Friday, October 24, 2014

Liberal Mixed Messages

Charles Krauthammer writes today that Obama has lost the plot. The whole world is falling down around his ears, with failures everywhere you look. Obama's response? He's "angry."

Yet once upon a time Barack Obama had a message for America.
There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.
(APPLAUSE)
The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.
We were going to stop the rise of the oceans. Then Obama became president and governed like the Alinsky acolyte he is. He governed by demonizing rather than understanding.

What happened to the narrative of all together?

So on the same day Jonah Goldberg writes about the power of "narrative." Forget ideas.  What you need, if you want to win the world, is a good story.
Ideas are surprisingly easy to let go of, if pried loose by the right story. Stories, meanwhile, are shockingly difficult to let go of, even if they convey a bad idea. Just try to tell someone who has gotten a raw deal in life that their story is not typical of America. Or, if you prefer, try to tell someone who’s been fortunate at every turn that their story isn’t typical either.
President Obama's problem is that his story has broken down. The life that individual Americans are living doesn't match the pretty story that President Obama pitched when he was running for president and running for reelection.

Here's another story that's breaking down. It's the Democrats' "Republican War on Women" meme. Why? Well, I suspect it starts with the fact that women are afraid for their safety. Obama booster Tina Brown is now saying women don't feel safe under Obama. Remember 2001? When the "soccer moms" turned into "security moms?"

Hey GOP! How about telling a story that America isn't safe under Obama/Democrats? How safe are you when the government runs health care? How safe are you when the government says that terrorist acts are "workplace violence"? How safe are your kids when the government takes them off to government schools for the duration?

When Democrats talk among themselves they probably talk ideas. But when they run for election they tell stories.

When Ronald Reagan bestrode the world, he annoyed the heck out of reporters by telling stories.

Here is Ted Cruz telling the story of his life to Values Voters.

The postmodernists have been telling us for decades that it's all about the "narrative." They use the term pejoratively, in the sense of the ruling class's narrative that justifies its power.

Don't get it? Then what do liberals do when they tell the story of modern government. Back in the Dark Ages before liberalism children worked in mines, women were dominated by the patriarchy, and people that lost their jobs would starve. Then came liberals with with free education, wage and hour law, labor unions, health care, pensions, civil rights, equal pay for women.

If you ask me, conservatives are in a great position on the story-telling front. Ever since Reagan, liberals have had a real problem getting their story straight. And the Obama era is a splendid example of saying one thing and doing the other.

Conservatives have a wonderful story to tell. The rise of the common man. The dignity of the responsible individual. The surprise of the free market system against the slow death of the administrative state. The brilliance of the separation of powers. The necessity of separating politics, economy, and religion in the Greater Separation of Powers. And so on.

And here's another point, just for you girls. The more freedom, the smaller the government, the safer you and your family will be, and the more opportunity there will be for your children.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How Liberals Wrecked Upward Mobility

As I get older I can afford to get more radical. Because I don't have to truckle to the boss: not the corporate boss, the political boss, or even the moral/cultural boss.

And I don't get more radical on anything more than education. Government education? I'm opposed to it. Period.

Why, you ask? How can anyone doubt the benefit our society has obtained from universal free education?

Don't get me started, but let's just say that government education means government run by the ruling class and the ruling class is usually clueless about everything except fighting for its power.

So my recipe for education is child labor and apprenticeship.  That way most people can finance their own education and parents are stuck only with education in the early years, which can often be done at a neighborhood school run by a couple of neighborhood mothers.

Hey, here's an idea!  The neighborhood mothers home-school and get together for projects and outings!

Peter Thiel, entrepreneur, billionaire, and "celebrity genius" agrees. His Thiel Fellowships pay kids to skip college!

Now comes a helpful article by Bill McMorris to explain how we got into the current college education mess, where everyone has to have a degree, college costs an arm and a leg, and a whole generation has been buried in debt.

