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Saturday, August 7, 2010

We Are Not Exceptional. Get Over It.

I was asked by Voting Female to comment on Peggy Noonan's recent op-ed at The Wall Street Journal, America Is At Risk Of Boiling Over.

The central thesis of Noonan's column is that our political leadership does not understand the rupture in society and growing anger caused by this phenomenon:
The biggest political change in my lifetime is that Americans no longer assume that their children will have it better than they did. This is a huge break with the past, with assumptions and traditions that shaped us....

But do our political leaders have any sense of what people are feeling deep down? They don't act as if they do. I think their detachment from how normal people think is more dangerous and disturbing than it has been in the past....

When the adults of a great nation feel long-term pessimism, it only makes matters worse when those in authority take actions that reveal their detachment from the concerns—even from the essential nature—of their fellow citizens. And it makes those citizens feel powerless.

Inner pessimism and powerlessness: That is a dangerous combination.

I think Noonan is well-intentioned, but I don't think she gets it, or at least if she does, she's not willing to go the last yard.

The equalization of resources in which success is punished is part of the plan. It's a feature not a bug.

If diminished expectations create a social crisis, it's just another opportunity to accomplish things that could not otherwise be accomplished.

On our current trajectory, success will be judged by political connections and correctness, not individual effort and hard work.

We are not allowed to be exceptional. And neither are our kids. Get over it.

Related Posts:
Community Within Our Nation, Chaos In Theirs
"Steal This Country"

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  1. I have a question, and I apologize about it not being related to this post. However:

    Gulf oil spill investigators say bottom of sea at explosion site is a crime scene

    This story explains how (1) the failed blowout preventer and burned up rig are evidence that will probably be used against BP in court and; (2) how BP and Transocean are probably the only parties who can retrieve all the goods.

    My question is, does BP and Transocean have a right to decline retrieving and surrendering evidence that it knows will be used against them?

    Why wouldn't these two companies tell Holder to screw himself and go fetch the evidence with his own resources? Is there a Fifth Amendment issue here?

  2. I agree, professor.

    I don't think Noonan actually gets it either, or will admit it if she does. What she does get is the building enormity of voter backlash of Americans being punished for actually being productive and successful beyond the poverty level.

    Punish achievement? call us white racists and black conservative uncle toms? astroturfing teabaggers? ...and fear no majority voter consequences?

    Yeah... a teachable moment is scheduled for Nov 2, 2010.

  3. This "non-exceptional" meme has been around for so long! Thanks for making it so clear and relating it to the obvious: socialist redistribution of wealth is at the bottom of punishing success. Many of our kids in elementary school aren't even allowed to get A's anymore: "grades are so unfair!" It's brainwashing the young to think that rewarding hard work is somehow wrong - evil, even.

    I read somewhere that a great analogy to share with students (especially college students at elite universities) is the idea of taking their A grades and "redistributing" them to the "less fortunate" students with D's and F's. "That's not fair!" they always cry. "Why should someone else take my hard work and get the benefit of it; why should I bust my butt to get A's if I'm not going to get the credit and benefit (i.e. rewards) of my efforts?"

    Once it's brought to their terms (most don't really get economics or that wealth is a reward for hard work in the real world), it becomes oh-so clear!

    Thanks, again, professor!

  4. I don't think that we are in a situation that will change with the voting process. People are frustrated, not only because of Obama, but also because both parties treat us the same. Once elected, the acquaintance that you had who was runnig for office becomes a detached mentally challenged individual who is only interested in obtaining political power. No one at any level is concerned with the country and the people (only the children).

    My reading suggest that history treats situations like this in a very specfic manner. The political class is usually eliminated and not by the use of the vote. I feel that we are heading in that direction regardless of the Nov. results.

    One observation, I just returned from Europe. They are waiting for Nov. as well.

  5. We have reached the point of being a nation run by an "aristocracy of pull" and most of us are not part of that aristocracy. Talent, hard work, risk-taking are all meaningless in such a society. Of course there is fear of boiling over.

    Noonan doesn't get it because she is part of that aristocracy. In fact she has been a part of it for so long that she doesn't even realize she is part of it.

