Friday, October 31, 2014

Three Big Things We Must Do

Let's face it: the Democrats are tapped out. Back in 2008 they thought they were going to roar to a generational dynasty. Their Obamacare would give everyone affordable health care; their Keynesian stimulus would bring the economy back, and their green energy program would heal the world.

In fact Obamacare has been a experimental verification of Hayek and Buchanan: big government bureaucrats cannot organize the economy. Stimulus has been yet another proof that Keynes is all wet. And the death of fossil fuel has been greatly exaggerated. And has for wind and solar, words fail me.

That's why Democrats are reduced to beating their base voters to the polls with wars on women and returns to Jim Crow. And I thought the cowskin whip went out with slavery.

It's not just the big things where liberal are wrong; it's the little things too, as Kate Bachelder writes in the Wall Street Journal, listing "The Top 10 Liberal Superstitions."

  1. More money helps education
  2. Government spending stimulates the economy
  3. GOP candidates have more money than Dems
  4. Raising minimum wage helps the poor
  5. Global warming causes violent weather
  6. GM food is dangerous
  7. Voter ID laws are racist
  8. Obamacare is gaining popularity
  9. Keystone XL pipeline will cause oil spills
  10. Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar
But never mind all that. What should Republicans do if they get into power in 2014 and 2016? What three big things? Here's my agenda.

Get out of QE and ZIRP. That's the Fed's "quantitative easing" and its "zero interest rate policy." I don't know exactly how we are going to do this without another recession, but it is essential to get back to a "normal" economy. That means normal interest rates, declining debt as percent of GDP, and an end to the subsidy for home mortgages with Fannie and Freddie.

Fix the economy. I'd say that a tax reform package to balance rate cuts with tax loophole elimination would be a start. Then a redo of the hyper-regulation in Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank. Then an end to green energy subsidies and frack, baby, frack.

Redo Obamacare. I'd say the thing to do is to turn the subsidies on the Obamacare exchanges into "mini-med" plans that subsidize routine health care for the working poor. Since the working poor don't have assets they don't need catastrophic insurance coverage, because they can just declare bankruptcy. For the rest of us, just clear out all the mad mandates and regulations and let us buy the insurance coverage that makes sense. For a real stretch, slowly remove the tax deductibility of corporate health plans so that corporations push health care onto their employees who then have an interest in getting the best bang for the buck.

I'm in the middle of reading Charles Murray's In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State. His idea is to replace all social programs, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, student loans, housing subsidies (but not K-12 education) with a simple $10,000 per year grant paid to each American over 21 for as long as they live. Of this, $3,000 would be a lifelong health insurance plan. He thinks it would encourage the poor to work (because they wouldn't be facing their current 50% plus marginal tax rate) and also encourage the poor to marry (because there wouldn't be an advantage to single-motherhood). It's pretty intriguing, but it's clearly a "nuclear option" that looks like pie in the sky. At least for now. Here's The Atlantic saying it won't work 'cos the numbers don't add up.

Never mind about the nuclear option. What we can do is make a start: on the Fed, on growth and energy, and Obamacare. Let's do it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How Does Hume Separate Sense Impressions and Hallucinations?

Back in 1839, philosopher David Hume couldn't hold back any longer, so he sallied forth, at the grand old age of eighteen, to write his Treatise of Human Nature. Why not? The Scots are notoriously dour and flinty, and certainly exposed at a young age to the reality of a long winter, so a young lad raised on haggis and mutton ought to have a clear and unclouded mind uninflamed by the fripperies of London and its Sassenach coffee-houses.

He starts out, as any philosopher must, by clearing the ground. In young David's case, he tells us the difference between "impression" and "idea." The difference between the two, he writes, consists in the "degrees of force and liveliness, with which they strike upon the mind, and make their way into our thought or consciousness."

There should be no problem in discriminating between the two, he writes, even though "in sleep, in a fever, in madness... our ideas may approach our impressions."

Oh yeah?  Just how then do we do it? How close can an hallucination approach us in force and vivacity before we dignify it with the rank of "impression?" Other than the classic professorial put-down that it's obvious?

In fact, of course, scholars and wrangled about this forever, because it's a rather glaring aporia (that's Greek for no way through) in Hume's system.

Here's one chappie's effort. He says that there's a difference between a representation and an actual presentation, or experience. You can have an idea of the Acropolis, but until you've actually been there and seen it --  well, it's just a hallucination.

Hume himself deals with the problem later in Book One of the Treatise. Sure, he says, a "lively imagination very often degenerates into madness or folly" as does any "chimera of the brain." But you and I are able to differentiate such phantasms and similar poetical effusions. The fact is that we can tell the difference between the fiction and the real, he asserts.

Well yes. That's the definition of sanity, I reckon. You can tell the difference between the voices in your head, however forceful and vivacious, and the relentless reality out there in the world that eventually turns our hair gray. Anything else is madness.

The "Election About Nothing"

The chaps at the Weekly Standard have caught the Democratic operatives with bylines up to their old tricks. They've all decided, all on their little lonesomes, that the 2014 midterms are "the election about nothing." Stephen Hayes:
The Washington Post may have been first in declaring the coming midterms “kind of—and apologies to Seinfeld here—an election about nothing.” But the Daily Beast chimed in: “America seems resigned to a Seinfeld election in 2014—a campaign about nothing.” And New York magazine noted (and embraced) the cliché: The midterm election “has managed to earn a nickname from the political press: the ‘Seinfeld Election,’ an election about nothing.”

Soon enough this description was popping up everywhere—the New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg, Politico, and many others. The 2014 Midterms, the Seinfeld Election.
On top of that, the network newscasts have barely mentioned the midterms. I wonder why?

