Sunday, April 3, 2011

No Apology: Chapter Two

As I mentioned in the previous post, Chapter One of Mitt Romney's No Apology seems to be a little more thought out than Chapter Two. Nevertheless, I think he makes several good points.

Romney spends about half the chapter discussing past hegemons that have declined: Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Spain, Great Britain, and China. Since I am not a historian, I won't critique this part.

Romney then attempts to explain the common causes for why these great powers declined.
There are similarities between the different countries' paths of decline. Many turned toward isolation; most important, isolation from knowledge: the Ottomans, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese purposefully shut out foreign invention and learning. And they adopted economic isolation as well: China, Spain, Britain, and the Ottomans expressly or effectively retreated behind barriers to foreign trade, each convinced that competition had made them weaker. Their retreat from the marketplace of ideas and their retreat from the marketplace of goods inevitably led to their retreat from the pinnacle of leadership. 
So far so good. I am only on page 55 and Romney has already devoted a great deal of space arguing for free trade and innovation. Then he quotes historian David Landes who argues that culture is everything. Romney takes this to mean that the great powers turned inward and rejected foreign influence. This idea somehow turns into the need to stop excessive spending. All good points, but I am not sure how they go together.

Romney then talks about the lack of vision of some of the past great powers. He gives several causes why countries avoid their problems. First, there is human nature that tends to avoid concentrating on coming problems. Second, there is the human tendency to shy away from dramatic change, whether good or bad. Third, there is the self-interest of citizens and leaders who are focused on short-term gains. Fourthly, independent opinion leaders sometimes fail to "arouse public awareness." Interestingly, Romney asks why media figures did not hammer the 2008 candidates when they gave empty responses on what to do about entitlement spending. It's almost like Romney is surprised at the weak answers they got away with.

Romney ends the chapter giving four reasons why some great powers recovered themselves from their decline: catastrophic events, the presence of a great leader (no, he didn't mention himself), a national consensus that reform needs to take place, and deep, broad-based national strength (ex. the United States after Pearl Harbor).

My take: Romney rambles a little here. He also generalizes a great deal of history. Nevertheless, I think he presents some good examples of how the United States could avoid decline.

Two things that struck me though: First, Romney is not libertarian. In fact, without going into specifics (he does later in his book), he seems to imply that the United States needs to adapt and to innovate. He does not seek to bring the United States back to 1789, but rather into the 21st century. I get the impression that Romney is more interested in competing with China and Russia than in meeting 18th century principles of government.

Second, Romney ever so softly gives respect to 'experts.' In fact, there is a lack of populist anger towards elites that you might find in a Sarah Palin book. One of Romney's points is that educators and opinion leaders can stir attention to address certain issues. The following line flew off the page (62):
Scientists, concerned citizens and the world media have succeeded in convincing the public that global warming is a real and present danger. 
You definitely won't see that coming from Sarah Palin.

18 comments:

Pablo said...

David Frum did not like the second chapter, although I think he is quibbling over the meaning of the "Dutch Disease."

http://www.frumforum.com/romneys-spotty-economic-history

Right Wingnut said...

Pablo,

Have you read a Sarah Palin book? Just curious.

Pablo said...

No, and that comment about Sarah Palin really wasn't meant as a shot against her. I think that you would agree that part of her worldview is a disdain for the media and elitists. I have never read one of her books, but I would bet some serious money that she doesn't praise scientists and the world media's abilities to draw attention to global warning. If you can show me otherwise, I will gladly eat my words.

Right Wingnut said...

Pablo,

Just asking, because I wouldn't be so certain about what I would find in a Romney book unless I had read one. Having said that, thanks again for posting these reviews.

I read Going Rogue when it was first released. I'd have to read it again to comment on her reliance on experts. I have America by Heart, but haven't read much of it yet.

As to global warming...I think it's a farce. Palin thinks it exists, but is not convinced that it's man-made. She added a cabinet position to study the issue. If you want me to find fault with her on something, that may be it.

Right Wingnut said...

Speaking of reliance on "experts," I think if you read a few of her Facebook posts and Op-eds that I linked to in my Palin on the Issues" posts, you'd find that she does rely on experts quite often. As far as the media goes, you'll notice that she quotes Thomas Sowell much more often than she does Paul Krugman. Is Sowell an elitist? I don't know, what do you think?

Pablo said...

I have no problem calling Sowell an elitist but I have no problem with the term either. Sowell is an intellectual that is brighter and better informed than the average American. He is an elitist.

But he is also a safe reference for Palin, since Sowell is very conservative.

