Friday, February 27, 2015

Net Neutrality: Liberals Ignore Settled Science on Regulation

John Fund writes that George Soros and the Ford Foundation have spent about $196 million funding the "net neutrality" campaign. And the long-term goal is control of internet content -- and funding public news organizations.

And now they have got what they wanted, with the Federal Communications Commission decision to regulate the internet as a public utility.

The price of moving data across the Internet has been falling by about 30 percent per year, according to the Wall Street Journal edit page.
That isn't good enough for the likes of Netflix, which now generates more than a third of all Internet traffic, and other major bandwidth users that are the chief lobbyists for the new FCC rules. Netflix doesn't detail its spending on Internet transport, though a telecom source estimates Netflix spends less than a penny for every movie it sends to a customer. 
Now, for some reason all our liberal friends are worked up about "net neutrality" and the evil bandwidth barons like AT&T and Comcast. Don't they know about the settled science? That the regulators always end up being captured by the interests they regulate? Are they determined to deny the fact that the price system almost always guarantees a more just distribution of resources than government?

Yeah. Like maybe Netflix and its customers should actually pay for hogging one third of Internet bandwidth. Hey, maybe a big greedy corporation like Netflix with its sky-high market valuation could afford to pay $0.02 per movie downloaded. Whatever.

But that's not the point. Nobody knows what Netflix should pay for bandwidth: that's what the price system is for. People compete for the use of a scarce resource by paying for it. If your customers can't afford to pay for the resource at market prices maybe that is an indication that your business plan has a flaw in it. The price system is much better and much more just than getting Congress to vote you a subsidy or cuddling up to a regulator. Or getting the president to bully the Federal Communications Commission into giving you free stuff.

Really, sometimes you have to wonder. Are liberals and their activist lefty pals really as educated and evolved as they claim?

I suppose that the liberal universe is divided, as Steven F. Hayward writes of the university, between its educated wing that believes in tenure and government by experts and its activist wing that believes in grievance and government by activists. Nowhere in these two world views is there space for the idea that maybe the experts and the activists should bug out and leave people to settle their differences without the option of going nuclear by calling in the strategic air command of big government.

The way to understand President Obama and his actions is to simply understand that he represents the Democratic Party coalition. The "over" part of the coalition wants to save the planet from global warming and legislate liberal morality and put everything in America, e.g. the Internet, under the supervision of liberals. The "under" part of the coalition just wants free stuff. Hey! That's what Obama delivers! Does he know his base, or what?

But if you are in the middle, neither over or under, you have to be feeling by November 2016 that Obama's America is not your America, and that it's time for a change.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gov. "Stay-on-message" Walker and America's Worries

Hey, how about that Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)? He's just penned an op-ed for USAToday. And he says that he's concerned about the problems of average citizens, not about the religion of a man he doesn't know.

It all makes me wonder if Rudi Giuliani was actually supposed to talk about the president's lack of love for America at the Walker get-acquainted session. Just to plunk Gov. Walker down in front of the target acquisition radar of the mainstream media.

Let's get down Gov. Walker's talking points, the things that he says the average people he meets are worrying about. To me, they scream "strategy" and signal what sort of a campaign he is planning to run. Here's what people are worrying about.

Worries about their children finding a job after college. Yeah. Interesting that Gov. Walker puts that at #1. I was talking with a neighbor whose daughter is just back from school with an Environmental Science degree. She's working as a waitress.

Worries about terror and ISIS. I tend to think that terror and ISIS are a bit overblown. The trouble is that there is ISIS video all over the TV news to make it look like the supposed JV guys are taking over the world.

Worries about getting back to their 2007 paycheck.  "I hear from people who lost their jobs and are back in the workforce but who still have not quite made it back to where they were before the recession — and they wonder when, or if, they'll ever get there." I'll say.

Here's how Gov. Walker sums up before he gets down to the media and the double standard:
Across party lines and state lines, Americans want America to be secure and prosperous again. And they're looking for leaders who can focus on that goal and who will get results.
I expect that this op-ed tells us everything we need to know about Gov. Walker and his campaign. He will focus on the worries people have about themselves, worries they have about their children, and worries they have about the nation. He will address how he will make America secure and how he will make it prosperous, for us and for our children.

When you think about it, that just about covers everything a politician should address when running for office.

One thing I suspect that Gov. Walker will not address: Fundamental Transformation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NYT Crows Over Net-Neutrality Victory

It looks like President Obama is going to win his effort to fold the internet into the government. The smaller internet content providers have mobilized an army of activists to flood the zone at the Federal Communications Commission and it looks like Republicans are throwing in the towel on opposing the president. Here's how Jonathan Weisman at The New York Times describes it:
A swarm of small players, like Tumblr, Etsy, BoingBoing and Reddit, overwhelmed the giants of the broadband world, Comcast, Verizon Communications and Time Warner Cable. Two of the biggest players on the Internet, Amazon and Google, largely stayed in the background, while smaller participants — some household names like Twitter and Netflix, others far more obscure, like Chess.com and Urban Dictionary — mobilized a grass-roots crusade.
The issue (supposedly) is whether the bandwidth providers can charge content providers for getting a "fast lane" on the Internet and whether the bandwidth providers can "throttle" content providers that don't want to pay.

At the center of the issue are the content streamers like Netflix, which is said to use up to 1/3 of bandwidth with its movie streaming. Should Netflix pay to get the bandwidth it needs to stream without glitches? Should the government decide that or the market?

The deciding factor, apparently, has been the Millennials.
“We don’t have an army of lobbyists to deploy. We don’t have financial resources to throw around,” said Liba Rubenstein, director of social impact and public policy at the social media company Tumblr, which is owned by Yahoo, the large Internet company, but operated independently on the issue. “What we do have is access to an incredibly engaged, incredibly passionate user base, and we can give folks the tools to respond.”
So here is the first entry of the Millennials into national politics. And what do they want? They want free stuff: uninterrupted streaming of their movie and video downloading. And they want to screw the evil bandwidth providers to whom they have to pay monthly payments.

In health care we have the evil insurance companies; in the internet we have the evil bandwidth providers.

Well, Millennials, you may not like it when you get what you ask for. Because you are licensing the government to start monkeying around with bandwidth and content providers, and don't doubt that ObamaNet will turn out like ObamaCare.

Oh yeah. Remember Obamacare? That was Obama promising you can keep your health plan and your doctor and it would all cost less. Only what actually happened was that Obama bought the support of the insurance companies and the drug companies with your money, and you can't keep your doctor or your health plan and premiums and deductibles have gone up.

Don't doubt that the same thing will happen with ObamaNet. Because that's how politics works. It's not about helping people. It's about fighting over the loot. And the corporations and insiders have more money and more access than you do.

Let's close with a quote from Milton Friedman: "The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem."

But our Millennial friends will have to find that out the hard way.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I Want a "Live-and-let-Live" President

A little while ago I wrote a piece for the American Thinker titled "I Want a President That Loves America." Then came Rudi Giuliani and his right-to-the-point jab at President Obama about the president's love of America.

Of course Obama doesn't love America. No liberal loves America; they know better than that. They are, to coin a phrase, on a high horse about America. They think that nation states like America ought to be replaced by multinational entities -- like the EU and the UN. They deplore "nationalism," knowing that deploring "patriotism" would get them into trouble.

But loving America is so yesterday. Now I want something more. I want a president that believes in a "live-and-let-live" America. Let me tell you what I mean (H/T Vox Day).

A while ago back down the Yellow Brick Road, according to the London Guardian, a couple of techies, Hank and Alex, were sitting at a tech conference and swapping dongle jokes when the young woman in front of them got up and took a photo of them. Pretty soon the photo was on Twitter:
They found a tweet from a woman, called Adria Richards, with a photo of them: “Not cool. Jokes about forking repo’s in a sexual way and ‘big’ dongles. Right behind me #pycon”.
One thing led to another and pretty soon Hank had been fired from his job. But that's not the end of the story.
That night, Hank made his only public statement. He posted a short message on the discussion board Hacker News: “Hi, I’m the guy who made a comment about big dongles. First of all I’d like to say I’m sorry. I really did not mean to offend anyone and I really do regret the comment and how it made Adria feel. She had every right to report me to staff, and I defend her position. [But] as a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job today. Which sucks because I have three kids and I really liked that job. She gave me no warning, she smiled while she snapped the pic and sealed my fate.”
That's not the end of the story either. A bunch of guys on Hacker News decided to take Adria Richards out, and they did. Pretty soon they had got her fired. Did you know that Adria Richards is a black Jewish female?