Of course, the MSM have a point. It seems that the GOP establishment has chosen not to "nationalize" the midterm election. Probably that's because last time they tried it, by impeaching President Clinton in 1998, it boomeranged on them, ending up mobilizing the Democrats to get out to vote rather than the Republicans.

And there's one other tiny little point. If the Republicans ran against President Obama the whole corps of Democratic operatives with bylines would be crying "Raacism."

It's easy for Democrats to "run on something" because the MSM automatically falls in line and echoes their talking points. But when Republicans say anything you get the "but critics say" graf to neutralize their talking points.  The MSM blows smoke and confuses the issue. Sharyl Attkisson tells it like it is about agenda-driven journalism:
“We do stories on food stamps, but only to the extent that we prove the cast that they’re needed, without also examining well-established fraud and abuse. We look at unemployment but only to the extent that we present sympathetic characters showing that benefits should be extended rather than examining, also, the escalating cost and instances of fraud. We cover minimum wage but only to the extent that we help make the case for raising it, without giving much due to the other side, which argued it will have the opposite effect than intended.”
The only time that the GOP gets to tell its story is in a presidential campaign, and even then it's not easy. Ronald Reagan did it, and everybody said he was a fool.

Now it looks like Ted Cruz is planning to run a presidential campaign that will try to change the narrative. Here he is speaking to the Values Voter Summit. A couple of days ago he wrote an op-ed commemorating Ronald Reagan's "Time for Choosing" speech in 1964. Can he do it? Can he blast through the liberal counterblast that is already teaching Americans to think of him as a loose cannon? Can he frame a new conservative narrative that will win a presidential election?

That's the conservative challenge. It's not whether the midterm is about something or nothing. It's whether the next GOP presidential nominee can articulate a conservative narrative that will create a mandate for change.

And I don't mean change as in more government programs, but change as in pruning government back.

And don't forget, even the great Ronald Reagan didn't do much pruning back, and what he did was done under the radar in the intricacies of the budget process.

I'd say that the job of the next Republican Congress, if we get one next week, is to "work with" the president to help the American people. And, as difficult as the president may be, the Republican leaders should never get angry.

They should merely shake their heads, more in sorrow than in anger, and wonder aloud just what it is that the president wants for this country.

While they lay the groundwork for real reform in 2017.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Big Government and Big Business: What They Leave Out

In the middle of the 19th century, when sensitive souls first noticed the industrial revolution, they all agreed that the solution to the Moloch of bourgeois capitalism was more government.

And they had a point, for it looked as though the capitalists would rule the world. It took another 50 years to demonstrate that capitalists weren't much interested in power. After building their businesses, they turned to philanthropy, eradicating hookworm in the South and building universities and medical research insititutes and peace foundations.

But by then the momentum towards big government was irreversible, and so big government is what we got.

The trouble with government, all government, is that it is just an armed minority occupying territory and taxing its people, and it stays in power by rewarding its supporters with pensions and subsidies. It really doesn't give a damn about the rest of the people, the ones that don't support it. In fact it typically brands them as dangerous radicals and extremists.

The other little problem with government arises out of its nature as an "armed minority." It is organized for warfare, whether warfare against foreign enemies or domestic enemies. To government everything looks like a war to fight, because to a hammer everything looks like a nail. Republicans, over the years, have preferred foreign wars, but Democrats have concentrated upon domestic wars: against poverty, against pollution, against the rich, against fundamentalists, against the Koch Brothers. And there's one very tricky problem with government. Like an army, it is organized to pursue victory at all costs; it does not demonstrate the flexibility needed to navigate a complex world. It is very difficult for government to change its mind, on entitlements, on dietary fat, on health care, on education, on anything.

Now the other great modern invention, capitalism, is different, but similar. It ceaselessly roams the world looking for business opportunities, and when it finds them it turns things upside down. We talk easily about buggy-whip makers, but the truth is that business is putting people out of business and workers out of jobs all the time. Joseph Schumpeter called it "creative destruction" and people on the receiving end of creative destruction don't like it at all.

But there is another thing about business that people don't like. It is a certain blindness to people that aren't in the swim, that aren't one of us. The Venetians and the Genoese ran a pretty good trading system bringing goods from the East to Europe. But they also did a nice little trade in slaves: Circassian girls for the harems of Arabia, and young men for the slave armies of the Mamluks. Then, of course, it was Venice that invented the western sugar plantation, starting with Muslim slaves on Cyprus and then expanding westward across the Atlantic using slaves from Africa. Nobody seemed to have a problem with that, from the 13th century to the 18th century.

The Frankfurt School and Jürgen Habermas explain why both government and business can be so blind to other people, and use them up like resources rather than treat them like fellow humans. The problem is that both government and business are "systems" based on the application of instrumental reason, in which people act strategically. In government the strategic aim is to increase raw power over people and minds. In business the strategic aim is to increase power in the market, wealth and profits.

The solution is not hard to find. It is do develop the moral and cultural consensus that government's power over people should be limited, and that business's "creative destruction" should not destroy people.

This means that we have to look into the very foundation of our modern world and its worship of reason, for, as Horkheimer and Adorno wrote in the 1940s, we use reason to dominate nature and other men, for "What men want to learn from nature is how to use it in order wholly to dominate it and other men."

Now the point about human society and humans as social animals is that within the bounds of society we do not use pure reason and domination to force our way. We abjure force and resort to communication and cooperation. If we disagree about means and ends we talk with each other to try to discover a way that we can compromise our objectives so that everyone gets something out of the compromise. We set limits on what can be done to other people, the limits on treating them as means to an end. We think a little about other peoples' needs as well as our own needs. We "care" about other people, and we share in their suffering, through "com-passion" rather than merely obsess on our own problems and needs.

