Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Problem with our Elites

What's the matter with our elites? How could they be making such a mess of things, from immigration to finance to climate change?

The answer, I believe, lies in the fundamental divide our rulers face between getting elected and doing the right thing.

To get elected, the elected politician must lay out bubba bait. On the left, the politician must promise pension and health care programs; on the right, the politician must kiss the ring of the nation.

But what the politicians really want to do is save the world.

What our elites really want to do is create a happy world beyond the petty squabblings of nations and tribes. What they really want to do is make the environment into a nice shrubbery where Jane Austen heroines can take a pleasant walk. What they really want to do is save the world from the sin of grubby people driving around needlessly in fossil-fueled pickup trucks.

I suppose political leaders have always been like this. Does not Shakespeare have his Henry IV long to go rescue the Holy Land after he has dealt with his troublesome marcher lords?
And were these inward wars once out of hand,
We would, dear lords, unto the Holy Land.
Of course he would. Who doesn't long to get beyond the grubby business of day-to-day politics? Thus does the ordinary politician Al Gore puff himself up by inventing the Internet and fighting climate change.

But there is one thing about bubba-bait politics. It is much more respectable in our elite to advocate for left-wing bubba bait than right-wing bubba bait. Nobody is ashamed to advocate for more spending on workers, women, blacks, or any other certified victim. But plenty of people are ashamed by the idea of nationhood, of national traditions, of middle-class culture.

In reality, of course, the administrative state with its government handouts has been shown by settled science to be a mistake, and a cause of economic distress. We really need to dial back on the entitlement state. Whereas the national idea is the best idea yet to get bubbas to buy into a larger identity than family and tribe.

We know why this is so. The administrative state has been supported and advocated by most of the elite enthusiasms of the past century or so: Marxism, Fabianism, Progressivism, and now environmentalism and political correctness. Nationalism, at least since 1945, has been an embarrassment to our elites, because of the H-word.

Well, now we are in a bit of a pickle, because the elite suppport for government handouts has put the public finances of the western world in a mess, and ruined the lives and culture of those that rely on the handouts, while the neglect of nationhood has created a problem of unassimilated immigrants from Germany to California that has got the bubbas in a rage. Now our ruling class is looking at their angry peoples and wondering what went wrong.

It's really not that hard. The problem is you, ruling class, your grubby pursuit of power and your elite conceits and enthusiasms.

But what is to be done? It's not that hard. Ease up on the pension promises, and move national finance towards the idea that most people most of the time should take care of their own pensions and their own health care. And bulk up on the nation state and the idea of protecting the German people, the American people, right here at home, rather than running around, like Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House, taking care of poor benighted souls in foreign lands while neglecting their own children.

See? Things are not as bad as we think. If only our ruling class would get a clue.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Special Snowflakes Are Having the Time of Their Lives

Yesterday I was pointed to a couple of links at Salon about an adjunct college teacher, Rani Neutill, that finally couldn't take it any more. So she quit her adjunct-faculty job and went to work as a waitress.

That in itself is an interesting story. But the tale she told about the special snowflakes in her classes that needed trigger warnings every other minute gave me an epiphany. They didn't just need trigger warnings before reading some excerpt or watching some movie clip. No, the special snowflakes in the class needed an email the night before!

Neutill gave her class a reading about Blaxploitation movies, and then ran a clip from a movie to illustrate the reading (after giving a trigger warning). During the clip, two students left the class in tears.
Later that day, I had a white female student come to my office hours crying. Between picking up tissues and blowing her nose she said, “I’m doing a minor in African American Studies. How could your first images of black people be that horrible?”
OK, so let's do a clip from a movie that shows a "positive image of black sexuality and sex." How about a gay sex scene from The Wire? Will we discuss that other movie, asks the same student? Yes. More tears. So Neutill decides to give a trigger warning before every clip. "Every. Single. One." Then a student came an asked her to send emails before class warning about the triggering scenes so that "so that I wouldn’t 'out' survivors if they had to walk out of class when hearing what I was about to show."

It was about then that I had the epiphany. These poor helpless special snowflakes and not poor and helpless at all. They are having the time of their lives. They are getting rewarded for being helpless little emotional wrecks. They are wielding power by getting the teacher to accommodate their ever-so-special needs.

And that got me to thinking about those Victorian women and their fainting couches, of whom we've heard tell. Just exactly how helpless and oppressed were those delicate flowers that were worshiped on their pedestals by men in between their necessary retreats to their couches? Maybe they weren't so helpless after all. Maybe the opposite was true; maybe these women had their men eating out of their hands, and they loved it.

Rani Neutill was annoyed by the fact that "all of the students who were upset were the feminists, the activists," and what's more they were "treating a woman of color professor like she wasn’t an authority" while accepting an old white guy in the department as though he was an authority.

Hey, Rani! Don't take it personally. It's not about you, it's about them. The students didn't play the helpless victim game with the white guy because it wouldn't have occurred to him to play along. But you are sensitive and caring, so they take advantage of you.

Women are not like men. Men try to ignore affect, because it interferes with the fight. But women are different. The whole point of the community of women is to share, even to hype, emotional experience. So you wouldn't want to just sit through a bunch of Blaxploitation and gay themed movies without getting all worked up, and getting out the Kleenex and having a good cry on the shoulder of your BFF.

The point is that the feminists, after the initial fight for equal rights, are now reverting to their feminine type. They don't want to be men; they want to be women, and that means that they are bringing feminine cultural memes into the public square. Yes, women have the vote and are now often elected politicians. But you still can't treat a woman politician as though she were a man. That would be sexist. Yes, women have the right to have pick-up sex just like men. Only they still want to control every step of the sexual process, just like they did under the patriarchy when men had to woo them, on and on for months, before they got their grubby hands inside their beloved's bloomers.

Well, in Part II of her Salon series Rani Neutill chucks it all in and goes back to work as a waitress, at age 38. And she finds the work atmosphere a lot more cooperative and healthy than the twisted world of academia.
Now, I’ve been working there for almost six months. I have started to get to know the people I work with. All of my co-workers are smart. Many are in school, one was in the Army, a few are moms. They are funnier than a lot of academics, but that seems unfair to them because most academics aren’t that funny.

The biggest difference is that it feels like a family.
Yeah. An ordinary American workplace feels like a family, unlike academia. I wonder why that is. Still, at least the special snowflakes are enjoying themselves, even if the adjunct faculty isn't.

Read the whole thing, Part I and Part II. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Wages of Dissing America

Victor Davis Hanson has a long piece today on the importance of deterrence, and how the appeasement of others never works. It's not just a question of aggression, he argues. Symbolism is just as important as actual facts on the ground.
Symbolism is integral to deterrence. Obama perhaps meant well in his Cairo speech, his Al Arabiya interview, his apology tour, his circumvention of the Constitution to close a treaty deal with the Iranian theocracy, his media-hyped hosting of the deserter Bowe Bergdahl, his administration’s lies about Benghazi, his euphemism campaign of renaming acts of Islamic terror, his monotonous promises to close Guantanamo, his inability to control U.S. borders, and his pop admonitions to Christians to get off their high horse, to capitalists to remember they had not built their own businesses, to investors to quit profiting, and to the police to remember that they were stereotypers and profilers. 
President Obama does too understand the importance of deterrence. That's why he is always dissing conservatives and Republicans. And hey, it works! Otherwise Republicans under Paul Ryan would have pushed harder to get more of their agenda through in the late, great omnibus bill.

(Oh, and by the way, how come this whole business ended up with Speaker Ryan having to rush it through to avoid a government shutdown over Christmas. How did that happen, geniuses?)

But it all makes sense. President Obama believes in the left-wing agenda of battling racism, sexism, and homophobia. Therefore he is ruthless in his pursuit and his marginalization of racists, sexists, and homophobes. And he is nothing if not courageous in standing up for his faithful regime supporters, from college diversity administrators to Black Lives Matter activists.

But President Obama and the liberal ruling class are embarrassed by western colonialism, by capitalism, by enthusiastic Christians, by western cultural imperialism. And that is why they hesitate. In the war on radical Islam. On a sensible policy of immigration that looks after American citizens first. On a sensible reform of entitlements. On encouraging assimilation rather than worrying about the marginalization of minority cultures.

The bad news is that the international ruling-class embarrassment about the astonishing world-wide success of western culture has put us all into a bad place, with a variety of "peaceful protesters" running wild with the effective support of the liberal ruling class, rather as fascist street gangs had a license to take over the street in the Europe of the 1920s and 1930s.

The good news is that the cultural embarrassment of the ruling class is reaching its Munich moment, the point at which every person in the street can grasp that appeasement must stop, right now, and the West must start defending its culture, its ideas, and its homelands, and must start pushing back, hard.

And maybe, here at home, we will get a Republican presidential nominee that knows how to stop the appeasement of the liberals and the Democrats and rally a majority of Americans around the principles of freedom, justice, and the American Way, and put liberals and Democrats on the back foot, as they were for about ten years from 1985 to 1995.

Surely, the last seven years have taught us that the liberal culture of dissing America is going to end badly, for all of us.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Nobody Likes Ted Cruz. But Why?