It's all about race, and it all started with the US Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Griggs vs. Duke Power Company.
The saga began in 1969 when Willie Griggs, a black man born in the segregated South, decided he was overdue  for a promotion. In order to get one, per Duke Power Electric Company rules, he had to pass two aptitude tests and possess a high school diploma. Griggs smelled racism. The tests surveyed employees on basic math and intelligence questions. None of Duke’s fourteen black workers passed. Griggs and twelve others sued the company for discrimination. 
Oh oh. Can you spell Bell Curve?

Aptitude tests had their heyday in World War II when the armed forces used them to separate the sheep from the goats. It worked so well that corporate America jumped right in after the war.

But the Supreme Court ruled against Duke Power Company and so corporate America swerved away from aptitude tests. Instead the SAT and the colleges did the work for them. At enormous expense.

Even today, corporate America is careful to pay people according to their education rather than their results because racism.

Of course the joke is that the current system is shockingly biased against minorities, indeed against anyone without rich parents. And I dare say it is particularly biased against young white working class males, because common sense.

So here we are in American in 2014, with the middle-aged generation hammered by the real-estate bubble from the unintended consequence of trying to help minorities get a mortgage, a whole generation buried in college debt from the unintended consequence of trying to help minorities get a better job. And don't get me started on the current rage to fix the campus sex scene with lawyer-like regulations on sexual behavior.

The question is what comes next? We are conservatives; we don't want to change the rules on everyone though a political coup like Obamacare. We want to change America by persuading America.

And I ask myself: how would I persuade the nice well-born liberal women I know about this? How could anyone persuade the activism/advocacy brigade that politics and Supreme Court ukases are usually not the answer to injustice and inequality?

How do we change the culture, given that liberals own the culture from schools to music to movies to TV?

I just watched Mark Steyn tell Hannity that "I like Ted Cruz" because Ted Cruz is trying to get around the little problem that conservatives have. Sure, we can win a midterm election, he says, but how do we win the culture war for the other 364 days of the year. Steyn likes Ted Cruz because Cruz seems to be trying to move the yardsticks on the culture front.

That's why I keep hammering on the idea that Government Is Force. You think the best way to educate kids is by force? You think that the best way to reverse centuries of cultural backwardness is by force? You think that the way to regulate students' sexual behavior is by force? I thought you chaps were in favor of Peace and Justice.

Here's the irony: liberals obviously believe that the way to change things is by changing peoples' minds, because they work night and day to dominate the culture and shame anyone that disagrees with them. But the only way they know to do it is by force.

Meanwhile we have a whole generation of underprivileged kids buried in the gross injustice of the current education and qualifications system. And nobody is going to jail.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Teach Liberals Not to Rape

I'm not talking about President Obama grabbing a girl at an early-voting station in Illinois and kissing her without permission. That's just a comical instance of liberal hypocrisy.  They get all worked up about sexual harassment by eevil fraternity brothers on campus. But it's not sexual harassment when a Democratic politician does it.

No, I am talking about dead-stupid stuff like lesbian Houston mayor Annise Parker turning the dogs of war on Houston preachers that don't like trans-gender bathrooms. Hugh Hewitt calls it "thugocracy." Or take the government officials up in Idaho(!) that want to force a wedding chapel to serve gays or face jail or a fine. Dr. Ben Carson had a good line on this; it explains the behavior of our lefty friends. The point of lefty politics is to prevent conversation and reduce everything to verbal conflict.
That is the reason famed community organizer Saul Alinsky, in his book "Rules for Radicals," stated that you should never have a conversation with your adversaries, because that humanizes them, and your job is to demonize them. When your agenda is to fundamentally change a society, it is a much easier task when you stifle conversation and debate.
But I think that our lefty friends are making a strategic mistake with their thug tactics, unless they are prepared to go full Stalin and terrorize their opponents into silence.

In my view politics occupies a peculiar position: its purpose is to create division and use government force to please its supporters. But it has to hide its iron fist in a velvet glove of "consensus."

Why would this be? It is because the show of force, as practiced by Houston mayor Annice Parker -- and actual acts of force as well -- rile up the opposition and prompt them to mobilize against the government. The government, executive committee of the ruling class, finds that it has stirred up a hornet's nest.

