Friday, May 29, 2015

Where's the Conservative Narrative We Need?

On a day when former Speaker Denny Hastert gets indicted for paying hush money, Jonah Goldberg writes about the astonishingly low bar for Clinton misdeeds.
[E]very time there’s a new revelation about the unseemly practices of the Clintons, every time a new trough of documents or fresh disclosures come to light, scads of news outlets and Clinton spinners insist that “there’s no smoking gun” proving beyond all doubt that Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation did anything wrong.
Whatever happened to the Caesar's wife standard? How come that Denny Hastert, a private lobbyist, is in the dock and, e.g., Lois Lerner, a government official that seems to have grossly abused her power, isn't? And how come Hillary Clinton isn't under indictment right now for violating government record-keeping mandates?

Or what about the delicious interview between Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina and Andrea Mitchell where Mitchell is clearly warning Fiorina that there's a lèse majesté problem with criticizing Hillary:
She's had a lifetime, though, in public service. Going back to before she was first lady in Arkansas. She can argue that she's got a record on women's issues, from the Beijing Women's Conference to all of her work with the Children's Defense Fund going up through the Senate, senator from New York, that’s a record. Secretary of state. How do you compare yourself to her? 
When, in a month of Sundays, has Mitchell ever defended a Republican white male like that?

Let's look at another notion, the "cares about people like me" metric used in presidential polls. It's said that Obama beat Romney roughly 80-20 on the cares-about-me question. Really? You might think that if you had been glued in front of your TV in summer 2012 and an endless roll of Joe Soptic commercials.  But come on: Mitt Romney's whole life has been about service to his church and showing up when asked. Barack Obama? Well, now that the elections are all over we are getting to see more and more of the small and narrow man inside the media bubble.

Conservatives often despair about winning the "cares about people like me" stakes. But I think we have been going about it all wrong. The way that Democrats frame it, it's all about feudalism. That's what the Joe Soptic ad was about. Romney was the lord of the manor; he should have sent his wife out to succor Soptic's wife with flannel and a basket of food.

That's all wrong for Republicans. What Republicans need to advertise is that they care about the responsible middle class, people who, in Sean Hannity's words, follow the rules, go to work, and obey the law. That's what Republicans did in the 1970s with the Silent Majority meme and Democrats hated it; they hated it because it worked. What Republicans need to hammer on again and again is that Republicans care about people who do the right thing, who get married, have children, save for college, help their community. And if the government or its bureaucrats or its activists come down on you, then Republicans will have your back.

It's my belief that the Obama boys have set this up beautifully for 2016. Where is the responsible middle-class person who is not worried about saying the wrong thing -- to a woman at work, perhaps -- and then losing his job, because sexism. Where is the Christian small business that doesn't wonder if some gay person will come through the door tomorrow and set them up for ruining their business, because homophobia? Where is the liberal college professor that does not worry about getting his career ruined by some "triggered" "studies" activist, because identity?

I was reading Charles Krauthammer's regular Friday column today where he mourns the awful time his fellow physicians are having, beset as they are by government, insurance companies, lawyers, and the dread electronic health records (EHR) mandate. But if you read the comments you can see very little sympathy for the docs. Hey, they seem to say, if the docs don't want to get with the program, they can quit.

Yes. No doubt. But the EHR initiative is a case of government coercion. It is government saying you will convert to our idea of what EHR should look like. Or else. Do we really care that little about government coercion in America in the 21st century?

It's strange to me how easily we accept government force. Perhaps it's because we mostly all work in some corporate bureaucracy, and so live in a world of corporate mandates. The mandate, for us, is our way of life; you suck it up and do what you are told, just like in the feudal era. Sucking up to the powerful is just what we all do.

But I yearn for a world where we don't suck up to the powerful, where the thing most honored in the public square is not the helpless victim or the cosseted "activist" but the responsible individual.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Will Demographic "Diversity" End in Tears?

All across the world different races and religions are mixing it up as never before.

Well, maybe not. Hey, maybe things were more mixed up in the Roman and the Ottoman Empires than right now. But never mind: we all think that the races and the cultures are mixing it up like never before.

Against that the lands of the former Ottoman Empire right now are sorting into silos like mad in massacres and genocides.

In his new book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission Charles Murray is sanguine about this, at least as far as America is concerned. The United States, he tells us, was always a diverse nation, starting from the founding from Albion's Seed when the four British groups, Yankees, Quakers, Cavaliers, and Scots-Irish, didn't like each other at all. That was followed by German and Irish immigration, and then southern and eastern European immigration. And don't forget the Swedes!

Of course, everyone right now is terrified by ISIS and Islam in Europe. That's when they aren't terrified by Hispanic immigration to the US or black thugs in Baltimore or alternatively racist police in any inner city! My favorite professional firebrand Vox Day notes four different outcomes of "the demographic destruction of Anglo-Saxon America."
a) subjection and eventual elimination of minorities,
b) subjection and eventual elimination of the majority,
c) partition,
d) ethnic subsumption.

For various reasons, I expect (c) to be the most likely in the USA and (a) to be the most likely in Europe.
There's only one problem with this analysis: capitalism. I think that the great story of the last 200 years is the frantic effort of the left to keep people in their national and class and race silos in the face of capitalism mixing them up. That's why Marx had to predict that capitalism would "immiserate" the working class. That's why the Frankfurt School had to invent cultural Marxism to reimagine the working-class vicitms as race and gender victims. That's why the Democrats had to restart immigration in the 1960s. Unless they all acted right now the people would be converted by the Great Enrichement into contented middle-class cows with no interest in race, class, and gender wars.

Why did they do this and try to angry everyone up? Because if you leave people alone in capitalism the penniless immigrants will mostly turn into doctors and lawyers if you give them a generation or two of peace and prosperity. And that would be the end of left-wing reactionary politics, the totalitarian impulse to reduce everything to government. That's why President Obama and his minions are working overtime trying to "angry up" African Americans. That's why the feminists are trying to divide the sexes on college campi with their "rape culture" lies. Otherwise all those folks will eventually wander into the middle class and not respond to race appeals.

Here's Joel Kotkin showing what is happening out there in America under the radar of the racist-sexist mainstream media. The three major minority groups, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, all do fine when they get out of blue states.
We found, for all three major minority groups, that the best places were neither the most liberal in their attitudes nor had the most generous welfare programs. Instead they were located primarily in regions that have experienced broad-based economic growth, have low housing costs, and limited regulation.
And don't forget that, except for blacks, everyone else is interracially dating and intermarrying like mad.

Don't forget that the public school system is a ruthless homogenizer. Don't forget that for the 50 percent of people that go to college, they tend to "lose their religion" and become middle-class professionals. Don't forget that for the 100 million or so working in the private sector, cooperation and trust and teamwork is the driving cultural meme. You trust and you exchange with anyone who can be trusted. The idea is to be friends with everyone. Otherwise you lose.

Nobody can know the outcome of the great mixing of the races of the current era. Politicians may rile the groups up into global thermonuclear war. On the other hand there is the relentless cultural force of capitalism: the guy with the biggest market share and the biggest economy wins.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Summing Up "By the People": We Want More

In his latest book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, Charles Murray asserts three propositions. First, the Constitution is broken. Second, we can fight back against the administrative regulatory state. Third, in a "diverse" nation there cannot be one-size-fits-all solutions to problems. Fourth, it's time to ridicule big government, because the gigantic state that the Progressives so earnestly built over the last century is ridiculous.