What is this thing that can moderate the strategic impulse of instrumental reason and its systems? It is, of course, everything, from friendship to kindness, to neighborhood groups to churches to charities to love. As Kant said, it is treating people as ends in themselves rather than means.

The question is, of course, how? In our society of vast instrumental forces from government to business to political movements, how do we dial back the relentless strategic drive for power and substitute communicative dialog and friendship?

That is indeed the question.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hoarders and Wreckers: How Socialism Ends

I like to compare political party supporters to soldiers in an army. That's because I experience that government is always about war.

It's not that hard. Governments fight foreign wars -- or at least border wars; that's just what they do. So the war is always about forcing the neighbor state to recognize the borders, or to submit to the adjustment of the borders in favor of our side. Governments also fight domestic wars. They descend on the productive sector and force it to cough up revenues, because social justice. These revenues are then distributed among the government's supporters.

Yes, of course these monies do wonders by helping the poor and educating our children. But stripped of "narrative" we are talking about taking money from the "other" and giving it to people that vote for our side.

Take Obamacare. Recent polls show that Democratic supporters say that they have benefited from Obamacare; Republicans say they have not. Here's Byron York on a recent Gallup Poll:
Looking just at those who said they have been affected by Obamacare, 27 percent of Democrats said they had been helped, while 15 percent said they had been hurt. 
Well, that's the way it's supposed to be! That's what Democrats vote for. But the rest of the nation isn't so happy:
Among independents, the numbers were almost the opposite: 16 percent said they had been helped, while 27 percent said they had been hurt. And among Republicans, just 4 percent said they had been helped, while 40 percent said they had been hurt.
I'll bet you wouldn't see numbers like that on Social Security and Medicare. That's the problem with them. Even though they are going to bankrupt the nation people still support them because they want to continue to get their checks from the government.

Here's my point. Once you sign on to the government's entitlements you are hooked. Everyone in America is hooked on Social Security and Medicare because almost everyone would take a hit if they were wound up and reformed into real savings programs.

But things are much worse for the average rank-and-file Democrat. Scratch a Democrat and you'll likely find someone with a government job. Or on welfare. Or getting some crony subsidy from a Pentagon contract or a crony green subsidy or a climate-change research grant. So if you try to cut any government program an angry wail will go up from the Democrat rank-and-file and the gentry liberals.

The result? Democrat politicians absolutely refuse to cut spending, calling it "austerity," and Republicans are hesitant to cut spending because the cuts will energize the Democratic opposition and may cost them their seats.

So the government stumbles on, trying to square the circle and appear to fix things, or fix things indirectly so that people don't notice.

The end game is what we see in Venezuela. From Instapundit:
SOCIALISM ALWAYS ENDS THE SAME WAY: Venezuela seizes warehouses packed with medical goods, food. It always starts with hope, change and social justice, and it ends with assaults on the “hoarders and wreckers.”
Think of the Venezuelan government as an army. It is marching to final victory over social injustice. But on the way it must keep its soldiers fed and content. It does this, like any army, by requisitions. It starts with taxes and nationalization of the oil business and continues with minor expropriations of unpopular corporations.

Then it gets into inflation and price controls and rationing.

Now the thing about a real army in a real war is that the generals know they need to get the war over as soon as possible, because the army takes resources away from the productive sector to feed its war machine. At some point the army exhausts the economy with its requisitions. At some point there is no more money. If you are in the predatory war business you want to get the war over, disband the army, and get the people back to normal productive work.

The progressive political army can never so this. It must keep upping the ante to keep its supporters happy. It eats its seed corn because the more that it extracts from the economy to give to its supporters the less is left to the businesses in the economy to make products and services and create jobs. But it can never tell its supporters to ease off on their demands, because the basis of its support is the hand-outs to its supporters.

So it all ends in an economic collapse and default with the government screaming at "hoarders and wreckers." The poor lose their benefits and their jobs, if any, and the widows and orphans lose their government bonds. Inflation destroys the savings and the wages of the middle class. Only the rich, who own real or productive assets, are left with anything, and if they have any sense they get the hell out before the government thugs come and expropriate their wealth.

The solution? Keep the government out of everything that isn't related to genuine war needs: defending against foreign enemies and domestic criminals. Because the human appetite for free stuff is unlimited.

And don't get seduced by William James and his "Moral Equivalent of War." That's the problem. Our progressive overlords are into moral equivalents of war on everything from saving our kids to saving the planet. But the failure of government education and green energy will not make them sadder and wiser. They will just think up something else. Because if we can go to the moon...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Liberals and their Illusions

Even good liberal Thomas Frank is starting to break away from the Obama infatuation. Why do liberals keep believing that presidential candidates like Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama are non-ideological, he asks at Salon?

Up to now, Frank has rejected the comparison between Carter and Obama as mere partisan insult. What's changed his mind is Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge about the 1970s. Rick includes a detailed account of the 11976 Carter campaign. Carter ran on "pure idealism—idealism without ideology, even." Even his speech-writer James Fallows thought Carter “might look past the tired formulas of left and right and offer something new.” Liberals fell in love with an idea. Sound familiar?

To Thomas Frank, of course, neither Carter nor Obama governed as liberals. Carter's stimulus was too small, and he "was always drawn to fiscal responsibility and 'hard choices.'" Of course Frank hasn't a clue about Fed Chairman G. William Miller that engineering the double-digit inflation of 1979-80. Good solid inflation. That's as lefty as it gets. Ask Venezuela or Argentina.

