Monday, August 17, 2009

Exit, voice and Alinsky 

Based in large part on a post written that morning by Joel Rosenberg called "Obama's Getting Alinskied" and after talking about this with Joel in the green room, my Final Word episode (hour 1, hour 2) from August 8 carried the theme forward, that there's nothing inherently left-wing in Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. It's a schematic for running popular opposition. Anyone can play.

Last night, Andrew Breitbart joined in.
In fact, one could make the argument that the Republican Party, usually slow on the uptake, has finally figured it out. There are no major Republican targets out there opposing Mr. Obama and his aggressive agenda. The conservative movement appears leaderless, but perhaps for the best.

Maybe that is the strategy: Standing back and letting the Obama machine flail in its pursuit of its next victim.

A grass-roots movement of average Americans has stood up, making it extremely difficult to isolate and demonize an individual.

Mr. Alinsky noted in "Rule 12" that it is difficult to go after "institutions." And attacking "tea baggers" and "mobs" has only created more resistance and drawn attention to the left's limited playbook. Even Americans expressing their constitutionally protected right to free speech are open game.

Now that many people are Googling the Alinsky rule book and catching up with the way Chicago thugs play their political games, Mr. Obama and the Fighting Illini are going to be forced to create new rules - or double down on the old ones.
And everyone is joining the Alinsky vanguard.

Margaret Martin, my colleague at the Minnesota Free Market Institute and the only person that can keep David Strom in line (barely), wrote a couple of posts about my show that I should have responded to before now. Rather than a long hashing of her points, I think we can argue from her second point that because we have voice, we should use that and stop it with the mob.
But I am reminded of the concept of logos (ideas conveyed in speech) that separates adults from children and humans from animals. A baby with a full diaper can scream and cry but can't communicate it's discomfort in any useful way. Likewise a wounded animal. We aren't animals or pre-verbal children. We have logos. (Despite what you may think of the public education system.) And we don't have to act like a mob, we are citizens.
Interestingly, logos has been at the heart of a series of increasingly interesting writings by the ever-interesting Arnold Kling (which is in fact what inspired me to write after Margaret's first post "what is this democracy of which you speak?") The fisrt post that caught my eye includes this:
The exercise of voice, including the right to vote, is not the ultimate expression of freedom. Rather, it is the last refuge of those who suffer under a monopoly. If we take it as given that the political jurisdiction where I reside is a monopoly, then perhaps I will have more influence over that monopoly if I have a right to vote and a right to organize opposition than if I do not. However, as my forthcoming Unchecked and Unbalanced argues, the reality is that the amount of influence I have is shrinking while the scope of the monopolist is growing.
We suffer from monopoly in many places. Because our government grows larger and stronger, and because we do have an option to exit (in a Hirschman sense), we are left with voice. Ways to make voice more effective will be preferred, and that is what Alinsky offered his followers. The right has simply adopted George C. Scott's line from Patton: "Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!"

But in fact, Kling notes today, it is the conservative movement that is left to support democracy.
[N]ot many people like democracy. Progressives like to think that they use "the people" to fight special interests, but what progressives really want is government by elite technocrats, like the Fed or the IMAC (a proposed independent commission to set health care policy). Recently on this blog, I have argued that libertarians should favor exit rather than voice as a check on government.

If the P's and the L's don't really want democracy, then who does? At this point, the C's probably are more in favor of democracy than anyone else. We've had democracy for a long time, so keeping democracy is the conservative position.

Real freedom would be to break the employer-based link to health insurance -- something the Obama plan does nothing to solve -- and to permit you to choose and pay for health insurance like you pay for anything else. You need to solve the incentive problem, as even Democrats and organic food vendors seem to agree. But it appears nobody wants that solution either.

Real freedom, Kling says, is the absence of monopoly. Brad Taylor puts it more fittingly to this post: "exit can give you any other freedom, including voice." But with exit comes personal responsibility, and it's thus not surprising that people still want to have health care without paying for it. Getting something for nothing is better than getting something by paying for it for those who think individually rather than systemically. I am curious therefore how many of the people speaking out are willing to use exit, and accept the responsibility that comes from it?

Not that I expect exit to be available anytime soon...

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