Time and again in recent months, I’ve heard inverted arguments on a range of topics. A devout anti-fracking activist, fighting to keep the southern tier of New York in Appalachian penury, assured me that the poverty of northern Pennsylvania was the result of the extraction of wealth-producing natural gas. But the evidence is to the contrary. While fracking has brought in some “roughnecks” and torn up some roads, it’s also brought rising incomes on the southern side of the New York-Pennsylvania border. On the non-fracking New York side, employment in metro Binghamton and Elmira has declined 12 percent since 2001.
In Gotham, Alex Vitale, a Brooklyn College professor, and MSNBC host Al Sharpton both claim that Broken Windows policing produces criminality by labeling otherwise law-abiding black youths as criminals. But if Vitale and Sharpton were correct, then New York’s prison population should have increased as a result. That has not been the case. While the prison population of most states rose rapidly over the last two decades, New York’s, thanks to Broken Windows, declined.
CNN anchor Jake Tapper offers up another perverse argument, this one to explain the violence in Gaza. Tapper suggests that it is “hopelessness” in Gaza that’s produced the imperative to fire missiles and build tunnels into Israel. As Tapper and others who spout the Hamas line see it, Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza has engendered the poverty that leaves no choice but war. This is a bizarre argument, since Hamas needed massive quantities of imported concrete to construct the electricity-laden tunnels it used to attack Israel. Here, too, as with Broken Windows policing, an empirical record is available if Tapper had the inclination to consult it. When Israel, led by Ariel Sharon, withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it left behind a system of greenhouses which could have been used to employ and feed thousands of Gazans. But in an act of savagery, Hamas leveled those greenhouses. In the years since Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza, Hamas has started three wars with Israel, each time claiming that it had no choice but to initiate hostilities—often seconded by a suborned press that, whether by ideology, intimidation, or a mixture of both, has toed the Hamas line. Even if you take Tapper’s argument seriously, the three wars have done nothing to alleviate Gaza’s hopelessness.
All of which may explain the “reasoning” the leads to former President Obama’s zero-sum worldview, Star Parker writes today at Townhall:
What a zero sum worldview will produce more of is political, class, and ethnic resentment and strife.
It so happens we have a leader today that has this worldview and his name is Barack Obama. It is not surprising that today’s world over which he is presiding, at home and abroad, increasing shows these characteristics.
President Obama was very candid in a recent interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times in which he stated his zero sum view of the world.
“Obama made clear,” Friedman writes, “that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished.”
There you have it. No suggestion that there is right and wrong, or better answers that make everyone better off and worse answers that don’t. No, in our president’s take on the world, if there is a winner who winds up better off there must be a loser who winds up equally worse off.
The president then made clear that he views the world through this zero sum lens at home as well as abroad.
The zero-sum worldview may also explain Mr. Obama’s Manichean “Republicans = evil / Democrats unalloyed good” worldview as well. But then, Charles Krauthammer covered that one well over a decade ago.
For my interview with Fred Siegel on his 2014 book, a history of the American left and “Progressivism,” The Revolt Against the Masses, click here.
Related: Forget Zero Sum. I just wish the former president would avoid a zero necktie worldview.