We liberals are "such losers," writes Frank.
We still “yearn to believe,” as Perlstein says... We persuade ourselves that the answer to the savagery of the right—the way to trump the naked class aggression of the One Percent—is to say farewell to our own tradition and get past politics and ideology altogether. And so we focus on the person of the well-meaning, hyper-intelligent leader. We are so high-minded, we think. We are so scientific.
Well, Thomas Frank, I have a couple of thoughts for you. The point of the "well-meaning, hyper-intelligent leader" is that if you liberals ran Obama as the partisan campus radical he really is you couldn't win national elections. But we savage righties understand that behind the centrist, expert-led rhetoric are the battalions of left-wing "activists" and their advocacy. They do most of their work beneath the radar, and it doesn't hurt chaps like you that the MSM turns their radar off during Democratic administrations.

But the "well-meaning idealism" is not just intended to mislead the rubes. It's also part of the way that liberals mislead themselves. Liberals do not say to themselves that they are going to sicc their activists on anyone that disagrees with them and name and shame them as racists and sexists and homophobes. They say they advocate for tolerance and diversity. They do not say they are going to force people into a one-size-fits-all government program; they say pretty things like "government is the name for things we do together."

Like I say, government is force, politics (i.e., activism) is division, system is domination. But it would never do for nice gentry liberals to realize what their comfortable idealism means in practice.

So liberals will always fall in love with professional politicians that present themselves as "anti-politicians" in love with idealism. Such politicians pander to liberals' self-image of themselves as educated, evolved idealists that just want to build a better society.

The truth is too hard to bear, that "gentry liberals" are just a common-or-garden ruling class in love with themselves and in love with political power. Like any ruling class, they live in a bubble of lies and illusions; they ruthlessly deal themselves subsidies and privileges while the rest of America suffers.

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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Austerity? What Austerity?

The Paul Krugmans of the world keep telling us that the global slowdown is due to "austerity," meaning government spending cuts and tax increases.

Only one problem, writes Brian Westbury in The Wall Street Journal.  In Europe governments are spending more of GDP than they did at the height of the Crash of 2008.
Euro area government spending was 49.8% in 2013 versus 46.7% in 2006... France spent 57.1% of GDP in 2013 versus 56.7% in 2009, at the peak of the crisis.
Then there's quantitative easing.
The Fed's monetary base (currency in circulation and reserve balances) has grown 28.8% per year since QE started... But M2 [the actual money that you and I use], the measure Milton Friedman told us to watch, has grown just 6.7% this year. 
Then there's Janet Yellen, Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Board. In 2008, as president of the San Francisco Fed, she argued that
As Japan found during its quantitative easing program, increasing the size of the monetary base above levels needed to provide ample liquidity to the banking system had no discernible economic effects. 
So why would the doughty Janet be following this policy that she rejected in 2008? The truth is, according to Reinhart and Rogoff in This Time is Different, it takes about ten years to recover from a full scale financial meltdown like the Crash of 2008.  All the froth about "austerity" and quantitative easing misses the point. After a big crash we are all poorer than we were and we all need to get to work to repair the damage to our fortunes.

In my view the purpose of quantitative easing and zero interest rates are to keep the federal government's interest rate expense down. If you go to usfederalbudget.us's interest page you will see that if you bump interest rates up to 5% then the federal government has to pay nearly $1 trillion a year in net interest instead of the $250 billion right now. That would add $750 billion to the annual deficit, and would require the government to start implementing spending cuts.

Look. The whole point of Keynesianism is that the modern welfare-state government keeps getting itself in a jam. Its supporters naturally demand a continuance of their accustomed handouts, as regime supporters have done since the dawn of time, and the government obliges. It must oblige until the Mongols sweep into Northern China from the Asian steppe, because no ruling class can survive the rebellion of its supporters. Keynesianism was developed to provide an intellectual shine to this bankrupt policy.

In just this one thing we see the bankruptcy of the welfare-state paradigm. It must chain the whole economy to the needs of its supporters. In the case of the Obama Democrats this means wholesale financial repression on the mom-and-pop savers in order to keep the entitlements and the crony capitalist handouts going.

The one thing the Obama Democrats cannot countenance is reform, to reverse the "ratchet" of increased government spending on their supporters.

This cannot end well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Should GOP Worry About Gender Gap?

Everybody wants the GOP to worry about the gender gap, the fact that more women vote for Democrats than Republicans.

So, the worriers say, the GOP should "reach out" to women with women-friendly policies.

The same applies to the Hispanic vote and the black vote.

National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru takes a look at the problem. Democrats, he writes look at the gender gap and "conclude that they need to hit “women’s issues” hard both to raise their percentage of female votes and to boost female turnout."

Republicans, he adds, look at the gender gap and "conclude that they have a problem with women that they desperately need to address."

But couldn't the oppose be true? Shouldn't Democrats conclude they have a desperate problem with men and Republicans that they need to hit "men's issues" hard?

The simple fact, Ponnuru writes, is that since about 1980 women have trended Democratic because
Polling has for many years consistently found that women are more supportive than men of social-welfare spending, economic regulation, and gun control, and less supportive of military action.
The point is that the Republican Party is the party for people, men and women, that believe in less social-welfare spending, less economic regulation, less gun control and more concern for the enemy without (Commies and Islamists) than the enemy within (racists, sexists, homophobes).

Thus, it makes complete sense that single women vote Democratic and married women vote Republican.  Because when you get right down to it, all women need a protector, women's liberation and feminism be damned. That protector is either a man or a government. Period.