Hey fellahs and social justice warriors! How about an America where we live and let live? How about we tell someone to their face that we are offended by their locker-room talk instead of taking our taking offense to the entire world?

Of course, we all know that this is impossible for the Left. The whole point of the Left, starting in the French Revolution, is the taking of offense, turning the personal into the political, transforming the normal frictions of life in the modern world into political issues, and getting the government involved.

We know that liberals really hate it when they are on the receiving end of the political. Liberals hated Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority. They hate government getting into the bedroom. They were practically paranoid that the openly religious George W. Bush was setting up a "theocracy." And liberals froth at the mouth when denouncing the injustice of "legislating morality."

Liberals want to be free of the demands of conventional morality. So why don't they reciprocate, and allow conservatives and others the freedom to dissent from their "social justice" morality? (I know: they wouldn't understand.)

The whole point of the modern constitutional state is to put a space between law and morality, to permit freedom of religion, meaning a diversity in ways of worshipping God or in liberal-speak addressing the ultimate questions and meanings. The whole point of the Left since the French Revolution is to collapse the separation of powers into a single political power that some people have called "totalitarian."

We see this, incidentally, in President Obama's "phone and pen" governance where he pushes the administrative power of the presidency to the utmost, as in the executive order on immigration, as in his administration's pushing of the Federal Communications Commission to implement "net neutrality" by administrative fiat rather than by congressional legislation.

We see it in all the works of modern government. It can't just let parents educate their own children according to their lights; it has to corral children into government child-custodial facilities. It can't just let people make their own arrangements for health care; it has to bully them into buying a government-approved health plan. It can't just leave people to save money for retirement; it has to bully them into a government retirement plan.

The thing is that when you decide that it's OK to bully parents over education, or bully nerds exchanging sophomoric dongle jokes, or implement a culture of "taking offense" or define society as composed of the oppressors, the oppressed, and the champions of the oppressed, you'd better think a couple of moves ahead and figure out how people on the other side will respond to your actions.

The history of warfare is full of new tactics that completely confused and demoralized the opposition -- until the opposition figured out how to counter and defeat them.

The idea of live and let live is that it's better not to start offensive operations; you never know where they may end up. The best thing to do is to  solve your problem right here and right now. Most people are pretty decent and don't want to offend or hurt other people. Government ought to concentrate on the people that don't respond to a quiet word and to be hit on the head with a two-by-four before they will pay attention.

Hmm. I guess we might as well haul in René Girard and his idea of mimetic rivalry. The natural thing to do is for humans to escalate rivalries and conflict higher and higher. Until the whole thing gets out of hand and finally solved when the whole community turns upon a scapegoat and expels the scapegoat from the community.

In my view President Obama, with his Alinksy community organizer tactics, his Obamacare cramdown, with his executive orders à outrance, with his encouragement of "Our Loud, Proud Left," with his Obamanet "net neutrality" is stoking a mimetic rivalry between right and left that can only end in tragedy. In my view the whole point of the separation of powers, of the separation of church and state, of the civil society between the individual and the state, of the live and let live idea, is to neutralize mimetic rivalry and its escalation of conflict into open violence.

But I have a faith that the American people will stop this escalation by electing a bland live-and-let-live president in 2016 that will find a way to send the left's Offense Brigades back to their barracks where they can harmlessly squabble with each other without damaging the body politic.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Should We "Do Something" About ISIS?

The political war of words about defining the enemy with regard to ISIS and Islamic extremism is a necessary conflict. We need to understand what ISIS and radical Islam means to us, and what we should do about it, if anything.

The first thing to understand is that President Obama and the West's center-left oligarchy are in a bit of a bind. The reason that Obama (and Bush) wanted to talk about "violent extremism" is that they want to avoid facing the fact that Islam is a pre-modern religion. The notion of "jihad" is an appropriate ideology for the pre-industrial society when land was life and wealth. You need to defend your food-growing territory, and maybe expand it, because the more good land, the more of your people can live.

But the modern industrial world isn't like that. Wealth in the modern world is not in land, but in people and knowledge. The fundamental transformation of the modern world, to coin a phrase, is that you increase wealth through surprise and innovation in the exploitation of the world and its knowledge secrets. The rise of the West coincided with its invention and adoption of a global exchange economy where people do not conquer and plunder but produce and exchange.

On this view, the colonialism of the West was not so much conquest and plunder as producing and trading.

This revolution in what Marx calls "productive forces" demands a revolution in politics and culture. The rich nations of the world are the ones that have submitted most completely to the demands of the new productive forces and adapted their politics and culture to the new reality on the ground.

Right now we are in the climactic phase of this revolution as the two great ancient cultures and population centers, India and China, have recently capitulated to the new reality and are soaring in wealth and prosperity.

Put simply, India and China are submitting to the global exchange economy and the rule of the market. The rule of the market means that everyone, every single human, submits to the invisible hand of the market, and works to provide products and services that other people are willing to pay for. Government, on this view, is there to provide the legal infrastructure and defend honest producers, traders, and consumers from force and fraud.

Submission is not easy; we have seen movements of rejection all the way. The fact is that people doing fine under the old regime don't want to change, and people exploited under the old system find the experience of adapting to the new culture of work and cooperation unbearable.

Under the old regime, ordinary people were serfs and peasants and they needed to live under protection of a great patron, the local lord, the local landowner, the local cacique. When these ordinary people arrive in the city they look for a new patron, and they find it in the proto-states run by city machine politicians and national social-democratic parties where they can relate to political power in the way they were used to back on the farm.

The language that the machine politicians and social democrats use is the language that the president and his officials used at the White House Summit on Violent Extremism held in February 2015. The Obamis talked about marginalized people suffering from deprivation and lack of jobs. What was needed was the usual social democratic recipe of patronage and clientism.

Conservatives say that this misses the point. The problem is that the people of the Middle East have not made the cultural journey to life in the global exchange economy. They are still tribal; they still marry cousins; they lack a thriving exchange economy run on the principle that every stranger can be trusted unless he demonstrates untrustworthiness.

Now the problem with ISIS and the turmoil in the Middle East is basically cultural. The people of the Middle East feel trapped and marginalized by the economic success they see all round them. They need to develop, under wise leadership, a version of the culture of trust and cooperation that the other peoples of the world have painfully learned over the last five centuries of economic and cultural revolution.

Right now we are seeing a panic over ISIS and its remarkable propaganda which represents itself as an unstoppable force that will flow over the Middle East and elsewhere. There is a palpable sense that we should "do something."

But we can also see that Bush's Iraq strategy of going in an taking out Saddam-like thugs is of limited use, because it imposes a political solution from above on societies that are still pre-modern. The people of the Middle East must themselves find a cultural and religious model that gives meaning to their own cultural revolution from tribe and blood to trust and cooperation.

In the prosperous West this cultural revolution involved the growth of an ideology of responsible individualism, typically associated with the Protestant Revolution.  People began to see themselves as responsible for their lives, and stopped relying on powerful patrons to provide for them. Notoriously, people like the Mayflower Pilgrims decided they couldn't take the old ways any more and sailed to America to make a new life in the new way.

Egypt's president Al-Sisi has tried to begin the process for Egypt by issuing a challenge to its cultural leaders.
"We have reached the point that Muslims have antagonized the entire world. Is it conceivable that 1.6 billion [Muslims] want to kill the rest of the world’s population of 7 billion, so that Muslims prosper? This is not possible.” Sisi continued, to faint applause from the religious dignitaries assembled before him, to call on them to bring about a “religious revolution.” Barring that, the Muslim community “is being torn apart, destroyed, and is going to hell.”
 But of course, it is not the job of a politician to tell imams what to think and do, any more than in the US it is the job of the president to issue marching orders to the nation's churches. Politicians pick up what the cultural world creates and adapt it to the demands of political power. Right now the cultural leaders of the Middle East are caught up in the cultural aftermath of Sayed Qutb, who went to Colorado in the late 1940s and was horrified.

