Obama is a theoretical leader; Romney a practical one

One of the most startling features of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, a book that examines the killing fields that Stalin and Hitler created in the lands between Germany and Russia proper, is the way in which these socialist leaders were so willing to kill people in the millions to make reality accord with their theories.  This chasm between ideas and reality was most obvious in the Soviet Union.

Soviet leaders could not account for the fact that, contrary to Marx’s predictions, the first socialist revolution occurred in an agrarian, almost feudal economy, rather than in a totally industrialized economy.  Obviously, reasoned the Soviet theorists, theirs was an incomplete revolution.  To be complete, the Soviet Union would have to be industrialized, and then the Soviet workers would cheerfully unite behind a socialist government, rather than hoarding food and trying to live out their lives as individuals.

Stalin, imbued by faith in his theory, and with no regard whatsoever for the sanctity of human life, decided to “industrialize” the Ukraine by getting rid of the small farms that dotted that verdant breadbasket.  He would create vast, government-controlled collectives, complete with Soviet-made tractors, that would stun the Western world.

Indeed, if Walter Duranty hadn’t been a profoundly evil man who shilled for a murderous regime, the world would have been stunned.  It would have been stunned because it would have seen kulaks (small landowners) and peasants relocated, shot, and starved in the millions over about five or seven years.  In this way, Stalin advanced socialist theory over the factually dead bodies of his own people.  At the end of it all, of course, the collectives were much less effective than a market economy would have been.

I see theory over fact regularly in the liberal world I inhabit.  One of my favorites is the liberal who refused to believe that a drop of sugared tea can create a sticky spot on the floor or counter.  “There’s too little sugar,” she said, “for any stickiness to result from a single drop.”  The fact that I could show her sticky spots was irrelevant.  Her theory said there couldn’t be spots, and therefore there weren’t — actual sticky spots notwithstanding.

Likewise, when I was packing some boxes alongside a liberal, I asked for directions about what should be put in one of the boxes.

“Put these six items in the box,” the liberal told me.

I did.  The box was very, very heavy.

“What did you put in there?” asked the liberal.  “It’s way too heavy.”

“The six things you told me to put in there,” I replied.

“No,” said the liberal, “you couldn’t have.  Those six things are not that heavy.”

“But they are,” said I, “pointing to the box.”

“No, they’re not,” said the liberal, completely ignoring the reality in the box at his feet.

Obama, of course, is a purely theoretical leader.  Barring a short stint in private practice when, as a junior associate, he would have had minimal responsibilities, Obama has always worked in the worlds of academia and community organizing.  In the latter role, every one of his initiatives failed.  In the former role, of course, he had no initiatives.  He could immerse himself in theory without ever cross-checking those theories against the real world.

Now that Obama has taken on the hard task of governing, it’s really no surprise that he clings to his theories.  They’re so much nicer than dirty, messy facts, governed by real world principles such as supply and demand, good guys and bad guys, weather, etc.  How much nicer to simply announce that what is is, because the theorist says that it is.

Romney, by contrast, has worked and governed.  He may be a little too inclined to abandon conservative principles for political advantage, but that may be due to his essential pragmatism.  He will do what works.  He’s had to.  That’s how he made his fortune.

I’d like to think that Romney’s pragmatism involves understanding that the private sector is always more efficient than the government (“Your government — applying yesterday’s solutions today”).  Even if he does deviate from a principled understanding, though, I know Romney will never get caught up in what should be, rather than what is.

And now that I’ve opined about the dangers of theory, let me hand the microphone over to Bill Whittle, who says everything I was thinking, only he does it better:

 

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Comments

  1. Danny Lemieux says

    But, but, but…the Liberal /Left will insist that they are “reality based”.

    Our very own Charles the Hammer introduced us to the Roman Catholic concept of “invincible ignorance”. But we also need to recognize that today’s liberal leftism resides at a dangerous nexus of the following formulation, whereby: ”invincible ignorance” + “invincible arrogance” = “invincible stupidity”.

  2. says

    Bill Whittle refers to an article published in Forbes 11-28/11 by Steve Zwick entitled “Climategate 2.0 More Like Climatefluff 3 1/2″ in which Zwick advocated burning down the houses of climate change skeptics and global warming deniers. I read the article a while ago and left a comment. I know what I read and Zwick wrote exactly what Whittle alludes to – global warming deniers should have their homes burned to the ground. After the controversy started in April 2012, Zwick added an update to explain it was only metaphorical, he didn’t really want people to burn down anyone’s homes.