Today we had another in the "nobody likes Ted Cruz" meme, this time from the Wall Street Journal news side. Janet Hook writes "Republicans Love Ted Cruz in Iowa, Loathe Him in D.C."

Yeah. We knew that, honey. Oops. I just saw Janet Hook on a video. She looks like a feminist Hillary voter., as you expect from the WSJ news side. And she adds something that wasn't in the article. The GOP establishment doesn't think that Ted Cruz can win the general. And, she says, the GOP in the Senate says that Cruz is all talk and no action.

But my question is still this. Why don't they like him? Janet Hook has all the standard quotes from GOP senators past and present. It's the old "work horse versus show horse" line.

But come on. It seems pretty obvious to me that Ted Cruz has been running for president from Day One. So one obvious strategy is to run against the GOP establishment as a real conservative. This is not that wild and crazy. Do you mean to say, GOP establishment, that you can't deal with such an obvious strategy and turn aside questions about it with a nod and a wink?

So here is a quote from a Frank Bruni piece on Ted Cruz. They didn't like him on the Bush 2000 campaign either.
After Bush took office, other full-time advisers got plum jobs in the White House. Cruz was sent packing to the Siberia of the Federal Trade Commission.

The political strategist Matthew Dowd, who worked for Bush back then, tweeted that “if truth serum was given to the staff of the 2000 Bush campaign,” an enormous percentage of them “would vote for Trump over Cruz.”

Another Bush 2000 alumnus said to me: “Why do people take such an instant dislike to Ted Cruz? It just saves time.”
 Frank Bruni finishes his NYT piece by explaining the antipathy against Cruz like this:
No, it’s the fruit of a combative style and consuming solipsism that would make him an insufferable, unendurable president. 
Gosh. I can't think of anyone on the Democratic side of whom that could be said.

I happen to know a guy that worked for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. He told me that the guy is impossible. Yeah. So he also happens to run the most revolutionary corporation in America, the one that has turned retail (and package delivery and I know not what) upside down. And he's a horse's ass.

I suppose that I would like to hear from Ted Cruz's friends. What do they think of the real Ted Cruz? We don't know. None of them have ever spoken out. Hey maybe Ted Cruz doesn't have any friends. Or maybe the friends know that nothing they say will help counter the liberal narrative.

For instance, if I were the Cruz campaign I'd be planning an effort to get the good side of Ted Cruz out some time in March. By that time voters will have a vague feeling of Ted Cruz as a menacing figure, as taught by the mainstream media. So if the campaign can present Ted Cruz as a soft-spoken, thoughtful candidate that cares about people like me then you would give a jolt to the moderate voter that had only got the liberal line up to that moment.

All I can say is that I am interested in finding out who the real Ted Cruz is.

What do I mean by this? Let's do it by a couple of items about the "real" George W. Bush. First, there was a story I read, after Bush had been elected, that Bush, when speaking at some event, usually veered into the kitchen to shake hands with the help. Second, there was a story just last week about how as president George W. Bush holed up at Camp David starting a couple of days before Christmas, and then left for the ranch on the day after Christmas. The reason? So that as many of the help as possible (including the media) could spend Christmas with their families.

Yeah. One thing I'd like to know about Ted Cruz is how he treats the help.

But I'd also want to know about how he is going to work with Congress, and how he is going to counter the liberal narrative with a conservative narrative, and how he is going to tame the extra-constitutional administrative state. And a few other things.

But most of all I would like to know why they hate him.

Friday, December 25, 2015

"Fools, Frauds and Firebrands" Building Their Secular Theology

When commentators say that people are losing their faith in religion, I like to say: what are you talking about? Since the supposed "death of God" about 200 years ago we have seen an explosion of militant secular religions that have inspired billions of humans with their visions of a better world. And the most militant and vibrant of those secular religions has been Marxism.

So I ordered Roger Scruton's latest, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left with anticipation. I have a lot of respect for Scruton, not least the fact that it was his horse that introduced him to his wife (it's a charming story).

Having read the book I confess myself a little disappointed. Scruton dismisses a lot of the lefty thinkers as purveyors of "nonsemes," or nonsense memes, and he discounts a lot of their writing as merely what we now call virtue signalling that communicates their reliability and orthodoxy to the others of their lefty faith.

I think the problem is that Scruton analyzes thinkers from Althusser to Žižek as if they were philosophers, when I think it is more sensible and accurate to describe them as secular theologians. For instance, one of Louis Althusser's books is Reading Capital, i.e., Marx's Das Kapital. The sensible way to understand such a book would be as an analysis of a holy text.

It is telling, as Scruton tells us, that these leftist thinkers do not reference any writers or sources outside the holy family of Marx and his epigones. I experienced this myself recently when reading the Marxist The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View by Ellen Meiksins Wood. There is not a whisper in Wood's book about post-Marxian economics. Everything is analyzed from the holy texts, in terms of commodification of labor, exchange value vs. use value, surplus value, and class conflict. There is a word for this kind of thing. Fundamentalism. Don't bother me with the latest in science and research. That old time religion is good enough for me.

Now many of of the thinkers that Scruton analyzes I have never read. But some of them I have, including Foucault, Horkheimer, Adorno, and Habermas. I am sorry to say that Scruton, to me, does not allow them the benefit of the doubt. For instance Scruton dismembers The Dialectic of Enlightenment by Horkheimer and Adorno as an attack on not just the bourgeoisie and capitalism but, hysterically, Enlightenment itself. OK, but I read Horkheimer and Adorno as saying that it is not just capitalism that threatens us with domination, but reason itself. Reason is not just a means to understand the world, but to dominate it. That is what they mean by "ïnstrumental reason." What they begin, Jürgen Habermas follows through, and by the time he has finished, in my view, the whole edifice of the revolutionary left is in ruins. Scruton criticizes the thinking of Habermas as labored and bureaucratic. But I think that it rips open the heart of leftist thinking. It says, in The Theory of Communicative Action, that instrumental reason is a domination can only be checked by inter-subjective communication between equals that trust each other. No doubt Habermas has to smother this idea in bushels of lefty orthodoxy to make it palatable to his lefty readers. And no doubt in his later Between Facts and Norms, Habermas utterly fails to show how his theory of moderating instrumental reason with intersubjective trust could be achieved in a big-government context, and submerges his failure in snowdrifts of bureaucratic waffle. But that is the point. Once you have opened the can of instrumental reason and begun to critique it, you have unwittingly exposed the impossibility of Marxism and socialism which are built on using people as instrumental pawns in a project of internal colonization. And no amount of beating around the bush can really hide it.

Now I choose to read Fools, Frauds and Firebrands through the reductive lens of my Three Peoples theory. I believe that lefties are People of the Creative Self and that their secular religion is an attempt to find meaning in this world for the creative life. That, to me, is the meaning of Sartre's existentialism and his idea of good faith and bad faith. Good faith is being a creative thinker; bad faith is repeating someone else's idea. Take Alain Badiou's idea of "the Event." He means, of course, the transformative political revolutionary event that every leftist longs for. But you can also see the Event as the creative breakthrough that every creative artist lives for. What Badiou calls "generic procedures"  I would call creative process.
Badiou identifies just four areas which admit of 'generic procedures', and in which the call to fidelity is heard: science (including mathematics), love (by which he means erotic love), art and politics. And it is only by through fidelity to such a 'generic procedure' that we achieve the good.
I understand this as a manifesto of creativity. Good faith is the creative act. To Badiou's creative self the only thing worth living for is the creative act, the invention of something new in science, love, art, and politics. The moment of creative inspiration is very heaven. Hell is unthinkingly regurgitating other peoples' ideas.

Very good. But to me Badiou's vision is crippled. Why just include science, love, art and politics as the sources of creativity? What about business? Has there been a more stunning creative achievement than the iPhone, brainchild of Steve Jobs? What about children? Is there anything more creative that joining with a woman to create and then to raise a child? And what founts of creativity are waiting undiscovered to the parent and the child as both set out on the journey of growth and discovery?

Yes, business. This capitalism that the left reviles is not a matter of "accumulation", but a miraculous story of creation and discovery. a process in the last two centuries that has raised human per-capita income by 3,000 percent. There has been nothing like the Great Enrichment, ever, as Deirdre McCloskey writes in her  "Bourgeois Era" books. George Gilder talks about the capitalist process as "surprise", one surprise after another. What is this "surprise" but the creative act?

Now, I think the Left's secular religion of the creative self has made one huge error. It has taken for granted that the great era of creativity, the celebration of the Events of creation, must necessarily be built on the ruins of the old age of the responsible self, what we will call, for the sake of argument, the bourgeois era. This is a monstrous mistake. The age of the creative self must be built on the shoulders of the age of the responsible self, by revising and extending the achievements of the age of the responsible self.

In my view, the creative lefties are repeating the mistake of the classical liberals of two hundred years ago. The classical liberals thought, as the middle class coming to power, that they would replace utterly the old age of the subordinate self in which ordinary people were subjected in feudal subordination to the great landowners and nobles. Now everyone would be a responsible self and a middle-class householder. But the truth is that plenty of people don't want to be rugged individualists. They want to live secure, safe lives as the clients under the shelter of some great patron. They are people that want a lifetime job working for the government or some great corporation. And when the classical liberals tried to impose their age of the responsible self the subordinate workers said: no way. Anyway, the first thing that happened in the new age of the responsible self was the nightmare of subordination and regimentation of the factory worker to the factory boss. A bit of a cock-up on the economic front.

