In the original illegal cross-country car race movie, The Gumball Rally, the Italian race car driver Franco, played with grand scenery-chewing excess by Raul Julia, informed the owner of the iconic Ferrari Daytona of “the first rule of Italian driving.” Franco rips the rear-view mirror off its mount, flings it behind the car, and declares:

What’s behind me is not important.

In doing so, he amply illustrated the Seinfeld Corollary, “I don’t bother remembering what doesn’t interest me,” to the Santayana Lament, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Lets call this quip the Franco Addendum.

The Santayana Lament is about ignorance, but does not impute intent. The Seinfeld Corollary is about poor judgment and misplaced interest. The Franco Addendum, by contrast, is a deliberate dismissal of the lessons of history.

History is important, and not just in a “preserve the past, preserve the record” sort of way. In history, we find things that worked, and things that didn’t. Good ideas, and bad ideas. Words and concepts that elevated humanity, and that harmed humanity. And, when it comes to politics and governance, veritable mountains of failures from which to learn and draw caution.

And, yet, we see the same old failed, broken, and/or destructive ideas re-treaded time and time again, by people who have absolutely no reason or excuse not to know that they’ve failed in the past. Even more distressingly, we see rejection of things that worked before, for no discernible reason other than a failure to fit a predetermined worldview.

Thus, we have young, bright-eyed socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who just won an upset primary in New York City, touting her economics degree even as she embraces political ideas that any honest student of history knows are unworkable and ruinous. And, we have the young, energetic subset of the Democratic Party all gaga and a-go-go about her and others like her.

Meanwhile, our society is littered with the broken carcasses of past failures of statism/big-government/soft-socialism. Want to find the areas of any big city that are the most resistant to the market forces that improve things? Look for the housing projects. Want to know how we ended up with $21T in national debt? Look at the countless government programs that, despite failing to ‘work as intended,’ persist to this day. Look, also, at how grotesquely inefficient government is at spending tax dollars. Look at the crazy rules that government accepts and even demands. Look at how public union rules inflate costs in bizarre ways (in New York City, public school hallways routinely have two different paint colors – one above 10 feet, one below. Why? Because the union rules mandate that two different classes of workers do the painting above and below that line). Look at our entitlement programs, which have been actuarially insolvent since Day 1, whose coffers have been drained to hide other spending, and where even the barest mention of (absolutely necessary) reforms is political poison. Look at the education of our children, which has shown zero improvement despite a tripling of per-student spending in the past half-century.

Look, also, at the big promise and dream of the Obama administration. Awash in hope and promise, it produced a disastrous change to the nation’s health care system, an extended period of economic inadequacy, a nation more divided at the end than at the beginning, a thousand electoral losses for its party, an extremely ill-advised expansion of executive power, and countless policies that didn’t work “as intended.”

Need I go on?

The flip side of the coin is the ignoring of what has worked. In discussing the Seinfeld Corollary, I pointed out the government’s successful response to the Depression of 1920-21, and the failure of even an attempt to mirror that response in later downturns. Consider as well, the success of welfare reform during the post-1994 Clinton years, and the Left’s steady efforts to ignore and undo that success.

Finally, consider the hundred million pound elephant in the room. A hundred million corpses, produced by socialism and communism (and that’s a low-ball estimate). Isn’t that enough to make any thinking person shudder at the thought of re-packaging and re-attempting socialism? Shouldn’t we respect the cautionary tales of the past, especially when they were learned at such a horrific price?

Apparently not. Perhaps, those who wave off the past in this fashion believe that their rising stars and idols are smarter and better than those who ushered in those past failures and cautions. Perhaps, they feel that todays’ Best-and-Brightest outshine yesterday’s Best-and-Brightest. That’s poppycock, of course, but it’s the only way I can resolve the Franco Addendum with any shred of rationality.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

0

Like this post?