The point is that a Republican can still win in 2016, gender gap or not. All that need happen is that more men and women switch their vote and vote Republican.

As I understand it there are two basic strategies for winning elections. You can run on issues that appeal to your base and split the opposition. Or you can ignore the bases and appeal to the independents in the middle.

In 2012, it is said, the Democrats went for the base and the Republicans went for the independents. The Democrats riled up their base with class warfare (Romney as uncaring rich guy) and gender warfare (GOP war on women). They backed it up with Catalist, their Big Data turnout machine. Republicans assumed the base would turn out and tried to appeal to independents. You know how that turned out.

Apart from Catalist, the Democratic strategy also put the GOP in the uncomfortable position of responding to the question of "when did you stop beating your wife?"

So what should the GOP do? Look, politics is division. You want to unify and enthuse your supporters -- with "base" issues -- and you want to divide and demoralize the opposition -- with "wedge" issues. Then, as a second tier priority, you worry about independents.

So much for tactics. Now let's think about strategy.

I think the GOP should start making a small-government pitch on the basis that big government is dangerous and risky. It should push back on the idea that big government creates security and safety. Just look at the last ten years. The big government mortgage policy nearly crashed the world economy. Millions of people can't find jobs and they are increasing the deficit by relying on government benefits. Government dependency makes people unable to adapt to life challenges. And all the focus on domestic issues means that government takes its eye of the ball on foreign policy. Isn't that the first job of government? Keeping Us Safe?

Put it this way. Every entitlement recipient believes that they deserve their benefit. But what about all the others? Why not spread the idea that increaseing the roll of social-welfare recipients means that the government may run out of money and leave the really deserving current recipients in the lurch? It's all very well to expand Medicaid. But what about the folks already on Medicaid that need it for their health care? Every time you add a new program you are putting the existing beneficiaries at risk.

Social welfare makes people dependent. That's risky. Economic regulation favors existing interests and squeezes people without an in to the rich and the powerful. That's unjust. Guns are the woman's equalizer in a dangerous world. The military is there to Keep Us Safe.

It's the truth. Government riles people up to believe in its promises, but in the end it leaves people hungry, sick, and dying by the side of the road. Hey, think about Mao and his Long March of 6,000 miles from southeast China all the way to the west and then the north. Mao, they say, didn't actually march. He was carried in a litter. How many of the original soldiers that started out on the Long March in October 1934 from the red base actually made it a year and 6,000 miles later to the northern border close to the Soviet Union?

Ultimately what makes the world go round is work and family and skills and the determination to find a way to be useful to other humans. People that sit back and rely on a powerful patron get shafted.

Guess what side the GOP is on?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why I Say "Politics is Division"

I keep saying this: Politics is division, and government is force. And really, it's true.

If you are mad about something, you form a political movement, and that political movement is almost bound to be based on the idea that society is holding you down. We need health care, education, climate research, but the eevil insurance companies, dead white males, oil companies are holding back the future. So we must join together against these enemies, and create a government program to defeat the enemies and force society to spend more money on us: for our health care, our education, our planet.

Isn't that the way it always works?

Last weekend, I read a piece by John Hawkins, who's always writing articles like "five reasons why liberalism stinks." But this time he has a list that knocks it out of the ballpark -- because it makes my point.
Liberalism is an ideology of tribalism and hatred. It works incessantly to undermine anything that truly brings America together -- like Christianity, the culture and love of country -- so it can try to rebind people together as liberal drones. Relatively minor differences of opinion between liberals and those who disagree with them are habitually elevated to encourage hatred.

For example, there’s no logical, rational reason that…
  • If you oppose illegal immigration, you must hate Hispanics.
  • If you oppose Affirmative Action, you must hate blacks.
  • If you oppose free birth control, you must hate women.
  • If you’re concerned about radical Islam, you must hate all Muslims.
  • If you oppose gay marriage, you must hate gays.
Yet, liberalism promotes those lies incessantly to keep people at each other’s throats. 
 The point is that if you want to raise a political issue then you must get people all riled up about it. Otherwise nobody will pay attention, and nothing will change.

Now, my point is that politics and government is the way that humans protect themselves against predators. Period. Everything else is mission creep and leads to injustice.

So if you want to assemble people into a political group it stands to reason that you must convince them that they are under threat.

Thus racism, sexism, classism, homophobia. Workers! The bosses are out to get you!  Women! The Republicans are running a "war on women!" Blacks! The white "system" is out to get your "gentle giants!" And so on.

Liberals understand that this is an outrage, because they are really sensitive when someone tries to do the division thing on them. Liberals really object when someone accuses them of being "unpatriotic."

Our liberal friends from time to time like to accuse the government of whipping up nationalistic fervor and turning the minds of young men when they recruit them for the armed forces.

So national leaders rile up the citizens when they want to fight a foreign war, and they accuse their opponents of being "unpatriotic." That's just the same as liberals calling their opponents "haters." It's about riling up your supporters into a tribal frenzy so you can win the next war or election.

But I'd go a little further, if you don't mind too much.

I think that all politics, all government, involves recruiting people into a political army, riling them up with rage and martial spirit, and then marching them off to war.

But, as liberals so cogently argued after World War I, what's the point of it all, especially for the front-line soldier that gets chewed up and spat out by the military or political machine? The fact is that the individual soldier is cannon fodder for the politicians and the generals. If he dies, most probably from hunger and sickness, too bad. The movement or the nation must prevail!

Which is to say that in all wars the individual foot-soldier gets screwed, whether we are talking about the trenches in WWI, the strikes against capital, the various social justice wars that liberals are for ever ginning up on behalf of women, minorities, gays, working stiffs.

