Joking? Time's Joel Stein Dreams of an Obama Dictatorship

October 3rd, 2009 8:32 AM

Time’s so-called humorist, the columnist Joel Stein, wisecracked in the latest issue that the time for an American dictatorship is here. He began "Dictator of My Dreams" by praising New York mayor Michael Bloomberg for banning smoking in bars, which now "seems insane." He joked that it’s time for an Obama dictatorship, sick as liberals are of attempts at bipartisanship:

President Obama should probably get a little bit dictatorial up in here. He's the only person in the U.S. unaware that we elected him dictator, giving him both houses of Congress and the major television networks whenever he wants them. Instead of ignoring people's objections until they get socialized medicine and realize they like it, as England's leaders did, Obama is worried about seducing Olympia Snowe so he can say his health bill is bipartisan. Do you know how long it takes to charm people from Maine? They're uptight white people coated with a hard exterior made from other uptight white people.

While Obama negotiates on climate change, the Chinese government has forced China's entire tech industry to focus on energy efficiency, and soon we'll all buy Chinese products because they'll be far cheaper to power — and people can stay mad about poisoned babies and puppies for only so long. The lesson for Obama isn't that we didn't like George W. Bush because he bossed us around. We just wanted to be bossed around far, far better.

Stein and other news magazine regulars have gone from imagined horror stories about a Bush dictatorship to joking that we just need a more competent dictator. The problem with all this joking is it becomes a little difficult to discern just to what degree Stein is joking and to what degree he is seriously dreaming:

In fact, we need a dictator to do all kinds of things. I want a law making all Internet browsers' default setting block pornography and for that setting to be difficult, but not too difficult, to change. I want all alarm clocks, when they go off, to mention going to the gym. I think there should be limits on when you can sue, a ban on guns not used for hunting, parenting licenses enforced by social-services visits, more obstacles to post-first-trimester abortions and a European-size tax on gasoline. Soda should be sold in containers no bigger than 8 oz. People should pay for their garbage by weight. And their plane tickets.

Stein tried to get serious at the end, saying that mayors who crack down on your smoking or soda drinking are exactly what we need to force us into healthier social action:

Despite what you're thinking, I don't want to be the dictator. That's mostly because I'm already prone to bad haircuts. But also because instead of an actual dictator, I think what we need is to recognize that social mores require government nudges like the ones Bloomberg creates and Obama adviser Cass Sunstein advocates. We live in a connected age in which our liberties bump against one another. I know this is all easy to say since I'm not a smoker, a soda drinker or a columnist whom politicians listen to. But in an age of overwhelming choice, some dictatorial direction would help. Plus, then Obama wouldn't have to be on TV so much.

(HT: Cam Edwards)