Thus gay marriage works as an issue when it is using gays as helpless victims, but stops working as soon as gay Nazis start marching around in jackboots.

Saul Alinsky's famous rules for radicals assumes that the radicals are the outsiders attacking the fortifications of the ruling class. He assumes that the ruling class is the enemy and that outrages by the radicals will be forgiven by the mass of people struggling for liberation.

Liberals have taken these tactics and applied them without thinking to a situation where liberals and their little darlings are the ruling class. But this is not 1886 and the Haymarket affair; it is not 1937 and the Battle of the Overpass. Today liberals are waging war on ordinary people -- modest people running modest businesses -- using the power of the state.  That is no longer the aristocratic rule of the best and brightest, a rational politics informed by science and experts. It is just the rule of the thugs.

So President Obama's extralegal acts, from the condoning of IRS harassment of regime opponents to the administrative fine tuning of Obamacare, are not harmless corner cuttings. They are acts of violence on the body politic. They are injustices that will raise a head of rebellion against the liberal cause.

Liberals are blind to all this because they believe that their politics is salvific; they completely miss the fact that all their political initiatives come down to bullying and force, especially when they don't bother to create a "consensus." They completely miss the fact that their conflation of secular culture and politics is totalitarian. They miss that because they refuse to have a conversation; they are too busy classifying other peoples' ideas as "hate speech."

They are completely missing the point that human society is the realm within the boundaries of force. Inside the boundaries we settle things by conversation and compromise. It is only outside the boundaries that we resort to force. But liberals, by mixing politics with everything are assuming that everything must be decided by force.

The only question then becomes: how far are liberals prepared to go? Full Stalin? Full Mao? Because once they start bullying and intimidating their political opponents they must either go all the way to Terror, or find that they have raised a head of rebellion that will sweep them out of power.

Of course we experienced all this back in the Clinton administration. Workplace sexual harassment, about which liberals had made a huge fuss with respect to Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, wasn't harassment if the president did it. Back then the Republicans thought they were onto a good thing by impeaching the president for his lies and his hypocrisy. But they were wrong. The impeachment merely energized the president's supporters and so the 1998 midterm was a net loss for Republicans, and it kept liberals in permanent campaign mode for the next ten years.

Like I said, the Obama Democrats' abuses of power will rebound upon them and drive them out of office, unless they are prepared to ramp up to the ruthlessness of a Robespierre, a Stalin, or a Castro.

Make that a fearless prediction for the midterms and beyond.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Republicans and Women

Everybody knows about the "gender gap" and how that's a problem for Republicans. Meanwhile, according to Mona Charen, Republicans just seem to throw up their hands at the problem.
Republicans, whipsawed by the results of 2012 races that featured large gender gaps, particularly among single women, and aware that women have trended Democrat for decades, seem bewildered... The candidates themselves, uncomfortable with the whole subject and wondering why they can’t just discuss the capital gains tax, mumble about how much they love their wives and eye the exits.
But when Charen gets down to first principles, she notes that women just like big government.
A CBS/New York Times poll [in 2012] asked respondents whether the United States is more successful when government emphasizes “self-reliance and individual responsibility” or “community and shared responsibility.” Among women, 37 percent chose self-reliance compared with 46 percent of men, while 55 percent of women chose community. 
This rather puts the lie to the Simone de Beauvoir's notion of the "independent woman."  And now we have the campus rape crisis, where feminists are suddenly waking up to the horror of the decades-old hookup culture where college men and women need to chug half a bottle of vodka to get the Dutch courage they need to venture out into the sexual battle zone. Where have you been for the last 50 years, ladies?

Everyone is proposing tactical political approaches to the gender-gap problem. Obviously single mothers are going to go to find resources somewhere, just as married mothers are going to tend to want their husbands relatively untaxed and unregulated so they can contribute maximum effort to their own family.