Here's how the world should work. The creative class should have every opportunity to create and invent and surprise us with their original creations. But their culture must coexist with the culture of the responsible self. The responsible class should have every opportunity to live their lives as responsible individuals, working and wiving and thriving on their own account and not as the clients of some great CEO or politician. But this responsible culture must allow and concede space for people that are not ready, or just do not want to be anything more than subordinate clients to some great lord.

Of course, our lefty friends ought to know better than to build their cathedrals of meaning and their monuments of secular orthodoxy on a program of destruction, of the great Event that will demolish the unjust order of capitalism and domination. In that great apocalypse they will destroy themselves. But they are, as we all are, all too human.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gift-giving at Christmas: It's a Girl Thing

Economists say, according to the Wall Street Journal, that gift-giving is inefficient, and gift-giving represents an inefficient reallocation of resources.

No doubt it is. But there are important social values other than efficiency. That is why societies do pot-latching, and that is why we have the annual orgy of Christmas gift-giving.

The first thing to understand about gift-giving is that it is a girl thing. As a man, I admit that I didn't really understand this until I read an article years by an angry divorced man complaining about his ex's compulsive and expensive "gifting" with her women friends.

If you get your head out of your computer and out of the politics and the sports pages you will discover that the women around you are always involved in thinking about getting gifts for their women friends. And then doing something about it. You eventually get to realize that women absolutely love giving and receiving presents.

Men not so much. Thinking and shopping for presents interferes with the manly business of fighting wars, designing software, battling for market share, bingeing on TV series, etc. That is why, during the Christmas season, women constitute the majority of shoppers, right up until the last couple of days before Christmas.

More research is needed, but my guess about womanly gift-giving is that it bonds together the community of women -- in which every woman is engaged in a life and death struggle. I suspect that the gifting mends the relationships and eases the serious stresses that women constantly experience with each other.

Also, and this particularly applies to Christmas, women absolutely love seeing children laugh and jump for joy. You may understand the whole Santa thing as an amazingly complex special forces operation designed to make children laugh and jump for joy for 10 minutes on Dec 25. Go figure.

Yes, it's true that gift-giving is inefficient, but that´s not the point. Efficiency applies in the marketplace, in the commodification of values and labor and all that. But the point of gift-giving is that it makes women happy. There is nothing worse for humankind than women that feel unappreciated and taken-advantage-of. It's the old saw: if she is happy, everyone is happy; if she is unhappy, nobody is happy.

OK, so gift-giving is about efficiency, after all. It's an amazingly efficient and effective way of making women happy.

Now there is a big takeaway here for you guys. The fact is that most men only get into the gift-giving mood when they are courting a woman, working on getting her to fall in love with you so you can get inside her pants. When that important objective is achieved then men tend to ease off on the gift-giving. This is a mistake; it makes her feel taken-for-granted, and it may be responsible for all the ills and the sorrows of the world.

But there is an easy, no worries way to keep the gift giving going, and avoid the taken-for-granted trap. Whenever you stop by the grocery store buy her some flowers and bring them home. I don't know why, but women love flowers, any flowers, and flowers make women feel loved and appreciated.

Now go out and get some flowers and make sure that everyone thinks you love Christmas. No Scrooges, please.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Burning Down the House: For What?

Why are so many people, at any time, so ready to burn the place down? Here in 2015 we have the socialist Bernie Sanders openly campaigning against the rich while Hillary Clinton is openly advocating new government interventions in the economy. Raising the minimum wage enjoys majority support, and Republican voters seem ready to burn down the party with the unreliable Donald Trump in order to send a message to their RINO party establishment.

Meanwhile in Spain, the established parties got a hammering in the latest election as voters express their anger over ten years of economic misery. Lots of them want to bash corporations and their employers, because. Here in NRO Jim Geraghty quotes Bryan Caplan on this theme:
So when we feel mistreated by a boss (or by co-workers the boss fails to control), we experience it as a serious affront. This in turn leads people to demonize employers as a class.

Once you demonize employers, it’s natural to (a) look to government for salvation from current ills, and (b) imagine that existing “pro-labor” laws explain why the demons in our lives don’t already treat us far worse.
Pretty soon you've got Marxism and all that that entails.

Actually I get it. It's the famous cornered rate syndrome. When you are cornered and facing death you have two options: submit or lash out. After all, if you do something then you never know, it might work.

Only there's a problem. Very few people in America in 2015 are truly "cornered." We are dissatisfied with out lot. We think that the economy has been bungled; we think that the boss is a fool; we think that the fellow behind the tree is a racist. But let's face it; if we are out of a job there is very little stopping us from getting another one, especially if we are willing to eat a little crow and take a job paying less than the last one.

The market economy deal is that you submit to the verdict of the market. If you don't like the verdict of the market then the thing to do is to change yourself: get more skills; work harder and better; move from California to Texas.

But that is hard. The easier thing to do is to blame the boss, blame overpaid CEOs, blame the system, change the market, and vote for the Bern or the Donald.

The problem for a politician bidding for votes is that you are not allowed to say to the voters: get on your bike and look for a job -- not if you want to get elected. So politicians say what the voters want to hear.

What I'd like to say is that the only way to live is to submit to the market. Even if you have a lousy boss and he fires you because he doesn't like you, just suck it in and go look for another job. Don't waste time thinking about how you could teach him a lesson.

Because the bottom line for all of us is that we are sitting on 200 years in which per-capita income has increased by 30 times, i.e., 3,000 percent. We are all sitting in an opulent mansion, and it is highly unlikely that anyone will benefit by burning it all down.

Can we thread the needle between the bomb-throwers and the pyromaniacs and elect a president that will restore as much of the market economy as he dares and inaugurate a new age of prosperity?

We'll see.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gays Discover They Must Vote Democrat Forever

Here's little factoid. The gay friend of a friend is all upset because Ted Cruz is going to roll back gay marriage.

He is? I guess the gay guy is talking about this, where Cruz says that the Constitution doesn't mention marriage, which would mean that the 10th Amendment applies. (Boos from the audience.)

But it certainly illustrates basic settled political science. Particularly something that even liberals have conceded. You don't get to settle things with a Supreme Court coup de main.

That's what happened with abortion. Despite the fact that the Constitution says nothing about abortion, the ruling class through the United States Supreme Court decided to find in Roe v. Wade a privacy right to abortion. When conservative women woke up on the next day they found that this was an insult to women and to family. And to the sanctity of human life. So ever after we've had a divisive battle on abortion.

So ever after, it has been obvious to people that actually think about things that it's not a good idea to have the Supreme Court decide moral issues. It doesn't settle anything. It just riles up the opposition.

Here in Washington State we once had an Initiative 120 on banning abortion. It lost and abortion was never heard from again in this state. And that's the point. If you want to settle an issue you need a vote of the people. That's why Daniel Patrick Moynihan said that you want to decide big issues like Medicare with a 70-30 vote in the U.S. Senate.

So here we are in the same place on gay marriage. It passed in the Supreme Court but not in the court of public opinion. And now gays are terrified that a Republican president and Congress could turn around and reverse it.

Golly, fellahs. Who could have seen that coming?

See what this means? It means that gays must be mobilized in the National Gay Army forever. It means that gays must vote Democrat, and keep the Democrats pro-gay, forever. It means that gays must name and shame conservative Christians whenever they say a word against gays. It means a gay war on conservatives forever.

All this coalesces on my "little darlings" theory. If you become a little darling of the ruling class you are going to wake up one day to find yourself, like the veteran soldier, sitting by the side of the roadway in enemy country, sick and wounded, no longer any use to the ruling class that has abandoned you to your fate.

For the white working class that day dawned forty years ago when Norman Lear gave us the racist, sexist working class Archie Bunker. But it took the white working class decades to realize what had happened.

For gays, that day is not yet. But it will come. Because politicians don't care about people like you. They only care about your vote.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Obama: The Pharaoh That Knew Not Joseph

The thing about President Obama is that he knows and believes in the top-down administrative ethos of our ruling class without knowing why. He thinks that he and his kind are born to rule, and if the people don't agree, well, that's their problem.

His governing ethos comes from the post-Civil War era that began with the conceit of government by the "best men," followed in due course by the idea of government by credentialed experts. In this culture government is a series of programs that the best men and the experts think up for the betterment of the people. Because science.

But this is a profound misunderstanding of government. Government is not a delivery system of benefits conceived and gestated from on high. Government is the alternative to civil war. In other words, government and politics is a way of resolving conflicts between warring sections of a people without resorting to civil war.

To have a politics that does not collapse into civil war you have to govern "with the consent of the governed." Crudely put, this means that you must govern so that the opposition grudgingly consents to the actions of the government. The whole apparatus of the three branches of government and the bi-cameral Congress is designed to do this; it is bound to ensure that any proposed governmental action has wide and deep support if it is to clear all the hurdles and get implemented as law.

