Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Examples of the cosmic vision 

Longtime readers know my fondness for Thomas Sowell, and his Visions of the Anointed remains one of my favorites. The competing visions are "tragic" and "cosmic"; the tragic vision sees the world as containing tradeoffs and policy consists of deciding which tradeoffs are worth making. A vast majority of economists have this tragic vision. The cosmic vision does not need to worry about this. So for example if one innocent man is sentenced to death by the criminal justice system the entire system must be razed and rebuilt. "Justice" demands no less. Those with the tragic vision take a different approach:
...while saving some innocent individuals from a false conviction is important, the question is whether it is more important than sparing other equally innocent individuals from violence and death at the hands of criminals. Is saving one innocent defendant per decade worth sacrificing ten innocent murder victims? A thousand? Once we recognize that there are no solutions, but only trade-offs, we can no longer pursue cosmic justice, but must make our choices among alternatives actually available--and these alternatives do not include guaranteeing that no harm can possibly befall any innocent individual. The only way to make sure than no innocent individual is ever falsely convicted is to do away with the criminal justice system and accept the horrors of anarchy. (p. 225)
(Thanks to John Hawkins for his quotes of VoA.)

My argument with people about the Obamas is that they are the most forceful advocates of cosmic justice, "a universe tailor-made to their vision of equality", in Sowell's words. Such sugarplums dance in the heads of the Obamas, as Mrs. Obama said at a fundraiser last night in Denver:
"We have one candidate who essentially is telling us every day that the world as it is just fine. That what we've been doing for the last eight years is fine," Obama said. "Stay the course. Don't make too many changes.

"And then we have this other candidate -- Barack Obama -- who is saying every day that the world as it is not right. It's not good enough," she said.

Obama rattled off a list of areas where she believes the nation has been underperforming during the two terms of President Bush: education, health care and the economy.

"I wish we had time to be divided. I wish we had time to be upset. To be angry. To be disappointed. I wish we did," Obama said. "Because if we had time for that, then things wouldn't be so bad right now. Instead, we're in a place where another four or eight years of the world as it is will devastate the life of some child."
Ed Morrissey asks the right questions:
Which child is that? And only one child? This is the kind of rhetoric that the Left loves to use, claiming that if just one person in the world is unhappy, then everything we do is wrong and entire systems have to be recreated to address it. It�s Utopianism, an impulse that has led to the devastation of millions of lives, not just one. The message intends to show the Obamas as more caring than John McCain, vapid enough without the silliness of arguing that McCain doesn�t want to change anything at all.
To the anointed, their vision and reality are one and the same. Yet the world inside their mind has few of the harsh constraints of the world inhabited by millions of other human beings. (p. 244)
And those who do not share that cosmic vision are not just wrong to the Obamas; they are benighted,
For those who have this vision of the world, the anointed and the benighted do not occupy the same moral plane or play by the same cold rules of logic or evidence. The benighted are to be made "aware," to have their "consciousness raised," and the wistful hope that they will "grow". (p. 3)
Hasn't this seemed like their modus operandi from the beginning? When he says he is trying to "balance a hard head with a big heart", do you not hear "bigger than yours?" Only the benighted will, after hearing her, "go back to your lives as usual." There are children to save, knave. Get going.

Many have called them "arrogant". But arrogance comes in many forms: vanity; proudful boasting; audaciousness. Theirs is an arrogance of vision that not only elevates theirs but calls yours morally suspect.

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