Anyway, I didn't mean to get in a tit-for-tat over this. But Sarah Palin is an anti-elitist. It is very common to hear her bash the "elitists" and the "lamestream media." I simply cannot see her forming a sentence that contained the word media and a bunch of positive adjectives. And I certainly can't see her praising the media or scientists for raising awareness about global warming. Frankly, I am surprised that Romney put that in his book.

It goes along with my theory that Romney is not writing to the base. He is writing to the establishment and moderates who might read his book. He is trying to build that case that he is an "adult." He is also trying to fend off the flip-flop charge by having a written record of what he believes.

Pablo said...

Anther point -- when Romney refers to the worldwide media in that comment, I am pretty sure he is not referring to Sowell, but rather to people who believe that global warming is a real and present danger. I can't imagine Palin making the same kind of comment, but I could be wrong. I think that she used to believe in global warming. Not sure if she still does.

DanL said...

So, does Romney believe that global warming is a real and present danger? I am not opposed to accept that there is global warming. I do not buy that man is causing it, nor do I consider it a danger.

Right Wingnut said...

If I'm not mistaken, Romney does mention somewhere in the book that he believes global warming is partially attributed to man. I think I read that in a review a year ago or so. I'm sure you'll get tp the bottom of it.

Noelle said...

In a later chapter in his book he talks about global warming. His point, if my memory serves, is that Arctic temperatures have risen, but the money that it would cost to comply with the international global warming agreements would not be worth the investment because even spending billions of dollars would not significantly affect the temperatures. He doesn't really take a position if it is man-made or not, but he is opposed to causing our own economy to suffer spending good money on global warming to make almost no difference.

I'm sure when Pablo gets to this chapter he will share it more clearly than I just did. I recently listened to it on CD, but my hard copy is currently loaned to a friend.

Pablo said...

It looks like that subject may come up in chapter nine. I will let you know what he says.

Anonymous said...

who cares what mitt floppney says, he'll change his mind once the race begins. The nation will NEVER allow a mormon to be president. This is about saving souls in christ, and if romney were to ever be president, we would lose a lot of good christians to that mormon cult. I dont understand how a brilliant man like mitt romney could go without denying that religion. He may get a few votes if he did, but the nation will not allow a cult to rule over us.

Anonymous said...

so its about saving souls, huh Anon?

How about we allow the souls to seek after their own salvation any way they want. That is the American way. Our very founding as a nation was based on the freedom to choose one's religion and worship free from government force and interference. Now you wish to undo all that and take us back two hundred fifty years.

You dishonor the bill of rights and our constitution. We are a pluralistic nation. Many faiths and many believers, living, working voting, side by side, building a nation together. Is it wrong to have many faiths? If so, who decides which ones are permitted and which ones are disallowed? Which religion should the president believe and which one must he not?

You do not apparently believe the president should have the rights you enjoy and be free from any religious test. Too bad for you that you must contend with the idea that those of other faiths that you detest may be presiding over you. Trust me, it won't be as bad as all that and you may one day respect the very future president you denigrate today.

Lori*

Bill589 said...

Pablo,
I think your work is usually great. But don’t judge a book by it’s cover. It might make me think you judge other books by their cover. Or was that just your imitation of a Leftist?

Global warming does exist. And so does global cooling. And then warming. Cooling, etc. We’ve had four major Ice Ages in the last two million years with some smaller ones in-between.

Man had nothing to do with it.

Lori*,
- But how do you really feel? :)
Anon Troll knows nothing of Mormonism.

Johan "Mcon" said...

"Anon Troll knows nothing of Mormonism."

Anon Troll certainly knows nothing of Mormonism but there are a great many Americans like him. The ignorant bigots abound and most certainly think about "saving souls in christ" and don't want a Mormon in the White House demystifying "that mormon cult". Anon Troll is right though that if Mitt is elected it will make it that much harder for bigots.

ellie said...

Johan. It's a pity really. They will not vote for the best person to come along in decades because he is a devout LDS. I guess you could be better things, like bigoted baptist like that guy who protests at funerals, or the one who burns Koran's for pleasure. But hey, try to elect a mormon! No flipping way!

Anonymous said...

I laugh at you all. The bible clearly states that there is no adding to or taking away of the bible. The mormons believe dearly in there book of mormon to be the word of God. Thebible warns of false prophets, yet the mormons talk of Joseph Smith as he were the Christ himself. Im not a bigot, I am trying to open peoples eyes on this cult. they have a secret agenda and its not just being president, its using that power to bring more converts to that cultous religion. NO to mormons!!!!

Bill589 said...

Anon Troll also knows nothing about the Bible.

It states near the end of the book of Revelations that nobody is to add or subtract to that particular book (of Revelations).

Most Protestant faiths took 13 books (the Apocrypha) out of the Bible in the 1800s.

Anon Troll needs to have his mommy and daddy teach him some religious history before it makes itself sound even more stupid.