Mike the Mad Biologist

An Explanation of Peter Pan Conservatism

I’ve called those movement conservatives who think that successful policy execution–in peace or war–is about “will”, as opposed to, let’s say, execution, Peter Pan conservatives. Atrios has a very good explanation of why they believe so strongly in will–their own personal experience:

I’ve been thinking about about certain Bushies – Bush himself, obviously, and Condi Rice – who seem to honestly believe that “will” and “resolve” are the way one gets things done instead of, you know, actually getting stuff done. I’ve finally decided that they’re basically people have always gotten where they were by manipulating others into doing things for them, and so for them getting things done is all about wanting it to happen bad enough.

While one can certainly go through life quite well getting others to take care of your bullshit for you, this type of thing does not really scale upwards to the level of global diplomacy very well. One can’t will success in Iraq, Maliki’s “resolve” can’t actually cause people to stop killing each other there, etc.

I think something else plays into this too: no one has ever said no to them. That also makes it easy to believe in “resolve” and “will.”

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 30, 2007

    Mike – who’s to say “no” to the decider?

    We can hope for some “No’s” to come from Gordon Brown, but Congress doesn’t have the power and the SCOTUS doesn’t want to.

  2. #2 Tyler DiPietro
    July 30, 2007

    I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that we’re stuck with Bush’s skullduggery until we have a chance to vote him out. Even if Reid/Pelosi happened to grow a pair of stones and start issuing some hard hitting legislation, the Dems’ majority in the Senate is hair-thin and Lieberman will jump sides at the drop of a hat. Until November 2008, the best we can hope for is to temper this administrations worst excesses.

  3. #3 Tyler DiPietro
    July 30, 2007

    Should have been “vote in the next election”. Wasn’t thinking straight, sorry.

  4. #4 Barry
    July 31, 2007

    Tyler, as I understand it, Lieberman switching won’t affect the Democrats controlling the Senate, under the current rules.

    What’s stopping things is that the Senate Republicans are fillibustering everything in sight – at the current rate, this Congress will see three times the record for the past few decades.

    And they’re not doing if for any other reason than to protect Bush from embarrassment, because he can veto anything that he doesn’t like.

    Whatever these liars say in front of a camera, when push comes to shove, they are still 100% for Bush.

  5. #5 Barry
    July 31, 2007

    My explanations for their attitude is that they’ve rarely had to accomplish anything – connections got them sooooo much. And serving the elites greases one’s career path quite a bit.

  6. #6 Christopher
    July 31, 2007

    This would imply that peter pan conservatism is the antithesis of the Geek ethos, which is very DIY, very much about working with the real world and coaxing it to do what you want (working with things rather than people). I wonder if this is why so many scientists and Geeks are politically left-leaning?

  7. #7 Ktesibios
    July 31, 2007

    Well, I’m no scientist- just an iggerant uneddicated mere technician (perhaps that qualifies for Geek status), but in nineteen years of solving problems in relatively complex electronic and electromechanical systems I’ve learned something about the value of “will”.

    When you’re trying to solve a problem in the physical world, will has no value at all. What has always served me well is willingness: the willingness to throw away potential explanations when I’ve tested them and proved them wrong. Willingness to keep on gathering information and thinking about it until I’ve found another testable hypothesis that appears consistent with the data, and on and on until I finally reach the correct solution to the problem.

    Insisting that the world just has to conform to your pretty theory irrespective of what your test results are trying to tell you won’t get your console or workstation fixed, nor your economy or your war. This is something which I’ve had my face rubbed in nearly every day of my entire working life, as has anyone who fixes things for a living. How odd that our supposed “elites” seem incapable of grasping it. How especially odd that someone, like Rice, who spent years in grad school studying the Soviet Union wouldn’t understand it, since the history of the USSR is one big object lesson in what happens when you privilege received belief over observable results.

    The behavior of true-believer pols makes me wish ol’ Ambrose Bierce was still around, ’cause I’ve got another entry for the Devils Dictionary:

    Ideology: a type of vaccination which confers near-perfect immunity against empirical learning.

  8. #8 Barry
    August 3, 2007

    “How especially odd that someone, like Rice, who spent years in grad school studying the Soviet Union wouldn’t understand it, since the history of the USSR is one big object lesson in what happens when you privilege received belief over observable results.”

    The Cold War might have immunized her against reality – the collapse of the USSR was a Bad Thing for the GOP. It was nice to have around. And her career, from what I’ve heard, has basically been apparatchnik. She’s never held a job where she had to produce.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!