This sort of process is very frustrating to governing classes. They have ideas, wonderful ideas, that they are anxious to implement, right now, before it is too late. So, as time goes by, they learn how to game the system and push their proposals through without generating wide and deep support from the governed. In consequence they end up bulldozing the opposition aside as they push their agenda through. The govern, in other words, without the consent of the governed.

So now you know what is wrong with President Obama saying this at his end-of-year press conference.
"I think it's far preferable if I can get stuff done with Congress," he said. "...I think you've seen me, on a whole bunch of issues, like immigration, I'm not gonna -- I'm not gonna be forward-leaning on what I can do without Congress before I've tested what I can do with Congress."
Strictly speaking, it should be impossible for the president to "do without Congress." Doing without Congress is also doing without the consent of the American people, and that is not a good idea because it builds up a feeling in the governed that they are oppressed by a government that does not listen to them. But over the years, as Charles Murray details in By the People, the federal government has learned how to bypass Congress and legislate through executive actions and administrative regulations. This is how the Environmental Protection Agency is pushing the administration's shutdown of coal-fired electricity generation: by administrative action.

There is a push and a pull aspect to this gradual shift from legislating to administrating. The pull aspect is the appetite in the governing class for action. What is the point of ruling if you don't get to rule? The push aspect is that a 535-person bicameral legislature, even bulked up with 30,000 staffers, does not have the bandwidth to get down to the detail of a $4 trillion a year government. If it is going to spend 20 percent of GDP per year then the legislature has to delegate its legislative function to the bureaucrats and administrators.

Obamacare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is Exhibit A if you want to understand the problems with administrative legislation.

First of all, Obamacare was passed on a partisan basis. Only Democrats voted for it; not one Republican voted for it. That is what you call a partisan cramdown. In the science developed by Buchanan and Tullock in The Calculus of Consent, you always have to buy the last few votes. But the votes bought to get Obamacare over the line were Democratic votes. The usual thing is to buy the votes of a few of the opposition so you can say that the proposal was passed with bipartisan support. That gives you the cover to say that the bill was passed with the consent of the governed. Actually, Buchanan and Tullock make clear, the only really just bill is one passed with unanimous consent; that way the proposers have to pay the opponents for the right to bulldoze over them.

Secondly, even though Obamacare was a 2,000 page bill, it didn't begin to get into the details of the complicated Obamacare exchanges, which operate in a hurricane of subsidies, both for the Obamacare signups and for the health insurance companies. Actually, of course, the whole thing is too complicated even for government administrators to control. That's why it's been such a disaster on all fronts. It has failed just as the settled science has predicted. Ten thousand bureaucrats cannot build a better mousetrap than millions of producers and consumers negotiating through the market.

The point is that the current model our ruling class uses to govern is a crock. First of all, they don't get the consent of the governed. Secondly, the administrative model they champion can't work because government and administrators cannot learn. The only way to learn is to let the market teach you.

President Obama is riding roughshod over all this. I understand why. He is the creature of his class, the international liberal governing class, and this governing class doesn't want to learn the settled science about consent of the governed and the futility of administrative systems. They think that they are the best men, and the people should just shut up and concede the higher wisdom and knowledge of their rulers.

In reality, government is force, politics is violence, governments cannot learn, and administrative system is domination. But there is nobody to tell that to the rulers.

So the Pharaoh that knew not Joseph and the wisdom of the Founders will have to learn the hard way.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Republican Base Enraged About Budget Deal

Once again, the pundits are enraged at the stitch-up omnibus budget deal brokered by Congressional Republicans led by Speaker Paul Ryan. The American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord speaks for most, in "Speaker Paul Boehner," when he quotes Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions:
There is a reason that GOP voters are in open rebellion. They have come to believe that their party’s elites are not only uninterested in defending their interests but — as with this legislation, and fast-tracking the President’s international trade pact — openly hostile to them. 
Lord goes on to list all the things that are funded in the budget deal: DREAMers, Sanctuary Cities, refugee resettlement, K1 visas (used by the San Bernardino terrorists), Planned Parenthood, etc. What's the point of voting Republican? He goes on to talk about the "socialist ratchet" described by Margaret Thatcher. Conservative politicians talk a good line, but the left always manages to ratchet the goalposts leftwards. When are we going reverse the ratchet and implement a conservative ratchet?

Well, yes. It's frustrating. It's monstrous. But let's try to give Paul Ryan the benefit of the doubt.

  • Republicans obviously don't want to get into a government shutdown situation, which Democrats always seem to win.
  • Red flag issues like reducing funding for the state Church of Abortion would have required the president to veto the spending bill.
  • And a government shutdown would take the oxygen out of the room for the GOP presidential candidates.
  • So their strategy is: Let's just lie low until we elect a Republican president in 2016, then we'll see.
On the other hand, perhaps there is cunning here. After all, it wasn't until years later that we learned that the GOP in the 1990s may have lost the government shutdown face-offs with President Clinton. But they did cut a lot of spending, under the radar; they flooded the zone with spending reductions, and Clinton could only bring up one or two in the shutdown battles.

Or maybe there is even more cunning going on. Maybe Ted Cruz is a stalking horse for the GOP establishment. Maybe the establishment doesn't hate him like we've all heard tell. Maybe they see that the supposed battle between Cruz and the establishment is just what the doctor ordered to keep the base all riled up for 2016. Maybe everyone is playing their part, playing the Victorian maiden and gasping on camera "I can't believe what Cruz just said" while winking at their pals behind the camera.  Maybe even Trump...

Let's at least understand the difficulty of what Republicans are supposed to do: cut spending and taxes and subsidies. The natural thing for any ruling class to do is to seize power, tax the people, and reward its supporters with pensions and sinecures. The hardest thing for any ruling class to do is to take away the goodies they handed out in the past.

The Republican base is all riled up to cut the spending -- except our own Social Security and Medicare. Hey, we paid for that with our FICA taxes!

So Republican politicians have to shuck and jive, just like Democrats. They have to practice, not Trump's Art of the Deal, but the Art of the Possible. But what is possible in 2016?

That's what we have elections to find out.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Unwinding the Fed's Tangled Web

Yesterday the Federal Reserve Board announced it was raising its base interest rate by 0.25% and would continue to increase interest rates slowly in the months ahead.

The last time that the Federal Reserve Board started raising rates after a big recession it raised them so slowly that we ended up in a housing bubble and the Crash of 2008. The problem was that the Fed was much too timid in raising rates when it started in 2003 and so borrowers got themselves into a bunch of home mortgages that they couldn't service as the Fed seriously tightened in 2006-2007.

So what will happen this time? The answer is that nobody knows. The Fed increased its holdings of US government debt enormously in the aftermath of the Great Crash, as the following chart shows:

Now, apparently, the Fed will be paying banks to keep their excess reserves at the Fed rather than lending to borrowers. That would be to stop a credit binge like the mid-2000s. Some observers fear that many global billionaires have got themselves overleveraged on 0% debt and are in for a shock.

What is going to happen? Will the Fed precipitate a credit crisis as it brings interest rates off zero? Or is the correction years away? Who knows? But what we do know is this:
  1. The Zero Interest Rate Policy was fiscal repression designed to help the federal government deal with the huge increase in debt that came after the Crash. The policy lowers the interest costs of the federal government.
  2. That's what the Fed is for: getting the federal government out of a jam.
  3. "Nobody knows nothing," and that certainly applies to the Fed since its founding. 
  4. The federal government usually likes to have nice compliant placeholders at the Fed, and that is what it usually gets.
  5. The next crash will not come from what the conventional wisdom expects.
Other than that, I don't have a clue what is coming next. But I do think this:
  1. The conventional wisdom is that we need a central bank to cure capitalism's excesses. That is wrong. We need a central bank to deal with government's excesses. The big swings in credit are due to governments trying to get back to normal after wars, e.g., the deflation in Britain after the Napoleonic Wars; the deflation in the US after the Civil War; the worldwide deflation after World War I. 
  2. And then there is just flat out incompetence as in 1929-33 and the promotion of home mortgages to sub-prime borrowers approximately from 1990-2006.
  3. Government should not muck with the credit system except when it is fighting a war and needs to grab all the resources it can. So no peacetime deficits. After the war it should not try to return to the old parity with gold to make creditors whole. Wars are about seizing all the resources you can to fight the war. The money is gone.
  4. Governments shouldn't be mucking up the credit system by offering credit subsidies and guarantees. They just make the credit system more fragile.
  5. Government should be at least 50% smaller. Big government makes the whole economy unwieldy, and more fragile.
Other than that, I don't know nothing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Real Failure of Our Ruling Class


Yesterday I put out a piece on American Thinker advising America's Muslims not to become "little darlings of the liberals." After all, look what happened to the white working class.

But really this is just part of a bigger issue that has been rattling around in my brain for years. It has just come to the boil in the last few days as I've read a Marxist history of capitalism, The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View by Ellen Meiksins Wood.

I've already blogged on Wood's book here, and I may analyze the whole book, chapter by chapter, later. The point of Capitalism is to point out that capitalism didn't begin with the Industrial Revolution and wasn't a natural evolution. "I was pushed," said Eeyore after finding himself in the river, and so were we in the agrarian capitalism of the 16th and 17th century in England, in which landowners and their tenants "improved" and enclosed their farmland and drove the surplus population off the land.