You can see my blog on the three Parts of By the People herehere, and here.

When he says the Constitution is broken, Murray means that we can't go back to a small state and limited government by mere political means. Too much of the Constitution has been destroyed: the Welfare Clause, the Commerce Clause, and the Supreme Court's deference to the federal government's regulatory authority.

When he says that we can fight back, he is proposing a cunning way of neutralizing the power that bureaucrats now possess to cow individual Americans and businesses into submission. He proposes a "Madison Fund." It would be a privately-owned foundation that would push back at bureaucrats on behalf of individuals and businesses oppressed by the regulatory state.

When he says that a diverse nation can't reduce everything to one-size-fits-all administrative programs he is saying that a diverse nation has diverse communities with different and conflicting moral systems. Any government law or regulation is likely to favor one group's moral system over another, and that creates conflict. The way to avoid crushing other people and their moral systems is to keep government small and limited so that as much of the law as possible covers universals like prohibitions against murder, theft, and fraud, not to mention national defense.

When he says we should ridicule the man behind the curtain, he is suggesting that it is time for us Americans to stop deferring to the present ruling class, and tell it like it is: today's government is an incompetent mess that wastes our taxes and treats us like children.

But for me this is just a start. I don't just want to knock the helmet off the government's policemen, I want to diminish the very idea of objective government by experts that the educated class of the late 19th century has imposed on us, and my objection is fundamental. For me, government is force, and so the Progressive philosophy of government by experts is flawed at the very start. What do you mean by saying that pensions, health care, education, and welfare can only be achieved by force? Aren't these all highly desirable goods that most people will seek out and acquire on their own without government coercion?

You see, I think that the whole liberal project is hiding from a brutal truth, that the project judges there is no way forward except force. The administrative state is a system of force. It says that we educated chaps will consult our experts for the objective settled science and then we will implement it through the government. By force. The notion of "activism" is that activists can objectively detect injustices and then advocate for social change to deliver a regime of peace and justice. But if government is going to direct the transition from oppression to peace and justice, then we are talking about force. In fact I would argue that if you pay attention to the devotees of activism, they are out looking for things that can only be resolved by government force.

There is a kind of beautiful symmetry in the activists' system. They think that politics is the highest calling. But that means that there must be an issue on which to divide people, the "we" who want reform and the "they" that don't. So the whole process involves a contest to make "us" a majority so we can pass a law to force our idea on the minority. The interesting thing to me is that this is merely a sublimation of the old warrior ethic. The point about the warrior is that he is called to defend his community from the enemy. So force is involved, and it is necessary to exalt the warrior and his code of force in order to safeguard the community so that he will protect us from marauders. But, of course, the presence of warriors in a community is dangerous; you have some people within the boundary of "we" where force is forbidden whose whole reason for being is to be trained and ready to respond to threats with force. So here you have people that experience themselves and tell us that they are devoted to peace and justice: yet their whole being is about conflict, just like the warrior class of old.

Charles Murray's most penetrating insight in By the People is that you cannot have big government in a diverse nation characterized by a number of communities with different moral traditions and priorities. On his view the attempts by particular moral traditions to impose their will over the whole is bound to fail, or if it succeeds is bound to create opposition and discord. Our liberal friends are pushing forward on all fronts to impose their moral system upon America in all kinds of ways from their benefits state to their government by race, their program to push feminist and gay narratives on the American people, their war on global warming. Don't agree with the liberal moral system? Then you are a racist, sexist, homophobe, or denier. If Charles Murray is right about the needs of a diverse America, then the liberal program will end in tears.

But ultimately I find myself unsatisfied by Murray's book. Yes, there are some things we can do at the margin of the big-government state and we should do them. But I Want More!

First of all, I'm concerned that Murray is only pushing back on the Progressive Era governing model, of educated rulers using the best science and the experts to formulate government programs to improve peoples' lives. Don't forget that there is also the Revolution model, of courageous community organizers leading the people marchin' and protestin' against an unjust system and taking the ill-gotten gains of the rich and giving them to the poor. Our liberal masters use either of these models, as needed.

For instance, the Obama administration takes the fact that global surface  temperatures have gone up by about one degree Celsius and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased in the last century to all little under 0.5%, attaches it to the agreed scientific theory that carbon dioxide has a "greenhouse" effect, and then demands that we surrender huge powers to the government to change energy production and use. Because Science. That's the science and experts apology for increasing government power.

Then the Obama administration takes incidents of blacks getting killed by whites as grounds for federalizing local police forces. Because oppression. Or justifies a higher minimum wage. Because inequality.

See what is going on here? If you are a member of the liberal ruling class you naturally want more power. That's what all ruling classes want. In the modern era there are two justifications for more government power. One is: Because Science. The other is: Because Oppression.

Whenever there's a crisis other than a direct military threat, why do we always assume it requires more government power?

My question is: if this is such a great idea, why does it even need government force? I say that before we start trying to solve a problem with more government force we should have first explored all the ways we could solve it with less government force.

Temperatures are going up? Maybe we should think about encouraging people to learn how to adapt to temperature changes rather than spend billions and billions on government subsidies, grants, and handouts to politically connected corporations.

Oppression and inequality? Maybe we should first winkle out all the present government policies that promote oppression and inequality: licensure, subsidies, taxes, work disincentives, minimum wages.

All I am saying is that I want the American people to say, whenever some new plan comes along to increase government power, "oh yeah: Because Science." Or alternatively: "oh yeah: Because Inequality." That's what we need to change.

If we can reverse the narrative on Because Science and Because Inequality then we will really be changing things for the better.

And that is my dream.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

By the People: Part III: A Propitious Moment

In his latest book Charles Murray has come up with a plan to push back against the oppressive regulatory state. We won't get there with normal political process, not even with a Republican president and Congress he writes in Part I of By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission. See By the People: Part I: Where We Stand. It will take "civil disobedience" to fight back and in Part II Murray unfolds his idea to create a "Madison Fund" to pay the bills of businesses and individuals that want to fight back against the regulatory state. See By the People: Part II: Opening a New Front.

In Part III: A Propitious Moment, Charles Murray takes a broader look at the United States in the decades ahead. He gets out of the trenches of the fight against the bureaucrats and looks at the larger horizon. And he likes what he sees.
[I]n the middle of the second decade of the twenty-first century the stars are in fact aligning for a much broader rebuilding of liberty than we could have imagined even a decade ago.
First of all, Murray says that we are experiencing a return of a diversified America. You think that the US has always been a white-bread patriarchy? Don't tell the four European cultures that battled each other back at the founding. Using David Hackett Fischer's analysis in Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America he argues that while Yankees in New England, Cavaliers in the tidewaters, Quakers in Pennsylvania, and Scots-Irish in the back-country were all from one nation, they had radically different ideas about everyday life, and what it meant to "live life as one sees fit."

