TCS Daily

The Humility Factor

By Arnold Kling - February 7, 2008 12:00 AM

One of my former students is in Egypt on an archaeology project, and we have kept in touch by email. After I gave him my rundown on the political situation, he wrote back saying that it sounded as though I was a Romney supporter. I replied that the words "support" and "candidate" do not go together for me this year.

I am looking for the next Dwight Eisenhower, someone with humility about what government can do in general and what a President can do in particular. "Humility" and "candidate" do not go together this year, either.

Senator McCain, like Eisenhower, has military experience in his background. I believe that this is highly valuable. Civilians have difficulty comprehending the risks and inevitable foul-ups that attend any military operation. Good military leaders, like good entrepreneurs, are not paralyzed by risk, but they are keenly aware of dangers and always looking for safer alternatives.

President Eisenhower withstood considerable pressure to intervene in Vietnam. My guess is that when a crisis arises, John McCain will be able to conduct discussions with military advisers that focus more effectively and arrive at better decisions than someone who lacks his experience.

On issues at large, I agree with Senator McCain on some things, such as health care policy, and I disagree with him on others, such as man-made global warming. On the issue of entitlements, I see him as the best of all the major candidates.

However, John McCain is no Dwight Eisenhower. McCain seems eager to portray government as a problem-solver and himself as a heroic leader. I do not see much of a humility factor.

Governor Romney is also too much of a "can-do" man for my taste. He seems to be the sort who thinks that if you get business and political elites together in a room, they can do anything. Even abolish the laws of arithmetic.

Still, Romney's outlook is conservative, and he has the most adminstrative experience of any candidate. It is a shame that his Mormon religious background proved to be such a weakness, and that he ran into the perfect candidate (Governor Huckabee) and the perfect state (Iowa) for exploiting that weakness. Romney's luck would only have to improve slightly in order for him to overcome Senator McCain's lead.

Senators Obama and Clinton frighten me more than Romney or McCain. Neither of them has overseen an operation any larger than a Senate staff. They only know political salesmanship and Senate procedure. They have never had to implement anything, and it shows. As they make their promises to the party faithful, the phrase "writing checks you can't cash" keeps occurring to me, like a song you can't get out of your head.

There may be years when it makes sense for a libertarian to lean toward a Democrat for President, but this does not look like one of them. The Democrats have a good shot at winning a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Gridlock is the libertarian's friend. The prospect of President Obama or President Clinton ramming through judicial appointments and legislation is hardly appetizing.

None of the leading contenders for President in 2008 has the humility factor going for them. You just have to close your eyes and hope that whoever we elect does only minimal damage.



Pretty solid appraisal
Obama has personality and a good demeanor, Billary is just an old fashioned shrew. Niether has the "experience" factor that Clinton is trying to lean on.

I am no fan of McCain, Romney or Huckabee either; of the three McCain is the best choice, but I don't like his stand on some key issues. Huckabee is the "most conservative" if you are strickly a "values" voter.

Neither of the dems appeal to any "values" voting block. Both are too conservative for the looney left and yet are domestic spending liberals.

Still, if the Republicans won back the House and Senate, I could probably live with Obama as President. Since that presently doesn't look likely, I will have to vote for, and pray for, a Republican president. It will be the only way to limit the damage of the bumbling Dimocrats in congress.

I don't know if I can ever forgive McCain for that monstrosity.

The very idea that it could be illegal for private citizens to spend money to try and influence an election, at any time, much less right before the election should offend anyone who cares about freedom.

Romney just announced his withdrawl
So McCain is the GOP candidate.

That is a foreign word to all modern politicians that I observe. For those of us who attended Ash Wednesday services yesterday, however, we were reminded of its value. The choices, now that Romney is out, are all really gloomy. Still I will have to go with the Republican (John McCain in the White House??) primarily because of Supreme Court appointments. Let's hope he picks a good VP and not Huckabee!

In this corner we have Socialists and in this corner we have Socialists.
Their all a bunch of socialists. They all want to solve all the worlds problems by taking money from one person who actually worked for it and giving it to another who didn't work for it. They all love power and hate freedom. Obviously BarakOHillary is the worst but McRomAbee isn't much better.

I know Ron Paul is out of it but I will still vote for him in the pointless hope that Either candidate gets the message.

It is gonna be bad for the next 4 years:
1. Wealth destruction from environment over-regulation.
2. Wealth destruction from socialized health care.
3. Wealth destruction from law enforcement.
4. No end to war in site. BarakOHillary says so but they are fibbing as neither has ever supported any reductions in anything dealing with defense or either war. McRomAbee is worse as they are staying somewhere between 4 and 100 years.

