Doug Casey on Political Correctness
Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator
L: So, Mr. Wilson (R-SC) went to Washington and called the president a liar, an action I can’t help but approve of. Regrettably, he didn’t have the spine to stick with the truth and later apologized to the president. Knowing that you don’t have any more use for politicians than I do, Doug, I suspect you have some thoughts on this subject.
Doug: Yes. First of all, I have to say that it does speak well of Wilson that he would do something like that. But a little research shows that his comment had little to do with principle, and more to do with the battle over medical insurance for illegal aliens and his desire that they not be given any. A few years ago, he voted to insure them – just the opposite. The point is that he might have yelled out, "You lie!" just to get some free publicity, to garner his 15 minutes of fame. Like almost everyone else in Congress, he’s a hypocrite who stands for absolutely nothing. Certainly not the truth. Interestingly, he was censured by Congress for simply pointing out a fact.
But reprimands are rare. The last two I recall were Traficant in ’02, after a federal bribery conviction, and Gingrich in ‘97 for ethical breaches to do with a multi-million-dollar book deal. Wilson is being reprimanded for what amounts to a speech crime, or, really, just impoliteness.
One nice thing about the spat was that it allowed a glimpse behind the curtain-facade of gentility Congress tries to project. One trouble with Congress – one of very many – is that it’s entirely too politically correct. They have rules about how they are supposed to treat each other with respect, not call each other names, etc. But I’m of the opinion, assuming we have to have a Congress at all, that the country was much better served during the 19th century, when these creatures would physically fight each other on the floor and invite each other outside for duels. Self-removal of hotheads and blow-hards from the political process was a public service.
I don’t like the idea of Congress trying to make itself appear august and worthy of respect when its members are basically all thugs, at least psychologically and philosophically. It’s false advertising.
L: This reminds me of the way the Constitution prohibits titles of nobility. The founders were vehemently opposed to the establishment of a new American aristocracy and even more so of a new American monarchy. And yet, we have a set of government administrators who wear black robes – thank goodness the powdered wigs are no longer fashionable – and ask us to call them "Your Honor."
Doug: Right. I’ve been in court a few times and had to address the judge, and I’ve never addressed him as "Your Honor." I’ve addressed him as "Judge."
L: That’s simply a statement of fact.
Doug: Exactly right. But to take what you’re saying a bit further, I don’t like the way media interviewers address the politicians by their titles in an honorific way. I saw an interview with Newt Gingrich the other day, and he was still addressed as "Mr. Speaker." Even if he were still the speaker, he shouldn’t be addressed that way – he should be called "Newt" or "Mr. Gingrich," if one wanted to be polite. It’s entirely too close to the European custom of addressing certain persons as "Your Highness," or "Your Eminence," or "Your Holiness," or "Your Lordship."
L: How about, "Hey, scumbag?"
Doug: If you wish. [Chuckles] Gingrich is a particularly unprincipled creature. None of them should be called "Senator," nor "Representative," just "Mr.," at most. I don’t want to be thought of as a Jacobin who thinks everyone should be addressed as "Citizen," nor as a Soviet, who thinks everyone should be called "Comrade." But I think addressing people by their first name, once you’ve been introduced, or by their last name, or "Mr." if you want to show respect, is the proper way to do it. Why should a government employee be treated with any more deference than a shop clerk?
L: Okay – back to Mr. Wilson. I don’t suppose there was any chance of him doing anything honorable, like throwing a shoe at Obama, since Wilson wasn’t really objecting to lying in general, but to a particular lie that upset his own political agenda.
Doug: Unfortunately. I certainly think there have been so many blatant lies, and gross and willful misinterpretations of reality by Obama, that there’s nothing wrong with calling him a liar. Just because he’s the president doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be called a liar. In fact, this should be done much more often…
L: [Interrupts, laughing.]
Doug: I’m serious. Politics is nothing but a body of lies. It’s given entirely too much respect, and that is unhealthy for a society. That fellow who threw his shoes at Bush, Muntazer al-Zaidi, he’s a hero. He took his life in his hands to do the correct and honorable thing. I have immense respect for him.