Murray "celebrates" the differences between Yankees, Quakers, Cavaliers and Scots-Irish in a table of 30 different cultural memes. Let's look at a couple. On "Marriage," the Yankees observed a civil contract, Cavaliers a sacred ceremony, and the Scots-Irish had "abduction rituals." How about their "time ethic?" Yankees believed in "improving the time," Quakers believed in "redeeming the time," Cavaliers believed in "killing the time" and the Scots-Irish believed in "passing the time." And in dress? Well, those Scots-Irish girls were notorious for tight clothes that accentuated the positive in their lady parts.

Then came the "post-founding" immigrants, the Germans and the Irish, and they brought Catholicism. The "Germans were the antithesis of the Irish." The Irish lived in exclusive Irish and Catholic neighborhoods and the Germans were "typically farmers that practiced advanced agriculture or highly skilled craftsmen." And that was just the beginning. After the Civil War the South identified as defiantly Southern and the North filled up with Italians, Slavs from eastern Europe, and after 1900, the Jews.

The point is that mid-twentieth century America was an anomaly, created by the restrictive immigration laws that obtained from the mid 1920s to the mid 1960s. For forty years the diverse brew of pre-WWI immigrants got to Americanize without a new crop of immigrants in the mix. And, of course, millions of Americans got homogenized in the uniforms of World War II. So it wasn't that hard to do one-size-fits-all politics in the mid 20th century.

The America of the twenty-first Ameica will be going back to normal, with Hispanic and Asian immigrants, and the new segregation by culture, the sorting of liberals into blue urban areas and conservatives into red suburbs and ex-urbs. And then there are the African Americans.

Murray makes several points about the re-diversified America.
  1. Some regions are being latinized by Hispanic immigration, but "America as a whole is not being latinized."
  2. African Americans are also concentrated in specific areas of the old Confederacy and large urban areas.
  3. Asian Americans. Here's the interesting bit. They are only 5 percent of population, but already are concentrating in New York City and Los Angeles and San Francisco, and are "heavily overrepresentative in the elite zip codes of those cities." Silicon Valley? Asians are 33 percent of the population.
  4. The "cognitive elite." Call it what you like, the middle-class college-educated people have a culture with distinctive tastes and they like to live together.
With all this diversity, the one-size-fits-all politics of the post New Deal area is making a lot of people unhappy. So can we dig our way out of it?

In Part I of By the People Murray told us this was the worst of times. Now he tells us that it's the best of times. First of all there's "liberation technology."

This is no longer 1900 and tainted meat, or the Solid South and laws keeping African Americans "in their place." Modern technology can make a scandal out of any political oppression, e.g., Ferguson and Baltimore, and the internet marketplace means that everyone gets rated, from plumbers to bed-and-breakfasts, and Uber can fight and beat the taxi cartel. The point is that bad behavior gets publicized.

That means that it's going to become more and more difficult for government to hide its incompetence from the average citizen. Call it the "collapse of the blue model." For instance, Californians can now go to TransparentCalifornia.com and find out that there's a Los Angeles firefighter named "Murray" that made $273,773 in 2011 in salary, overtime, and benefits.

Murray predicts that we are going to see an "alienation of the people who pay the tab for government." Our Democratic friends are comfortable about "the rich" paying their fair share, but in fact the 1% in 2011 "paid 35 percent of all income taxes." The people in the top quartile that "pays 86 percent of the federal government's income tax revenue are not billionaires... They have earned their success." The top 25 percent, says Murray, are not happy about politicians that demand the "rich pay their 'fair share'" and the anger "crosses party lines."

Up to now big corporations have made their peace with the administrative regulatory state, but maybe the world of "collusive capitalism" could be changed. Up to now, corporations have just been trying to go along to get along with the regulation and the criminalization of their world, but since the Crash of 2008 government has upped the ante and has been extending its activities into frank shakedowns, with billion dollar settlements imposed on oil companies and banks. The formula is simple. You find a corporation that may have done something wrong; threaten its managers with ruin and criminal charges, and then have them pay a huge fine in a "secret settlement." Then repeat.

So far, corporate America hasn't fought back. But at "some point, some of them will start defending themselves." And that could be a gamechanger.

Don't forget, Murray adds, that the rank-and-file bureaucrat isn't a happy camper. There can easily be up to 22 layers of management in a federal department. Federal employees like "their benefits and job security" but not much else about their jobs. When the Madison Fund starts to roll, its offensive will be going up against an army that is badly demoralized.

Charles Murray ends By the People on an optimistic note. It's time we pull aside the curtain at government, he writes, and say "This is ridiculous."

First of all, per-capita wealth has been going up ever since reliable records started in the late 19th century, from $5,000 to $50,000 in 120 years, through all the wars and depressions and government blunders. If wealth continues to increase,
[I]t is unimaginable that Americans will still think the best way to live is to be governed by armies of bureaucrats enforcing thousands of minutely prescriptive rules.
Somehow we will have to figure out a better way. Because it's ridiculous:
  • "It's ridiculous that the cost of routine health care has not been falling for decades."
  • "It's ridiculous that towns and cities can't afford to provide basic services."
  • "It is ridiculous that anyone lacks the means to live a decent life."
  • "It is ridiculous to impose one-size-fits-all national solutions for policies that involve morally complex cultural differences."
Notice the cunning in that list. The items all point accusing fingers at the basic assumptions and coercions of the current Progressive-inspired administrative regulatory state. As I might say:

  • Never mind about Obamacare, what would "Walmartcare" look like? 
  • How come lifer bureaucrats get better pay and pensions than ordinary middle-class families in the private sector and they still can't fix the potholes? 
  • Can't we find a better way to relieve the poor than our current failed welfare system? 
  • Hello gays and feminists! Are you really sure that the way to the future is to beat up on Christians and frat boys? 

The point is that in a culturally diverse society the only way to avoid lose-lose conflicts over loot and religious wars over morality is to overlay the whole with a culture of live and let live, and a limited government with limited powers.

But that is exactly what the gentry liberal ruling class refuses to consider.

I'm not as sanguine as Charles Murray about the glorious future. This is politics; politics is about division. This is government; government is about force and coercion. The gentry liberal ruling class is not going to give up without a fight. But like most dynasties, the quality of the liberal leadership tends to decline from generation to generation. Think Obama; think Hillary Clinton. Today's gentry liberal leaders are just not up to the job.

No doubt the United States will one day climb to Charles Murray's new sunny uplands from out of the present dusty Obama plain. But the way from the plain to the uplands is uphill. The path is steep, and the obstacles formidable.

But that's no reason not to just to try it, but to do it.

See here for a final summing up of By The People.

Monday, May 25, 2015

By the People: Part II: Opening a New Front

In Part I of By the People Charles Murray told us how our government is broken and can't be fixed by politics. The problem is that government has become practically lawless under the "living constitution" championed by the Progressives over a century ago. See By the People: Part One: Where We Stand.

But we are humans; we don't give up just because the political system is broken. So what should we do?

In Part II: Opening a New Front of By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission Charles Murray proposes a way of fighting back against lawless government.

Murray is proposing a program of civil disobedience, and that is a serious matter, for "The rule of law is the foundation of civilization." To resist the government Americans need a reason, and that reason is that "government is instituted to protect our unalienable rights." If it doesn't protect our rights, then "revolution is not treason, but the people's right."