    Now it’s all gone – the written desire, the explanation, mine and dozens of other comments that did not agree with his thesis – it’s all gone. Zwick’s original article calling for home burning and the update no longer exists on the Internet. The entire resulting controversy now seems to be a right-wing conspiracy theory of Wing-nuts grounded in nothing but the quicksand of misguided fertile imaginings. We think back to the book burnings of the Hitler regime and Stalin’s pogroms meant to deny history from entire new generations that ultimately failed because of the ubiquity of printed material around the world. Censorship and virtual book burning is a growing problem today as exhibited by Obama’s attempt to strong arm Internet publishers into removing stories of his daughter’s visit to Mexico and the Pentagon’s attempt to scrub from the web the story of Sgt Robert Bales after he allegedly killed 16 Afghan villagers exposed by reporters at the Army Times. We attempt to expose the perfidy of the Left, Liberals, or whatever loon group du jour, but can’t because the original photons are simply gone, the entire reason for debate has vanished into oblivion. Even if someone printed out the entire original article, because it was first a Net piece, it would be damned as a forgery because the original cannot be exhibited to a candid world as it no longer exists, like that mysterious birth certificate Obama swears exists in one of two hospitals in Hawaii. Even Google has been accused of expunging cached copies from the ether when the information was harmful to Obama.

    Today, we are again witnessing what was commonplace millennia ago when new rulers carved away the names and achievements of previous kings, pharaohs, and potentates from temple walls and public stele, monuments toppled and pulverized to dust obliterating all knowledge of what had gone before because it contradicted the current regime’s narrative or was simply a better story of achievement and innovation. Expungement is more insidious now because of the very nebulous nature of electronic media in which nothing truly exists in a complete physical form; what is being destroyed are the everyday words and images that make up public discourse so that the remaining one-sided argument seems to magically appear from nowhere. The idea is not new, yet the result in modern media can be so much more devastating as the trail of destruction is so much more complete and increasingly impossible to revivify – create a story that is anathema to the opposition, a story that whips them into a frenzy of condemnation and ridicule, then, like an Argentine dictator, ‘disappear’ the original story thread so the opposition appears to be bellowing into the wind.

    The Left is making Gertrude Stein’s words real, “There’s no there there.” In cyberspace, lacking all physicality, ’there’ has neither meaning nor existence. Increasingly, words have no meaning but whatever the user wants them to mean, and as we see more often, words are as permanent as one’s own breath. Perhaps this is the end of history and we are witnesses without viable testimony.

  3. says

    This is one of those moments when one would like to take back everything said previously, but can’t. My above posted comments were written based upon the Forbes title Whittle shows in his video. Whittle used the wrong article. The correct Zwick article is A Tennessee Fireman’s Solution to Climate Change and it does still exist within a Web reality. My attention was called to the error after I punched ‘Post’ by a new Zwick article Heartland Channels Alfred E. Newman and Emily Litella in Climate Change Debate published in Forbes only an hour ago while I was writing the above comment.

    So, channeling Emily Litella – never mind! But, only sort of… I hold to the dominant motif of Internet censorship and expungement.

  4. says

    Forgive yourself, Indigo Red.  I made a major grammatical error right in the title of the post.  I fixed it, but not until Twitter had already grabbed it, securing it for the ages.

  5. SADIE says

    Indigo Red and Bookworm

    Both be kind to yourselves. The State Dept. and governments and Olympic Committees do it all the time. Why just today (actually May 1 in the Jerusalem Post). They have a new word for it “incorrect data input” or as the article concludes “no data” and “no input”.

    Organizers of the 2012 London Olympic Games have apologized after its official website left Israel without a capital while naming Jerusalem as the capital city of a country that does not yet exist, blaming “incorrect data input.”
    Profiling the countries taking part in July’s Games, the newly launched website left a blank space as Israel’s capital while in a profile for “Palestine” it listed Jerusalem as its capital.
     
    The site also listed the US dollar as Palestine’s currency, even though the shekel is the accepted currency in the Palestinian Authority.
    A spokesman for the Olympic games said on Monday that it had “teething problems” which it said it was working through.
    “We have amended the information on our website and we apologize for any offense caused,” the spokesman said.
    In the country profiles for Israel and Palestine, which can be found in the Europe and Asia section respectively, both the section for capital cities and currency have now disappeared.

           

  6. says

    I don’t agree with Indigo Red’s conclusions that the internet and the current status quo communications venue makes it easier for state control to censor information. In fact, it makes it very hard, if all they can do is to block information and get rid of it ex post facto. A totalitarian system will always be too low to work against the million billion Davids out there.

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