It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Odd Concordance

When Peggy Noonan and James H Kunstler http://is.g/4Lb6x share an iconoclastic point of view it's worthy of note. It's not surprising that neither is happy with Obama, but it's surprising how similarly they express it.
The most sophisticated Americans, experienced in how the country works on the ground, can't figure a way out. Have you heard, "If only we follow Obama and the Democrats, it will all get better"? Or, "If only we follow the Republicans, they'll make it all work again"? I bet you haven't, or not much.

This is historic. This is something new in modern political history, and I'm not sure we're fully noticing it. Americans are starting to think the problems we are facing cannot be solved.

Part of the reason is that the problems—debt, spending, war—seem too big. But a larger part is that our government, from the White House through Congress and so many state and local governments, seems to be demonstrating every day that they cannot make things better. They are not offering a new path, they are only offering old paths—spend more, regulate more, tax more in an attempt to make us more healthy locally and nationally. And in the long term everyone—well, not those in government, but most everyone else—seems to know that won't work. It's not a way out. It's not a path through.
If you think we have been in a crisis of finance and economy for the past year or so, consider that we have also been sunk in a comprehensive crisis of leadership. Nobody in authority is willing to face the truth, state the truth, and offer a reality-based idea about how to meet the truth, This is a leadership failure not just in politics and government, but also in business, in the university faculties, in the editorial and production offices of the news media, and even among a barely-breathing clergy.

Americans look around and see nobody standing up for their interests. Their greatest interest is a vision of a fruitful society that they can help build and be a part of beyond the current wreckage of revolving-debt consumerism. It will have to be a vision based on fewer resources and on new arrangements for daily living. It will have to recognize losses frankly, and enable us to let go of things whose time is over, whether that is Happy Motoring, college-for-everybody, vast industries devoted to vanished leisure, or procedures geared to getting something-for-nothing.
Can you tell which is which? Well, Kunstler is a little more gonzo in style, so yeah, I guess. But what they're saying is alarmingly similar, isn't it?


King of the Road said...

Any Kunstler piece is guaranteed to have at least one of the following expressions:

Happy motoring
Banker boyz
Salad shooters
Nascar idiots
Cheez doodles
Something for nothing

In the age of digital watches the analogy doesn't make much sense, but he's like a clock that's broken. The world will agree with him periodically.

Michael Tobis said...

Fair enough. I'm no great fan of Peggy Noonan's either, and I don't particularly agree with the point of view expressed by either of them.

But this surprising agreement on the zeitgeist really is worth noticing.

thingsbreak said...

The two pieces aren't really that similar, and are near cliches of their respective authors.

Peggy Noonan is boldly standing up for the wealthiest tier of Americans who face the dire specter of returning to Clintonian taxation levels, and clutches her pearls about increased regulation.

Kunstler bemoans how Wall Street has captured the White House and warns that our current trajectory is unsustainable.

They aren't arguing for the same thing- if Knustler had things his way, Noonan would be even more aghast.

They are superficially united by complaints of a lack of leadership by the White House and a general disaffection of the populace, but such a stance is unsurprising given their positions within the pundit/blogosphere (a conservative concern troll and an anti-bankster doomsayer).

There has been no great shift in public opinion that things are getting worse overall[1]. Congressional approval levels are low, but hardly unprecedented, and the majority of the dissatisfaction is coming from those out of power[2][3][4].

You've basically got two people who represent political views that are not dominating the national discourse projecting their "concern" about that onto the general populace.

If you follow, say, the never ending saga of Middle East geopolitics (from a US perspective), you see such opposed voices harmonizing on alleged failure of leadership constantly.

Michael Tobis said...

TB, yes, true, but both speak of a general sense of decline and confusion that has no obvious precedent. I think there is something to that.

Dano said...

both speak of a general sense of decline and confusion that has no obvious precedent. I think there is something to that.

Yes. I agree.

Kunstler may have only a few things that sparks his muse, and is histrionic like, say, Romm, but both men have something to say if you can stand to read them. Noonan has been motivated of late to ask questions, and despite her frequent paeans to the rich and the corporation, is making sense.

Lots of problems around here. Seems as if even the economists are starting to wake from their long slumber.



(word verif Zen agrees: destrict)