In the West we have the illusion that cultural change can be and ought to be conducted without heartache and without violence. This, of course, is rubbish. There will be turmoil in the Middle East for a century and more, and there will be blood.

The question for the West is whether we should "do something" about the Middle East, and if so, what that "doing something" should be.

Don't expect any brilliant solutions any time soon.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Entire Left Adrift in Denial

Peggy Noonan, America's intelligent aunt, usually tells us where the zeitgeist is. This week she calls out the Obamis as "An Administration Adrift on Denial." She writes about "willful denials and dodges" and mindless talk about "root causes" and "lack of opportunity for jobs."

Actually, I get it. As the airline safety guys say: when aircrew experience an emergency, they instinctively follow their training.

Same thing with community organizers and lefty activists. "Root causes" and relative deprivation is what they learn in activism school. Their silly shibboleths explain everything for them. So this week the Obama administration stages a White House Summit on Violent Extremism opening with a Muslim prayer.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Look, I get it. The left, since its inception with the Communist Manifesto has been pushing an impossible idea.  The left argued that the working class in 1848, then in an epochal transition from rural indigence to urban prosperity, were the most outrageously exploited group in human history. Under the flawed exploitation of the bourgeoisie the workers would sink into "immiseration."

So of course when the going gets tough the left looks like idiots.

Since the 1840s billions of peasants have made the transition from rural poverty  to urban competence, and still the left insists that our times are the worst thing since the Crusades and the Inquisition.

Right  now the folks making the transition are the world's Muslims. Achieving strategic concentration in the cities of Europe they are enraged, as groups before them, with their backwardness and the shame of their situation as struggling immigrants.

So time after time, the left encourages a group recently arrived in the city with approval for tribalism and clientism, assuring them that they can continue their tribal ways in the non-tribal world of the city. The young men form criminal gangs and the left whines about police brutality. Eventually it all works out in spite of the left as the young men get jobs, get married, and learn how to thrive in the city.

Look, I get it. We middle-class whiteys don't want to get too rough and tough with the Muslims in our cities, and we don't want to have to sweep across the Middle East cleaning out nests of crazed rapists and beheaders. Meanwhile the huge dust-pile of the welfare state with its benefits, its taxes, its credentialism, its crony corruption, its regulations makes it hard for the new immigrants to make a new life for themselves.

Here at home President Obama and his supporters look like idiots for denying the obvious, that the West has a problem with Muslims enraged by their backwardness and their marginalization and their failed states.

And I couldn't be happier.

That's because the world is working the way it should. The ruling class screws up yet again and eventually, at the last moment, the people vote for a new administration to clean up the mess. Because this is America, and in America we do the right thing, but only after trying everything else.

The confusion, the mess, the denial, the lies, the evasions, the stupidity: they are all necessary stages on the way to a solution.

The glorious destiny of Barack Obama is to screw up in such an epic scale that nobody except a mind-numbed Democratic partisan will fail to see that in 2016, it will be Time for a Change.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Bright Side of Obama's "Strategic Patience"

Everyone is worrying that the 2010s is the 1930s all over again. They want to get up and deal with the Islamic menace before it gets any worse. And maybe they are right.

President Obama, of course, advocates "strategic patience," which means what, exactly?

Should "the West" follow a forward strategy, and whack the Islamic State right now? Or should we stand back from the Middle East and let the chips fall where they may?

I'm a conservative, so I've tended to support the forward strategy, memorably enunciated by Ronald Reagan at the time of the Cold War: "Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose."

But the funny thing about Ronald Reagan is that he won the Cold War with hardly firing a shot. He talked a good game, he cranked up the Defense budget, he got the spies helping the Lech Walesas behind the enemy line, he got the US economy out of its stagflationary Keynesian slump, he whacked the dime-store Commies in Grenada. And the rest is history.

One of the things that liberals harped on about during the Cold War was US support of right-wing dictators. It forced US apologists like Jeane Kirkpatrick to insist that there was a difference between right-wing authoritarian dictators and left-wing totalitarian dictators. And maybe she was right, in the bipolar days of the Cold War.

The reason to support authoritarians is usually "stability." We support right-wing dictators because they are a lot better than lefty totalitarians. But what about the Middle East? Should we support, e.g., Saudi Arabia, because they are a bulwark against radical Iran?

The problem with "stability" according to the Black Swan guy, Nassir Nicholas Taleb, is it tends to freeze things in place. What happens in the spring when the ice breaks up? You get a world war.

Now the West has basically kept the Middle East in a fast-frozen mode for the last century, ever since the Ottoman Empire broke up at the end of World War I. And the reason, of course, is Oil. The Middle East, ever since Winston Churchill switched the British Royal Navy from coal to oil, has been the source of the world's cheapest oil. So the West has wanted to dominate the region to make sure that the oil keeps coming.

That's why we were meddling in Iran in the early 1950s. That's why we've supported the Saudi family dynasty since whenever. That's why we cared about the thug Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile the Middle East has been seething under the western knout. One day it will explode. And then what?

President Obama recommends "strategic patience." We conservatives assume that this is merely a cover for the left-wing argument that the West is to blame for everything, because of its racist colonialism and imperialism. For Obama, we assume, the West has it coming, and has no moral right to interfere in the Middle East.

But suppose President Obama is right for the wrong reasons. Suppose that the best strategy is the good old Cold War strategy of "containment." Let the Middle East become a cauldron of hate and blood, but establish a clear perimeter, starting at Israel, at the Bosphorus, at the border between Pakistan and India. We will contain the fire at the borders: thus far and no further.

This is a good time to switch strategies, from the Bush forward strategy to the Obama strategic patience, because of the fracking revolution. Instead of the left's prophecy of "peak oil" it looks like there is an ocean of hydrocarbon out there from natural gas to oil.  That means that we don't care as much about Mideast oil as we used to do.

Right now, it looks like there is plenty of fracked hydrocarbon at $50-60 per barrel, and it puts the "stability" regimes and the radical regimes of the Middle East in a quandary. They can use the oil weapon, but in doing so and raising the price they will just make it easier for Big Oil and little oil to do more fracking. But if they cut production they get less money and they need the money. All the big oil-producing nations, from the Saudis to the Iranians to the Venezuelans "need" the oil price up at $100 per barrel or more.

Various critics of Islam argue that it is ill adapted to the modern age. It retains a pre-trading mentality, a philosophy of global conquest in jihad that doesn't work any more than the nostalgic global totalitarianism of communism and socialism can work. Since it was impossible to convince the true-believers of the left that socialism could not work until communism crashed and burned in 1990-91, there is no reason to believe that the Islamists will abandon their jihad for world domination before its catastrophic collapse.

It's at this point that I like to invoke the Chinese Christian from David Aikman's Jesus in Beijing. Here is what he said.
At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. 
OK. So what is it about Christianity? I suggest, following Rene Girard, that Christianity, more than any other transcendental or secular religion, has articulated a philosophy of human comity. It directs every human to serve before they collect. It tells people to love their enemies. It tells that that in service is perfect freedom. This goes against the basic human instinct to strike first before the other guy gets his chance. It goes against the ancient instinct of the border war, the escalating feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. And of  course it goes against the modern totalitarianism of basic conflict of interest between the races, between the sexes, between the classes, between religions.

The modern totalitarianisms are cunning. They understand how to get people riled up. First, in the 19th century they got the working class all riled up against the bourgeoisie. Then, with "cultural Marxism" they got all kinds of other groups riled up: the blacks in Ferguson, the women in college, the gays in their urban ghettos.

From a tactical political point of view, these totalitarianisms are brilliant. But there is a problem. These political tactics wall up groups into resentful ghettos. They prevent people from surrendering to the market and making the profoundly social and altruistic decision to find something in this world that contributes to other peoples' welfare, and then doing it.

That is what the Islamists are doing to Muslims worldwide. They are telling Muslims that the way to the future is to conquer the world, not to serve it.  Maybe they are right, but if they are the whole history of the past 500 years has been a terrible mistake.

