Monday, May 11, 2009

What is happening seems wrong. And it is

Another great article by George Will (read the whole thing here ):

From Oct. 18 to Dec. 3, 1961, 116,000 people visited New York's Museum of Modern Art before anyone noticed that Henri Matisse's painting "Le Bateau" had been hung upside down. Modernity is supposed to "transgress" standards of the traditional, which is why Paul Hindemith, while rehearsing one of his dissonant orchestral compositions, said to the musicians, "No, no gentlemen -- even though it sounds wrong, it's still not right."

Proponents of today's world-turned-upside-down economic policies say the policies might seem wrong but really are boldly modern in their rejection of markets in favor of pervasive government intervention in economic life. Hence New York, which until eight months ago was the financial capital of the world, is no longer even the financial capital of the United States. Washington is. .....

In "Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville anticipated people being governed by "an immense, tutelary power" determined to take "sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate." It would be a power "absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident and gentle," aiming for our happiness but wanting "to be the only agent and the sole arbiter of that happiness." It would, Tocqueville said, provide people security, anticipate their needs, direct their industries and divide their inheritances. It would envelop society in "a network of petty regulations -- complicated, minute and uniform." But softly: "It does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them" until people resemble "a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd."

So what today seems as modern as Matisse once seemed was actually foreseen 17 decades ago. Like Hindemith's music, what is happening seems wrong. And it is.


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