- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Reason and unreason

“Are people fundamentally rational, or are people fundamentally irrational? …

“I suspect that if Freud had been alive to watch the post-Katrina looting, he would have thought, ‘This is what always happens when the constraints of society are suddenly removed. This is normal.’ … I realize the situation in New Orleans was immediately politicized, because that’s the only way modern Americans can deal with anything complex. But many of the questions it raised were apolitical. …

“Do you often find life to be unfair? Are you consistently shocked by violent crimes, regardless of how common they are? Does the idea of Lindsay Lohan being richer and more famous than Joan Allen make you angry? If so, it is probably because — deep down — you think people are fundamentally rational. You are frustrated by these kinds of anomalies because you see them as avoidable. Do you sometimes feel like you have no control over anything outside of your own existence? Do you play the lottery (despite having gone to college)? Do you always assume the No. 1 pop song in America is unlistenable? If so, it’s probably because you see an irrational world. You are comfortable with disorder, because that seems natural.”

— Chuck Klosterman, writing on “Multiple Choices,” in the December issue of Esquire

Greedy generation

“In May, Comptroller General David M. Walker warned, ‘The only thing the United States is able to do a little after 2040 is pay interest on massive and growing federal debt. The model blows up in the mid-2040s. What does that mean? Argentina.’

“The problem is not just that the elderly will be collecting so much in ‘entitlements.’ The programs, as well as their means of financing, have adverse consequences. For instance, argues Martin Feldstein of the National Bureau of Economic Research, ‘retirement pensions induce earlier retirement and depress saving.’ Payroll taxes act as a direct levy on employment, discouraging job creation. These programs also make Americans ever more dependent on government.

“Obviously, many elderly believe that they are entitled to their benefits. New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof makes an important if exaggerated point: ‘We boomers won’t be remembered as the Greatest Generation. Rather, we’ll be scorned as the Greediest Generation.’”

— Doug Bandow, writing on “Everyone’s Entitled,” in the Nov. 21 issue of the American Conservative

Billion-dollar man

“In 1988, several dozen AM stations began carrying a show hosted by a 37-year-old college dropout named Rush Limbaugh. Advertising himself as ‘the most dangerous man in America,’ Limbaugh attracted listeners by combining political jokes, thundering polemics, and outrageous overstatement. He spoke, he said, ‘with half my brain tied behind my back, just to make it fair, because I have a talent on loan from … God. Rush Limbaugh. A man. A legend. A way of life.’ …

“Limbaugh appealed to conservatives who felt no one else was expressing their resentments with such satisfying vehemence; soon hundreds of stations were carrying the show, which by now … has generated well more than $1 billion in revenue.”

— Michael Massing, writing on “The End of News?” in the Dec. 1 issue of the New York Review of Books

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