The only way to demonstrate who is making the mistake is to step back from the Middle East and let the chips fall where they may, except in Israel. Sorry, jihadis, no messing with Israel. And in the rest of the world, we enforce our Judeo-Christian doctrine of service. Muslims that want to thrive in the West are welcome. But they must show by their actions that they accept the fundamental principle of the modern economy. They must seek to serve before they demand to collect.

On my theory of the world, the history of the last two centuries has been the story of various foolish attempts to rebel against the new world order of markets, exchange, and service to others. On this view, radical Islam is merely the latest and hopefully the last such rebellion.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Obama Leads Dems into the Wilderness

The original narrative for the Obama years came from Judis and Teixeira and The Emerging Democratic Majority back in 2002.  The idea was that the Dems were forming a majority coalition of minorities, women, youth and the educated, and that they'd rule for ever after.

I feared it, but not after the Obama administration got started. I feared that the Dems would incrementally move the country in a liberal direction by finding bipartisan majorities on issues the Republicans couldn't refuse. Kinda like Medicare Part D which Bush passed in part to defuse a Dem "issue."

But Obama turned out to be the wrong president to consolidate and extend the Emerging Democratic Majority, because he pursued a divisive and partisan strategy to implement as much as possible of the liberal agenda by any means possible as soon as possible. So we have the Obamacare cramdown, the endless executive orders, the revising of statute law by fiat.

He violated the Moynihan Rule, that you want a 70-30 vote in the US Senate to pass big items like Medicare.

The result of Obama has been the most Republican Congress since before the Great Depression. And huge gains for Republicans in the states.

Now comes John Kraushaar in the National Journal to argue that "Obama Changed His Party, Not the Country." He's gotten remarkable support from his base and from the Democrats in Congress. But what does it matter if he hasn't brought the country with him too?
By ignoring the electorate and steering the country in an unmistakably progressive direction his final two years in office, he's ensuring that his presidency will be more of an eight-year mirage for liberals, rather than one known for winning lasting support for policies that would move the country in a leftward direction.
And so now John B. Judis is writing about an Emerging Republican Advantage.

Back in 2012 Chief Justice Roberts was the deciding vote to allow Obamacare to proceed. You can see why he did that and angered Republicans and conservatives. He knew that for the Supreme Court to roll back Obamacare in 2012 would be dangerously divisive, and would be viciously attacked by liberals and Obama. But not any more. Obama's a lame duck and Obamacare is unpopular. My nickel goes to say that the current Obamacare issue before the Supreme Court, the question of whether subsidies can be applied in states that didn't set up their own health exchanges, Chief Justice Roberts will be on the side of those that cut Obamacare down.

And the problem with all those executive orders is that they can be reversed by the next president.

It is said that Abraham Lincoln advised us to fight only one war at a time. We might revise and extend his remarks to say that all governments look for a war to fight. But they'd better not get caught in a two-front war. Now it is clear that the war Obama is fighting is the war against conservatives and Republicans. For his and his liberal base, the real enemy is racism, sexism, homophobia. So for them the problem with Islam, or the aggression of Putin's Russia are distractions from the real war.

But conservatives and Republicans are different. We don't really want to crush our domestic political opponents; we just wish they weren't so determined to wreck America and all it stands for. Enemies, if any, can be found beyond the borders of the United States and North America. The enemy used to be the Soviet Union; now it is radical Islam.

So, from my conservative perspective, the idea that Obama has led his party into the wilderness without getting the rest of the nation to follow him is a beacon of hope. It will be much easier for the next Republican president to lead the nation to sunny uplands of economic growth and social peace if President Obama has flown the Democratic Party up a box canyon and wrecked it on the canyon wall.

But, as I have already written, I expect the Democrats to break and run before they get too far up the box canyon. Politicians are not fools; they can see the writing on the canyon walls.

But usually the rank and file in an army wait to desert until it is too late. They are only human, after all.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Women Changing the Public Square

My friend Stephen asked about women presidents the other day, and I responded with waffle about the Empress CiXi in China, about whom I'm reading in Jung Chang's The Empress Dowager CiXi: The Woman Who Launched Modern China. So yeah, women can be amazing heads of state, although that doesn't mean that the failed Hillary Clinton should be our First Woman President.

And, of course, there is the problem that five years after the death of CiXi China descended into 30+ years of civil war.

But now comes an interesting piece promoted by Instapundit that touches the question of women faculty in law schools. The article is about the proposed merger of two Rutgers law schools, one in Camden and one in Newark. It appears that the law schools are heavily in into law-and-social-justice.
Not surprisingly for a school that emphasizes race, gender and philosophy and has a history of misleading employment statistics, the Camden law school has had trouble attracting students.
This provoked a commenter to comment:
I was wondering when someone was finally going to address this issue. A large number of junior ranking faculty are trying to transform law schools into something completely different. These professors, who are largely female, want to talk about anything but traditional law. Their focus is instead on abortion, parenting, racism, sexism, human rights violations and the environment. I get that there will be some overlap between these topics and the law, but they should be restricted to when the topic actually comes us and not woven mercilessly throughout the general curriculum. Since traditional topics still need to be taught for the bar exam and some business courses need to be offered, schools end up with a bloated faculty just so that they can have a strange panoply of socially progressive seminars that fit each faculty member’s niche interest.
That's interesting, and I get it. It is much more congenial to be talking up liberal social justice issues than the uncongenial hard work of teaching law which is, after all, a patriarchal concept that men have worked out over the last several millennia with very little input from women.

Now, I've written that, as George Simmel the German sociologist put it, women in the modern age are in the middle of adapting the public square to "a more feminine sensibility." When liberal women law faculty are moving the law school curriculum from law to social justice, is that a case of women adapting law "to a more feminine sensibility" or is it just mind-numbed liberals doing their thing?

Government is force; social animals deal in pecking orders and hierarchy. Men are fighters; they reduce everything to a battle. Women are lovers; they reduce everything to manipulation and persuasion.

So if you ask me we have an unholy mess with the current liberal administrative welfare state, staffed mainly by women. Government is force, yet its practitioners are women that instinctively want to move the culture towards manipulation and social shaming.

Marxists had a good way of understanding this sort of thing. They liked to talk about the "internal contradictions" of capitalism. But think about the "internal contradictions" of liberalism, and the internal contradiction of having women, the manipulators, winkling away at law, which was men's way of resolving fights into agreed-upon rules. And the even bigger internal contradiction of having women, the manipulators, in charge of government, the enforcers.

I suspect that at the end of the modern era, women will retreat from the public square where it requires male-style combat and head-banging, and specialize on areas that require loving attention and relationships. But we are going to get there by learning the hard way, and the journey is going to be hell.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Real Problem "Ghettoside"

We've all gotten used to the liberal "police brutality" meme, where police target minorities for abuse. That's when the police are not ignoring murders and concentrating on arresting minorities for minor infractions.

Now comes Jill Leovy with Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America (H/T Steve Sailer) and she's getting a soft-focus interview on NPR's Fresh Air in "'Ghettoside' Explores Why Murders Are Invisible In Los Angeles:" as in
Our guest today, journalist Jill Leovy, argues that black communities suffer deeply from too little law enforcement, or at least law enforcement of a certain kind.  
You see, murders in the black ghetto get very little coverage in the media, and so Jill Leovy decided to sit down and document every murder in Los Angeles in a blog, The Homicide Report, and now she's written a book about it. Murder in the black ghetto may be routine, but it shatters the lives of families on the receiving end. And to compound the agony, very few murders of young black men are "solved."
Well, looking at numbers from LAPD from about '88 through the early 2000s, around 40 percent, if the victims are black men.
And injury shootings have an even lower "solved" rate, at 25 percent. What is going on here? Here is what is going on:
[Leovy:] I spoke to a mother, once, in South Bureau - black woman - her son had just been murdered. I think this was maybe a couple of days after the murder. I had gone to her door. And it was one of these cases where the police just had no witnesses. The case wasn't going anywhere. The mother told me that since the murder, the killers, who she knew, who were, I think, the gang members who lived on her street, had been knocking on her door and taunting her and laughing at her - her grief.  
Here's the black grievance: on the one hand, police are too heavy handed. On the other, they don't bother to solve the big stuff, the murders.
[Leovy:] [A] a standard black grievance against police that you hear in South LA, that has to do with the generally understood problem - too much consent searches, we say, in LA, too much stop-and-frisk, too heavy of law enforcement, too much presumption of guilt when you take stops.