Everything is "exploitation"in Marxism, and Wood argues that capitalism replaces the age old exploitation by military and political compulsion of kings and lords and conquerors with a new, economic compulsion.

Stripped of its Marxist warpaint this argument is true. Eric Hoffer says it more elegantly when he says that we have two options when it comes to getting the world's work done. Either the boss tells us what to do, or we have to direct ourselves. In Wood's terminology, "the boss tells us" is how military and political compulsion works; "we have to direct ourselves" is how economic compulsion works.

Of course, by "economic compulsion" we really mean the market. The whole point of the modern global economy is that, instead of subordinate people sitting around waiting for the boss or the lord to tell us what to do, we go out and offer our skills and ideas to the world. The price system tells us if our skill or idea is any good. This is what a Marxist like Ellen Meiksins Wood objects to. As she writes in closing her Capitalism:
The hope of achieving a humane, truly democratic, and ecologically sustainable capitalism is becoming transparently unrealistic. But although the alternative is unavailable, there remains the real alternative of socialism.
This kind of sentiment is based on the idea that before capitalism the rural poor lived a humble but decent life as retainers in the collective of some lord, and scraped a living with traditional rights of gleaning after the harvest and grazing on the common land. Maybe they did, although I have my doubts, particularly after reading Marriage and Family in the Middle Ages by Frances Gies and Joseph Gies. In their compilation of marriage practices and the various practices of dowries and dowers, you get the strong impression that nobody got married unless they had the wherewithal, and that usually meant land, either from the groom, the bride, or both. So it is likely that people that lived by gleaning and grazing on the Commons were people on the downward slide to nothingness, and always had been.

So I reckon that social humans always have and always will live under some kind of "compulsion." Either we live at the beck and call of lords -- or their modern equivalent, politicians and bureaucrats and CEOs -- or we live on our own responsibility. But in the context of a modern, interdependent economy based on specialization, that places on each of us the responsibility, the "compulsion" to find work that pays. Work is a service that we provide for other people, in return for which we get paid.

I just wish that modern elites and their nominees, the politicians, were honest enough to tell that to the people. Either you go to work for the government or a big corporation and do what the boss tells you or you develop yourself, your skills, your knowledge, and you figure out, on your own, how to contribute to society. Society, in the form of the market and the price system, will pretty clearly tell you what you and your skills and your ideas are worth.

There is no escape from this into "social justice" or humane and genuine democracy. There is no escape into "the real alternative of socialism." There is only working for a boss or working for the market.

And when our ruling class teases working people with raising the minimum wage, or retailing the fantasies of labor unions, or taxing the workers on one hand and giving them benefits out of the other, they are failing in their duty. In the context of today's global market, there is only submission to the will of the market. That is all.


















Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Strategic Folly of the Left's Culture War

Most conservatives fear the culture of war from the left. We think it is a threat to America and everything we love. Here is Dennis Prager warning conservatives that the enemy is the Left.

But I think that the left is making a strategic error. When you mobilize for war you'd better make sure to win the war. That's because any agent that mobilizes for war and starts to attack someone creates opposition. The belligerent agent forces people who might be on the fence or who might be tempted to ignore the situation to decide whose side they are on.

A declaration of cultural war is a declaration to fight until victory. If you oppose or are indifferent to the program of the cultural warriors then you find yourself, almost against your will, obliged to join the opponents of the cultural warriors. So unless you are ruthless enough to press the war without limit, you are making a strategic mistake; your aggression will create its own head of rebellion.

Sun Tzu says that warfare is the art of deception, and the best war is the war won without a fight. The general does not do the obvious thing; the general does the unexpected thing. The general does not attack a prepared position; the general attacks when least expected.

On this view the tactics of the Obama administration and its supporters since 2008 are foolish and counterproductive. President Obama deliberately riles up his opponents; he deliberately humiliates them. His agents in the federal bureaucracy enact policy to deliberately humiliate and alienate people that do not adhere to the liberal line. And both President and administration seem to think that laws are optional for them. If you want to know why the American people are fit to be tied in December 2015, that is your reason. Unless you are a card carrying liberal the present government of the United States is messing with you in a way that you don't accept. You don't like it's hectoring tone; you don't like the way it harasses its political opponents. And you really don't like  the way it ignores settler  and creates law by administrative fiat. Consequently if you are a non political moderate you probably think it is time for a change. If you are a conservative then you probably think it is Time for a Change.

After an election the foolish ruler runs roughshod over the opposition; the wise ruler says we are all Americans now. After an election the foolish ruler passes partisan legislation like Obamacare without a single vote from the opposition; the wise ruler frames legislation with the help of the opposition so he can characterize it as bipartisan, and claim that the legislation represents the national consensus.

Is this real or is it Memorex? We will discover the answer in November 2016. If the election is close or if the Democrats win, then the culture warriors will know that they can continue their culture war to the utmost. If Republicans win in a landslide then the reason will be clear. Do not rile up the opposition if you want to win national elections.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Marxists in the Garden of Eden

Over the years I have learned to consider the Garden of Eden story as an allegory about the agricultural revolution. The serpent speaks to Eve and humans get sent out from the bliss of hunter-gathering into the hard work of plowing and sowing and reaping.

So let's think about the Marxist account of capitalism as a garden of Eden story about the Industrial Revolution. Imagine happy peasants living in collectives enjoying their traditional grazing rights on the Commons. Now imagine rich landowners enclosing the Commons and sending happy peasants into the hell of the proletarian city.

In The Origin of Capitalism author Ellen Meiksins Wood tells a grand story about how this happened and how the innocence of the pre-industrial world and its political and military compulsion was converted into the hell of economic compulsion under capitalism.

But Wood wants to propose an innovation. She wants us to know that capitalism started not with the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the factory but 100 years or more earlier when the rich landowners of England started converting their estates from feudal domains into profit-making enterprises. This "agrarian capitalism" was inspired by a culture of improvement that celebrates improving the land under your care in a productive manner and that, she says, goes back to John Locke and his linking of rights in property to the labor involved in improving it.

But there's a sinister aspect to this improving culture because it says that only he who improves the land has the right to own it. Thus the Native Americans in the North American continent that did not improve their land do not deserve it and the industrious white man that does improve it has a right to own it instead. Thus did John Locke and Co. justified  their conquest of the world. This all ties together capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism as one single grand exploitation project. Yay!

Thus does a Marxist enlarge upon the Marxian version of original sin and damn the modern west for everything. But we have to ask what happens next. After all, in the biblical version of original sin mankind somehow manages to carry on and by the time of Christ imagine a way to atone for sin. But what kind of atonement would the Marxists allow for capitalism? Well we know the answer to that. The only possible atonement is of course socialism and nothing else will do.

Let us concede the Marxist indictment but not the atonement. Because now we know two to three centuries later that capitalism yielded an increase in per capita income of something like 30 times the per capita income of the pre-capitalist era and that on a population of 7 billion humans on the planet. And we also know that socialism has yielded misery and poverty and conflict and military and political compulsion of extraordinary ferocity wherever it has been tried.

Yes, capitalism has put everyone on the earth under economic compulsion. But there's another way to describe this economic compulsion. It is that we all live under the principle of serving others before we serve ourselves. What could be more socialistic than that?

If it weren't for Marxists perhaps we'd have to invent them. Otherwise we could not know the worst that could possibly be imagined about the extraordinary world in which we live.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Yeah. Why Not Make Uber Drivers Join a Union Say Liberal Dinosaurs in Seattle

You really gotta love the special-interest friendliness of the long-distance liberal.

Here we have the Seattle City Council considering an ordinance that "seeks to complel independent contractors (taxi, for-hire drivers, and Lyft and Uber drivers) to collectively bargain through the Teamsters union."

Yeah, I kid you not.

I suspect that the ordinance is just a sop to the labor unions. But, of course there's a problem. Just like with Seattle's recent minimum-wage law, pushed by activist and now council-member Kshama Sawant, the liberals on the council find it difficult to vote against stupidities that supposedly "help" the workers.

We know, because the science is settled on this, that minimum-wage laws kill jobs and especially harm unskilled minority workers. But many people find the temptation to "force" employers to pay higher wages irresistible.

We know, because the decline of private-sector unions is right before our eyes, that introducing labor unions into an industry is like introducing a parasite into a living organism. If you are not careful it will kill the host.

People in politics seem to confirm every day St. Augustine's dictum that the only difference between a government and a criminal gang is the "addition of impunity."

"Hey, pal! You wanna run a business in Seattle? You betta pay $15 an hour, or your kids'll know the reason why."

"Hey, pal! You wanna work in Seattle? You betta join this nice little union here, or you can forget your dreams of earning a little extra money to help pay the bills."

It's comical. The whole political class gets its knickers in a twist over Donald Trump suggesting that we need a moratorium on Muslim immigration, but can chomp down on rotten 72-oz steaks of special interest red meat without even a hint of discomfort.

Yet what can possibly violate "our values" more than the idea that workers must bang their heads on the ground in submission before a government official or a union boss before they can offer their labor to the consumer?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Oh Yeah. Things Are So Great in Scandinavia

I danced around the issues with a good solid liberal yesterday, and he was still doing the "Scandinavians seem to like it" two-step.