  6. @david7134, why are people in Europe waiting for November?

  7. Well, this is such a rose-colored, optimistic way to start the weekend.

    Where's the hemlock.

  8. There are many of us (I strive to be one anyway) who will continue to at least try to be exceptional regardless of what the government wants. For now, events are forcing us to redirect our efforts away from what makes a great society to what preserves or even SAVES one.

    Speaking for myself, I'm not happy that I have to spend so much time researching and acting on politics. I'm an investment professional who would rather be studying financial statements and economic data in advising my clients for how to best invest their money. But today I find myself starting each day reviewing what Washington is doing and hoping that someone found the time to pick through the last tome of comprehensive legislation and explain it to the rest of us. If you do that for a living, you understand why there is so much hoarding going on.

    I don't think it works out well for socialists when people like me, people who create, grow and protect the wealth of others, have to direct a significant portion of our time and energies to fighting government any way we can. But that is what is happening.

    I'm a survivor and expect to figure my way through this mess but American society would be better off in terms of capital and jobs were people like concentrating our efforts on what we do best.

    That is what happens during revolutions. Patriots figure out that it's time to turn the plows into swords. The pen may be mightier than the sword for now but it may not remain so.

    We are living through one of the greatest stories never told. Americans are reading and rediscovering the founding principles of America like never before. With increasing pace, they are organizing to rise up to confound a tyrannical government as the latest threat to our liberties. We would be better off were the trite, self-absorbed and defeatist Peggy Noonans to retire and make way for better, more connected writers to tell this story. We need a modern Thomas Paine who will strike the proper chord that will resonate with the vast majority of Americans (Mark Steyn is close).

  9. Peggy Noonan is the Blanche Dubois of the punditry class.

    Avert your eyes and simply walk briskly by her.

  10. bamafan,
    based upon your assumption the answer to your question is yes but i doubt that your assumption is correct.

    evidence already retrieved would need a a judge's approval for seizure.

    just labeling a site as crime scene does not declare that a crime has been committed tho. that is a misnomer. the correct labeling should be in recognition of a possible crime committed.

    someone correct me is i am wrong on this.

  11. Professor Jacobson wrote:

    We are not allowed to be exceptional. And neither are our kids. Get over it.

    The problem is not that "we are not allowed to be exceptional" -- the problem is that the distinction between the earned and the unearned is being obliterated.

    And the purpose of this obliteration is not the "equalization of resources" -- the purpose is the equalization of rewards -- the purpose is the granting of the unearned made possible by denying the earned to the earner.

    At root, it is a revolt against the principle of justice and an attempt to enshrine injustice -- the withholding of the deserved to enable the granting of the undeserved -- as a ruling principle of our society.

    Such is the moral basis of the looters that now run our economy.

  12. Our ruling class is certainly proving itself unexceptional! They are focused on securing every possible advantage for themselves, their offspring, and their approved classes of victims. There aren't enough Pasadenaphils to pay for it all. Rebel forces will emerge sooner or later.

  13. Yes, but when people aren't in "the system", it's hard to impose this viewpoint on them.

    Funny how certain aspects of modernity make it that much easier to "opt out": homeschooling, consulting/contracting, many ways to do very well without official notice. Oops, shhhh.

    In any case, I'm tired of boomer whining. "Oh it's all so different now!" Hey boomers, it's not all about you any more. Shut up.

  14. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

    That is the philosophy by which the political class gets itself elected and stays in power.

  15. What we have right now is Harvardocracy.

    We have a self-selected bunch of academics of almost exclusively urban background and minimal real-world experience, whose sole ability seems to be the hiring of other Ivory Tower types who share their disdain for 'the other'.

  16. "We are not exceptional. Get over it."

    This is so Zen. I just groove on cosmic oneness.

    So, she gets to teach my classes and I get to write her words.

    This has potential ...

    Her classes, my pay; my words her pay?


  17. "Honk if you're paying my mortgage!"

  18. "We are not allowed to be exceptional. And neither are our kids. Get over it."

    To that, I say: Oh yeah? You and what army?