Our America is founded not on some divine right or "ties of ethnicity and culture" but the right of people "to pursue their own interests without hindrance", and Murray enlists the German immigrant Francis Grund and Alexis de Tocqueville in his support. If that is so, then the federal government lost its legitimacy in the constitutional revolution of 1937-42 when the ruling class expanded the Welfare Clause and the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution to mean anything the rulers wanted.

Even though Americans have got used to life under unlimited government, they are getting progressively more suspicious of government. In 1958 Americans were asked whether they trusted government to "do what is right" and 73 percent agreed "just about always" or "most of the time." The trust level rose a bit in 1964 but then began a decline. In 1980, when Ronald Reagan became president, the trust level was down to 25 percent. The trust level went up under Reagan, then down, then up again at the end of the 1990s. But now it's down, hitting a low of 13 percent in 2014. It's easy to see why. "Washington looks like a sophisticated kleptocracy... [and] American government isn't supposed to work this way."

Murray develops three reason why government has lost the trust of the American people. It has "voided" three tacit compacts with the people. First, that the federal government would only provide freedom at home and defend from enemies abroad. Second, it "would not unilaterally impose a position on the moral disputes that divided Americans." Third, it "would make it easy for Americans to take pride in themselves," for good Americans were people "who made an honest living, took care of their families, and didn't bother anyone else". You can see the problem. Today our government wants to be in on every problem; it is imposing one-size-fits-all policies on moral questions on everything from abortion to marriage; and with the expansion of law, "Just about all of us are criminals now".

OK. So Murray proposes that we "ignore large portions of the laws and regulations with which we are burdened." But since we are Americans we must think about the limits to this. First, we are not going to license murder, destruction of property, etc. Second, we are not going to refuse to pay our taxes. Third, we are not going to muck up "public goods classically defined". What we are going to do is use "strict scrutiny" against the regulatory state. First, we are going to resist government telling us what to do with our land. Second, we are going to go resist the government meddling with the details of how people go about their work. Third, we are going to go after licensing laws. Fourth, we are going to insist that people be allowed to take "voluntary risks". Fifth, we are going to go after employment law. Sixth, we are going to go after "regulations that are arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion".

But we've got to be careful. Certain topics have a "halo" effect: everyone wants to protect the environment. And we want to choose to resist government in cases where the victim of government is trying to do the right thing. In other words, we want to push America towards a "no harm, no foul" regime.

Now it's time to describe the details of Murray's "Madison Fund, a privately funded foundation to map terrain and probe defenses while helping ordinary Americans who are trying to cope with the regulatory state." But how?

The dirty little secret is that the government doesn't have that much bandwidth to harass American citizens. In a table of regulatory agency staff numbers, Murray shows that your EPAs, your OSHAs, your FDAs, your CPSCs, etc. only have a couple thousand attorneys, 2,500 odd "investigative personnel, and 150 odd "administrative law judges." Those bureaucrats can only go after a few people at once. OSHA oversees "8 million worksites" with 2,200 inspectors that conduct about 27,000 inspections a year. EPA in 2013 conducted 18,000 inspections: this for the whole land area of the US. This "Goliath... is actually the Wizard of Oz." Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Enter the Madison Fund. Its task will be simple. When a businessman or an individual wants to fight a bureaucrat,
the bureaucrat [can] say to him. "You do that, and we'll put you out of business."
The Madison Fund would be designed to change the terms of trade in this transaction. It will "tap the bureaucrat on the shoulder, and say,
We are taking over this man's case. We will litigate it as long as it takes.We will publicize that litigation in ways that will embarrass you and your superiors. None of this will cost our client a penny, and we will reimburse him for any fine you are able to impose. And if you come back and bother him again, we will go through the whole process again.
And we don't need to ask anyone's permission to start. All we need is one of the many billionaires that have made fortunes in past decades. It just takes one billionaire and "a few hundred million dollars." As far as expertise goes, we already have a bunch of foundations like the Pacific Legal Foundation that know how to do this stuff. But the current crop of litigating foundations are tiny; we need a Madison Fund that will grow to an annual litigation budget of "a few hundred million dollars a year." And the Madison Fund won't just be doing litigation; it will be doing publicity.

And another thing. The Madison Fund is just a start. What if professional associations insured their members against "government as an insurable hazard"? Why not? Murray proposes the American Dental Association for this task, for dentists are subject to a 307-page OHSA manual for dentists, not to mention employment law, EPA regulations etc. I don't know about your dentist, but my dentist is treating patients, managing employees, providing free services as a group home in addition to the full-time job of complying with the government's mandates.

But is this legal? Free assistance is legal; think Legal Services and public defenders. Overloading government bureaucrats? Well, the Madison Fund is not going to be faking evidence. It is going to be trying to exploit the system, just like lawyers do every day. The one snag might be reimbursing clients for fines.

Suppose the ADA started a Dental Shield program, to provide insurance for dentists against regulatory oppression. Then Dental Shield will go to bat for dentists getting torqued around by the local bureaucrats.

But what happens when "The Empire Strikes Back"?  Suppose you are an OSHA bureaucrat offended by the dentists and their Dental Shield program to protect dentists from bureaucrats. In retaliation, you unleash "wholesale inspections on dental offices, levying the maximum fines." But, of course, the dentist's Dental Shield fights back, "appealing adverse decisions" all the way to the federal courts. Dental Shield makes the pursuit of the dental citations more trouble for OSHA than it's worth. Now OSHA is facing the need to ask "Congress for more inspectors." It might not go down well on TV.

You and your bureaucratic pals could try to win the publicity battle with Dental Shield:
[You] are a duly constituted agency.. [keeping] America's workplaces safe. That important mission is being cynically compromised by dentists who, in collusion with Dental Shield... are endangering Americans seeking dental care.
Except that "Americans generally like their dentists". I know I like mine, and I would get right on the phone to my congressman, "Baghdad" Jim McDermott, in a minute if my dentist got harassed by the Feds.

Or the OSHA bureaucrats could try to get the courts to declare Dental Shield illegal. But that would mean getting out of the safety of their own domesticated administrative courts into the real court system. Maybe that's not such a good idea. Maybe in the end the bureaucrats could beat a strategic retreat and "limit its citations of dental offices to cases in which a genuine safety issue exists.

Then OSHA is retreating to a "no harm, no foul" policy, which is exactly what we want.

But is that what will happen? Murray has consulted legal experts and they have told him of all the "technical issues of procedure and precedent" that have to be dealt with. But Murray is optimistic; the Supreme Court will help, he thinks, provided that "its decision will have enough support." And the key is to get the courts to revise their interpretation of "arbitrary and capricious" to a position that stops favoring the regulators, both in the creation of regulations and their enforcement; then we can start to move the needle. Murray cites an EPA wetland case, Sackett vs. Ennvironmental Protection Agency, which gives cause for optimism. The Sacketts fought all the way to the Supreme Court and won with "the help of two pro bono lawyers from the Pacific Legal Foundation".

The next step is to attack the whole idea of the "disinterested expert" governing philosophy, as in:
  • Problems of public policy can be analyzed so that they yield objectively correct solutions.
Maybe that works when you are talking about sewer systems and smog reduction. But what about traffic signals, urban freeways, bike paths? "It's too politically sensitive to be left to the experts." In fact, "all public policy is ultimately political."
  • The people who frame these solutions are disinterested experts who can put aside their own biases and institutional self-interest as they go about their work.
First of all, most policy sciences are immature, e.g., climate science. And bias is inevitable. It was and is "monumentally naive" to think that experts are disinterested.