Oh yeah. Things are just great as the Scandis are beside themselves as Muslims come in and just sit there in their no-go areas on welfare.  How great is that!

So let's rehearse the reasons why the social-democratic state does not work.

First of all, if you smother the workers in rigid government benefits and lifetime employment there is a problem. Suppose the economy changes, and steady lifetime-employment wage work isn't available any more. You've just spent a century teaching the workers that they don't need to do anything but just show up for work and get in line for their government benefits. Where are they going to find the enterprise and the resilience to adapt to the new workplace? How are they going to learn how to look after their own welfare rather than just let the government do it for them? How good is that promise that you pay in now to collect your benefits later? Because politicians are in the business of making promises to get elected now. They don't really care if there is any money to pay benefits 30 years from now.

In other words, the very culture of social insurance makes people unprepared for change. The ideologues and the politicians tell people that they are owed, that all they need to do is vote for the right party and stand in line for their benefits. But that is a lie. Nobody knows what is coming in the future; nobody knows what workplace skills will be needed in the future. As they say about forecasting Hollywood blockbusters. Nobody knows anything.

Well we now know what happens after a century of social protection. The white working class drinks and drugs itself to death and "Asians" rape their underage daughters and nobody does anything about it.

Then there is what I call my "little darlings" theory of politics. It's a lovely thing to become the little darlings of the ruling class, as the workers used to be. Hey, the politicians said, you workers are the finest people in the world. It is your sweat and your strength that makes the economy go. So we are going to take care of you. Yeah! The woikers are the salt of the earth!

But then comes a Pharaoh that knew not Joseph. Then comes a day when the ruling class falls out of love with their little darlings, the workers. The workers are not the salt of the earth, not at all, the fashionables say. In fact they are racist, sexist bigots, just like Archie Bunker. So what do the workers do then, poor things, as the firemen jobs go to African Americans, as factory jobs dry up and move to China?

Well, it takes them 40 years, but eventually the workers get a clue and fall in love with Donald Trump.

The thing is that rank-and-file liberals are clueless about all this. They believe in their shibboleths, they really do, and they get daily booster shots from NPR and The New York Times. They still believe in their top-down administrative one-size-fits-all government programs, even as the wheels are coming off Obamacare, even as the wheels are coming off Obama's foreign policy, even as the economy struggles against the headwinds of the regulatory state.

And it's not as if the science isn't settled on all this. We know the administrative state doesn't work. We know that the benefit state is running out of money. We know that the economy changes all the time and the government cannot make guarantees about 40 years in the future. We know that the whole western imperialist/colonialist dogma is a crock.

Actually, I believe that liberals are in the position of soldiers retreating from Moscow in 1812. Should they stay in their ranks in the army? Or is it sauve qui peut, every man for himself? The point is, I think, that soldiers tend to stay in their ranks until it is way too late. It's like they say: when the Jews leave, it is time to go. When the Portuguese leave, it is too late.

People are making all kinds of predictions about the future and the elections next year. But I think that the only thing to be sure about is that nobody knows nothing. Liberals are going to get louder and louder pushing their cruel and unjust narrative, and you won't be able to hear a thing over the noise. But the foundations are shaking, and the liberals know it in their bones, if not in their minds.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Muslims Now and Germans Then

Right now the ruling class is in a twit over their ruling-class stooge Donald Trump stirring up a hornet's nest about Muslim immigration to the United States. Here is what he said in a press release:
Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.
It's really pretty cute, because Trump's main thrust is that the ruling class doesn't have a clue. Golly. Where did he get that idea?

But let's think ahead a bit. What will the United States do when the current World War III heats up into a real shooting war, and the United States is obliged to replicate its last war against the forces of the Great Reaction that opposes freedom, markets, and individual responsibility.

It just happens that I am reading Willa Cather's One of Ours. It is a heartbreaking tale of a misfit Nebraska farm boy who goes off to World War I. The reader wonders how Cather can inhabit the mind of a frustrated young man so well.

But one of the themes of the book is the Germans. Not the Germans in Germany but the German farmers in Nebraska. Did you know that Germans are the biggest ethnic group in America, at about 50 million? Followed by the Irish at 36 million, Mexicans at 32 million and English at 27 million?

So what happened with the Germans in the runup to World War I and the actual war itself? Cather sets the stage with Mrs. Erlich, cultured mother of a family of boys going to college. And protagonist Claude Wheeler's best friend is a German and a freethinker: Ernest Havel. "Let me tell you about the German army," says Havel at the battle of the Marne.

During the war, a couple of German farmers get prosecuted in the local court for "disloyalty:" August Yoeder and Troilus Oberlies. They had made a few intemperate remarks around town, and Oberlies had "played Die Wacht am Rhein on a slide-trombone, to the great annoyance of his neighbors." The judge fined them $300 each and told them that they had "not recognized the element of appropriateness, which must be regarded in nearly all the transactions of life." A second penalty, the judge warned, would be "much more severe."

The treatment shows, I think, the immense power of the nation state, and it gets you to understand the relaxed attitude in the ruling class about Muslim Americans. Probably it's best, at the current stage of the war, to allow all the crazies complete freedom. We want to know who they are and the best way to do that is to get out of their way. But when the real shooting starts, and the government mobilizes the nation for all-out war, then the Germans or the Muslims or whoever, most of them, will keep their heads down and do what they are told. And the ones that don't will get a sharp reminder of who is the boss around here.

The fact is that even back in World War I you get through Willa Cather's writing the immense power of the nation state and its authority --  short of actual compulsion -- to will obedience to its regime among the people, even among people that don't really feel loyalty to its laws and its wars.

On this reading, who cares about Muslim no-go areas? It's a benefit to the larger society to concentrates potential problem people in known areas. Did not the Nazis concentrate Jews in ghettos? Who cares about a crazy Muslim major killing unarmed soldiers at his base? Who cares about foolish terrorists like the San Bernardino jihadi couple?

The ruling class can afford to have Muslims acting out; it can afford to have CAIR mouthing PC platitudes; it can afford to have Donald Trump pushing at the Overton Window. When the time is right they will lower the ball in Times Square and rile up public opinion for a big fat war, and everyone will go along, even the Muslims, just like the Germans did in World War I.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Liberal Culture of "Peaceful Protest" is a Lie

Because of President Obama we conservatives have learned a lot more about the left-wing culture of "protest" and "activism" than we wanted. We've had to become familiar with Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals; we've made a nodding acquaintance with the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School; we've wrinkled our noses about the wonder of community organizing, and now we are getting abused by the Black Autumn of Black Lives Matter and student protests at our most prestigious universities with the lists of "demands."

My own personal encounter with this left-wing culture was during classes at the University of Washington, where I repaired in recent years to take classes in Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hume. On two separate occasions some young woman spoke up about politics as peaceful protest. In the minds of these young women, politics consists of organizing a protest march to City Hall.

This is rubbish. It is illegitimate for the scions of the ruling class to use street violence, even under the euphemism of "peaceful protest," in the war of politics.

Back in the day, the bourgeoisie feared nothing more than the "mob." I assume they meant a spontaneous or planned explosion of the lower orders into the streets. You can read about it in histories of the American Revolution. Mobs would attack the house of a prominent Tory and sack and burn it. Alexander Hamilton, as a young student, stood at the front door of King's College (now Columbia University) to temporize with the mob that wanted to deal with the notorious Tory president of the college, Dr. Myles Cooper.

Today, the ruling-class youth think nothing is more noble than to lead a "peaceful protest" against some injustice and present its demands to a ruling class official at a college or a government office.

It all makes sense, given the over-under coalition between liberals and government-approved victim classes that coalesces in the Democratic Party. The normal way for the lower orders to express their rage is by the street riot. So the sensible thing to do is for the educated, evolved ruling-class community organizer to deflect their unfocussed rage into a "march" or a "peaceful protest."

But, of course, there is a problem. Our ruling-class activists do not just use this technique to give a voice to the voiceless. They use it to push their own ruling-class agenda. They protest about climate change: you'll have seen reference to "peaceful protests" in Paris at #COP21 recently. Given the way that left-wing media report these protests you would be forgiven for thinking that in the left-wing world, protest is a kind of sacrament. They protest about African American rights, although you might be forgiven for thinking that the need to protest against government injustice dissolved about half a century ago.

Thus with feminism and gay rights. These are not issues that animate the lower orders; they are the political agenda of elite ruling-class liberals. I argue that it is an illegitimate and unjust use of the ruling class's cultural and political power for ruling-class feminists and ruling-class gays to indulge themselves in street action.

Now one thing that the left has properly publicized is that, in the bad old days of fascism, the fascist demonstrators were tolerated by the justice system. Fascist demonstrators got light sentences for disturbing the peace. And this encouraged them in their street action and violence.

What our tender liberals of today don't grasp is that their "peaceful protests" get exactly the same treatment from the justice system as the fascists did nearly a century ago. James Hansen, government administrator and climate activist, gets himself arrested outside the White House. Does he get prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as conservative Dinesh D'Sousa did for a minor campaign violation? Goodness no! Because Hansen is doing the ruling class's work for it with his climate activism.