Thats bull, Mark
Money is NOT freedom of speech. And I don't care if the Supreme Court says so.

Influencing an election with money gives an advantage to people who have money. The more money one has, the louder his/her voice and the more influence he/she has. Why does a rich person deserve more influence than anyone else?

It is exactly whats wrong with our system, its become about money more than ideas and positions. BCRA didn't solve a problem, the problem (money) just morphed to get through the holes and still keep its grip on power. It may have made things worse because corporations now control our government.

And answer is PFC - publicly funded campaigns. Zero fundraising. Here are the candidates, they each get a check from the federal government, its the same amount for each and they can spend it how they choose for campaigning. Thats my idea anyway.

I love the idea you might have to vote for McCain. I can just imagine you squirming over the prospect, the bile in your mouth, cold sweat and hot flashes of anxiety. Oh well, at least you're not alone!

We are sooo screwed... you better bring your own K-Y Jelly to the Inauguration. Prepare yourself for life on Planet Roy, folks!

If Hillary is elected president, we'll have a four-year disaster, with Republicans ferociously opposing her, followed by Republicans zooming back into power, as we did in 1980 and 1994, and 2000...If McCain is elected president, we'll have a four-year disaster, with the Republicans in Congress co-opted by "our" president, followed by 30 years of Democratic rule.

From Ann Coulter, Feb 6, 2008

Corporate Control
>". . . corporations now control our government."

Oh for the love of....

"Corporations now control our government?" Can you please cite me some specific evidence to support that overblown hunk of hackneyed, paranoid hooey? (And I don't mean just your reactionary blanket assertions -- I mean solid, objective evidence, please.) Which corporations specifically -- or do you mean all of them? Did corporations "control" Bill Clinton? Will they "control" Obama or Hillary? Or is the political Left averse to the binding, nefarious "control" Big Everycompany wields on our political system?

If you insist on forwarding such age-old Populist bromides I'll know with exactly how much seriousness I should afford you on an intellectual level: ZERO.

Romney, Forbes, Perot...All had their own fortunes
All lost.

Money does not win elections.

Money from the 'right' people might.

Anyone should be able to donate as much as they want to any candidate AND it must it must be documented immediately.

Candidates would be spending more time returning money from criminals just as Hillary and Obama have already done.

Who's fault is it?
No real conservative had the courage to run.

Conservatives deserved what they get.

A Real Conservative can't help
There's no point in running a Real Conservative because we don't have one who could get elected. (There are many reasons, some uglier than others.) What we need is someone who will lean strongly conservative on the most critical issues (to me, defense and SCOTUS) and who is more palatable to the general electorate than the Lefties that the Democrats put up. (I'm not thrilled with McCain's take on torture and Gitmo, but I'll give him a pass because of his background and hope that when the problem is his he won't be able to find a 'better' solution.)

The liberal whines that rich people have more money
So what?

If you believe that money influences politics, then don't vote for people who have lots of money.

As usual, liberals want govt to make everything fair, and the way they do this is by putting limitations on everyone else.

He's a far left liberal, which means he takes great pride in not thinking for himself.
It doesn't matter how many times his favorite myth is discredited, he will continue to spout it.

Believing that some evil force is controlling govt is easier on the soul than accepting the fact that the vast majority of voters have examined his theology, and rejected it.

Tactical Approach
Whether a Lefty-liberal or not, I would simply prefer -- for purposes of intellectual debate -- that he offer up concrete evidentiary tidbits to support whatever bromides he plucks from some populist's *ss canal instead of simply venting emotional platitudes rife with snark and smart-assed vindictiveness. Perhaps I'd at least then have a dollup of incentive to proceed with an attempt at reasoned communication. It may be therapuetic (and even prosperous -- witness Lou Dobbs) to vent frustration at some presumed "Other" who's nefarious duty is to keep Joe Sixpack from affluence, but on an intelletual plane it stands as a starkly vacuous assertion.

Considering the alternatives
bobj says: "I love the idea you might have to vote for McCain. I can just imagine you squirming over the prospect, the bile in your mouth, cold sweat and hot flashes of anxiety."

Sorry, it will just be a simple nose pinch for me and other Conservatives as we mark our ballots. The bodily reaction you describe will probably happen, however, if and when a President Obamasama or Billary is inaugurated.

McCain Would Be Worse
With how much George W. Bush has exceeded his executive authority, I would be embarrassed as a republican to have John McCain continue that trend. In that regard, Clinton or Obama would be better, because Republicans will call a mistake a mistake when the mistake is not made by a member of their party.