But will the Supreme Court give up on its policy of "deference" to regulatory agencies and actions and so create a level playing field where the regulatory agency no longer gets to play judge, jury, and executioner in its own case? Murray reckons it will if and when the Madison Fund and defense funds like Dental Shield start to show results and gum up the works. Then comes the collision, the crisis: "the courts will realize that they have to give people a chance at a day in court" but without "ten-year cases with forty-thousand-page case files."

Is all this possible? Can we reverse the Progressive model of the lordly educated ruling class and its disinterested experts dealing out wise and objective decisions all based on settled science? Or is Charles Murray sending us up over the top into a senseless trench warfare that nobody can win?

I'd say the answer is: Yes, But.

First of all the billionaire that sets up the Madison Fund has to be a guy with incredible cojones. That's because once liberals figure out what is going on their are going to be very angry. Already they don't like the Koch Brothers and their mild libertarian activism, and have taught millions of liberals to hate them. Imagine how they are going to react to the backer of the Madison Fund.

Second, I think that the tactics of using the reverse terrorist effect, of humiliating one bureaucrat to scare ten thousand, is brilliant. A Republican Congress can help by disbanding all the SWAT teams that every agency seems to need these days. And they can then cut the budgets of agencies that get publicized for arbitrary and capricious actions against mom-and-pop businesses. After all, if they've got the time for that penny-ante stuff, then their budgets must be too big.

Third, I think that the publicity battle is crucial. And here I think that the Obama years have helped us with their parade of idiot-left activism from the beer summit to the racist Justice Department to the "rape culture" activists to the follies of "hate speech", "microaggressions", climate deniers, and the rest. We need leaders who can teach the American people to experience the lefty activists as totalitarian bullies. How hard can that be? They are totalitarian bullies.

And that's the beginning, the middle, and the end of Murray's proposal. We must push back against the bullies, and the way to do that is for each of us to know that there is someone who "has our back."

Next, we'll look at Part III: A Propitious Moment

Friday, May 22, 2015

By The People: Part I: Where We Stand

Charles Murray is the great political scientist of our generation. First he told us in Losing Ground that liberals knew by the early 1970s that the Great Society programs weren't working. But they kept them anyway. Then in The Bell Curve he told us that IQ is really important and it applies to race, and got his head handed to him. Most recently in Coming Apart he showed that the upper 20 percent in America was doing fine, but in the bottom 30 percent the women don't marry and the men don't work.

Now he's really mad, and in By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission he is calling for revolution. If you are with him, then you are not a libertarian or a conservative. He wants to call the supporters of a limited government: "Madisonians."

OK, he's not calling for blood in the streets, but he is proposing a cunning way to neuter the administrative state. But first, let's look at Part I of his book, where Murray analyzes the federal government and determines that it can't be reformed from within.

The problem is that the Constitution has been set aside and there's no way to get it back. Congress isn't going to do it, even with a Republican president, because the current system favors the status quo and the Supreme Court won't do it because, e.g., limiting the meaning of "general welfare" to its original meaning would cause chaos.

It's Hamilton vs. Madison, according to Murray. Hamilton and the Federalists favored a strong state and Madison and the Anti-federalists wanted a weak state. But back then nobody was thinking of anything like today's state. A strong state meant something like Hamilton's report of manufactures. A century later, under the influence of the Germans like Hegel and Nietzsche, the Progressives decided that the Constitution was outmoded.
To simplify, progressive intellectuals were passionate advocates of rule by disinterested experts led by a strong  unifying leader... They thought that individualism and the Constitution were both outmoded.
This progressivism got implemented by the judicial system, and "ultimately transformed the nation." The progressives saw the old Constitution as Newtonian and mechanical, "with its three separate branches and checks and balances." They wanted something evolutionary and Darwinist. So the game was on to change the meaning of law.

It started with the erosion of the Contracts Clause in the Constitution, and continued with the validation of the Social Security Act (which really put the federal government into the general welfare business). Then there was the gutting of the Ninth Amendment and the extension of the Commerce Clause to let the federal government regulate whatever it wanted under the power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes."

But we can't go back. If the Supreme Court invalidated current understanding of the "general welfare" it would mean the end of spending on "Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, all welfare programs, all spending on K-12 education" and so on. The fact is that by 1942, "we stopped obliging the American government to control itself."

But that's not all. We now have "a lawless legal system." Why? Because legal process is so costly. Because the ancient concept of mens rea is gone. In the old days,
You not only had to do something wrong, you had to be aware that you were doing something wrong. But the law also held that ignorance is no defense.
How did that work? It worked because "there weren't many laws" and most of the laws covered things that were instinctively wrong, like "murder, rape, and theft." But now we have a huge body of law and "the government has chosen to convert mistakes, or sometimes simply choices with which the government disagrees, into crimes."

So we have laws that are arbitrary, complex, subjective, discretionary. That is lawless. But that is just the beginning.

It used to be that lawsuits were rare; but now changes in legal rules make lawyering very profitable. First there was the introduction of Strict Liability which lowered the bar for claiming damages. Then there was the broadening of discovery, where a plaintiff could now go on fishing expeditions into the records of the defendant. Used to be that you had to sue someone in the defendants court district; now you can forum shop. And now the ethical limitation on lawyers for "stirring up litigation" is gone. Then there is the "private enforcement regime" where Congress lets private parties sue against business or individuals in violation of a law.

OK, so it's too easy to sue. But that is just the beginning. Now there's the regulatory state.

Today Congress passes a general law and sets up an agency to come up with the details. Typically the targets of the regulation will have to deal with the bureaucracy and the administrative courts of the regulatory agency. And the Supreme Court through the "Chevron Deference" has held that the regulatory agency is almost always right. It goes back the the Progressive Era faith in government by disinterested experts. The problem is that if the regulators get their eye on you they can destroy you in the expense of the system before you ever get to a real court of law (as opposed to an administrative court that belongs to the regulator).

OK, so the regulators and the administrative judges are too powerful. But that is just the beginning. There is also the corrupted political system.

Murray is not saying that today's politicians "are more venal or dishonest than political of the past." It is just that that
todays' political process has produced politicians who, while keeping within the law, do things that are operationally indistinguishable from the way Third World kleptocrats operate.
Back in the old days, before the 1960s, the government didn't have that many favors to distribute, campaigns weren't that expensive, special interests didn't give much money, and only a few leading politicians got to write the laws.

But with the expansion of the regulatory state, particularly industry-wide regulation by EPA, OSHA, and EEOC, every corporation had to get into the game in Washington DC. Now it takes a ton of money to run for office, there are hordes of lobbyists, and the number of staffers is way up.

In 2012 the Democrats set up a "Model Daily Schedule" for members when in DC. It tells members how to allocate their time.
It includes four hours [per day] of "call time" -- the term for phoning contributors -- and one hour of "strategic outreach" which includes such things as breakfasts and meet-and-greets with supporters.
On top of that, the parties regularly hold fundraising dinners. They go to lobbyists and tell each of them to cough up a million bucks. Because only "friendly" interests get friendly results from office holders.