A telling marker is to note what happens when the other side does it. The Tea Party was a spontaneous eruption of middle-class rage in the wake of the bank bailouts and President Obama's election. (Yes, I think that there was some inchoate racism involved). As soon as the Tea Party got on the liberal radar liberals launched into a huge campaign to delegitimize it, and to paint it as a dangerous eruption of right-wing extremism. Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, talked about "Astroturf," meaning that the Tea Party was organized by conservative elitists. Others tagged the Tea Partiers as "tea-baggers," a reference to gay sexual practice. And of course, whenever there is a mass shooting, liberals shoulder each other aside in immediately blaming right-wing extremism, "eliminationist rhetoric" and racism and sexism for the outrage. In other words, liberals are scared stiff that conservatives might organize into a protest movement against them. That is why liberals are permanently in a panic about "right-wing militias."

In other words, protest is fine for liberals, but not for conservatives: protest for me, but not for thee.

So the whole culture of left-wing protest is a ruling-class conceit, a lie. It is used to advance liberal causes, and to demonize conservatives.

I like to say that after the election of Richard Nixon and then Ronald Reagan the liberal command bunker came to realize that it needed to push the protesters to the back of the line and teach the American people that liberals were just like them, only more compassionate. But now we have a new generation of liberals that have forgotten the hard-won wisdom of their fathers.

And so they will have to learn it the hard way, in landslide political defeat.

When you say that the street action of your supporters is nothing more than "peaceful protest" while the other guys are nothing more than "right-wing extremists" you are sending out a rather clear message.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Obama Behind the 8-Ball

The obvious explanation of President Obama's Sunday night Oval Office speech is that the president's men realize that they have a problem. Doing nothing about Islamic terrorism isn't going to cut it.

So the solution is for the president to do an Oval Office speech and seem to be "doing something."

But the problem is that liberal identity politics makes them want to analyze the radical Muslim threat as an protest against injustice. So liberals agree with the Iranian idea of the US as the Great Satan. Indeed any group that presents itself as victimized is catsmeat to the liberals. Because that's how they do politics.

That is the essence of left-wing politics: to represent and to lead the wretched of the earth and to fight for their rights.

But the problem is that left-wing politics divides the people of the nation state into tribal enclaves. And when your politics is based on dividing people into enclaves you find it hard to reunite the people out of their enclaves when it is time to fight for the nation.

And that is what Democrats are struggling with. They don't want to unite the nation to fight anything unless it's climate change. But climate change is a global challenge, not a national challenge.

That sort of thing gets them into an impossible situation.

The fact is that a government, any government, exists to protect its people from the rest of the world. It is there to unite the people to fight off the aggression of the rest of the world. In the nation state the government unites the nation against the world.

Because liberals have put the protection of their identity group clients over the protection of the nation, and confine their politics to the uniting of their identity groups. So when a issue arises that requires the uniting of the nation, liberals are nonplussed.

So that's why The New York Times responds to the San Bernardino terror attack by publishing a editorial pushing gun control. Because that's what they know.  They don't seem to think about the fact that gun control is an issue that divides America and is used by liberals to demonize conservatives and marginalize them. The idea of finding common ground with conservatives to unite the nation just doesn't occur to them.

So that's why President Obama does a Sunday night Oval Office speech with blather about "our values" and "giving in to fear." It doesn't occur to him that his job now requires him to formulate a strategy against radical Islam and unite the nation to fight it. Because the last thing the president wants to do is to rekindle the spirit of the American nation.

The last time the Democrats flunked the national test, and didn't unite the nation when it needed uniting, they got stuck with Ronald Reagan and he changed the world.

So there is no telling what will happen this time around. But the good thing is that the next president of the United States is going to have to unite the nation to fight against the latest outbreak of the Great Reaction against freedom and markets and individual responsibility. And the chances are that that president will be a Republican.

Could it be that Republicans will get the credit for winning the war against radical Islam? Dream on, pal.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Political Reaction: It's Not What You've Been Taught

Everybody knows that reactionaries are right-wing Throne and Altar types that want to keep... Er, yes, what exactly? Would it be the power of the monarch and the state church? Would it be the power of the bourgeoisie? Would it be traditional morality? Would it be white male European hegemony?

The answer is it depends. It depends on the two-minute hate that our progressive overlords are orchestrating this week.

But I want to suggest that it is the progressives who are the true reactionaries, in company with their identity group pals from feminists to Islamists.

What all these groups have in common is that they are reacting against the modern Age of Responsibility. In the modern Age of Responsibility each one of us, each individual, must accept the responsibility of making his or her own way in the world. Of course, in reality, we are not alone. The more we offer ourselves to the world, the more the world takes care of us. The situation of the modern individual was best described by Eric Hoffer who wrote that there are two options in the world of work. Either the boss tells you what to do, or you, the worker, takes that responsibility on yourself.

And this responsibility is terrifying. It just goes against every human social instinct to believe that you can wive and thrive in the world by surrendering yourself, naked, to the market and finding out by trial and error how to make your contribution to the world.

It makes sense that as soon as industrial capitalism started to turn the world upside down -- and increase per capita income by 30 times in 200 years -- that movements of rejection would rise up to stop it.

Because for anyone that hasn't tried it, the market economy of the invisible hand is obviously a complete delusion. It stands to reason that when the billionaire capitalist faces the semi-skilled worker that the worker goes to the wall, or at least to a state of starvation wages. So a big strong government is needed to stop that from happening.

The same applies to the other movements of rejection.

Feminists can't believe that women can thrive in the working world without lots of special legislation to protect them from the patriarchy.

Race identity groups can't believe that the unhampered market will give them an equal chance at prosperity; they insist on government enforcing diversity and equality.

Gays can't believe that the world will let them alone; they insist on using government to bully Christians.

And, of course, the probleme du jour, Islam. Of course the Muslims are reacting against the global attack on their tribal, paternalist society. It cannot be true that the world can work without the faithful imposing their will on the rest of the world.

But resistance is futile. We have already seen this with the most extreme reactionary movements like communism. Communism wrecked the economy and the society of Russia and of China. So in the end the Commies had to give up communism. We are seeing it in the slow-motion failure of the neo-feudal welfare state. It just doesn't work in the Age of Responsibility to recreate the feudal top-down hierarchy, where people nestle in the government's social-welfare programs for protection from the market.

In due course, the Muslims will discover that Islamism doesn't work either. But rivers of blood will have to flow before that happens. Just like with communism.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Oh What a Relief It Is

The San Bernadino Islamist terrorist killings are not a joke. But what conservative can help feeling a sense of relief that the killings were not, as Hillary Clinton tweeted, "gun violence" but a simple terror attack by Muslim terrorists infected with the jihad bug.

It's telling, isn't it, that liberals go into full right-wing extremism, Christian terrorism mode when some mentally-ill loner shoots up a crowd, but go into full non-judgmental mode when Muslims are involved. Like President Obama this morning.
"At this stage, we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred,” Obama said during remarks at the White House. He added: “It is possible this was terrorist-related, but we don’t know. It is also possible this was workplace related.”
Oh yeah.

Conservatives have known for ages what is going on here. If you are President Obama or any community-organizer liberal your existential fight is with conservatives, Christians, racist white males and evil Koch Brothers. Radical Muslims, jihad, Israel, Christians in the Middle East are really not that important. And anyway, with all foreign policy questions and non-white groups, there is the question of racism and colonialism. And we wouldn't want to risk even the teeniest taint of racism and colonialism.

When some white guy lets loose with a gun, on the other hand, liberals are thinking: It begins; the white racist sexist insurgency against our rule. So of course it is important to stamp it out right now before the spark develops into a fire. And the first thing to do is to disarm the white racist homophobes before they develop into a militia.

If you think this analysis of liberal motivations suggest a liberal paranoia, know that rulers are always interested in disarming the opposition. It's not really paranoia, it's just taking care of business. You never know when a head of rebellion might develop, but it certainly doesn't hurt to make it really difficult for the would-be rebels to get weapons.

In Anglo-Saxon history the disarming of the populace all started with the Tudors. From p.47 in Kevin D. Williamson's The End is Near:
They began by depriving the barons and other regional powers of their private military forces... They then set about tearing down the castles and fortresses of the individual lords.
The French did the same thing in the 17th century. That made it easier for the French Revolution to succeed because the nobility had all been concentrated in the capital, and couldn't appeal to their vassals and peasants for support when the Enlightenment came knocking on the doors of kingly power.

But notice what our liberal rulers do permit and condone. They condone their educated youth and its "peaceful protests" at its universities. They have nothing to say about criminal gangs of blacks and Hispanics operating in our big cities. They apologize for "workplace violence" when committed by Muslims.  In other words they condone shows of force when the demonstrations are made by people that they judge to be their regime supporters.

Here is something to think about. The San Bernadino killings were done at a local government office facility. The front page of the New York Post on Friday December 3, 2015 shows an African American woman wounded on the ground and an East Asian woman kneeling by her side. The killers are killing regime supporters.