  19. We are NOT exceptional! Anymore. You get a lot of time to think about the state of things when you stand in line behind people pushing two grocery carts...one for SNAP approved items and one filled with beer and snacks. We work for cheese. For others. And we get to file the paperwork for it every April 15th. I wonder if people that are capable of pushing two carts are capable of figuring out an IRS Form 1099-GOV for their receipt of my income?

  20. @mrkwong has it right. It's not that success is prohibited, it's that people who are academic elites want the predictability and standards of real world success to match those of high school and college. It's infantilism, the desire to make the whole world "fair" and control outcomes.

    And as any adult can tell you, you can choose your actions but you don't usually get to choose your outcomes. Outcomes just happen.

  21. Noonan still doesn't get it: She's part of the problem, inasmuch as she remains one of the too-urbanized conservative voices who have become too addicted to style to recognize distinctions of substance.

    The urban conservative blends in with his environment over time to become urbane; his protective coloration is one of professorial vocabulary and genteel blurring of all hard distinctions. He is the city-mouse, all sophistication.

    By contrast, the rural or suburban conservative retains all his bright red coloration. He is the country-mouse, and is thought a rube and an embarrassment by his city-mouse cousins, even when they agree with him politically.

    Now when the city-mouse conservative is counting votes, he needs all those country mice. But he only welcomes them so long as their blunt, direct, and unsophisticated phrasing of their shared conservative principles doesn't become more audible than his fuzzy, muted, oleaginous phrasing of the same.

    When the blunt rural phrasing becomes audible over the din, the city-mouse conservative recoils in horror and apologizes to the left for his cousin's lack of urbane mannerisms.

    Noonan is a city mouse.

    She probably can't help that, given how long she's been ensconced inside the D.C.-N.Y. journalism circles.

    But her instincts are dulled as a result. She was complimentary of Obama when other conservatives knew better. Why? Because his professorial mien matched her urbane cultural preferences. Palin as McCain's running mate horrified her, because of the lack of same.

    Yet the latter is obviously preferable to the former in an office of trust under these United States. Neither was fit for the office, really: But better an unfit person with the right political philosophy, than an unfit person with exactly the wrong political philosophy.

    But Noonan couldn't see that: Style clouded her perception of the more important thing, substance.

  22. kitkat,
    The Europeans know better than the average American how the economy works. They just don't seem to put it in practice. As such, they desire just as much as we do for a return of perceived Republican values and that Nov. will hopefully return the Republican's to power. What they don't seem to be able to appreciate is that the Republicans are little better than the Dems. When this is pointed out to them and the likely coming violence, they act as if this is the first hint of any problem. Very much like our political elite act.

  23. One of the most insightful and delightful laughter-inspiring comments I have read in a long time.

    Such on-the-mark sarcasm is a rare dish few can serve with such aplomb and is one of many reasons I also enjoy reading Professor Jackobson's essays; the cut of which is deeper than any steel could make.

    I salute you, sir.

    paul a'barge said...

    Peggy Noonan is the Blanche Dubois of the punditry class.

    Avert your eyes and simply walk briskly by her.

  24. This is the Sovietization of America.

  25. Where are John Galt and his engine when you need them?

    pasadenaphil, I completely agree - the competent and rational are shifting their attention from the private sector to the government because they can no longer avoid it. The Northern Alliance Radio Network crew have noted more than once a common thread in many of the conservative candidates they interview... a sense of duty and obligation to run, to try to fix things. That they 'couldn't live with themselves if they didn't.'

    We've let the inmates run the asylum for too long. Pretty much whatever it takes, we have to restore sanity. We just have to hope that enough people are not yet addicted to the welfare-state opiate to gladly and vigorously reach for true liberty when it's offered to them.

  26. I keep wondering if Peggy Noonan is aware of how many of her former fans now view her with contempt. She now seems to have a vague understanding of what Obama is all about, but (to my knowledge) has never expressed any remorse for helping to place in office Jeremiah Wright's parishioner and enthusiatic financial supporter. This week's column received over 2000 comments, but I didn't see too many barbs in my survey.

    Paul A'barge: Love the Blanche Dubois crack.