamy response by Radical Socialist, Arts & Crafts designer, William Morris “News from Nowhere”, who then retired to write heroic fantasy inspired by Norse mythology.
    Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” was “one of the few books ever published that created almost immediately on its appearance a political mass movement” (Erich Fromm, foreword, 1960 edition). “The success of Looking Backward provoked a spate of sequels, parodies, satires, dystopian, and ‘anti-utopian’ responses” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looking_Backward
    It was translated into Chinese in 1890, and “the inspiration for “The Future of New China” an unfinished 1902 novel, initially serialized in magazines, by Liang Qichao. Liang described a China in 1962 that was a utopia, a world power, wealthy, Confucian, and a constitutional monarchy”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xin_Zhongguo_weilai_ji
    It is more than probable that the well educated Mao Tsedong read many such books during the 1910’s.

    The Mao Tsedong era at TAI: “In the meantime, TAI will continue its own special kind of long march through the institutions. Stick around, please; it promises to be a great ride.” https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/db5f942416305d3735eeb9fbae1ff23fef3c9a8712c77e24820b6c4762602820.jpg
    The Editor still needs an Editor.
    or something…

    “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.
    So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” ― Steve Jobs


  • WigWag

    It’s really not that complicated, despite what Adam Garfinkle may think. TAI can publish hundreds of essays that go on for hundreds of thousands of words, but it’s all for naught. And it has nothing to do with “fixing stupid;” Adam is conflating stupidity with venality; the venality of the class of which he is a card carrying member.

    The American ruling class, the journalists, the pundits, the professors, the think tank brats, the government workers, the lawyers and the politicians have created a system where it heads they win, tails everyone else loses.

    That’s why we flood the market with unskilled immigrants who compete with American high school graduates for jobs while we make it impossible for high skilled immigrants to compete for positions with college professors or physicians.

    That’s why think-tankers like half the contributors to this publication benefit from working for an employer who pays no taxes because of the “charitable” deduction. How many working class people work for employers who don’t have to pay taxes? Can you think of anything more repulsive than categorizing a think tank as a charity? But that’s how think tanks are treated in the IRS Code.

    That’s why university faulty make six figure salaries for standing in front of students and actually teaching for at most six hours a week. Working class people often have to hold down two full time jobs just to make ends meet.

    That’s why politicians focus on the protection of intellectual property when forging trade deals and ignore deficits in merchandise trade. Intellectual property is produced by “symbolic analysts who frequent Starbucks;” actual merchandise is produced by people who work with their hands for a living and buy their morning coffee at Dunkin Doughnuts.

    That’s why our elite journalists vacation in the Hamptons or the Eastern Shore while working Americans are lucky if they can afford a vacation at all.

    Save yourself the trouble, Adam. Instead of pontificating, the pundits you chose to enlighten us about what’s wrong with America could spend their time more productively looking in the mirror and reckoning with what they themselves have wrought.

    They’ve selfishly rigged the system to benefit themselves and their cohort.

    We don’t need them to explain to us what’s wrong with America. They are what’s wrong with America.

    • Micah718

      As a member of a coastal elite, I can tell you exactly what it is. It is a form of aristocracy. Having certain income and certain ideas makes you part of the this quasi-aristocracy. I find it nauseating myself. I didn’t sign up to be a member of aristocracy. I signed up for being a citizen in a Constitutional Republic.

  • hecate9

    Given, America is in the throes of an “ambient distress” which predates Trump. As part of an (ironically) global phenomenon, Trump emerges as the latest populist. But as Niall Ferguson and others have pointed out, populists (who should be anathema to the true Burkean conservative) “…are bound eventually to disappoint their supporters. For populism is a toxic brew as well as an intoxicating one. Populists nearly always make life miserable for whichever minorities they chose to scapegoat, but they seldom make life much better for the people whose ire they whip up.”
    OK- we’ve got “ambient distress” over globalism and its discontents, then the demagogic populist response. This is all following the script, so far.
    But what about fears of a Dunning-Kruger poster boy setting off a nuclear war by shear incompetence? Are these fears overblown?
    True, Trump has a backward-looking mentality. But at 3 am his tweets frequently suggest a disordered and incoherent mentality as well.
    Could the “black swan president” nudge the globe into a black swan event, with disastrous consequences?
    “It probably won’t happen” -as Wall Street has been telling itself-and populists are not fascists- they like trade wars, not real wars. But having an entitled Chauncy Gardiner cum P.T. Barnum at the helm adds much uncertainty to the “ambient distress.”

    • Anthony

      Not only adds much uncertainty but masks the potential consequences of our attempt to “normalize” the abnormal via distracting portions of the citizenry who identify as unfairly imposed upon victims of poorly understood (to say nothing of explained) social and technological unnervings.

    • Micah718

      You want to know what’s really funny. I thought Obama was a dictionary definition of Dunning-Kruger. I thought his strengthening of Iran, Obamacare and illegal use of executive authority to legislate by fiat were putting a lot of stress on our institutions. And the news we are hearing out of IRS, FBI, DoJ and the like are confirming that my suspicions were indeed correct.
      And if Trump was a truly “black swan President” to you than you need to get out of your bubble and realize that there is 50% of the country about which you know absolutely nothing about. Whether or not you choose to educate yourself is up to you.
      P.S. People actively make fun of TDS on this board, which is why so few ever stay. I hope you stick around.

      • hecate9

        If you Google “Dunning-Kruger President” what do you think you find? Yes- DT has that market cornered. Didn’t see any Obamas in there Micah. Clearly you didn’t like BO’s policies. That’s fine. But Dunning-Kruger is not about bad policies. It’s about a severely incompetent person whose very incompetence leads him to believe in his genius.
        You didn’t get my Chauncy Gardiner reference I guess.

        • Micah718

          So you are saying Barack Obama empowering world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism was by design and not by incompetence?
          BTW, saying “I found it on the Internet” is not very persuasive. Yes, there are a lot of Leftwing idiots with time on their hands whose TDS makes them post things on the Internet. And? What does that prove? Absolutely nothing.

  • Anthony

    “…and it is an even greater error to underestimate the damage that bad governments can do to good societies.” (Adam Garfinkle)

    Well, yes, and how much impact (stress0 does aforementioned “ambient distress” (another phrase for “societal transitions” perhaps) have on the lure of simple answers to complex social dynamics?

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