In the current situation women are obviously more inclined towards government solutions. And don't forget that liberals have unlimited access to their minds from K thru graduate school.

If we want to change things, and turn women more towards "self-reliance and individual responsibility" and to experience big government as the complete negation of "community and shared responsibility" we need to think strategically. Here are some ideas.

Break up the government school monopoly. Right now a lot of people think that spending money on schools equals helping our kids. But well-born mothers are moving away from this with home-schooling; conservatives should help boost this movement. We want to get girls away from lifer government teachers.

Chip away at the entitlement monolith. Why shovel payroll taxes from workers' wages to politicians? Shouldn't workers keep more of their own money to support their families?

Conservatives care about people.  That probably starts with memes that show that Democrats don't care about people. Think VA, Obamacare cancellations, school failures, etc.

For a conservative, it always seems that the Democrats and the liberals have the place completely dominated. And yet.

Why would Democrats need to run their "war on women" meme all the time and gin up the pay gap with a new equal pay bill every election? Maybe because they have to scare the wits out of single women to get them to the polls?

Why would the Democrats need to run their "back to Jim Crow" meme all the time to strike fear into African Americans? Could it be that without the constant application of fear that African Americans would start to drift away from the Democrats?

Back in the Cold War the Democrats were always criticizing the Cold War warriors for whipping up fear among the people. There was President Carter talking about an "inordinate fear of communism." I have to say they had a point.

But when you are desperate to win an election then any politician knows that you have to trade on fear.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Letter to Charles Murray

Dear Mr. Murray:

It's 20 years since the frenzy over your Bell Curve and so I decided to write you a letter, to express my thanks to you for your life's work. You stopped a number of rhetorical bullets over The Bell Curve, and people like me need to tell you that we appreciate and honor your sacrifice.

Who can forget your Losing Ground, the 1984 book that led to welfare reform in 1996? It is something to have been the intellectual spotlight that forced President Bill Clinton to sorta, kinda, maybe "end welfare as we know it" in the runup to the presidential election in 1996.

My takeaway on Losing Ground is to say that the liberals confidently instrumented their Great Society legislation with studies and social science research that would confirm their "elite wisdom." But when the results came in and pronounced the failure of their policies, they said nothing and did nothing.  So liberalism, ever since has simply been a power game, with the ruling class paying the rank and file in the Benefits Brigade for their support, and riling them up crude appeals to race, class, and gender.

I read The Bell Curve and thought it good, but unexceptionable. Of course IQ is important in an age when wealth doesn't come in broad rich acres but right between the ears. I read your warning about a cognitive elite but didn't really pay much attention, not then.

I liked your Human Accomplishment and its disquieting reminder that in creative endeavors all the rewards go to the winners. It tells me that much of the angst and distemper in our liberal friends can be attributed to the fact their culture of creative individualism is bound to disappoint most of its believers. How much better is the conservative/libertarian culture of what I call "responsible individualism" in which almost everyone can participate and be a modest winner.

I think that your Coming Apart is the finest of your books and the best revenge on your critics. Hey kids, let's look at White America and see how it's doing! My takeaway is that you say that the top 25 percent, the cognitive elite, is doing fine. (Hey, why wouldn't it, since the elite has used its power to make America in its own image!) The middle 40 percent are doing so-so, but the folks in Fishtown are in real trouble; the women don't marry and the men don't work.

After reading Natalie Scholl's Bell Curve 20-year interview on the AEI-ideas site I am inspired to look more closely into your "valued places" idea and I will get a copy of your In Our Hands. But I must say that I flinch from the idea of a guaranteed income. In my view this confirms the current system whereby the ruling class gets to use the entire government fisc to buy the votes of the voters.

I like to divide the American people in three.  There are the People of the Creative Self who believe in illuminating society with their creative and expressionistic individualism. There are the People of the Responsible Self, who believe in serving society through individual responsibility and service. Finally there is the residue of the peasantry, the People of the Under Self, who used to live by attaching themselves to a landed squire and now attach to a political boss,  a union boss, a cacique, a community organizer. The point of your "valued places" I reckon, is that the women that don't marry and the men that don't work get resocialized into useful "valued places" as the followers of some powerful patron. My faith is that we can, we must, do that without the powerful patron being the government. Alternatively, of course, we can return to the 19th century and socialize the People of the Under Self into the middle class with enthusiastic churches and fraternal associations.

