Saturday, September 27, 2008

Peggy Noonan and Dan Klein reflect

This morning's WSJ includes an excerpt from Peggy Noonan's Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now (which I have not yet read). In the excerpt she writes about the collection of people milling and waiting at "Gate 14" (at any major U.S. airport), going through the "costly and embarrassing kabuki" of getting through TSA security. She notes that "Gate 14 doesn't think any of the candidates is going to make their lives better. But Gate 14 will vote anyway, because they know they are the grown-ups of America and must play the role and do the job."

This reminded me of Dan Klein's "Resorting to Statism to Find Meaning: Conservatism and Leftism" Dan begins this way: "Man is a meaning seeking animal. Meaning is developed and sustained in beliefs, communities, customs, and institutions. It is represented by symbols and identifiers. These components work together as a subculture." In the paper, he thoughtfully explores differences and definitions. How do people find meaning in conservatism and leftism as we know it? Dan also explains why liberalism [traditional definition] appeals to him.

It is a bit simpler for me. Statism carried to the extreme, where it becomes a religion (Hitler, Stalin, Peron, Castro, Milosevic, Kim Jong-Il, etc., etc., etc.) is vicious and evil. There are no worse forms of social organization. But democracy as we know it leaves room for populism which on these shores has not quite stooped to the lows we have seen abroad. But it's practitioners sometimes look in that direction.

Unlike Noonan's Gate 14 people, many of us sniff around every four years to see if we can find any redeeming qualities among the candidates presented to us. I'll have to read Noonan's book to see what is expected of grown-ups in these circumstances.