A kleptocracy? Well, politicians usually seem to manage to get rich in government service. And you have to pay for access to the authorities. And when a congressman calls for a contribution you cough up. And officeholders reward their friends. And "bribes produce results independently of political principle."

Can it be reformed? After George W. Bush pushed through the budget-busting Medicare drug plan, don't expect much reform from Republicans. And Murray goes to Mancur Olson and The Logic of Collective Action for the explanation.
First, advanced democracies inherently permit small interest groups to obtain government benefits for themselves that are extremely difficult for the rest of the polity to get rid of. Second, these successful special interests inevitably pile up over the years until the political system becomes rigid and unresponsive, unable to adapt[.]
In other words,
People who receive government benefits tend to vote for people who support those benefits.
We may call for reform as much as we like, but the fact of all of today's programs and benefits "will push the Republican Party to the center in all presidential elections."  We are not going to get truly "Madisonian majorities in both houses and a Madisonian president."

Something else will have to give. But that's the topic for Part II: Opening a New Front.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

President Obama's Racist Legacy

I was to the University of Washington's Meany Center for the Performing Arts last night to hear Rhiannon Giddens. Giddens is a 2000 graduate of Oberlin and she's parlayed her opera degree into a nice little gig doing bluegrass.

What with the opera training, Giddens has a fine singing voice, and she also plays violin and banjo.

Did you know that the banjo was invented by African Americans?

But guess what, this privileged lady is now doing protest, so she contributed to We Are Not For Sale: Songs of Protest by the NC Music Love Army.

Gotta love these Oberlin liberals: their echo chamber lets them say and sing the darndest things!

Hey Rhiannon! When you are performing at the UW World Series isn't it a bit racist to be talking about 4-year-old Chinese child workers? Are there any 4-year-old Chinese workers? Google doesn't seem to think so. But there is this youTube of a 5-year-old Chinese boy operating his Dad's frontloader. Yes, we should definitely put a stop to that! Why pretty soon every 5-year-old All American boy will be demanding to be allowed to do the same!

But here's what I took away from the concert.

President Obama has flown African Americans up a box canyon. The man that talked about ending America's divisions had divided us. Well, what do you expect: he's a politician. Not one, but two of Giddens's sidemen gave us the Black Lives Matter line that the po-lice are targeting African American young men. One of them sang a song about dear old Huey P. Newton.

Look, it's a free country, although we should thank our lucky stars that Giddens's group wasn't a bunch of crazy whites babbling racist hate speech about Waco or Ruby Ridge. Imagine!

Did I mention that Rhiannon Giddens was African American? Who knew? She presents herself as a nice middle-class girl that might be any combination of mixed race -- rather like Cablinasian Tiger Woods. But she did go to Oberlin. That explains a lot.

The thing about politics is, as I like to say, that politics is division. Any professional politician is an expert in dividing up the cake so that he gets 51% of the vote and the other guy is let with the remainder. But the measure of any man is how he rises above the ordinary.

The measure of a general is to rise above merely using his troops as food for powder. He knows that in order to win the battle or the war he is going to use up many of the lives of the young men assembled under military discipline in his command. Can he use those mothers' sons for a worthy cause or are they going to be complete wasted, men dying by the roadside of hunger or sickness -- the usual fate of the soldier -- or shattered in the holocaust of battle?

Same thing with the CEO. The measure of a CEO is to rise above merely using his employees as cannon fodder for the market wars. Can he rise above that? Can he generate a corporate culture that actually helps his employees grow and flourish?

Then there's the politician. Is he just a divider? President Bush's famous line that he was a uniter, not a divider, is actually a sheepish admission of the politician's art. He is a divider, but every politician nurses in his heart the faith that all this dividing is really for a higher, better cause: to unite his nation and lead it from the dusty plains into sunlit uplands.

I don't know what President Obama thinks about the calling of the politician. With any public figure I assume that I know nothing about him, because any public figure is a social construct, a creation of publicity. But the evidence of his actions suggests that he is not a man that has risen above the dust and grime of his calling to something higher and better.

That's a shame: for African Americans -- who he has confirmed in their racism and victimology -- for America --which has not flourished on his watch -- and for the world -- which has not become more peaceful during his leadership.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Liberal Intolerance Will End Up Hammering Liberals

A couple days ago an 80-year-old Duke professor got in trouble for racism. He made a four-paragraph comment in The New York Times about the Baltimore riots. Hey, he said, back in 1965 racial discrimination wasn't just against blacks; it hit Asians too.
The racism against what even Eleanor Roosevelt called the yellow races was at least as bad.

So where are the editorials that say racism doomed the Asian-Americans. They didn't feel sorry for themselves, but worked doubly hard.

I am a professor at Duke University. Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration. The amount of Asian-white dating is enormous and so surely will be the intermarriage. Black-white dating is almost non-existemt because of the ostracism by blacks of anyone who dates a white.
Oh dear oh dear, professor. You know you aren't allowed to say things like that in America. Because racism.

Seriously, I suspect that we are approaching what we sophisticated people call an "inflection" on liberal race and gender oppression. And I suspect that we will look back on today's liberals as being as dumb as Romanovs or Bourbons. Or Manchus, for those that don't confine their reading to European ancien régimes.

Here's why. Government is force.

The reason that I keep hammering on this "government is force" meme is that I believe that it explains a lot. And the people that should always keep this in mind is the members of the ruling class -- whether Bourbon or gentry liberal.

The ruling class should always remember that government is force, because the next thing it should remember is: "who is going to be totally pissed of by our latest noble attempt to force people to do the right thing?"

Timeout for review of the Law of Incoming Rounds. Humans are immensely sensitive to mortar rounds landing on the ground right next to them. But humans regard mortar rounds landing half a mile away as something of a joke.

Wise rulers understand that government is force. Wise rulers understand the Law of Incoming Rounds. Wise rulers do not let their more enthusiastic supporters oppress the little people just for the fun of it. Wise rulers do not let their supporters oppress the opposition and deny them freedom of speech.

Liberals have a foolish understanding of things like the rule of law and freedom of speech. They have converted the importance of the rule of law into a passion for justice. And their understanding of freedom of speech doesn't seem to stir very far from outrage when liberals are attacked for speaking their minds.

But the real point of things like the rule of law and limited government and freedom of speech is to minimize the opportunity for opponents of the regime to get really pissed off.

The rule of law means that the government doesn't get to do too many arbitrary things that make people on the receiving end totally mad and enraged.

Limited government means that the government isn't using force very much. That means that the clunking fist of government isn't beating too many people over the head.

Freedom of speech means that opponents of the regime get the chance to freely assemble and demand a redress of their grievances.

But the Obama regime, starting at the top, doesn't seem to get this.

It thinks that government is a matter of the president with a phone and a pen. No doubt, but then you don't get to manufacture a consensus over the next government application of force. And the people on the receiving end of the phone and the pen get really pissed off.

It thinks that government is a matter of administrative systems advised by policy analysts and experts. No doubt, but what happens if the system is a mess and the experts are wrong? As in Obamacare? You think that the Democratic operatives with bylines are going to be able to convince the American people that Republicans are to blame for Obamacare?