Thank you, Charles Murray, for your honest and intelligent witness in a life of worthy human accomplishment. There are many, like me, that honor you and your work.

Sincerely,

Christopher Chantrill

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Administrative State Doesn't Work. Because Hayek

You are a liberal cringing right now at the Keystone Kops routine at the Obama administration over Ebola. It wasn't supposed to be like this. The oceans were supposed to be receding and the planet healing.

Because government is the name of things we do together.

But there's another narrative about government. Start with Charles Dickens and the Circumlocution Office. It was staffed with Barnacles and Stiltstockings, and its motto was "How Not to Do It."

Sound familiar?

I've always understood who the Barnacles were. But now I understand the Stiltstockings. They are the useless spokesmen mouthing stupid platitudes to stupid media.

Then there was Ludwig von Mises. In 1920 he published an article "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth." He argued that socialism couldn't work because it couldn't compute prices. It wouldn't know what things cost. Then Mises wrote his Socialism. Then he wrote his Human Action.

Along came F.A. Hayek. He wrote in The Road to Serfdom that the administrator in any government program could not know enough to compete with the collective wisdom of millions of consumers and producers in the marketplace.

Of course the inability of the socialist managers to know enough is the least of their problems. The main problem is that government always ends up serving the needs of its cronies rather than the public interest. Because that's how political power works; it's who you know not what you know.

Today there's a charming piece by John Daniel Davidson, "Ebola and the Failure of the Administrative State." It's about liberal faith in the administrative state.  For some reason there's a lot of incompetence and lack of preparedness in the federal government's response to the Ebola scare.

Who could have seen that coming?

Back in the late 19th century, Davidson reminds us, liberals like Woodrow Wilson were extolling the efficiency of the administrative state. Said the future president:
Administration is everywhere putting its hands to new undertakings. The utility, cheapness, and success of the government’s postal service, for instance, point towards the early establishment of governmental control of the telegraph system. Or, even if our government is not to follow the lead of the governments of Europe in buying or building both telegraph and railroad lines, no one can doubt that in some way it must make itself master of masterful corporations.
The trouble is that liberals have followed Wilson's naive faith in administration for over a century. Without thinking. Without questioning.

And we know why. Liberals have always assumed that the administrators and managers would be people like them. Educated, evolved. Rational. Open to new ideas.

Except that for some reason liberals haven't been open to the ideas of Mises and Hayek. How could that be?

Could it be that, despite their education and evolution, despite their rationality and openness to new ideas, they just could not bring themselves to consider ideas that brought their whole administrative state movement into question?

And we have not brought into the equation the rational ideas of Buchanan and Tullock in The Calculus of Consent. They argue that the way that a legislature works is that a minority that wants to spend government money just bribes enough additional legislators to get a majority. The result is a majority that plunders the minority, as in Obamacare and its Louisiana Purchase and Cornhusker Kickback, simple legislative deals to buy the votes of senators to get the final votes to pass Obamacare.

Nobody can know what the administrative state failures in the Obama era will cost the Democratic Party. Maybe a little; maybe a lot.

But remember this. The liberal apology for liberal power rests on the superior qualities of liberals: their education, their reliance on science and expertise, their openness. Yet liberals have ignored the conservative and libertarian critique of the liberal administrative state for nearly a century.

Who then are the educated ones, the curious ones, the rational ones? Because if liberals can't show themselves as educated, evolved, and rational, then they are just an ordinary ruling class: proud, cruel, corrupt, unjust, wasteful. Just like all the other ruling classes on the waste heap of history.

If that is true then maybe it's time we found ourselves a new ruling class, one that really was educated, evolved, rational, and open to new ideas.

