Posted by: bkivey | 17 May 2015

The Conversation on Poverty

On 12 May an event called’ The Conversation on Poverty” was held at Georgetown University. Even in a world that values style over substance, this was a pointless exercise. The idea that three rich and powerful men were going to come to any meaningful conclusions on poverty in a public forum was laughable. And yet that’s what the organizers of this Kabuki theater would have people believe, as if socio-economic issues could be addressed on what amounted to a reality TV show.

The actors participants were:

E.J. Dionne: Print and radio commentator, university professor, and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Arthur Brooks: Social scientist, musician, and president of the American Enterprise Institute.

Robert Putnam: Professor and political scientist.

Barack Obama: President of the United States

Reading through the official transcript and an NPR news article on the event, it’s apparent everyone went through the motions expected of them. I chose the NPR article figuring it would favorable to the President, and have a number of what the organization thinks are the salient quotes.

A fair amount of the President’s and others remarks warned against ‘cynicism’. Given the nature of the conference, the participants, and pretentious nature of the conference, these remarks are a clear signal that dissent will not be tolerated. If you don’t agree with our policies and conclusions, you’re ‘cynical’, and part of the problem. This is of a piece with Progressive ideology: allegations and ad hominem attacks make up nearly the whole of their ‘argument’. The President is rather transparently trying to inoculate his ideas from attack, or even thoughtful opposition.

I’ve done a fair amount of reading of political thought from the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly as it pertains to the conceptual development of individual liberty. The liberals of the day laid out their arguments in thoughtful, logical ways, always keeping in mind that humans were part of the natural world, and subject to it’s rules. They also recognized that people have a spiritual side that had to be taken in to account if the citizenry was to flourish under a given form of government. Liberals of the day had to make well-reasoned arguments: they were fighting oligarchies and monarchies entrenched for centuries, and the penalty for dissent was often death.

Now, it’s a different story. Progressivism is so well entrenched that most Progressives don’t think about what they say, and couldn’t if they tried. And there’s the blatant double standard, enabled by the legacy media: if your dissent doesn’t fit the Progressive Narrative, it’s not OK. Whatever happened to ‘Dissent is Patriotic’? Modern Progressives are keeping one aristocratic tradition alive; they often call for the literal death of their opponents.

So the tone of the panel was darkened a bit by the President’s insistence that cynicism vis-a-vis a discussion on poverty had no place. This in itself is cynical, or perhaps the President has confused ‘cynicism’ with ‘rationality’. It’s disturbing when a national leader more-or-less openly states that dissent will not be tolerated. But entirely in keeping with Mr. Obama’s character and the mind set of those he represents.

There is much to be gleaned from this panel, so additional topics will be addressed in follow-on posts:

The correlation between the decline in the American middle-class and the increase in government spending on anti-poverty programs.

The serious decline in social mobility in American society as government power has increased. Actually, I’ve already written on that.

Capitalism is great, but. . .

What happens when the political minority is in power


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