It looks like I'll be voting 3rd party. And NO, it won't be my fault if Obama or Hillary becomes president. It will be those of you who choose McCain, from whom it is hard to distinguish much difference from his Democrat challengers.

bob's motivations
several months ago bob declared that his primary purpose here was to cause as much dissention as possible, since in his opinion, us conservative, anti-environment types are incapable of thinking or learning. So getting us to waste our time here instead of spreading disinformation elsewhere is the best he can do.

no one to blame but bush
as a libertarian i am howling with laughter at the state of the conservatives. of course it will never dawn on any of them that GWB is almost solely responsible for the implosion of the conservative/republican majority. he has alienated three-fourths of the american public by thinking that sending kids to have their legs blown off by some insignificant shi'ite insurgents in iraq has anything to do with finding bin laden. he has lost any conservative economic credibility thru medicare drug coverage, no child left behind, unnecessary "stimulus" packages, etc. he squandered the political capital that would have been required to privatize social security, make the tax reforms permanent, and expand free trade. i can't even pretend anymore that hillary or obama would be any worse.

Shrillary vs. McCain… That's a no-brainer
That and McCain's stance on illegals and a few other issues do not make him the best choice. But if it is McCain vs Clinton there is no choice for me, I will vote McCain.

In fairness, Ike could afford to be humble
After all, he had just won World War Two.

Perhaps if Petraeus runs in 2012, he will be our next Eisenhower.

The other Roosevelt
once said "Talk softly, but carry a big stick".

After WWII, the US was just about the only country left with sticks of any kind. We also had the biggest stick on the block, the A-bomb.

Ike could afford to talk as softly as he wanted.

And We don't care what you say...
Once again, we have the intellectual disorder of the left on display. Time after time we are told how SCOTUS is infallible and final (it is however worth reflecting on Justice Jackson's thoughts on the relationship between those two characteristics.)

As for the idea of public funding, what an idiotic idea-unless we're going create a new class of welfare for political parasites. We already employ large legions of professors whose sole output is political philosophy. Will the candidates be those selected by "the people" or those most skillful and negotiating the funding process. I submit its the latter. Y

And We don't care what you say...
Once again, we have the intellectual disorder of the left on display. Time after time we are told how SCOTUS is infallible and final (it is however worth reflecting on Justice Jackson's thoughts on the relationship between those two characteristics.)

As for the idea of public funding, what an idiotic idea-unless we're going create a new class of welfare for political parasites. We already employ large legions of professors whose sole output is political philosophy. Will the candidates be those selected by "the people" or those most skillful and negotiating the funding process. I submit its the latter. Y

We folks of the right have to stick to the principles we glean from the various branches of philosophy to describe the world. The populist, socialist, anti-everything-that's-proved-to-work rhetoric bounces off of sound principle like water off a duck's back. Even so, we need catch phrases.

Much good can be done if someone could go through the list of right principles and reduct them to catch phrases of the like of the following:

"I've never gotten a job from a poor man."

This conveys many economic truths in a way that hits home to even the most blinkered, ignorant populist. I'm sure there's more gold in this mine.

It looks like another year where conservatives will have to hold their nose and hope for the best. Everyone at the top of the heap is a Washington insider. Expect more of the same after this election, big government solutions and more spending. Invest in China and get some of our money back that they own.

an evolution, not a clone.
When Eisenhower ran, there was a strong faction committed to Taft who were vehemently opposed to Eisenhower. They felt he would betray Repbulican principles, and, in a sense, they were right. It was Eisenhower who ratified the New Deal. There was no more talk of repealing Social Security or minimun wage laws, etc. The left's criticism of Eisenhower was that he was lazy and unimaginitive--he read Zane Grey novels and played too much golf. I think it is fair to say that historians of each succeeding generation have rated Eisenhower higher than the preceding one......A similar phenomenon seems to be going on with McCain. The right seems to think that the true test of his character is not his behavior under duress as a POW but his opposition to the Bush tax cuts. This they feel is the transcending ideal of their generation--tax cuts. On the left, we will soon hear the usual complaints--he graduated in the lower third of his class. Hillary and Obama meet the only true test of intelligence. They graduated from an Ivy League law school and probably read difficult French novels. And McCain who is old, white, and male cannot provide the transformative image that they can. The left, as always, doesn't want a leader: it wants an avatar. The right doesn't want a winner; it wants a tax cutter.

Yes, I just wasted a lot of time with him on another article posting

Show me any time in history money didn't influence politics?
Or for that matter any other aspect of life. Money is power and it was ever thus. The problem is the left wants to prevent anyone but them from having either power or money.