That is why conservatives want to dial back the politics and limit government. We don't think that Americans should be at perpetual war with each other. We believe that the more government you have the more conflict you have, and the closer you will get to real civil war.

That, of course, is the argument that Rene Girard makes in Violence and the Sacred. It is all too easy for arguments and feuds within society to dial up to all-out violence. And once it starts, how do you stop it? (Read the book to find out.)

Liberals just know that they are on the side of the angels, and that the "activism" they practice is all in the cause of peace and justice.

But politics is division. The whole point of "activism" may be to mobilize a group of activists to fight for peace and justice. But the historians tell us that once you have started a war you find yourself riding the whirlwind. The war never ends up where you thought it would. In 1914 the German and Austrian emperors had no idea that four years later they would be out of a job and their empires broken up.

So it is with all the tawdry liberal "wars" on racism, sexism, bigotry and homophobia. There is no telling where it will all end up.

All we know is that it will all end up really different from what the liberal activists confidently predicted.

Cause and Effect is All in the MInd

David Hume's Big Idea in his Treatise on Human Nature is to convince us that our reliance on Cause and Effect is all in the mind. It's not a relation built on reason, but from the force or "vivacity" of an idea prompted by a succession of perceptions.

Before Hume, the "causal maxim" reads thus: Whatever exists must have a cause or ground for its existence.

In 1.3.14.35 Hume presents this maxim as follows. A cause is
an object precedent and contiguous to another, and where all the objects resembling the former are plac'd in a like relation of priority and contiguity to those objects, that resemble the latter[.]
And so it goes backwards from cause to cause, turtles all the way down. That's no good, says Hume, because you can't prove it. There is no "metaphysical necessity" that causes go on forever. In fact, we might note, there's a creation problem in there somewhere. Is there a First Cause, or do causes go on forever?

All we can say, says Hume, is that the mind prompts us to believe in cause and effect. A cause is
An object precedent and contiguous to another, and so united with it in the imagination, that the idea of one determines the mind to form the idea of the other, and the impression of the one to form a more lively idea of the other[.]
So it's the imagination and, following a lively idea, the mind that make the connection between cause and effect.

We can understand better what is going on if we think of the problems that Google's self-driving car must solve. Google Car is an entity programmed by humans to navigate without human intervention in the world. It uses cameras to provide it with a constant supply of images of the world "out there," and it must resolve the successive images into something useful.  What is useful is to call patterns that seem to persist from frame to frame "objects" and keep track of them, assuming that these "objects" are entities out in the world that Google Car needs to understand and deal with. For instance, Google Car might interpret a certain seemingly persistent image as a "traffic cone" and another as a "flagman." It makes sense to classify these persistent images as objects. Google Car needs to respond in one way to a supposed "traffic cone" and in another way to a supposed "flagman."

All Hume is saying is that we must restate the causal maxim into something like this: "Whatever perception the imagination decides is an object the imagination also deems it to have a cause or ground for its existence."

Explain what Hume is doing in 1.3.14.35 and then restate the causal maxim making use of Hume's understanding of necessity.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mann's Social Power Meets Novak's Three Sectors

I was over to Half Price Books yesterday and stumbled across a two volume set by Michael Mann on Social Power.

No, not that Michael Mann. This is a sociology prof. at UCLA. And his magnum opus is The Sources of Social Power, Vol 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4.

The big idea is to analyze human history through the lens of four competing power factors: ideology, economic, military, political. As in IEMP.

This, of course, is almost exactly the analytical framework of Michael Novak in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. Novak divides the social world into three sectors: political, economic, and moral/cultural. The difference between the two is that Mann wants to divide the political sector into two, because he sees that the military can be, and often is, a separate power sector from the political.

Also, Mann clearly operates from a lefty perspective, and Michael Novak is a former lefty. Mann's books start from the "beginning" and analyze the interplay of the four power factors throughout history. Novak's book is an apology for a greater separation of powers between the various power sectors.

So what does it all add up to? Well, I don't know yet, because I haven't read Mann. But here's a gloss by an adept of Mann, G. William Domhoff, a UC Santa Cruz prof. who runs a website called "Who Rules America?" about how "the wealthy few... defeating all of their rivals (e.g., organized labor, liberals, environmentalists) over the course of the past 35 years."

I know. If only. Because if you are like me you think that organized labor, liberals, environmentalists, and social justice warriors have eaten the corporate rich for lunch. The only way to escape the humiliation visited on the Koch Brothers is to kiss the liberal ring like Warren Buffett and Tom Steyer and contribute to Democratic coffers. Then you too can become a successful crony capitalist.

Here's an example of Domhoff's approach in "The Four Networks Theory of Power: A Theoretical Home for Power Structure Research".
As for the many wars in which the United States has been involved since 1949, they were decided upon by elected officials and by corporate leaders appointed to important positions in the state and defense departments, not by military leaders itching for a fight. The 2003 invasion of Iraq is a perfect example. It was the product of assertive nationalists like Vice President Richard Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, both former corporate CEOs, and the neoconservative ideologues they brought with them to government from right-wing think tanks.
The only problem with this is that Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld were and are politicians. Their sojourns as corporate CEOs were merely pauses in their political careers to make a little money. Their value to the corporations they headed was their political clout -- for corporations that needed clout. Cheney served Halliburton, a global oil-services company, and Rumsfeld served G.D. Searle, a drug company.

It was possible to think of corporations as a new and frightening phenomenon in the mid 1900s. But by 1910 they had been definitely tamed. No corporate bigwig could survive and prosper without kissing the ring of the political sector.

