Monday, June 21, 2010

More or Less Open Letter

To Russ Douthat, Paul Krugman, Rachel Madow and Keith Obermann,

I want to thank you all: Rachel and Keith for your programs, Paul for his opinions and Ross for his occasionally brilliant insights into reality. Together you have solved a problem that has puzzled me: why Hitler emerged from the liberal decadence of the Weimar Republic. Russ' oped today provided the key; the liberals call for dictatorial action because they want to fail.

Not that I fault you. It is considerably more pleasant listening to left-leaning folk than right-leaning folk who would as soon see me ground up for fuel for their limousines as not. You may not have thought through the consequences of what you say any more deeply than your rightwing counterparts, but at least you are much less likely to advocate anything that will cause us harm. Sally and I don't have much money and less status so we have little to lose from anything you are likely to advocate.

We do have a house in the Caribbean in which we spend most of the year, but it is an island which is not easily accessed (yet) so it has few US tourists. (See

When you do disappoint me, what causes the disappointment is the failure of my own expectations. And that isn't fair to you. I shouldn't expect you to be more perceptive than your listeners/readers and, as Ross pointed out, I certainly shouldn't expect you to be more perceptive than your colleagues.

I particularly noticed that Keith seemed to feel that Obama should have blustered like Il Duce (remember him?), and acted like Hitler. But that's just because you didn't think about the unanticipated consequences. I had sometimes wondered why a liberal populace like Weimar Germany chose Hitler. But they forgot that dictators are dangerous because they are always on their own side, even if they seem to be on your side once in a while. But it is one of the things that might happen. Not with Obama, of course, but with the left wing guy after the next right-wing guy. It will seem like the important thing is to solve the problem, not to have a democratic infrastructure.

But I have been thinking about these matters for quite a while. I have been thinking seriously for the last 50 years, and trying out left wing positions for a
number of years before that, and I can definitely say that while I can't make a precise short-range prediction I can expect us to evolve into a globally egalitarian, ecologically responsible and creative civilization. We have been progressing in that direction at least since the neolithic, and you could argue that it was inevitable once we started using mouth-noises to communicate abstract ideas. We don't even know when that was.

But the thread isn't obvious. It took me 50 years to figure it out, starting with a Ph. D. in Physics, and it will probably take longer for anyone who doesn't start with some feeling for the mathematics used in quantum physics.

If the geekyness of that turns you on, the argument is contained in (

But it isn't going to be painless.

The key to the present is that by 1950 we had evolved to the point where
the senior bureaucrats were the elite. The government bureaucrats were represented by the Democratic Party and the corporate bureaucrats were represented by the Republican Party. Since 1950 they have alternated
being in control of Western Civilization and their main unconscious ambition is to maintain the status quo.

The reason is that since around 1500 the certification of upward mobility has been the conspicuous expenditure of resources. There aren't enough resources for the rest of our species to waste resources to the degree that the upper levels of western civilization does.

The net result is that the elite (both Democrats and Republicans) have to hold social evolution to a standstill, so that the lower classes ( sma folk, in swedish), mostly people of color, have to be prevented from experiencing upward mobility and the fringes of the elite (like the people in Dilbert) have to be forced to be downwardly mobile. These fringe people are more aware of what is happening to them, which provides the anger in the tea-party and left-blogger groups. They have a right to be angry, they just don't know who they ought to be angry at.

Obama is trying to get our system working again, but he doesn't understand that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats want him to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. For instance he was the only one in the White House who wanted the health care bill. Probably even he doesn't understand how very revolutionary it is.

Remember that the best medicine for many chronic diseases of the poor is to have good nutrition and shelter, and imagine what will happen when the doctors learn to prescribe that and the bean counters learn it is cost effective. That will set economics on its ear. But neither Democrats nor Republicans would either anticipate nor desire those results.

So in one sense it may not be a good idea for you to become infected with my concepts. If you took them seriously you might lose your audience. But as we get deeper into the crisis knowing about the "unintended consequences" might help you survive. The next decades are going to be hard to predict.

Karl Eklund, Ph.D.
Myricks, MA and
Villa, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

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