The Clinton's grubbing for money while condemning everyone else is proof in itself. Show me any world leader who was "poor" or exercised fairness?

Fair applies to the weather.

you idiots were made for each other - not you Stinkhammer
To Stinkhammer: you posed a very good question and I'm working on it. I agree with your point, I still think I'm correct, but you're absolutely right in raising that question.

To Mark: you're just upset because I push back on you. I have not declared what you say, and I do not come in here just to cause dissension. I genuinely learn and my views have changed dramatically from discussions in here. Even from discussions with you, Mark. You throw insults around like its fried chicken, but one come backs to you and you short-circuit and there is no more reasonable discussion to be had. You're a smart guy, I've seen you contribute, other than you're emotionally unstable, I don't understand why you are the way you are.

To Zyndryl: you didn't waste your time. I responded to show you why your perspective was incorrect. I can only hope this time you read it and understand it, and don't get upset like Mark does and drop in the toilet with your thought process.


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I never got a job from a welfare bum, either
...but a 'buddy' of mine did, when a welfare queen with a hot bod traded him 'favors' for helping move her furniture into her new double-wide.

But the gov didn't get any FICA taxes on that, so Supply Side tax policies that encourage the rich to create jobs are still way superior.

There is no Democrat in my memory I would vote for. They pander to race, class envy, the lowest common denominators. They have destroyed black families while claiming to help them. They pander to groups, play the race card, a bunch of whining babies. The hate business, hate personal freedoms and grow government.

The main reason Republicans have been losing is they have lost their Conservative roots.

Show me one single proposal either Obama or Hillary have proposed that makes me MORE free?

Show me a Democrat who talks of freedom? Quite the contrary, it is all about taking freedoms.

Never, I have but one life to give for my country.

The difficulty in "sound biting" Individual Rights philosophy
It is easy for Collectivists to come out with such sound bites as "From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs" because their philosophy is not concerned with (Individual) Rights and Right means.

The basic Phisophy of Individualism can not be explained so easily. I have been struggling with the same problem for quite sometime.

How can you counter the above saying attributed to Marx?

You can't simply say "To each according to his ambition and to the extent of his work", as it does not explain the nature of his ambition and the kind of work he does.

However, I liked your "I've never gotten a job from a poor man." and also Zyndryl's.


This isn't about conservatives or any particular group deserving what they got. The three leading candidates are terrible and will be a disaster for the country. I, for one, do not deserve what's coming; and it's pretty twisted to think that the country as a whole does.

Excellent point
Part of the problem is that a large part of our culture is based on religious or altruistic ethics. Good slogans that affirm ownership of self or property are derided as selfish or anti-god.

It's a bit too subtle, but "You get what you pay for" is a logical if not emotionally appealing counter to Marx.

Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death", or John Stark's more succinct "Live free or die" present the attitude of Individualism. I like the gritty "This gun is mine", but it is subject to unfavorable interpretations and is not an effective tool for gaining converts.

Tying together prosperity, self interest, independence, and the other necessary properties in one or a few popular "self-evident truths" is an important goal. Of course, a full philosophy is necessary, but good slogans attract attention.

"I've never gotten a job from a poor man" is brilliant.

If you can't imagine that Hillary or Obama would be worse than Bush, can you imagine anything worse than life in Czarist Russia or the Weimar Republic?

The choices
McCain is corrupt, hostile to the Constitution and individual rights, termperamentally unfit for the job of President, and ignorant of economics. On the plus side, he has a reputation as a cost-cutter and his support of the military will probably keep us alive long enough to vote for someone better.

Hillary Clinton is corrupt to the core, power hungry and vicious, hostile to everyone and hostile to everything that limits the scope of government, and contemptuous of economics. She will undoubtedly underfund the military and weaken our borders. She has no redeeming properties.

Obama at least seems to be a pleasant person and might not be so set in his ways that he'd be unwilling to learn that capitalism and a strong defense are good things. However, his expressed views indicate that we'll be rocketing into socialism and an inadequate military. Voting for him on the chance that he might get better is an unacceptable risk.

I've just spent a few minutes looking at the list of all of the U.S. Presidents and some of the major opponents. The best likely candidate today is far worse that the best likely candidate in any previous election, and worse than most of the worst candidates.

I'll probably vote for McCain, and do so very unhappily.

Caucus lesoon
The most important bit of information that I brought from swindle tuesday was that whoever the candidate, the common thread from the attendees was that this was no longer the land of the free or a government of, by and for the people

libertarian consevatives at fault too
Libertarians (small l) need to learn politics and prioritize.

