SOLO-International Op-Ed: Corpseman-in-Chief

Michael Moeller's picture
Submitted by Michael Moeller on Mon, 2010-02-08 01:28

SOLO-International Op-Ed: Corpseman-in-Chief

Michael Moeller
February 8, 2010

With each new long, drawn out, and substantively empty speech, President Obama's silver tongue has revealed a brain of mush. Most recently, Obama referred to a Navy corpsman as "corpseman", since apparently the teleprompter has not yet incorporated pronunciations phonetically for Dear Leader. Nevertheless, I found the term a wonderfully symbolic moniker for the president himself, and not just applied to his intellectual vacuity, but rather to the entirety of his methods and goals.

Some years ago I remember watching a pointless 60 Minutes piece on a particular folk dance that had become the rage in one of the Scandinavian countries. In the dark, wintery, welfare-statist nights of Northern Europe, the people's grasp at life was done by moving aimlessly in circles. And what an image it was. Expressionless corpses trying to find some measure of joy and individuality in lives bled dry by service to the state, drop by precious drop.

Art, music, dance, recreations of choice are a symptom, a barometer, of cultural health. In my mind, I juxtaposed the image of comatose Scandinavian folk dancing against the image of the feverish Roaring 20’s. Flamboyant dress and energic dancing at luxurious grand balls against the backdrop of newly-minted skyscrapers. The expression of wealth, optimism, and happiness brought forth by the vibrant American Dream achieved, and still achievable.

Although Progressives had made cultural inroads and were on the rise, they had not yet sharpened their knives enough to cut off all outs. To be sure, their desire was to get the American people moving in a Scandinavian circle--from birth to death with little in between.

But America was still riding the wave of the can-do spirit that would do it, which had prevailed up until that time. The story was the same--men from unthinkable poverty by modern standards would achieve the unthinkable in production while stamping out their politically-favored competitors.

Cornelius Vanderbilt, for example, would have to fight political pull-peddlers to run his steamships across the Atlantic and to California against subsidized competitors. Although Congress subsidized Vanderbilt's competitors against his protestations that such a course would ruin trade, Vanderbilt prevailed with a genius for innovation and cutting costs. While the subsidized competitors had no incentive for innovation, Vanderbilt was able to reduce the cost of a passenger trip across the Atlantic by more than half and to California by seventy-five percent of the subsidized rate. Vanderbilt's subsidized competitors would eventually fall via their inability to keep pace with rapid innovation and cost-cutting, and Congress would be forced to relinquish their subsidies.

James J. Hill would eventually triumph over his subsidized competitors in building the first private transcontinental railroad, the Empire Builder through the US northern tier, and through rapid innovation would force his competitors into bankruptcy. John D. Rockefellar would meet with similar opposition, and success, in the oil industry. Likewise for Andrew Mellon in the banking industry, and Andrew Carnegie and Charles Schwab in the steel industry. And the list goes on.

Perhaps that is why I was nostalgic, and somewhat saddened, when visiting the mansions of the titans of industry in Newport, Rhode Island. No longer private homes of private individuals who had built and earned them, but rather museum pieces controlled by the local preservation society.

And this is symptomatic in the modern Age of Obama--the American Dream turned into a museum piece. Progressives have improved upon their methods, however, and will leave no outs this time. Everything inside politics, nothing outside of it.

Banks that did not overextend themselves in the subprime loan crisis were still forced to accept bailout money under the threat and the potential loss of their business. Imagine being a modern day Mellon or Hill or Vanderbilt and forced into the same system that ruined their competitors. Imagine being prudent with one's investments and profiting handsomely from it, only to find that the government wants to cap your compensation and regulate your business because no business should be too Big, too successful.

"Smallness", or more accurately, failure being the new standard that drives government policy. A gilded mansion replaced with a row of identical tin shacks for everybody--that's the Progressive version of the American Dream.

Imagine being a young student with ambitions. You've loved biology and studied hard, while your fellow students have frittered away their potential on video games and parties. You have dreams of being a doctor and innovating in medical science. You are faced with substantial debt in attending medical school and long hours studying and working, but you are driven by your passion for medicine and figure that you will have no problem repaying the debt with your success.

Enter ObamaCare. The time that could be spent researching, exploring, and innovating is replaced with time spent on shuffling through endless paper and dealing with low level bureaucrats in order to obtain "approval" for your actions. Your decisions and your mind are replaced with 2,000 pages of government edicts. You are being turned into a body without a mind--a corpseman.

Here we see the goal of the Corpseman-in-Chief and likeminded Progressives--to snuff out the mind, production, profit, and the American Dream in favor of an army of mindless corpsemen who impose their will by brute force.

If this sounds appealing to you, put on your Scandinavian dancing shoes for the stale, circular march towards misery.