What I hear, when I'm in these neighborhoods, is a combination. It's a two-pronged grievance. There's another half of that. And the other half is, I get stopped too much for nothing, and the police don't go after the real killers. They don't go after the really serious criminals in this neighborhood.
Then there's the intimidation:
[Interviewer:] You know, you write that most of these cases are made not by physical evidence, you know, fibers or that kind of thing, but by witnesses and a phrase that you hear a lot in some of these communities after a homicide is, everybody knows who did it. But it's the reluctance of witnesses to cooperate that is such a huge barrier. You want to just explore that for a moment and talk about what fears witnesses have and why?

LEOVY: Well, witnesses I think justly fear retaliation. There's a lot of kind you might call it soft retaliation - signals, hard stares. I had one witness on a case who a couple days after she - the perpetrators clearly saw her at the scene, woke up in the middle of the night, and they're banging hard on her windows, bunch of guys walking slowly around the house banging, banging on each window for a long time. And they didn't hurt her, but that's terrifying. And it's very clear what that's saying. What that's saying is, think about what we will do to you.
You can see why the police are running around harassing the homeboys. They can't get any witnesses for the murders, but knowing who the culprits are, they can at least get them for the small stuff.

End of facts, beginning of analysis.

Many years ago, I read a policeman that said that the dirty little secret of policing is informers. If you don't have informers you don't know what is going on and you can't prosecute urban crime. And that's what we just read about above. "Everybody knows" who did it, but nobody is willing to testify.

And, of course, these urban killings are, really, combat deaths in the contests for turf, the border wars, between rival urban gangs.

Now my theory of government is that every government is an armed minority occupying some territory and defending it from enemies, foreign and domestic. It supports itself by taxing the inhabitants of that territory. Period.

On this theory, urban criminal gangs are proto-governments that carve out territory within the territory of a larger national government. They defend that territory from other proto-governments and they tax the inhabitants for their "protection," And the larger national government tolerates it.

This has been going on in the United States for at least a century and a half, ever since the Irish came over in their "coffin ships." First it was the Irish gangs, then the Jewish gangs, then the Italian gangs. Now it's the black gangs and the Latino gangs.

But why? I think the main reason is that the immigrants on the lowest rung of the ladder don't have the connections and the credentials or the skills to enter the formal economy (which today taxes labor at up to 25 percent, including payroll taxes, unemployment, workers comp and mandatory benefits). So they have to operate outside the law. So they are vulnerable. They may work "off the books" or they may aim higher at the risky trade in illegal or highly taxed substances. But they have to work outside the law because they don't have the education, or skills, or experience, or connections, or whatever, to be competitive in the formal economy.

Remember the cruelties, Voltaire is supposed to have said. He was talking about the cruelties of the ancien régime. We too have our cruelties, and the poor have their grievances.

And so we can see a two-point program to solve this problem. Point One is to reconquer the urban ghettos and smash the gangs. Point Two is to abolish the cruel "helping" state interventions in the economy that make it impossible for unskilled people to work in the formal economy.

Otherwise, the problem of "Ghettoside" is insoluble. But maybe the ruling class likes it that way.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"Questions Linger" about Scott Walker

Just like everyone else, I couldn't resist the headline at Drudge and the cute picture and clicked over to the Washington Post's breathless article by David A. Farenthold on the unanswered questions about GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker's college career: "As Scott Walker mulls White House bid, questions linger over college exit."

Oh no! What could it be? What shameful and hidden scandal could have caused Scott Walker to leave Marquette University without getting a degree?

You do know that Scott Walker doesn't have a university degree?

Yeah. It seems that Scott Walker didn't really study too hard at college. In fact he was really only interested in college politics, at which he was a failure. Then he quit and went to work for the Red Cross. And never went back.

It was amazing to watch the comments section at the WaPo, labeled "5000+", as new comments, mostly from conservatives, came in every other second. And just about every other comment wondered about President Obama's college career, about which we still know next to nothing.

Now, for me, the point of this article is obvious. As is well known, there are only two kinds of Republican candidates for president. There are the "stupid" candidates, like Ronald Reagan and Ike and George W. Bush. And then there are the "evil" candidates, like Richard Nixon.

Wait! By 2004, George W. Bush had become an "evil" candidate! So it's possible for a Republican to be both "stupid" and "evil."

You can see that the "Walker didn't finish college" meme is all about defining Scott Walker to be as dumb as a post. Liberals apparently have a need to be able to marginalize the "other" in politics, and so articles by folks like David A. Farenthold cater to that basic human need.

And just to help out, the Brits just asked Scott Walker about "evolution."

Do you wonder who will be the "evil" candidate in 2016? Wonder no more; the answer is obvious. It is Ted Cruz. The "stupid" meme doesn't work for Ted, because Ted Cruz is brilliant. Just read the "Education" section in his Wiki article. Princeton, debate star, Harvard Law: Alan Dershowitz called him "off-the-charts brilliant." So it stands to reason that Cruz is "evil."

But if you ask me, "questions linger" about why liberal journalists at the mainstream media always find it necessary to do this kind of article about GOP rising stars. And why liberals, the tolerant ones, always need to instruct their charges in the "stupidity" or the "evil" of GOP political frontrunners.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Conservative Reform Agenda

Yesterday I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, so I wrote about the dreadful record of liberals, starting with 50 years since Moynihan's "Negro Problem" and things have just gotten worse for the Negro family. I was talking about the fact that nothing happens when liberals screw up. They keep on keeping on, wrecking and sabotaging, and nobody holds them to account. Where's the conservative Hope and Change?

But now comes Peter Ferrara at The American Thinker to tell us about the secret conservative reform agenda being cooking up by Paul Ryan and others, what we may all hope will be "The Post-Obama Triumph of Conservatism."

First of all there's a plan to balance the budget, starting with the House and Senate budget resolutions for FY 2016.
But the prospect now is that new House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) and new Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) will propose identical budget resolutions that will balance the federal budget within 10 years.
Oh yeah? But Ferrara says that the budget will include "careful, politically sensitive entitlement reform" of Medicare and welfare. That means moving Medicare more towards Medicare Advantage and the remaining 79 welfare programs towards block grants, like with TANF in 1996.

But not Social Security Reform. Not yet.

Then there's tax reform.  Paul Ryan has a plan over at House Ways and Means.
[It] would apply a 10% federal income tax rate to family incomes up to $100,000, and 25% after that.  Under that plan, close to 90% of working families would be subject to only the 10% rate.  The federal corporate income tax rate would be reduced to 25% as well.
Yay!

Then there's Obamacare. Here, Peter Ferrara is talking about "shoulds" so I suppose that the "repeal and replace" he proposes is just his idea. Anyway, Ferrara has a two point plan:
(1) targeting public assistance to help the poor buy essential health insurance, and (2) providing means for those uninsured who have developed highly expensive pre-existing conditions, such as cancer or heart disease, to obtain essential health insurance.
The poor would get subsidized insurance plus subsidized HSAs. The pre-existing conditions guys would pay on a means-tested basis.

It all sounds great. But now we need to sell the ordinary middle class on these ideas: people that don't want to change their Medicare and don't want to change their Social Security and don't want to pay for pre-existing condition health insurance, and don't want to give up their mortgage deduction.

The thing is that conservatives don't get to bully the American people into accepting their agenda like liberals do. Liberals can call everyone that disagrees with them racists, sexists, and homophobes, and it works.

But conservatives have to persuade, and I wonder just how persuadable people are, even after eight years of Obama's fundamental transformation.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Liberals Screw Up and Nothing Happens

Guess what: it's the 50th anniversary of Pat Moynihan's report on "The Negro Family" and its firestorm.
Moynihan argued that the rise in single-mother families was not due to a lack of jobs but rather to a destructive vein in ghetto culture that could be traced back to slavery and Jim Crow discrimination. 
Of course this went against mainstream settled social science that "economic conditions determine social conditions," so it had to be squelched.

