I’m in the investment business, some might assume I’d prefer discussing
Capitalist, by Jim Rogers, or Financial
Reckoning Day, by Bill Bonner – if only because the
authors are, a) both old friends of mine and, b) I agree with almost
everything they put forward. Maybe later.
I generally prefer reading classical history. Notwithstanding, I
just couldn’t help but pick up a copy of Al Franken’s new book,
Lies, and the Lying Liars That Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced
Look at the Right."
you’re shocked. Franken is a notorious and outspoken liberal Democrat.
As a libertarian anarchist, you might think I’d have no more in
common with him than with conservative Republicans, like Jerry Falwell
or Rush Limbaugh. And you’d be right – in some ways. But first,
let’s define our terms. The words "liberal" and "conservative"
are basically just shorthand for a person’s views on freedom.
say they believe in social freedom (the right to be gay, to smoke
dope, wear their hair long, and badmouth their country – according
to conservatives). But they don’t much care for economic freedom,
because they think some people wind up with more money than others
when society isn’t heavily taxed and regulated by omniscient and
benevolent bureaucrats and politicians.
say they believe in economic freedom (the right to plunder our dear
Mother Earth, and send the Marines in to secure markets in Third
World countries – according to the liberals), but they definitely
don’t believe in social freedom. At least not for other people.
actually do believe in both economic and social freedom, in both
principle and practice. "Authoritarians" believe in neither,
in principle or practice.
fact is that neither liberals nor conservatives have anything like
a coherent philosophy – to my view, they’re equally arbitrary,
thoughtless and dangerous. Whether someone is a liberal or conservative
doesn’t reflect so much on how smart or nice they are, as to which
sets of aberrations hidden in their psyches they choose to dramatize.
The things these people argue about aren’t capable of being rendered
by intellectual discussion simply because they’re generally so banal
never, for instance, hear an argument about whether or not taxes
should exist, only whether they should be "high" or "low."
It becomes a matter of psychology, not philosophy. That’s why when
you tune into any political talk show, you won’t hear a polite discussion
of principles – you see anthropoids hooting and panting at
each other, using ad hominem and ad populum arguments, and every
possible mutation of Aristotle’s fallacies of logic on each other.
shouldn’t say you’ll never hear a discussion of principles. The
liberals actually do have principles – even if they’re almost
all screwy. The conservatives don’t even have principles of their
own. They more or less agree with all the liberal principles ("Well,
sure, we need regulations, taxes, controls, welfare, foreign aid,
government schools, etc."). They just think the Democrats go
too far, too fast. Which is why Republicans are, correctly, seen
as unprincipled opportunists. They actually don’t stand for anything.
why, sad to say, I often prefer the company of liberal Democrats
to conservative Republicans. At least the Dems tend to take ideas
seriously, even if they’re bad ideas. I guess something is better
than nothing. The Republicans tend to fall back on bluster, and
an inchoate idea of "common sense." Perversely, they usually
are more commonsensical than the Dems.
to Al’s book. I think you should read it for several reasons. One
is that it performs a real service in debunking lots of annoying
personalities (liars) on the strident right. And exposing many of
the falsehoods, prevarications and half-truths (lies) that they
use. I especially liked his first-person, first-hand telling of
what he thinks the facts really are, stemming from personal experience
– notwithstanding the fact he had access to 14 Harvard students
to do research and check facts for him.
not a comedian, at least not intentionally. But I find Al and I
use the same humorous-obnoxious techniques of performing field research
– we both like, whenever possible, to engage our prey hand-to-hand,
in preference to just commenting on what they say and do in public.
I’ve had funny and unpleasant experiences with Republicans Dick
Cheney, Barry McCaffrey (at least I think the ex-drug czar is a
Republican – but sometimes it’s almost impossible to tell with
military types) and Bill Bennett, among others. Al’s had funny and
unpleasant experiences with Republicans Barbara Bush, Bill O’Reilly
and Ann Coulter, among others.
most disappointing thing about "Lies" is that Al turns
out to be just a funny leftist Sean Hannity in that he seems to
believe that Democrats can do no evil, and the Republicans no good.
Instead of dealing with the very credible allegations surrounding
Mena, Ark., and the strange death of Vince Foster, he just dismisses
them. Making me think he’s at once nave, and intellectually dishonest
– although he tries not to be. Pity. One difference between
Al and me is that he just seems incapable of also having unpleasant
experiences with Democrats. That automatically takes half the fun
out of political baiting.
other words, as nice (and funny – I had to laugh out loud any
number of times) a job as he does of exposing today’s Right for
the creeps that most of them are, it turns out that Al is just as
much a reflexive flack for the Democrats as Rush or Sean are for
the Republicans. And that’s the pity. Because Franken is clearly
smart, thoughtful, a decent human being and would probably be a
lot of fun to hang with – unlike most of his prey.
that makes me think that, if he was exposed to the arguments for
economic freedom from a source other than bogus and fascistically
inclined Republicans, he might recognize he’s probably not so much
a liberal Democrat as a gut libertarian. As it stands, his fear
of the "corporate hegemons" – that pay him to entertain
them with his speeches – impresses me as just knee-jerk liberal
maybe I’m wrong. Sometimes people are just the way they seem when
they write a book. And other times you’d think it’s their evil twin.
I give Al the benefit of the doubt.