I'd say that when Muslim killers are killing Democratic-voting minorities then it's time for the liberal astronauts to radio "Houston we have a problem" back to Debbie Wasserman Schultz at Democratic Party HQ. Because if you can't protect your own government employee supporters when they plead "is it safe", what's the point of your patron/client politics? The whole point of clientism is for the clients to find a safe space within the power perimeter of the patron.

As the Marxists would say: Eventually capitalism liberalism will collapse from its own internal contradictions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Murdoch and Koch Heart America

In these days when our young 'uns, or at least the most privileged ones at the most prestigious universities, are determined to echo the insular views of their jobs-for-life professors, here comes the ogre behind Fox News, the amiable Rupert Murdoch in his own newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. 

Murdoch is getting an award from the Hudson Institute so he has to give a speech. And since he is being introduced by Henry Kissinger, he has a few words for him too. His speech is title "America the Indispensable." As in:

  1. America saved Australia in WWII. "There is no way that Australia alone could have defended itself during the Second World War, heroic as Australian troops were."
  2. "America saved the now prospering South Korea from the barbarity of Kim Il Sung. And that sacrifice and intervention provided the buffer that Japan needed to rise from the postwar ashes to be a great economy and a reliable ally."
  3. America intervened in Vietnam.
  4. "And in the 1980s, thanks to Ronald Reagan, America stood firm against the Soviet Union." That meant one Germany instead of two. "It recast Europe and emancipated millions."
  5. The US facilitated the rise of China. "That emancipation of the most populous nation on earth is a modern miracle", raising the Chinese people from poverty through the action of the market.
  6. Fracking. "Not hundreds of millions, but billions of people will benefit from fracking and the cheaper energy it provides."
It's interesting to read such a simple and straightforward recitation of America's positive role in the world. Because we haven't heard a peep about it in the last Seven Lean Years of Obamadom.

It all comes down to this, as Murdoch says:
Around our country, there is a restless desire for revival. We see it in the primary process, which, apart from an interesting cast of characters, has articulated a deep distaste for the slow descent of our country.
And not just within America, but outside, as the world yearns for American leadership, for
without this country’s self-confident championing of that “human quest for freedom and humane values,” global affairs collapse into nightmare—the policy wasteland becomes fertile territory for terror. 
Good old Rupert Murdoch. Why, he's almost as good an American as Charles Koch, of Koch Brothers fame. Koch has just published a book of his business philosophy, Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World's Most Successful Companies. You'll be amazed to learn that the supposed slash-and-burn monster built Koch Industries from a $10 million business to a $100 billion business on the idea that business is about long-term relationships, and a business should treat customers and suppliers as their friends. I know: nothing new here. "Creating value for others" is the basic proposition of market capitalism. You find out what people want, or might want. You make it and sell it at the price they are willing to pay. Then you make a profit. Here's the interview with Hugh Hewitt.

Like I said. I voted for Obama in 2008 because I felt that America had to give Democrats the reins of power so we could get beyond the "Oh the Horror" culture of the Bush era. I little knew that Obama would teach Americans to elect the most Republican Congress in 85 years.

And now American voters are getting the see the "kids" protestin' again on campus, after a 50 year hiatus. Oh, and everywhere you look is evidence of Democrat corruption on the hoof, from New York's Sheldon Silver to Chicago's Rahm Emanuel.

It really is time for a president that loves America.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pretending to Care about Aboriginals

When Europeans came to North America they just rolled over the native American tribes that they found there and obliterated their culture. When Europeans went to India they played divide-and-conquer with the rajahs and the nizams and succeeded for a couple of hundred years in ruling over the Indians. When Europeans went to China they succeeded in forcing the Chinese to lease them treaty ports for a while.

And of course when Europeans went to Australia they rolled over the aboriginal tribes and obliterated their culture.

Now, of course, our liberal elites are horrified by the colonial adventures in India and China and show their compassion by keeping the native Americans in North America and the aboriginals in Australia on life support with welfare and free education. In Australia they also give aboriginals jobs in national parks and at monuments to aboriginal culture.

What should we do about the remnant of the pre-modern cultures that the European explosion obliterated in the last five hundred years? To the ruling class the honoring of aboriginal culture with cultural products that preserve the memory of the aboriginal past and that preserve the living with welfare and education is a great ethical improvement over the old way, which involved taking native American and aboriginal children from their families and stashing them in boarding schools and Christian missions. But really, what is the difference? It is still the ruling class imposing its will on the people its regime conquered a century or two ago.

The truth is that we should do nothing. The rule of the world is that to survive and thrive you must get with the program, whatever it is. The world is full of the ghosts of extinct families, tribes, cultures, nations, empires. Each of them were born, thrived for a while, then declined and disappeared. Our own western culture that was born a while back and is flourishing today will in its time decline and fall. And those of us that mean to survive in the world that is to come will follow the new thing or face obliteration.

Of course, the new masters of the universe may be kind to us, and allow us to molder away in little enclaves so long as we don't interfere with their grand plan. Or they may not.

But for individuals the imperative is obvious. When the world changes you find a way to get with the program, somehow. Because otherwise you and yours will molder away and die.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Jonathan Haidt on Hate

For conservatives the liberal psychology professor Jonathan Haidt is an impossibility. A liberal and a psychologist who wrote a book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion in which he found, to his surprise, that conservatives are not just racists, sexists, and homophobes, but people.

Deciding that humans have a "righteous mind" that is set up to make moral distinctions and judgements Haidt constructed a matrix of moral axes: care/harm, liberty/oppression, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation. Then he applied the matrix to the belief system of American liberals, libertarians, and conservatives. He found that liberals defined themselves mainly on the care/harm axis, moderately on the liberty/oppression axis and somewhat on the fairness/cheating axis. Libertarians were really big on liberty/oppression, so-so on fairness/cheating. Conservatives, on the other hand, were pretty well balanced on all six axes.

Wow. Like wow. Since then, Jonathan Haidt has developed a strange new respect for conservatives. For if conservative moral minds were balanced across the six axes, that kinda tells you something about the balanced nature of conservatism.

Recently he went to give a speech at a prestigious private school (probably Lakeside School in Seattle) and ran slam-bang into the modern snowflake fascist culture during the Q&A after his speech. The little snowflake teenage girls at that august institution had fully ingested the present culture that we have been seeing all across America's elite universities this fall.
But then the discussion began, and it was the most unremittingly hostile questioning I’ve ever had. I don’t mind when people ask hard or critical questions, but I was surprised that I had misread the audience so thoroughly. My talk had little to do with gender, but the second question was “So you think rape is OK?”
 But it was just the girls asking questions and snapping their fingers. The boys said nothing at all, except at the end when they gave him a standing ovation. What was going on? Haidt found out in a smaller breakout session.
[Haidt:] When there is a class discussion about gender issues, do you feel free to speak up and say what you are thinking? Or do you feel that you are walking on eggshells and you must heavily censor yourself? Just the girls in the class, raise your hand if you feel you can speak up? [about 70% said they feel free, vs about 10% who said eggshells ]. Now just the boys? [about 80% said eggshells, nobody said they feel free].
And so on, with race and politics. Same thing. There was only one boy who was Republican and also dared to speak out on political issues. At the end of the discussion, Haidt told them it was high time for the school to make "viewpoint diversity a priority." (Hey Jonathan, why do you think that Bill Gates turned out a conventional liberal?)

Golly. Who would have thunk it in America?

It shows, I think, the fundamental error at the heart of liberalism. When you bring moral issues into politics, it means that all moral issues become grist for the political mill. Moral issues become political issues. And politics always comes down to a fight: my way or the highway.

This is why in America the Founders proposed a separation between Church and State. In America you can -- or you could -- choose your own moral community, and if you don't like one you can choose another. But we are all more or less stuck with the state we have, so when we bring moral issues into politics then we inevitably find that we must fight to the death over it.

You can tell from the outbreak of snowflake fascists at the nation's universities (and apparently at its prestigious private high schools) this fall that liberals really don't understand this. They don't understand that when they go on a PC rampage that they are telling us all "my way or the highway." They don't understand that they are creating enemies all across America because most people don't want to be made to care about racism, sexism, and climate change, and not allowed to have a dissenting position. You see everyone, especially including liberals, hates it when somebody is playing the morality card on them.

It all takes me back to the last Great Awakening of liberal hysteria in the 1960s. Average Americans started to hate it almost immediately, and so elected Richard Nixon twice over. But it really wasn't until the B-movie actor won the presidency by two landslides that liberals got the message and pretended, for a couple of elections, that they were "New Democrats."

Now, egged on by George Soros' money and Barack Obama's crazed faith in community organizing, they are back in full liberal Puritanical fever, complete with witch-hunts for the fabled right-wing extremist unicorn, and the rest of America hates it.

I think that liberals are going to get a terrible shock in November 2016. Just like those boys at that private high schools, about half of America is forced to button its lip at work, at school, and elsewhere wherever ruling-class liberals make the rules. And that half of America hates it.

But here's the good news. Just like back in the 1970s it will take a few election cycles before liberals realize what has happened. After all, nobody they know voted for Trump/Cruz/Rubio, whoever.  Maybe, in the interregnum, before liberals come to their senses, we can fix the economy, and roll back a bit of the liberal bossy-boots state.