And Jason L.Riley at the Wall Street Journal wants to remind you about what Moynihan said.
When the report was released, about 25% of black children and 5% of white children lived in a household headed by a single mother. During the next 20 years the black percentage would double and the racial gap would widen. Today more than 70% of all black births are to unmarried women, twice the white percentage.
Since then there has been a ton of social science research that demonstrates that children of married parents are seldom poor, but children of single parents often are. Also, children of married parents seldom exhibit social pathologies; children of single parents often do. But we still have the Great Society programs that pathologized the poor.

You'd think that liberals would be hanging from lampposts for continuing the unjust subsidization of non-work and single parenthood and the ruin of millions of lives, but they haven't.

Here's Kevin Williamson reviewing Peter J. Wallison's history of the mortgage meltdown, Hidden in Plain Sight. No it wasn't deregulation; it was regulators allowing "financial firms to park certain holdings off balance sheet." No it wasn't Fed easy money; the bubble started in the 1990s. The culprit was the easing of lending standards.
The real problem was the collapse in lending standards, with each of the big three — borrower credit rating, size of down payment, and borrower debt-to-income ratio — eroding practically overnight.
And why did that happen? Because liberals insisted, the federal government mandated, and Fannie and Freddie implemented it and then lied about it.

You'd think that liberals would be hanging from lampposts for tempting millions of low-income minorities into this wilderness of debt and ruin, but they've managed to persuade us all the "greedy bankers" did it.

Here's RedState's Moe Lane commiserating with a self-employed Obama supporter profiled in The New York Times. Her post-Obamacare health plan isn't working out. She couldn't keep her doctor; she faced higher premiums; her deductibles went up; her co-pays went up. But what really frosted her was having to drive to Connecticut for a follow-up doctor visit -- 14 miles away.

You'd think that liberals would be hanging from lampposts for screwing up the health plans of good Democratic supporters, but it seems that it's Republicans that are to blame for not supporting the president.

I suppose that we should all be encouraged. There is no way we could tell if anything were changing because in Obama's America you are not allowed to criticize Democrats on anything. Because racism, sexism, homophobia.

All you can do is vote for the most Republican Congress since the Great Depression.

It's just that I'd really like to live in an America where a politician could actually call for reform -- of entitlements, of welfare, of housing finance, of health care, of education -- without being shouted down as a bigot who wants to push grandma off a cliff or hurt little children.

And I'd like liberals to get the blame, for once, so that I could then step forward and forgive them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

You are Missing the Point, Mr. Krugman

The New York Times columnist and Keynesian apologist Paul Krugman has been on a tear this week with not one but three pieces explaining debt to us. There are a couple of blog posts: "Debt is Money We Owe Ourselves" and "Debt: A Thought Experiment," followed by a full-dress oped: "Nobody Understands Debt."

Naturally, everyone wants to get in on the act, including Steve Keen at Forbes with "Nobody Understands Debt -- Including Paul Krugman," so why shouldn't I join in the fun?

In "Debt is Money We Owe Ourselves" Krugman cranks up a chart of UK National Debt -- also available here at ukpublicspending.uk -- and says that, hey, after the Napoleonic Wars the Brits had a National Debt of 250 percent GDP and what harm did it do them?
Britain did not emerge impoverished from the Napoleonic Wars; the government ended up with a lot of debt, but the counterpart of this debt was that the British propertied classes owned a lot of consols.
True. But suppose the Brits had lost the Napoleonic War and defaulted on the debt? Then all the British propertied classes would have been a "foul way out." And suppose they didn't have the industrial revolution helping out?

Then Krugman returns with a hypothetical:
Here’s a thought experiment that may clarify matters (or alternatively make the usual suspects even more enraged.) Suppose that for some reason the government were to decree, arbitrarily, that every American whose last name begins with the letters A through K now owes $100,000 to a special government agency; meanwhile, every American L through Z is given a $100,000 bond to be paid by that agency.
The net balance is zero, he explains:
Clearly, the overall level of debt in the U.S. economy has suddenly increased (actually by about $1.6 trillion). But has the nation become any poorer?
The answer is: not unless the government defaults on the debt.

So later on, Krugman writes his usual oped about debt and austerity. In "Nobody Understands Debt" he keys off a McKinsey Global Institute report that not much deleveraging had taken place since 2008 to complain that, in fact, savage retrenchment had taken place, and it hadn't helped.
 But we have, in fact, had unprecedented austerity. As the International Monetary Fund has pointed out, real government spending excluding interest has fallen across wealthy nations — there have been deep cuts by the troubled debtors of Southern Europe, but there have also been cuts in countries, like Germany and the United States, that can borrow at some of the lowest interest rates in history.

All this austerity has, however, only made things worse — and predictably so, because demands that everyone tighten their belts were based on a misunderstanding of the role debt plays in the economy.
 Foolish people say that all this debt is robbing our grandchildren. No it isn't, writes Krugman. "Families who run up debts make themselves poorer... the world economy as a whole owes money to itself." So, if the peripheral countries needed to tighten their belts, the Germans needed to loosen theirs.

Forbes' Steven Keen faults Krugman for not seeing the difference between "peer-to-peer" lending and bank lending. But I have a different beef.

My point is that Krugman is wrong about debt. When families "run up debts" they don't necessarily make themselves poorer; they are just making a bet on the future. They are betting that they will have the income to service those debts. The same with the Brits in the Napoleonic War; they were betting that they would win, and to the victor the spoils. There is no problem if the bets pay out. But if the bet fails, then we have a different story.

And so we return to a piece of wisdom told to me by a communications engineer. The interesting case is not the successful transmission of data, he said. The interesting case is what you do when things go wrong.

When a debtor fails to service a loan, it is because he is poorer than he expected; his bet on the future has not panned out. But then the question is: who is going to pay for his mistake? The answer is: everyone. The debtor must surrender his collateral, such as it is, and the creditor most likely must take a haircut. Everyone is poorer.

That's what might have happened at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. If the Brits hadn't won, or if the industrial revolution hadn't come along and flooding the nation with wealth and the government with revenues, well then the British propertied classes wouldn't have been sitting on their £1,000 a year, they would have been sitting on a lot less and would have had to get out and get a job, like Charles Dickens, son of a bankrupt.

Nobody understands debt. Least of all Paul Krugman. Every investment is a bet on the future. With debt, I say that if I can invest money in a project right now I can make enough money to service the debt and pay it off, and if there are any profits then I get them all. With equity, I say that if I can invest money in a project right now I will share the profits, if any, with my partners.

If the bet pays off, then we are all winners. If the bet goes bad, then we are all losers.

The problem with the world right now is that we are arguing about who is going to take the losses from the bubble of the 2000s. Should it be the Greeks? The Germans? Krugman's "usual suspects?" The minority homeowners who got loans on a "dream house" that went south? (Yeah. Did you know that minority homeowners were hardest hit in the mortgage meltdown?)

The problem for the Paul Krugmans of the world is that the liberal ruling class made all kinds of promises to all kinds of people: vote for us and we'll give you loot -- pensions, subsidies, jobs, health care, you name it -- and they paid for the loot with debt. Now they can't pay out on the promises. What to do? Blame greedy bankers, blame "austerity," blame the rich, blame the Germans.

So what do they want to do? They want the rest of us to pay for their blunders.

The whole point of Keynesian economics is to avoid the truth, that government screwed up and pumped up the economy with easy money, and now we will all have to pay the piper.

That's one thing that government can never admit: it's time to pay the piper.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Judis Enlightenment

Way back when, in 2002, Democrats thought that they were going to own the future, and so John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira wrote a book about it: The Emerging Democratic Majority.

It was simple, they said. A new coalition of minorities, women, the educated, and the young was forming and they were going to be Democrats.

But now, with the Republicans in the best position they've held in Congress since the 1920s, John B Judis has changed his mind in "The Emerging Republican Advantage."

What has happened to change Judis' mind, other than the facts on the ground: a Republican Senate joining the Republican House to make up the most Republican Congress in 80 years.  It's the thesis of the emerging middle:
[There are] two trends that have emerged in the past few elections—one surprising, the other less so. The less surprising trend is that Democrats have continued to hemorrhage support among white working-class voters—a group that generally works in blue-collar and lower-income service jobs and that is roughly identifiable in exit polls as those whites who have not graduated from a four-year college...