The history of the last 100 years makes that clear. The political sector keeps putting on demonstrations of power, just to be on the safe side: first the Standard Oil breakup, then the humbling of auto and steel with collective bargaining laws, then the IBM anti-trust suit, then the Microsoft anti-trust suit.

Today's headline corporations like Google and Apple know exactly what side their bread is buttered, and they keep themselves properly aligned with today's political and ideological ruling class, the educated ruling class of well-born liberals.

Still, it's going to be interesting delving into Michael Mann's books. His work will provide a different perspective from the excellent Michael Novak.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Economic Policy After Obama

It's said that the American people are ready for a different economic policy after the six years of sub-par growth under Obama. That is nice.

Problem is that the American people don't have a clue about what economic policy creates prosperity. Exhibit "A" is minimum wage. The American people are for it.

Problem is that the science is pretty well settled on this, except among a few labor economists. Minimum wage creates unemployment, particularly among uneducated, inexperienced young single males.

But the American people think that, absent robust growth, the way to get a bigger check from their employer is by force. By the government holding a gun to the head of their employer.

Hey, no surprise there. Most Americans earn their living as employees or as government beneficiaries. They do not really live in the market economy. They live in an administered world, the world of the corporate bureaucracy, the government bureaucracy and the client of the powerful patron.

Trouble is that the feudal system got its marching orders centuries ago. It is not subordination but exchange that makes the world go round. It is individuals responsibly trying to serve their fellow humans in market exchange that undergirds our prosperity.

I like to say that the moment that this truth got established beyond a shadow of a doubt was in 1921 when the German General von Seeckt decreed that the German army now needed individual soldiers who were "self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility."

Here's an article listing the five things wrong with the economy. They are:

  1. Poorly enforced trade agreements.
  2. Misguided energy policies.
  3. Burdensome government regulations and taxes.
  4. Corruption and monopolies.
  5. Disincentives to work, poorly run universities and immigration.
Fixing these five problems will go a long way to fixing the slow-growth economy After Obama.

The thing is, all these things are Holy Writ to Obama and the liberals. Energy? We gotta fight global warming! Regulation and taxes? You want unsafe working conditions! Corruption and monopolies? What about those Koch Brothers! Disincentives to work? You got no compassion for the poor and the marginalized!

My point is that we can have a Republican president and Congress that pass legislation to make a start on fixing this, but that won't even make a start on educating the American people to the real source of their prosperity.

The cunning of lefty "community organizer" politics is that you can always angry up people into a froth of rage and hate. Everyone has a complaint against society, from Warren Buffett down to the family of the dead teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

But the point of the society of responsible individualism is that we agree not to resort to politics to settle our differences. Instead we accept the verdict of the market. Which is short for accepting the verdict of our fellows. Which means that there are no excuses.

The great tragedy of our time is that the very people that advertise their dedication to Peace and Justice are the very people that insist on a political solution to every problem.

But politics is division; government is force. The more politics you have, the less Peace and the less Justice. That's why, in the hyper-political Obama administration division has increased and inequality has risen. Politics sets "us" against "them" and government mostly sides with the powerful and the status quo.

Still, there is only one thing to do, and that is to make a start.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

David Hume: In Media Res

I finally got to attend my class at the University of Washington on The Philosophy of Hume on Monday. Right in the middle of the whole question of Cause and Effect.

In media res. Just like an mythical epic, which always starts in the middle.

Cause and Effect. That's the Big Idea in Hume. You think there is such a thing as Cause and Effect, that when you see your friend throw a stone into the lake that there will be a splash. You are just assuming that because it happened last time it will happen this time. But you don't know that there will be a splash.  You just assume it, based on previous experience.

As Hume writes in A Treatise of Human Nature:
An object may be contiguous and prior to another without being consider'd as its cause. (1.3.2.11)
But that means nothing unless there is a NECESSARY CONNECTION. And Hume goes on to argue by reason that you can never prove a necessary connection.

The prof. in the class points out that there's a little problem here. If it's legitimate to argue about external "cause and effect" by the internal "cause and effect" of rational argument why isn't the same true of observation? What is the proper extent of the rule of reason?

Hume thinks he can confirm his doctrine by reference to animals. He does this to discredit the idea that we humans make a rational act when we declare that a certain Cause has a following Effect. The point is, he argues in 1.1.16, is that animals do the same thing we do with cause and effect, but they do it by instinct rather than self-conscious reasoning.
From the tone of voice the dog infers his master's anger, and foresees his own punishment. From a certain sensation affecting his smell, he judges his game not to be far distant from him.(1.3.16.6)
Hume is arguing what for the operation of what would be called a century later the "unconscious." We and the animals unconsciously link events together and experience it as cause and effect.
Beasts certainly never perceive any real connection between objects. 'Tis therefore by experience they infer one from another. They can never by any arguments from a general conclusion, that those object, of which they have no experience, resemble those of which they have. 'Tis therefore by means of custom alone, that experience operates upon them.(1.3.16.8)
 But when we make a rational decision to infer one event from another, using the "conscious" mind, do we have any additional warrant for that decision? Or are we just dressing up our experience with the name of reason?

Will anyone believe Hume, he wonders? At the beginning of 1.3.10 On the influence of belief he channels the 20th century Thomas Kuhn, he of "normal science" and the "paradigm shift." Writes Hume:
[A]ll systems... are apt to be rejected at first as new and unusual. This will perhaps be the fate of what I have here advanc'd concerning belief, and our reasonings from cause to effects... I expect not to make many proselytes to my opinion.
Yeah, well. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't believe that. If nothing else, Dave, you woke dear old Immanuel Kant out of his dogmatic slumber.  And the consequences of that, at least, are immeasurable as the cause and effect of stone-throwing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Men and Work: The Image You'll Never Forget

Last week I read a piece about the decline of the culture -- or something -- but it included a chart that I can't get out of my mind. I can't find the article, but I did find the chart at the website of the St. Louis Fed.