Michael Moeller:

SOLO (Sense of Life Objectivists):

Obama as a "mystic of muscle" - Dan Freeman article

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Here's something which was linked to in the comments section of a RealClearPolitics piece by Cathy Young about AR. (See below.)

I think the sentiments expressed will resonate with most of the posters here. Called "Lessons from John Galt", this appeared December 24, 2009.

The author's name is Dan Freeman. Links to a couple more of his articles can be found on his author page. I don't recall having heard of him before, but maybe his writing is already known to some of you.


The piece by Cathy Young, posted February 9, 2010 on RealClearPolitics and called "A Rand Revival", is another story.

The first few paragraphs are ok, up through this description:

Politically, Rand wanted to provide liberal capitalism with a moral foundation, challenging the notion that communism was a noble but unrealistic ideal while the free market was a necessary evil best suited to humanity's flawed nature. Her arguments against "compassionate" redistribution, and persecution, of wealth have lost none of their power and persuasiveness. In an era when collectivism was often seen as the inevitable way of the future, she unapologetically asserted the worth of [the] individual and each persons right to exist for himself.

However, Rand's radicalism went further, rejecting the age-old ethic of altruism and self-sacrifice. While she was hardly the first philosopher to advocate a morality of individualism and rational self-interest, she formulated it in a uniquely accessible way and a uniquely passionate one, not as a dry economic construct but as a bold vision of struggle, creative achievement and romanticism.

But then comes the paragraph starting the kickers:

All this accounts for much of Rand's appeal. But that appeal is severely limited by the flaws of her world-view.

The comment section -- link -- has a number of good rebuttals, including some by a poster who signs as Alfred Centauri and who is well-versed in the Rand literature. Scroll down about halfway for that poster's first entry, stamped Feb 09, 03:36 PM.


Thanks Peter!

Michael Moeller's picture

What is Scoop, precisely? And online NZ news mag?

Not PC

gregster's picture

Puts up a link Mr Moeller. Not PC.


Lindsay Perigo's picture

The value of a Scherk can be seen in Mr. Moeller's outstanding response to him—which otherwise would have gone unwritten!

The stuff we've seen here of late, especially from Valliant and Moeller, has been absolutely first-rate, world-class *and* some. And has anyone noticed how Ed Hudgins has had a KASS transformation? He won't agree, of course, that any such thing has occurred, but his op-eds nowadays *really* pack a punch. Maybe it comes from having nothing to lose, with TAS perhaps in its death throes. Whatever the reason, it's gratifying to observe.

KASS rules! Eye

Echoing James

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I am not trying to be sarcastic or smarmy or patronizing when I remind us all that the two most important things to bear in mind when writing about ideas are sincerity and clarity. Say only what you believe and the reader will have reason to believe you. And say it so that almost anyone can understand it and can see what it concretely means in reality.

This cannot be said often enough. Mr. Scherk will find us more than willing to debate his ideas if he actually tells us what they are. He wants to be a satirist. He should remember that the great satirists fair burned with conviction and passion (and sometimes because of it!). They weren't clever for the sake of being clever. They had something to say. Simulated form without substance may be di rigueur among Babsians, but not here. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Mr. Scherk may be agreeably surprised that from sincerity, genuine wit, as opposed to snark, may flow. In any event, if he's actually going to state a case for once, I look forward to seeing it.

Please, Yes

James S. Valliant's picture

It's not just that SOLO is your first choice, Mr. Scherk, or your stated reservations about those other websites that makes this the place for your piece. This is the most open forum for discussing Objectivism on the web. And like Linz, I would like to see it.

I am not trying to be sarcastic or smarmy or patronizing when I remind us all that the two most important things to bear in mind when writing about ideas are sincerity and clarity. Say only what you believe and the reader will have reason to believe you. And say it so that almost anyone can understand it and can see what it concretely means in reality.

The example Mr. Moeller has set for us will do admirably.


Michael Moeller's picture

You went through it, you know. I appreciate the good wishes, and best to you on your law practice.

The compliment means a lot coming from you. Thank you.

Addled by ideology indeed. Jeff Perren makes an important link between Progressives and pragmatism--content and method--to which I added comment below the post.

Kaspar and Gregster,
Glad you both enjoyed the Corpseman. Thank you.


Scherk's Bauble

Michael Moeller's picture

I'm in favor of keeping Scherk around, he is certainly instructive. It is interesting that he takes issue with my imagery of the Scandinavians on 60 Minutes. Should I have used Russian folk dancing during Stalin's reign--to the extent they even had any opportunity to dance? If I did, I am sure Sherk would have been crowing about how outlandish the comparison to Obama is, which he has continually done any time a comparison has been made with Mussolini, Chavez, Mugabe, etc. You can't win with some people.