The more surprising trend is that Republicans are gaining dramatically among... middle-class Americans. These are voters who generally work in what economist Stephen Rose has called "the office economy." In exit polling, they can roughly be identified as those who have college—but not postgraduate—degrees and those whose household incomes are between $50,000 and $100,000.
Golly!  You think that maybe the Republican Party is not the party of the rich, as the Democrats keep telling us, but really the party of the middling sort of person, neither rich nor poor, neither uneducated or super-educated, not exactly brainy, but certainly not stupid? Who could have figured that out?

Of course, that's what conservative brainiacs have been saying for years. The Democratic Party is an over-under coalition, of the rich and the credentialed in an unholy alliance with the poor. The Republican Party is the party of the responsible middle class.

OK. So John B. Judis has seen the light on party alignment. But he is still as dumb as bricks when it comes to the economy.
After the 2008 election, I thought Obama could create an enduring Democratic majority by responding aggressively to the Great Recession in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt had responded in 1933 to the Great Depression. Obama, I believed, would finally bury the Reagan Republican majority of 1980 and inaugurate a new period of Democratic domination.
See how he got it completely wrong? That's because he doesn't care about science and hasn't cracked a book to get beyond the straight liberal narrative on the Great Depression. First of all, President Bush was already "responding aggressively" to the Great Recession. He let Nancy Pelosi have whatever stupid Keynesian stimulus she wanted, and then he had Hank Paulson in at Treasury to make sure that "this sucker" didn't go down in the Fall of 2008. All the heavy lifting had been done before Obama was inaugurated, and if John B. Judis knew a thing beyond the usual liberal shibboleths about the Crusades he'd know that.
In retrospect, that analogy was clearly flawed. Roosevelt took power after four years of the Great Depression, with Republicans and business thoroughly discredited, and with the public (who lacked any safety net) ready to try virtually anything to revive the economy. Obama's situation was very different. Business was still powerful enough to threaten him if he went too far in trying to tame it. Much of the middle class and working class were still employed, and they saw Obama's stimulus program—which was utterly necessary to stem the Great Recession—as an expansion of government at their expense.
Oh really. Business powerful enough to threaten him? Obama's stimulus "utterly necessary?" You mean the one that kept teachers' salaries going? For God's sake, John B. Judis, get out of your liberal hidey-hole and get out more.  Obama's economic policy has been a failure because it tried to emulate the glory days of FDR, which some commentators think deepened and extended the Great Depression.

The Obama problem is that the natural reaction of all politicians at all times is to throw money at their supporters, and he's too cloistered to know that there is another way. The way the economy works is that when you lose your job you must get on your bike and go find a job. The more people are sitting around on a government check (I am talking about both workers and crony capitalists) the slower the economy will rebound. The real job of a government in a financial crisis is to supply endless liquidity until the panic is over, and then clear the decks of regulations and onerous taxes to grease a swift recovery.

As a coda to John B. Judis' partial emergence from the ignorance and superstition of the liberal Dark Ages, there is Henry Olsen's "Submerging Democratic Majority." He points out that, if the Democratic majority idea is flawed, so is the counter idea of a "natural Republican majority," because "simplistic proponents of the “natural Republican majority” counter-thesis also overlook the elements of white-working-class and middle-class psychology that makes them quintessential swing voters." For Olsen, you can explain every election since 2008 on the idea that the "white-working-class and middle-class" voters are up for grabs. Writes Olsen:
Judis basically gets them right when he notes that they are suspicious of, but not hostile to, government. They no longer trust government to automatically act in their interest, but neither do they think that all government is evil — especially those aspects of government they can feel most directly in their lives: police, public schools, and mass entitlement programs.
Too true. The problem for right-wingnuts like me is to persuade the white working class and the non-credentialed middle class that reform of public schools and entitlement is really just what the doctor ordered for them. And the problem starts with the fact that even though public education and the entitlements stink they still make the white working class and the middle middle class feel safe.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Good News on Unemployment

Here's the headline I've been waiting for -- for years. From Drudge: "Boom: Jobs Surprise" followed by "But Unemployment Rate Ticks Up" from 5.6 percent to 5.7 percent.

Anyone who knows how the employment market really works knows that the sign of a really good jobs market is when people start returning to the labor force faster than they are actually getting jobs. When that happens the unemployment rate ticks up even though people are getting jobs like gangbusters. And that's what's finally happening.

In the latest BLS Household Survey the Labor Force is up from 156.129 million to 157.180 million, an increase of 1,051,000! But the Employment Level number is up from 147.442 million to 148.201 million an increase of a mere 759,000. When that happens, the Unemployment Rate ticks up.

That is what you call good news. And if you look at the charts you see a steady increase in the Labor Force, starting a year ago when the Republicans in Congress cut back extended unemployment benefits. Employment Level seems to have gone into overdrive a little over a year ago.

It's sad, of course, that the mind-numbed Obama economic policy has been so hard for the folks pitched out of work by the Great Recession. No doubt a Republican president would have done better, because he'd have done less Keynesian foolishness.

But those of us that like to blame Obama for the lackluster economy better understand one thing. If a Republican president had presided over the worst recovery since World War II the media would have persuaded the American people never to let Republicans govern again. Just like they did in the 1930s when incompetent government created the stock bubble and then failed to rescue the financial system thereafter and then slowed recovery with stupid lefty stimulus programs. Talk about a ThreePeat.

So really, if and when the Republicans get into the White House in 2017 with the economy in good shape it means that they can do sensible reforms of the welfare state without being in the "stimulus" phase of the political cycle. Hey, how about those entitlements!

But the next question is the Fed. Will the Fed now, finally, start returning interest rates to normal and let mom and pop savers actually get a return on their savings? And how fast? Remember last time? The Fed started increasing interest rates in 2003 and took about three years to get back to normal, by which time the real-estate market was in a monster bubble.

Anyway, it looks like the economy is at first and ten on the 40 yard line. That's good news for the American people, who have been remarkably patient about the economy for the last six years.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Then and Now: "And Mary Pondered These Things in her Heart"

The wonders of the rape culture are something to behold. First there was "Jackie," freshman at the University of Virginia, who conceived a story about rape on shards of glass in a fraternity house. Then there's the Columbia mattress story, where we have now heard the side of the German student accused of rape (for which the police declined to prosecute).

I've said it before in 2008, so I'll say it again. This is all about sociologist Georg Simmel's century-old prediction that eventually women would transform the public square to "suit a more feminine sensibility." And it's about the clash between women's "liberation" and the basic instinct that every woman needs to be right with the other women in her community.

In Honor: A History, James Bowman says that honor for a woman is her chastity. But we should understand chastity in a wider sense than not having sex before marriage and not having sex with other men. It is about not being wrong, ever. A woman cannot say: Gee, I screwed up; but let's forget it and start over. Starting over is for men, not for women. A woman must reinterpret events that might throw a bad light on her to show that she was innocent all along. I am not saying this in a pejorative sense. I suspect that this attitude is deep in the Darwin, a necessary part of the female role of bearing and raising children. After all, one mistake and your kid is eaten by a wolf, or nowadays, darts into the street and is run over by a car.

There's another thing too, something I learned from James A. Ault's Spirit and Flesh: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church. It's the story of a liberal's sojourn in a fundamentalist church community. You know, patriarchy and barefoot and pregnant and all that. Only it wasn't.
It is true that women did not hold any offices in the fundamentalist church of his study. But Ault found that it was misleading to assume that they had no power. On the contrary, they controlled the church. And they controlled it through their gossip network. The women’s gossip network got to define reality, who had said what to whom, and who had done what to whom. This made the women of the church enormously powerful. But their power often was used destructively, and the church would split every year or two.
We are now reaching the point where the majority of university students are women. And a larger and larger number of university teachers and administrators are women. This means that a moral equivalent of the "women's gossip network" is getting to define reality in the university.

How do you explain "Jackie's" transition from disappointment at failing to win the love of "Randall" by rousting him out in the middle of the night with a story about being forced to perform oral sex at a fraternity to the magnificent story of the Night of the Shattered Glass? (Notice how careful "Randall" was to get a couple other friends to accompany him to rendezvous with "Jackie"?) "Jackie" started talking about it with the campus counselors.

And what about the Mattress Girl at Columbia? Six months after a night of rough sex, after which she and her lover started to drift apart, she accused him of rape. Through the Office of Gender-based Misconduct.