The Libertarian party focussed too much on getting out of Iraq and promoting open borders. And many others are too hung up at legalizing MJ.

Conservatives AND libertarians,(small l) need to start with the Constitution and promote policies which return the USA to the government it used to have.

When libertarians focus on their pet issues, the socialists continue to take more power, power that we give them.

How about "Don't tread on me?"

I would say that is right on the money
The problem with both is that niether actually represent, in any meaningful way, even a large minority of the country and certainly not the majority. But, then again, no one can. There are so many splinters in any group that no one could possibly really repsent the majority in this country. Between the enviro-wackos, the far right abortion issue only voters and all the other single interest groups, it is always an attempt to appeal more to the majority than to actually represent them.

In other words, the vast majority of us get to choose between the "lesser of two evils" rather than a candidate we really agree with.

Hamilton had it right - people with property need a way to protect themselves from the mob
Using one's own money and the money which an interest group can collect to influence elections via publicity and propaganda is the way the system is really supposed to work.

If the people collectively are smart enough to ignore or see through the bombardment, then the $$$ dumped into the election campaigns won't matter. But if "the people collectively" and "smart enough" is an oxymoron, then the power iof the $$$ to influence elections makes good sense if we want to protect our property from confiscation by the mob.

bob hates everyone who isn't a liberal
and it shows

The Christian ethic is basically an individualistic ethic.

It's about personal salvation, and it's about a person's responsibility towards God and towards his fellow man.

When Christ says that we are to help the poor, he's talking about each individual going out, and helping. At no point did he order us to vote for a govt program that would tax other people, in order to help the poor.

A similar logic works against blue laws. It is up to us as individuals to avoid temptation. It is not up to us to pass laws that outlaw temptations. As one wise wag pointed out, once all temptation is removed, how are we to prove our worth?

how do we decide who gets public funding?
Does everyone who wants to run, automatically get funded?
Or do we only fund the Republican and Democratic candidates, and forbid everyone else from receiving any support?

I know which option the Republican and Democratic parties would take.

Here's another approach
This is what bob originally said:

"Money is NOT freedom of speech. And I don't care if the Supreme Court says so.

"Influencing an election with money gives an advantage to people who have money. The more money one has, the louder his/her voice and the more influence he/she has. Why does a rich person deserve more influence than anyone else?"

To me this is within the bounds of permissible speech. It's civil and can be readily defended. I would suggest that if you disagree with him, you post something supporting the idea that people with lots of money SHOULD enjoy a louder voice under our system than those without.

To instead suggest that everyone join you in turning your backs on him seems to me awfully... brownshirted.

You all, collectively, have to decide whether you want to try to make sense here, or just exclude everyone from your company who doesn't think just the way you do.

If others of you feel this should be a ditto head forum, let me know now. Maybe you would be better off without any influx of fresh ideas, and could just echo one another in a chorus of universal agreement. That way you'd never have to think again.

Then you could shun the world if it doesn't agree with your assessments of it.

The principles we were founded upon
"The problem is the left wants to prevent anyone but them from having either power or money."

You've been listening to the phantoms whispering in your ear. Try this interpretation instead:

Yes, money has always meant power. And more money has always equalled more power. But is that just? Should we just stop right there and accept that as the ideal?

I was under the belief that America was founded in contrast to the old class-bound oligarchy of Britain, where inheritance was everything and the doors to access were closed for everyone below. And you'll be sure to point out to me that in America, the doors are open.

But those doors were only opened by a premise that we are all equal, and that none are lower nor any higher than anyone else. You can't let money decide every question and still have any equality. And at the core of our new creation of a functioning democracy is the idea that one vote is one vote-- regardless.

If one dollar equalled one vote, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett would get billions. Other people might get fifty thousand. Would that be the kind of government you'd prefer?

That's a question. I'd be curious as to your answer.

There's a word for what you're trying to describe
If the primary goal of society is, as you seem to be saying, wealth creation, and every other goal should take a back seat, such as social supports for the working population, then one would call your favored form of government a plutocracy.

There would be no taxation-- other than possibly a tax on wages. And oddly, there would be no law enforcement-- a position more extreme than that of most others on this forum. And there would be no war.

I would offer that a more sane approach would involve some degree of taxation, just to retain a legal system and a force capable of defending our shores. And that such a system would benefit both workers and employers, so both should share in its maintenance.

Don't think corporations need the law to exist? Try moving your business to Somalia.

A third party candidate
Surprisingly, you actually have a lot of choice. Here's the current field for third party candidates:,_2008

Or, if you don;t like any of them, you can decide to run yourself.

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