Back to the instructive nature of Scherk's post. True, his post is virtually fact-free and substance-free as usual, but his method is certainly worth highlighting. A common technique among Progressives, when contrasting cultures, is to portray America's economy as encompassing mindless "greed", "mad-with-riches", "irrational exuberance", i.e. codespeak for capitalist success and their disdain for it. Then they turn around and portray collectivist cultures as safe and warm and fuzzy. Then add in a poll, index, graph, or statistic as needed to serve the point.

Scherk holds true to form.

The first problem is his index. He falls almost 90 years off my narrative. I wasn't comparing sundry Scandinavian countries with modern America, I made the comparison to 20's America and prior. How would America rate on one of these indicies when it had no welfare state. Furthermore, I also noted the production driven from the earlier titans, which was largely in the timeframe of post-Civil War to 1890. Indeed, this is prior to the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts, the Fed, and the progressive income tax.

By modern standards, there is simply no metric to even compare the two--to even put modern Scandinavian countries on the same index would be a travesty.

And then Scherk undercuts the 20's image with the "Bubble, Bubble, Bubble" dance. Well, why did that happen? Because Americans were "mad-with-riches"? No answer was given, we were simply left with floating implications.

And this brings us to the second problem, it is precisely that which Obama seeks to impose that created the '29 collapse. The collapse certainly wasn't because of lassiez-faire. As George Reisman pointed out, real incomes were still rising due the enormous productive capacity built on the capital creation of the Empire Builders I mentioned.

It was the Fed and credit expansion that fueled the stock market bubble, and when they jammed on the breaks in '28, the cards fell. And who is responsible for the Fed? Why, the Progressive hero Wilson.

Sound familiar? Obama is now using the Fed to flood the credit market by shortening time period in issuing debt, and then monetizing the debt. He's also using Fed to collect returned TARP funds for whatever dispensation his latest five-year plan requires. Is Scherk going to admonish Obama for his "Bubble, Bubble, Bubble" dance?

What else aided the the boom during the 20's? The fact that Coolidge (as spurred on by Andrew Mellon) substantially reduced the progressive income tax, slashing the top tax bracket from 72 to 24%. And who instituted the progressive income tax and raised it to unthinkable levels? The Progressive hero Wilson. Only to be raised again by Progressive hero FDR to 90%, perhaps the most significant factor in prolonging the Great Depression.

And what is one of the cornerstones of Obama's proposed funding for his latest five-year plan? To again raise the levels of the progressive income tax, particularly on the wealthy. Maybe Scherk should send a note off to Obama with his concerns about bubbles, bubbles, bubbles.

And let's not forget Smoot-Hawley--that worked wonders for exports and trade. Oh wait, didn't one of Obama's minions just get done telling us last week that the Administration was going put tariffs on imports (particularly from China) in order achieve the ludcrious five-year plan goal of doubling exports in the next year? I'm beginning to notice a few more Obamanous Parallels. At least we have Scherk to warn about the causes of these bubbles, and can count on him to be a severe critic of Obama's policies.

Scherk cares, he cares deeply. Unlike greed-mad Americans, he concerns himself with "the comforting softness of the blankets the state wraps its citizens with". How nice.

Although I must admit, state intervention usually does not conjure up images of warm and fuzzy blankets in my mind. I usually get images of patients in hospital hallways because they don't have enough beds, and dying on waiting lists because of government rationing. Or maybe images of crime-ridden housing projects that look like they have been carpet-bombed. Or maybe people waiting in welfare lines because they do not have incentive to work, or they cannot get a job because of government regulation and crushing taxes that have driven industry into the ground. Or perhaps Wall Street workers falling out of windows because a credit expansion has gone bust and crisis has been created in the housing or stock markets.

Less appealing images, I admit, than cozy blankets and teddy-bears for everyone.

Perhaps Scherk can take a breather from chanting messianic slogans in the Obama Progressive Revivalist Tent and point out to me how I am wrong about the Corpseman-in-Chief's methods and goals--using his actual policies.

Congratulations, Mr. Moeller!

atlascott's picture

On finishing school and passing the Bar.

Good luck on a stellar career which I am sure awaits you!

No dear!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Absolutely not. I've been assuming you had no intention of writing such a thing, and indeed no capability to do so. Prove me wrong.

Objections to Objectivism, plus Why Objectivism Is Necessary

William Scott Scherk's picture

That's the provisional title of a piece in preparation by me, in response to Lindsay's good faith request. Here I am wondering if I should finish it.

What do you want me to do with it, Lindsay? Post it here at my first choice, SOLO, or move shop to another, lesser list? Are you going to take me off moderation after the article? Shall I be clearing out my locker . . . ?