This is why the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany lasted so long: people were too afraid to speak up and yell "Liar!" at Hitler and Stalin. And you can see that Wilson was afraid of what might happen to his career if he didn’t apologize, so he rolled over on his back and wet himself. We’re headed in the wrong direction.
L: The Thought Police are coming.
Doug: You can hear their sirens; soon you’ll hear them banging on your door. You know, when the phrase "politically correct" came out in the 1980s, I thought it was a spoof of some kind, a line from a Saturday Night Live skit. The Soviets had "political officers" to make sure everyone thought – or at least spoke – in approved manners, not America. But political correctness has woven itself into American society over the last generation. We’re not allowed to say anything politically incorrect.
L: You’re not kidding. Children used to be taught not to let other people’s mean-spiritedness bother them. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." But now, if you work for a large corporation – or even an evangelically correct smaller one – you can be tried and sentenced, on pain of losing your job, to "sensitivity training" for nothing more than boorish words. And there is at least one place in America where a joke or even polite words spoken with heat can get you arrested, and that’s at an airport.
Doug: For sure. These 50,000 TSA people take themselves more and more seriously. I mean, you can’t even look at them askance, or they’ll interrogate you. And you better speak respectfully when you give your answers, or missing your plane will be the least of your worries.
You know, people often wonder where the Nazis found the bedbugs willing to join the Gestapo and the SS, and where the Soviets found the worms who worked for the KGB. Well, they were exactly the same sort who join the TSA. They are largely nothing/nobody people who were doing nothing with their lives – middle-aged people who were recruited out of their nothing/nowhere jobs, to go to work for a government agency, literally going through people’s dirty laundry and asking them impertinent questions.
L: Don’t forget the spiffy uniforms. They’re important psychologically.
Doug: We mustn’t forget the spiffy uniforms. That fetish is part of the psychological profile of these creatures. They love uniforms; they make them feel a part of something bigger than themselves, giving them a sense of self-importance and meaning to their meaningless lives. It’s all part of this atmosphere of political correctness.
You know, the only people who can say overtly politically incorrect things today are comedians. This is one reason I really enjoy the comedy of George Carlin, in particular. He was a genius. People like Sarah Silverman, Lisa Lampanelli, Dave Chappelle, and Chris Rock have really grown on me for the same reason. These people are capable of saying absolutely anything, and they can get away with it, unlike the non-professional comedian. Their role is roughly analogous to that of the court jester in the Middle Ages, the only ones who could insult the king. It’s a pity the average guy now has to "outsource" his sense of humor.
L: Maybe they get away with it because they are "just telling jokes," so they "don’t really mean what they are saying." Intentions matter more than deeds to so many people today, so the fact that they are trying to amuse gets them off the hook. But really, why should it matter?
Doug: That may be right – and where does it lead us? Will you need to get a license to say funny things? It’s part of the increasingly corrosive atmosphere in America that you have to watch not only what you say, but whom you say it to, and who might overhear what you are saying. We really are entering the era of Thought Crime and Double-Think.
L: Double plus bad! Or should that be, "Double plus not-good?"
Doug: You’ll have to re-read 1984 to find out.
L: Heh. "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."
Doug: Can’t have that…
L: I find it mind-boggling that it’s American liberals, who traditionally held the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be a sacred thing, who are so ready to decry homophobia and book burning, that it’s these same self-described liberals who have become the main voice of censorship in America today.
Doug: It used to be that you could count on liberals to at least give lip service to free speech, but you knew they hated economic freedom. And in the past you could count on the conservatives to at least give lip service to economic freedom, but you knew they hated free speech. But the fact of the matter is that, as shown by their actions, neither group really likes any kind of freedom at all.
"Liberal" and "Conservative" no longer define philosophical positions – they only designate a variety of psychological aberration. The Republicans used to be the Warfare Party and the Democrats the Welfare Party. They’ve been merged for some time into the Demopublican Party, and there’s not enough difference between its two wings to be worth the powder it would take to blow them both to hell.