Oh, and maybe the new ruling class would start out with the idea that the power of the ruling class ought to be limited. As in limited government.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Every Ruling Class is Unjust

Every ruling class thinks of itself as God's gift to humanity: We must be the best and the brightest because, look, we got elected to run the country.

Back in the day, dead white males in Europe used to talk about the "white man's burden" to civilize the natives. And Brits talked about bringing the rule of law to India. Today we call them all colonial oppressors.

Our ruling class of educated liberals has a similar view of itself, as an enlightened and evolved elite that is bringing peace and social justice to white racists, sexists, bigots, and homophobes.

The problem is that this kind of self-congratulatory propaganda blinds the ruling class to the ugly truth. The ugly truth is that all ruling classes cut corners, reward their supporters, harass their opponents, and generally use their power to maintain themselves in power.

There is a word for this: injustice.

And it doesn't even have to involve political power. You can commit injustice with cultural power too. Here's a story about a minor government minister in Britain having to grovel because he made the unpardonable suggestion that maybe disabled people should be exempt from the minimum wage laws. How dare he suggest that disabled people should be exploited in such a way!

Yesterday we had Political Marxism which made a thought-crime out of opposing the left's political and economic agenda. You must hate working people if you don't support the welfare state. But in the 1950s lesser lights in the Frankfurt School like Herbert Marcuse had the brilliant idea of extending the totalitarian method to cultural questions. Cultural Marxism says that if you don't support gay marriage you must hate gays. If you don't support free contraception you must hate women.

You can understand why the Cultural Marxists and the social justice warriors keep returning to the well, seeking out the offended and getting offended on behalf of the offended. It's so cool! It works so well! And it provides an endless opportunity for "activism," which is the praxis taught in today's secular seminaries offering Black, Women's, Hispanic Studies, etc.

But I think that they are creating a movement of rejection to oppose them.

The one thing that a society must do is stop the hotheads from getting riled up and attacking their neighbors, as in Hatfields and McCoys. The way society has done this is by abolishing the feud. You gotta problem with your neighbor? Go to court. Some young punk beat you up and robbed you? Call a policeman. Otherwise people will form local defense associations and take the law into their own hands.

But the left has developed a cunning exception to the doctrine of the government's monopoly on violence. They call it the "demonstration" or the "peaceful protest." They don't fool me. The average lefty rent-a-mob is in fact a show of force. It says: meet our non-negotiable demands or else.

The "permanent campaign" is another problem. Also President Obama's constant demonization of Republicans. President Clinton did this in a more cunning way by complaining about Republican opposition to his bi-partisan balanced budgets.

How did we get here?  In my view it started with the election of Ronald Reagan. For our liberal ruling class this was a jab in the solar plexus. How could such a thing happen? It was compounded by the Republican Congress of 1994. Talk about turning back the clock! Then there was the squeak-through-the-Supreme-Court election of 2000.  What Democrats and liberals learned from all that is that they had to pull out all the stops and fight twice as hard as the Republicans, or their inevitable victory of progressive liberalism would be wrecked on the shore of racism, sexism, bigotry and homophobia.

Maybe they'll succeed.  Maybe their culture war will vanquish the conservative middle class of career and marriage and children. Maybe their opponents will cower under rocks forever.

But my guess is that the liberal dynasty will crumble into ruin. Partly the failure will issue from the welfare state running out of money. But partly it will issue from the reign of injustice that every pompous ruling class creates. All political power ends in abuse and corruption.  All political power creates its own opposition, its head of rebellion. Liberals can't see this, because they are blinded by the klieg lights set up by their willing accomplices in the media to showcase their ideas and boost their leaders.

Liberals can't see the cruelty of demonizing small business people that don't want to cater gay weddings; they can't see the corruption of their green energy caper; they can't see the injustice of siccing the IRS on conservative grass-roots groups; they can't see the waste of big government programs. They are deluded by their narcissistic self-regard.

But the rest of America is not deluded. And in the end it will rise up against liberal injustice and end the power of the liberal dynasty of the educated elite.