As I've said ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

He'll be dumped altogether when he bores me. He still serves an interesting purpose, which is to show in direct terms what a Babsian Obamugabian is like. He *is* an Obama supporter, whom we must suppose by the dancing hither and thither in the post below to be slightly embarrassed by now though still supportive—but what is he trying to say or not to say exactly? Expecting linear rationality from Scherk is like expecting brevity from Obama. He, Scherk, wants to be known as a great satirist. The only person of whom he is a satire is himself. I doubt that's what he meant.


James S. Valliant's picture

As usual, Mr. Scerk's post lacks the clarity needed even to refute it. If one were to observe, for example, that no Objectivist, including our author, regards Scandinavia as Stalin's Russia, he would be unphased. If Objectivists have been citing the Index of Economic Freedom longer than he has, so what? If, to all appearances, he seems to have utterly missed Rand's actual humor and actual point -- and with a smug arrogance, no less -- we still have no basis to object because he still hasn't actually said anything. If America just dodged a near-fatal bullet, no matter, it was inevitable, you see. If he seems to have missed the author's point entirely, or if it seems he wouldn't know an esthetic standard if it bit him on the butt, no matter, he obviously wafts above them with a superior intelligence that manages to avoid assertion by means of smug condescension.

No, no, Linz, he must never be banned because of flouncing or poor manners even if he should ever be caught red handed in these things. He should be banned simply for the (inevitably) vapid waste of time and pixels.

On the other hand, his name is right out Rand's Central Casting and perhaps the resulting poetry in itself serves an esthetic end.

Excellent Op-Ed Michael

Kasper's picture

Great read Smiling

In the dark, wintery, welfare-statist nights of Northern Europe

William Scott Scherk's picture

This has got to be the funniest post this year at SOLO. The image of the dreary, dull-eyed, plodding Scandinavians circling aimlessly in a low-grade fever of collectivism -- a marvelous, marvelous image. It reminds me of the article in the Objectivist wherein Rand slagged off 'Slavonic folk dancing' or in Global Balkanization, where she let us know "if you've seen one set of people clapping their hands while jumping up and down, you've seen them all."

And the backdrop of Nordic lands, a lowering sky, the brutal socialist hellhole where all individuality and creativity has been crushed under the boots of the circle dancers (except for at Nokia and Ikea). Add in some moody Ingmar Bergmann chiaroscuro, a cadaverous figure of Death to the dancers trotting out their doom on a chessboard of planned life and socialized death . . . this is rich. For an Objectivish person, this is a good satisftying lunch.

Mind you, I don't know if Rand would have been as bored by Irish Dance. I think she would have loved that kind of jumping up and down. As for the frenzied Charleston-hopping, mad-with-riches Yankees of the twenties, the song they are dancing to is "Bubble, Bubble, Bubble." They pretty much stopped that for a while in 1929.

Beyond, that, I hardly think the ship of state in America is capable of sharp turns and nimble adjustments. The plod to Ultimate Progressive Folk Death Circle Dance on the Nordic model will take some time, a long long time, to my eyes. Americans may like Canadians, sure, and enjoy their visits to our quite nordic socialist hellhole. They might even enjoy the federally-subsidized folk festivals. But are they about to let the ship steer hard for the nightmare shoals depicted by Moeller?

On balance, Americans probably don't want to live in a Sweden or a Norway or a Denmark or a Finland. They don't care that the Nordics are generally happy, healthy and rich by any standard. They don't even care that the index of economic freedom shows Canada one step ahead and Denmark one step behind in the rankings. They don't care about the surface of things, or the comforting softness of the blankets the state wraps its citizens with. Americans want exhuberant freedom to go with their riches.

There is tremendous inertia in the American polity. Obama will at best nudge the ship of state one fraction to the left. Why won't he be able to do more?

It's the dancing. The deathly dancing, the mind-numbing horror of the socialist circle dance. America would rather have hip hop.

Here's a vid of Scandi-dancing in all its soul-numbing horror (this is Danish folk dancing, perhaps the most banal of them all. The video is from America, of course, which has, to its shame, hundreds of ethnic dance troupes):


I do believe ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... you have ascended to a new level of eloquence with this piece, Mr. Moeller, even by your exceptional standards. Bravo!

Someone asked me the other day had I noticed that the best writers on SOLO were lawyers? Valliant, DeSalvo and Moeller (in case anyone doesn't know, Mr, Moeller recently passed his bar exam—not the kind of bar exam that might send Babs into smear-mode). Naturally I was outraged. Eye

Brain of Mush...

James S. Valliant's picture

... indeed, addled by ideology.

Well done.

The perfect president

gregster's picture

for American airheads. Corpseman - very good. Conjures up the picture of Return of the Living Dead's zombified nation.

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