L: So, do you see this as a sort of "Crisis & Leviathan" scenario in which all these politicians pandering to various interest groups add to the layers of attempted thought control, or do you see a deliberate design behind the erosion of free thought in America?
Doug: Well, I’m not inclined to believe in conspiracies. As anyone who’s tried to get three friends to agree on a movie or a dinner knows, it’s hard to get even such a small number of people on the same page on something as simple as that – much less hatching plans to take over the world.
But the fact that politicians can successfully pander to things like that tells me how very degraded the average American has become. The way to get a following these days appears to be to appeal to people’s most base psychological aberrations. This tells me that it’s not the political class that’s the problem, but the average American himself.
These horrible people who rise up in the political system, as incredible as it may seem, could actually be among the best, and not the worst, America has to offer. I find this a most disturbing thought. But one that is reinforced by watching reality TV or the Jerry Springer Show.
L: Very disturbing. And depressing. America might actually be getting the government it deserves.
Doug: Well, justice is defined as getting what you deserve. And justice is a cardinal virtue to me. We’ve evolved a long way from a sturdy yeoman republic, in which everyone was responsible for himself, took care of his own business, and minded his own business. Now, everything is everyone’s business – which is to say, the government’s business. I don’t see any way to turn this unfortunate trend around at this point. It’s taken on a life of its own, and we’ll just have to see where it goes. Although I’ll lay odds it’s going to go badly, and the downtrend is going to accelerate.
L: It will have to go to reductio ad absurdum. People don’t have the philosophical foundations necessary to even see the problem, let alone embrace the painful cure.
Doug: There’s little cause for optimism. That’s one reason I don’t believe the United Sates will still exist in its present form in 100 years – probably not even 50, though I hate making predictions like that. That’s because what we’re going into now – certainly from an economic point of view, but also from a psychological point of view – is really much more serious, and potentially much more devastating, than what happened in the ’30s and ’40s. What this country will look like when it comes out the other side is an open question.
L: So, looking at this as speculators, what are the implications of mass willful ignorance and entrenched stupidity? As we’ve discussed already in our conversations on currency controls and living abroad, the most obvious answer is to get your ass and your assets out of harm’s way. But is there a way to bet on the rise of the American Thought Police?
Doug: I’ll tell you a true story. About 15 years ago, I was at a luncheon group that meets every Friday in Aspen. Bill Bennett, the former "Drug Czar," was the speaker. After he gave his perfectly horrible speech, the guy who was moderating knew my mind, so he called on me to ask some embarrassing questions.
L: I remember seeing Bennett tell a TV reporter that he didn’t need drug laws to stop him from abusing drugs, but that "people" did.
Doug: That’s him all right. So, of course my question turned into a denunciation, and his lackeys there were booing and hissing at me. Anyway, one thing he said that was very interesting was: "Buy stocks in prison companies – we’re going to be building a lot more of them."
L: He actually came out and said that?
Doug: He did. That’s a fact. And it was actually good investment advice. Though it also showed me the guy’s basic character, which I see as a deformed, criminal personality.
L: Suppose you were convinced that shares in a company in the business of making devices for eavesdropping on people in their homes were about to go to the moon – would you actually invest in such a company? You wouldn’t feel any moral qualms about it?
Doug: That’s a good question. I certainly wouldn’t buy stock in an IPO of such a company, because then I’d be actively capitalizing it. I don’t want to be selling the rope they’ll use to hang me with – as Lenin, presciently, said the capitalists would do. But if I bought the stock on the open market, my payment would go to a private individual, and I’d be making my money off some other guy that came along later. Although, I admit, that’s just a rationalization…
A good speculator should look at the financial aspects of a deal and not let psychological squeamishness get in the way. That said, I have to admit that there are some deals I just wouldn’t touch.
But, hell, you can make a moral argument that you shouldn’t buy T-Bills, because they will be repaid with stolen money – taxes.
L: Understood. Wow. Much to think about this time.
Doug: Indeed. But don’t get depressed. Remember what my friend Robert Friedland, the founder of Ivanhoe Mines, always says: "The situation is hopeless, but it’s not serious."
Copyright © 2009 Casey and Associates
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