It thinks that opposition to liberal ideas is "hate speech" and thus not deserving of the constitutional support for free speech. Yeah. Every tin-horn dictator believes that.

What the Obamis and the gentry liberals don't get is that their politics is perfectly designed to make people really pissed off and vote for the other party.

Perhaps that's why Sean Trende reports that support for the Republican Party is at the highest level in decades. If you look at Trende's RCP Election Index you see that there is nothing quite like a Republican administration for raising Democratic strength, and nothing like a Democratic administration for raising Republican strength.

In other words, government is force and it makes people really pissed off.

Of course, I think that the real Obama own-goal is the race politics of Ferguson and Baltimore. I just keep wondering what Asian and Hispanic Americans think about that.

That 80-year-old Duke professor mentioned white-Asian interracial dating and marriage. I notice too that there is plenty of white-Hispanic dating and marriage going on. Now the Asians are mounting an anti-Affirmative Action lawsuit against Harvard for doing a redo on the old Jewish quota of the early 20th century, only this time against Asians.

What I say is: why don't you Asians and Hispanics come on over to the Republican Party? I don't know what the Democrats have been saying about us behind our backs, but why not give us a try? We're kinda stuffy and old-fashioned, but we do believe in that fusty old idea of the career open to talents, and we do believe in judging people on their character, not on the color of their skin.

But that is just by the way. My prediction is that people are getting really pissed off with the liberal-gentry ruling class because the liberal gentry ruling class is too stupid to realize that Job One for every ruling class is to avoid pissing people off.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Embarrassing Clinton Revelations: Is It Something in the Water?

Ever since the Clinton era, say about the time that Bill Clinton was running around during the mild 1990-91 recession talking about "the worst economy in the last 50 years" there has seemed to be a jinx on reality.

Whatever mind-numbing fantasy the liberals came up with would get accepted as reality. And good conservative common-sense got anathematized as racism, sexism or homophobia. Or "on your own" economics.

But in recent months something has changed. News that challenges the liberal line seems to be getting through.

Item: the flap over George Stephanopoulous' interview of Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer. Look, it's no big deal to me that George gave $25,000, $50,000, $75,000, whatever, to the Clinton foundation. It's no big deal that a Clinton loyalist would try an ambush interview on a conservative. That's what loyal retainers do in America to demonstrate their fealty to their noble lord. But the fact that there is the teeniest reaction on the part of the mainstream media that maybe there's a problem here is startling.

Item: "New docs reveal administration knew about Benghazi 10 days before attack." What? Who let the dogs out? Because this could be a suppurating wound on the Clinton campaign. It means that Republican candidates can run around repeating that Clinton lied, lied to the faces of the relatives of the brave Benghazi martyrs. For ever.

Item: Chelsea Clinton is a rich bitch and is causing chaos at the Clinton foundation. Whaat? How did that one ever get out? For 22 years, ever since the first Clinton campaign, we've never heard a peep about Chelsea, except heartwarming stories in connection with Socks the Cat. Now they are dishing on Chelsea on the NY Post "Page Six."
“A lot of people left because she was there. A lot of people left because she didn’t want them there,” an insider told me. “She is very difficult.”
I know. Gentry-liberal trust-fund baby demonstrates arrogant sense of entitlement and starts wrecking her inheritance. This is not news. But still, for someone to break the Clinton Code of Omerta, that is news.

So what is going on here? The movie The War Room has the Stephanopoulos character telling a Clinton bimbo:
"I guarantee if you do this, you'll never work in Democratic politics again."
Hey, it's only a movie, but my nickel says that the message goes out to every journalist that thinks of writing or fronting anything that's embarrassing to Democrats.  Report this and you'll never work in this town again. In my view that's why we've heard practically nothing about the real Obama all these years.

So what's going on? Don't tell me that it's the power of the conservative media that's finally forcing these stories out. No, I don't think conservative media has that power.

No, I think we are seeing a power struggle emerge in the liberal/Democratic world, the beginnings of a struggle to own the party after the Obama years. And my guess, and I mean guess, is that this starts with the elected officials in the Democratic Party, because they are starting to realize that they are screwed. They are starting to realize that the 2010 and 2014 elections are not flukes; those mid-terms represent a fundamental shift in the sentiments of the voters.

Let's go out on a limb here. I'd say that a lot of senior and up-and-coming elected officials know that the Obama people have flown them up a box canyon. There is now no alternative but hitting the wall in 2016 as the American people desperately decide that it's time for a change. The question is: Who will inherit the ruins in 2017? The elected officials don't want the Obama crowd; they are the guys that wrecked the party. And they don't want the Clinton crowd either; they are yesterday's men and women.

If this is true, or close to true, then it means that the Democrats are in much worse shape that we think.

Kinda reminds me of the good old Soviet Union. It seemed invincible, until one day in 1990, it wasn't. On account of a washed-up B-movie actor called Ronald Reagan.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Of Course "Motherhood" is a Social Construct

Just in time for Mothers Day Harvard professor Kathleen McCartney wants to remind us that motherhood is a social construct. Thanks, Kathy, we needed that.

But need I remind you, professor, that feminism is also a social construct. If we are to delegitimize this kind of motherhood:
In US culture, we hold to the idea that young children are better off when cared for exclusively by their mothers. 
which you feminists like to do 24-7, then we should admit that any other motherhood is also a social construct. But you don't do that, professor. You appeal to science.
Anthropologists have attempted to disavow us of this view... In foraging societies, mothers stay in close proximity with their babies, while in agricultural societies mothers share child-rearing responsibilities with those less able to be productive in the fields, like grandmothers and young girls. Shared child-rearing has been and continues to be the norm across cultures.
No kidding? You mean like the way that women in suburbs today form a community of mothers and help each other, and then go on to form a kind of informal home-schooling collective? But no. This stunt is meant to justify "child care."
In contemporary society, child care is our form of shared child-rearing. 
I don't think so, professor.  Child care is about dropping your kid off for a paid employee to look after the kid. It's similar to the old days when rich women had nurses and governesses to raise their kids and had their kids presented to them once a day for an hour.

But actually, according to McCartney, "child care" is OK. Because science.
Our culture’s ambivalence about maternal employment spurred research on whether child care was a risk factor for young children. In time, social scientists demonstrated definitively that infant care did not disrupt the mother-child bond and that children thrived in quality child care.
And Dr. McCartney was one of the scientists that proved it.

Back in the 1970s she thought that "believed solid research findings, like my own, would lead to policy change." But it didn't, and now she's mad.

But do you not see, professor, that "policy change" is a weasel word for changing the social construct, by force. So it's not really a social construct but an oppressive construct.

Oh, and by the way, the studies I've heard of say that children that spend their first year away from Mommy tend to develop attachment problems. There is no substitute for direct contact with a mother's love in the first year. Because science.

Liberals like Kathryn McCartney would be amusing if they weren't such dangerous oppressors. If the old concept of motherhood was attached to women defining their identity in the home, what in the name of honest scholarship is the new paradigm of career-oriented women that define their identity by "leaning in" and doing the work/life balance? It's just another social construct of motherhood!

Here's my social construct on motherhood. Rich women have, down the ages, wanted to schuck off the work of nursing and raising their children on servants. Naturally, they have devised cunning social constructs to justify their decision; that's what humans do when they do something shameful.

