Archive | August 26, 2011

A genius gone awry

August 26, 2011

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So there are these two scientists, see. The kooky one wears sandals and yesterday’s lunch on his tie and thinks up hair-brained ideas about love and peace and making the world a better place and stopping evil-doers from doing evil: all commendable, well-motivated, and laudable, to be sure. But now for practicalities: Where’s the money? The resources? The step-by-step plan? Let’s sing our hallelujahs for that second, trimly-groomed scientist with horned-rimmed glasses and spit-shined shoes. He asks nuisance questions and keeps our feet on the ground.

Such was the roll-play between America’s two great parties for most of the twentieth century. The Democrats were the idealists and the Republicans were the realists. The Democrats launched the New Deal and the New Frontier and the Great Society; the Republicans pushed for lower taxes, disciplined spending, and the friendly business environment. Just to clear out one myth, both were hawkishly anti-communist (the Democrats implemented the anti-Soviet “containment” policy and pushed us into Korea and Vietnam). They usually campaigned rough but relatively fair – partly because they knew the press would ferret the truth and they’d govern with these people after the election.

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