It's a chart about men and work. Specifically, it's the percent of men actually working, the "Employment-Population Ratio." Actually, it's the percent of men actually working.

Back in the early 1950s the ratio was about 84 percent. In the 1960s it was about 77 percent. Now it's just under 65 percent. Here's the chart.


Do you see what is going on? Every time there is a recession a bunch of men get bounced out of work. And a big chunk of them NEVER WORK AGAIN. Here's the original chart at St. Louis FRED.

The only recession where this didn't happen was the Reagan Recession of 1981-82. But look at the 1990 recession. It started with 73 percent of men working, dropped to 70 percent and ended up in 2000 with 72 percent working. So about one percent of the male workers NEVER WORKED AGAIN. After the 2000 recession the rate dropped to 69 percent and just go back to 70 percent before the Great Recession. So about two percent of men workers NEVER WORKED AGAIN. The Great Recession of 2007-09 hammered men in what we call the Mancession all the way down to 64 percent at work. Today it's back to 65 percent. So we can say that after the Great Recession FOUR PERCENT of male workers NEVER WORKED AGAIN.

I don't know what you think. But I think this is huge. Never mind teaching men not to rape. Never mind about ISIS. Never mind about racism. Never mind about the deficit. Never mind about My Social Security or My Medicare or any of the thousand and one free-stuff programs.

Let's think about this. Since the 1950s, each recession has thrown something like one to four percent of male workers out of work and most of those thrown out of work NEVER WORKED AGAIN.

Something is very wrong in America, and we'd better figure out what it is.

Before it's too late.

Monday, October 6, 2014

It's Not Time for Reading Books, It's Time for Action

With the ruin of the Obama presidency we have arrived at what President Obama likes to call a “teachable moment.” So finally, writes Bill Kristol, we can get the kids to go read a book: Hayek on intellectual conceit, James Q. Wilson on bureaucracy, Banfield on the city, Churchill on war, Orwell on the obvious, Lewis on chests. Not to mention his dad on “unanticipated consequences.”

But really, what good will it do?

Karl Marx on Feuerbach: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it."

When the Marxist predictions had clearly failed by the end of World War I, the Frankfurt School refounded the Marxian movement as “critical theory.” In Max Horkheimer's notion critical theory attempts "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them.”

Then Habermas defined critical theory as devoted to “a form of life free from unnecessary domination in all its forms.”

Hello? Unnecessary domination? How about this:
Government dominating parents in with divisive government education
Government dominating workers with government entitlements
Government dominating physicians and patients with government healthcare
Government dominating workers with unjust taxes on labor
Government dominating students with unjust student loans
Government dominating business with unjust regulations on free exchange of goods and services
And let's not forget our favorite little liberal darlings:
Social justice warriors trying to dominate everyone in sight.
I could go on.

But the point is that the time for reading books is over. The human race has had cogent and understandable diagnoses of the last century's big government cancer for ages. Now it's time to treat the patient, before the disease of big government kills it.

Here, for example, is a young woman in Time of all places telling her cohort that it's crazy to go $30,000 into debt when “you probably could have gotten your education/accounting/psychology degree at a much more affordable university closer to home.”

Yet millions of twentysomethings deep in debt are standing around meekly serving overpriced coffee drinks to other twentysomethings. If they read anyone it's probably Naomi Klein.

I will tell you why. It is because conservatives are too busy reading books. Instead, conservatives should be organizing the wretched of the Obama earth and getting them plenty mad.

That is Marx's great insight. His idea of “class” was that people form a class when they organize for political struggle around an idea that they are oppressed and exploited by some other group.

Now, we know that the core components of the Emerging Democratic Majority are getting restless after six years of Obama. Women, minorities, educated, youth: all of these voters that were going to keep the Democrats in power for a generation are falling off.  Why? Because liberalism is a crock. It's the wet dream of an educated elite that thinks that society is something for them to organize into proper ranks and files. Or, as Jonah Goldberg writes:
Liberalism, as an ideology, insists that government can do good and great things for the people and the world if the people running the government are smart liberals.
Now liberals are big on psychology. So they probably know there's a category in psychopathology for people that think that the world would work if only they could rule it.

Meanwhile, median income is going down. Yay, kids! Under Obama inequality is going up!

It reminds me of the Clinton campaign's famous catchphrase from 1992: “everything that should be down is up; everything that should be up is down.” And that was after the mildest recession since World War II. Worst economy in 50 years, the Clintons called it.

What do you call the sixth year of the worst economic recovery since whenever? Time for a change or time for a revolution? Yet the only people in the streets are the blacks of Ferguson and Robert F. Kennedy and his People's Climate March.

Liberals are in the position of climate warmist Kevin Trenberth, who emailed hockey pro Michael E. Mann on October 12, 2009 to say:
The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.
It's great that liberals are hopelessly at sea with their conceit that we rubes should leave climate to the smart liberals. No doubt there are similar emails about the economy that have now been carefully destroyed by the IRS.

Forget about teaching the kids to read conservatives. How about we form the ordinary middle class into a class that experiences itself as oppressed and exploited on the one hand by fatally conceited liberals and on the other by terminally dependent government clients. Then we do something about it.

This is not a time for reading; this is a time for doing.