The New Clarion

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Not a Bad Day

March 8th, 2009 by Mike N · 5 Comments · Politics

At The Little Things, Amy Mossoff has an admirable habit of posting three good things that happen to her every day. I have decided that I will do that also but only occasionally since I’m a part time blogger. So on this dreary, rainy, overcast Sunday I have three good things to report. First, the wife and I had breakfast with our second son, his wife and our 3 1/2 yr old grand daughter. Very enjoyable.

Second, I was able to read the liberal-leftist editorial page of the Detroit Free Press without giving in to the urge to kick or hit something. I’m proud of myself. The more I realize that the battle has to be fought at the level of fundamental ideas, the more I am beginning to see that getting all emotional over all the god-awful ideas on these printed pages is a waste of time. Better to keep pumping out good ideas or at least attacking some bad ones just to let readers know they are bad.

The third good thing was when I turned to the letters page and discovered my LTE was the lead one of 8 LTEs under the headline “Big government is a bad solution.”

“Editorial page editor Stephen Henderson’s column last Sunday (“Huge numbers come with big change”) was wrong in saying that “no one is arguing credibly against government action to shore up financial markets, spur job creation or thaw credit markets.”

A majority of Americans flooded their congressional representatives urging against the bailout bill and stimulus packages. They are being ignored by Congress and the president.

And the idea that Obama will abandon an effort if it doesn’t work is utter nonsense. Doesn’t work? According to what standard? Obama is a pragmatist. He doesn’t believe in standards. He’s shooting from the hip now and will do so in the next crisis.”

Michael Neibel

While there were other things wrong with that editorial by Mr Henderson, my purpose was to counter two false notions: that there was no credible opposition to the massive spending; that the citizens are being ignored, and that Obama’s pragmatism would guarantee that any failed efforts would be abandoned. I don’t think so. What would it mean for a pragmatist to abandon something that doesn’t work?

Suppose a dear friend is seriously ill in a hospital. You go to see him and ask the nurse what is his diagnosis? “Diagnosis?” she exclaims. “Silly man. We don’t deal in such abstract theories. We have to pay attention to the real world, the here and now.” “So how do you plan to make him better?” you ask. She replies “The doctor has given him a shot of medicine A. If that doesn’t work I’m sure he’ll go to others.” But what about his medical history?” you inquire. “Sir” she says painfully, “everyone knows that what was true yesterday won’t be true today and to rely on that would be simply irresponsible.” “But” you cry, “What if he dies”? “Well” she admits, “that would be unfortunate but at least we tried. We took action! We did something!” You start to consider funeral arrangements.

Happily our hospitals haven’t deteriorated to this yet. But our universities, media and body politic has. Obama is just the latest administrator who has surrounded himself (cabinet) with just such doctors and nurses which he drew from the political hospital (congress).

I’ve decided that some future LTEs will try to focus on how pragmatism doesn’t work. So, with that and despite the rain, it wasn’t a bad day after all.

5 Comments so far ↓

  • EdMcGon

    Pragmatism: A movement consisting of varying but associated theories, originally developed by Charles S. Peirce and William James and distinguished by the doctrine that the meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences.

    Mike,
    Obama is more likely an ideologue, not a pragmatist. Clinton was a pragmatist. I HOPE Obama becomes a pragmatist. At least then he’d be willing to admit his mistakes.

  • Mike N

    Ed:
    I agree that Obama is an idealogue. He is just using pragmatism to justify his policies. This is why I don’t think he will abandon his policies when they fail. And I agree too that if he became a pure pragmatist maybe he would admit to mistakes and that would be somewhat good for the rest of us.

    However, I would question “…A movement consisting of varying but associated theories, …”
    since It’s been my experience that pragmatists eschew all theories as a rule. They can claim to use a principle only so long as it brings the desired results. As soon as it doesn’t, the principle is dumped in favor of another or no principle.

  • Andrew Dalton

    I don’t think that these possibilities are mutually exclusive. Pragmatism is an empty philosophy without an answer for *what* is desirable or practical. It leads people to appease the “consensus” and to embrace, unconsciously, the dominant philosophy in the culture. Today that means collectivism.

  • Mike N

    Andrew:
    “…and to embrace, unconsciously, the dominant philosophy in the culture. ” I agree with that and I think the key word there is ‘unconsiously’. As long as Obama keeps gettting the smiling faces of congress and the press, he will think he’s doing good, that is, what works.

  • Burgess Laughlin

    In Ch. 3, “Hitler’s War Against Reason,” Leonard Peikoff discusses the simultaneous dogmatism and pragmatism of the Nazis. In a particular movement or in a particular individual mind, these seemingly incompatible approaches to truth can in fact co-exist.

    Dr. Peikoff neatly summarizes the Nazi state as “an omniscience that ceaselessly changes its mind.” (p. 57, hb)

    A six-week study group in Study Groups for Objectivists is now half way through looking at five chapters of Ominous Parallels.