How do you explain this? Mattress Girl got angry. She started talking about it with friends and then with the campus counselors, and one thing led to another.

I will tell you what I think. I think that free sex just doesn't work for most women -- particularly well-born women. When a woman has sex she opens her heart as well as her legs, and she can't shut it off like a man, and go on to other sexual partners. So in the turmoil of the campus sex culture she gets to feel angry, abandoned, and ashamed. You can see the searing ambiguity in the relationship between Mattress Girl and her German lover. They were supposed to be friends, but a couple of times they ended up sleeping over and one thing led to another. I tell you: girls don't like that sort of thing.

There's a double standard here, of course, but it is not the one you think. Let's rewind to the most popular opera of all time, La Boheme. It involves two middle-class artists living in a garret doing the bohemian thing and getting it on with little Mimi, a seamstress, and Musetta, a girl with a sugar daddy. All great fun and all that. But don't start trying this bohemian stuff with Daddy's girl, or helicopter Mommy's girl. Oh no.

You see, in the lower orders, a girl accepts what the world hands out to her; she has to. And hey, suppose she managed to snag a college boy? But in the professional middle class things are different. Middle-class girls get protection, and the middle class doesn't take kindly to adventurers mucking around with their little darlings. If you want confirmation, just read Trollope's The Prime Minister, where a rich county girl, Emily Wharton, gets swept off her feet by an adventurer, Ferdinand Lopez, about whom nobody knows anything. Well, it all ends well because Lopez eventually gets run over by a train, and Emily marries the man she was always supposed to marry. But she takes a year getting to Yes because she is so ashamed of herself for getting into a mess with Lopez, the man from nowhere.

Ever since the Virgin Mary in Luke 2:19, and doubtless long before, women have been pondering things in their hearts. Mary had a lot to think over, what with her cousin Elisabeth getting pregnant and all and Mary wanting her baby to be special rather than a follow-on after Elisabeth's baby. I'm not saying that Mary got envious when Elisabeth suddenly got pregnant after years of trying and concocted the whole story about the angel to cover the fact that she ran out and got pregnant before she actually married her espoused Joseph. Oh no. After all this time, who can tell?

But as a conservative I have to believe that people don't change, least of all women.

I believe that we are seeing women today revolting against the sexual revolution, and they are revolting against it using the woman's cultural technique of the women's gossip network all gussied up into glorified bureaucratic categories.

The problem is that I wonder if the informal women's gossip network doesn't make a complete mess of the public square and the fact that the public square can't operate on feelings but must be based on facts, facts that can be adjudicated in court.

The lesson for men is simple. Get away. Don't go to college, don't work for big anything, because the women's gossip network is taking over, and you are in the target hairs.

The whole point of being a man is to make life into an adventure. That's what rape and pillage were all about; that's what ISIS is all about. For us civilized chaps rape and pillage are out, but there is still the start-up. Read Peter Thiel's Zero to One: Notes on Startups and How to Build the Future to get with the program.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mad Dog or Plain Vanilla?

In the aftermath of President Obama's 2016 budget of more spending and more complex taxes, and a veiled challenge to shut the government down, Scott McKay recommends going big:
Stop wasting time and pass a flat tax in the House and Senate. Pass gigantic block grants dissolving entire federal agencies (Department of Education, EPA, Department of Energy) and moving their funding and powers back down to the states.
But the strategy developed by congressional leaders McConnell and Boehner is to flood the zone with vanilla changes to the president's budget and insert a couple of items for veto bait, to be compromised away to as to keep the meat of the changes. You might call this "leading from behind."

Jonah Goldberg also likes the value of vanilla, as in Scott Walker for president. The point is that about half Republican voters want an anti-establishment candidate, and the other half want a safe establishment candidate.
Walker is in the golden spot. He can, like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day listening to Andie MacDowell explain the perfect man, reply “that’s me” to almost everything Republicans say they want. Executive experience? Challenge conventional thinking? Anti-establishment fighter? “Me, me, me.” 
Yeah. He's anti-establishment without being aggressive about it. The extraordinary thing about Walker's three campaigns for governor of Wisconsin in in four years in the teeth of a national liberal campaign against him was that he kept his cool. Liberals were foaming at the mouth, occupying the state Capitol, singing "Solidarity Forever" while getting arrested, threatening Walker's family and kids, but Walker stayed mild-mannered and "pragmatic." Then he drew the sting of compulsory paycheck deductions for state government employee union dues.

On the other hand here's Ted Cruz saying the Senate should hold up the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General until Obama compromises on immigration. Yeah! Sock it to 'em, Ted!

Of course, even Ted Cruz, the mad dog, takes care to sound eminently cool and reasonable when he performs on TV. Yet Scott Walker, speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit, came out from behind the lecturn to walk the stage and appear animated. Even so, the Daily Beast blasted "that Scott Walker speech" as "shallow, tedious, and wrong." Or vanilla. (My takeaway from the Walker speech is that he's going to get a lot of mileage out of protesters showing up at his house. Distaff voters don't like that sort of thing.)

Ultimately, Republicans need to be true to their center, and that is the culture of responsible individualism. Republicans believe that we need less government because people can and should be responsible for their own. Democrats believe that only protest and activism and government force can roll back the injustice of the age.

It's up to Republicans to make the case that it's pretty remarkable that the Democratic over-under coalition has any business protesting injustice, when most of the injustice in today's America is the consequence of the unjust power of the present liberal, Democrat, ruling class.

Every insurgent group forms out of the chaos of injustice meted out by the current ruling class. The only question is strategy: should we be mad dogs foaming at the mouth for justice, or should be just be mild-mannered vanilla eaters proposing a few mild-mannered reforms?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Steady as She Goes Towards the Waterfall

Yesterday I was busy all day loading up the data from the president's Budget of the United States Government for fiscal year 2016 into usgovernmentspending.com. It was a little more hectic than usual because I inserted a bug into my routine to project state-and-local finances out to 2020, and it took me all day to figure out what I had done wrong.

Everybody is aghast that the president's FY 2016 spending proposal is 7 percent higher than the FY 2015 spending proposal. But actually, the FY 2016 spending proposal is $100 billion less than the FY 2016 spending proposal in last year's budget. Here are the numbers. As you can see, half the difference comes from "Other Spending."

The big problem is that the president has proposed nothing to deal with the elephant in the room, which is that health care will eat the budget (and Obamacare does nothing to help).

Look, I understand the president's problem. Even if he weren't committed to crashing the health care system so the government could go to "single-payer," whatever that would actually mean in practice, there is no percentage for a center-left politician in proposing a reform (i.e. reduction) in entitlements. Government is force, and governments bid for support by offering free stuff to their supporters, exploiting the culture of the robber band, the dawn raid, the conquering army, and the cringing peasant in all of us. No doubt that's why 62% of Brits say they want more government. The whole point of the Democratic Party is offering free stuff to its voters, and the voters believe in getting the full amount they had in mind. Hence the president's offer of "free" community college.

In the end, of course, the government runs out of other peoples' money, and you get Greece, or Argentina, or Venezuela. You get a devaluation, a seizure of assets, and the game begins again. Don't the people get it? No, they don't. They don't think beyond their world of subordination to a noble patron. The patron will provide, and if he can't it's because of the dark forces conspiring against him.

The only way out is for the people to develop a culture of responsible individualism that instinctively cringes at the thought of free stuff. How many people are there in the world that feel that way? It's hard to tell, but I don't think it's that many.

Plus, the big-government folks always have the people on their side who say "I paid into Social Security, so I got mine coming. And anyway, who would trust the stock market?"

There is a sturdy truth in that sentiment. The government will always have to hand out some sort of Social Security because if it didn't there would be blood in the streets. It would be much easier for the government to raid everyone's retirement account, or rob the corporations that represent the wealth in those retirement accounts.

Or maybe not. We hear this week that gentry liberals, through their elected Dem representatives, pushed back against the president's plan to tax their kids' college savings accounts. It makes sense. If there is one thing sacred, it is the right of the children of gentry liberals to go to selective colleges and acquire the right left credentials.

So maybe there's hope. Figure out how to appeal to the self-interest of gentry liberals and all will be well.