Today, after a brief moment in the notorious 1950s when Communist feminist journalists like Betty Friedan found themselves unwillingly caught in the suburbs with their kids, rich educated women have reverted to type.

Naturally, as humans have ever done, they have clothed the nakedness of their selfish acts in the alluring raiment of virtue.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Amtrak: Liberals Just Don’t Get It

After the tragic Amtrak rail crash on Tuesday May 12, liberals were first out of the gate blaming Republicans for the crash. You see, Republicans are proposing to cut about $200 million from Amtrak’s budget for 2016. QED.

The Wall Street Journal has a sensible editorial on how this makes no sense. And points out that, if the well-traveled northeast corridor weren’t subsidizing the rest of Amtrak then maybe there would be money for upgrading the signaling, etc.

Oh and by the way, the Journal reports, “Amtrak fares average about 34 cents per mile, versus 15 cents for domestic flights and about a quarter for cars.” Oh, and Amtrak has fares average about 34 cents per mile, versus 15 cents for domestic flights and about a quarter for cars.” Oh, and Amtrak has “so many legislatively mandated tasks and responsibilities” that it doesn’t know which end was up.

Hey, here’s an idea. How about we spin off the northeast corridor from the rest of Amtrak and let the northeast states make what they want of it?

This sort of thing, to me, just illustrates the problem with government. It all ends up as a fight for loot. It all comes down to who gets the government loot to, e.g., feed little children, fix crumbling infrastructure, or install positive train control, or fight racism, sexism and homophobia?

What liberals cannot get through their skulls is that almost everything is simply a paying proposition: “will it pay” to e.g., build a fast and safe northeast rail corridor? If it is then profit-oriented businessmen will build it and run it and make a profit. If not, then why waste the resources on this fragile planet just to appease some powerful special interest.

Oh yes, you say. But passenger rail in a crowded urban corridor is different. It can never pay for itself. The only way is by government subsidy.

But if the only way is government subsidy then we are talking about politics and government where the majority wins and the most powerful interest gets the money. I’d say that this is not a good time for liberals to argue this line because chances are that we’ll have Republicans running Congress for the next decade and they won’t be wanting to spend money on liberals.

If you want government to do it, then you are saying, let’s resolve this by force. And if you end up on the losing side, too bad for you.

That is what capitalism is born to do. It is here to allow change to happen without the say-so of the ruling class. It does not depend on the support of the powerful; it does not pretend to be helping the oppressed. It merely asks “will it pay?” and acts accordingly. It does not require that you get a majority of the votes in Congress before you can do anything. It just says: if you think you can make money on this, go for it.

And if it turns out that it doesn’t pay, then too bad for the stockholders and the bondholders. The taxpayer gets off scot free. That is, unless well-connected liberals come along and demand that the failing corporation gets bailed out “in the national interest.”

I like to say that the only thing that government can do is declare war: on fascism, on ignorance, on want, on bigotry, on the dangerous state run by the thug dictator next door.

What government cannot do is run a business, delivering consumers a service, responding to their individual needs as creatively and flexibly as possible. It’s not the fault of individual government leaders or individual bureaucrats when government fails to do that; it’s just that government is force, and it can’t do things that don’t require force.

But that is what liberals refuse to learn. But why should they care; it's not their money.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Baffling, Progressive Democrats

Today in his weekly column Karl Rove writes that he's baffled by the Democrats. You've got Bill Clinton's crazy comments about the corrupt Clinton foundation; there's Hillary Clinton hidden away from the world in still silence; there's President Obama's crazy insult to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). And why is nobody running against Hillary Clinton?

But I'm baffled by the Progressive Agenda, a 13 point plan for wrecking America and the poor, advanced by people like NY Mayor Bill de Blasio and others. What are they thinking? Don't they realize that it's time for progressives to go and hide after the disaster of the Obama administration?

But no. Here's uber-progressive Joan Walsh of Salon and she's all hopped up about of the rollout of the Progressive Agenda at the US Capitol where "progressive leaders endorsed an agenda to tackle income inequality."

Oh dear, Joan Walsh. Don't you understand that progressive economics and politics increases inequality as it encourages people not to submit to the market economy but to live as serfs on the liberal plantation? Let's take item #1 to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour as the poster boy for progressive folly. Let's think of a few objections to a higher minimum wage:

  • It's superstitious and pre-rational. The science is settled. Minumum wages create unemployment.
  • It's racist. Minimum wages create unemployment especially for unskilled black males.
  • It's dominatory. It puts politicians in charge of the economy. But politicians know nothing about making and selling things. They only know how to divide and conquer.
  • It shoves workers off-the-books and makes workers and employers skirt the law to earn a living.
Here's an idea to help workers. Why not abolish the payroll taxes? What with FICA and unemployment and workers comp. and all, the average working stiff pays about 25 percent of his wages in payroll tax. Then workers could keep their own money as they put aside a little money against a layoff; they could save their own money for a down payment on a house, or starting a business, or sending the kids to college or saving for retirement. What a concept.

The whole Progressive Agenda is like that. It thinks that the only way for the unskilled to get a break is by force. There is not thought at all to enhancing the labor market and the demand for labor so that the employers of the United States would be competing to hire workers and bidding up their wages.

That's the problem with people that believe in politics like a religion. It means they have a remarkable faith in the potential for force: marching for justice; burning down drug stores; putting the screws on business; taxing hard-working entrepreneurs.

But I suspect that the enthusiastic progressives have got it all wrong. I suspect that the average American voter is not riled up about minimum wages and "Black Lives Matter." The average American voter is frustrated that nobody seems to care about ordinary middle-class concerns: good jobs, good schools, and a better world for our children. What do Obamacare, immigration amnesty, and gay marriage have to do with that?

Remember ten years ago? Democrats, under the leadership of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), recruited a bunch of moderate candidates to run for Congress and won 35 House seats in the 2006 midterms, and 30 House seats in 2008. But all that got blown away in the 2010 midterms as Americans revolted against the left-wing Obama agenda.

Do the Democrats really think they are going to get traction on an even more left-wing agenda in 2016?

You never know, not until the votes are counted.

But count me just as baffled as Karl Rove.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

See What We Mean, Democrats?

Yesterday the Senate Democrats halted President Obama's free trade initiative in the US Senate. And he insulted Sen. Elizabeth Warran (D-MA). Oh and by the way, the contents of the bill are as secret as an intelligence bill: nobody is allowed a copy of the bill. So once again, we have to pass it to find out what's in it. Way to go, Barry!

Do you Democrats see, finally, that we have a problem, Houston? That it really isn't a good idea to have a president that acts like a playground bully? A president that sees no problem in insulting the good faith of his opponents? Like this?
The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else. And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that[.]
Generally, Mr. President, we try to avoid sophomoric comments like that. Even if it's true. Why? Because every elected official has the negative power to put a wrench in the works, especially if someone has "dissed" him. Or her.

Now we learn that the problem with the president's remarks are... exactly, they are sexist, because the subtext of the president's remarks are that the little lady from Massachusetts doesn't know what she is talking about.

Actually, I agree with that. But not because Sen. Warren is a woman. Not at all. It's because she is a lawyer and a liberal.

But how can the president be sexist? He's African American: he doesn't have the power!

Seriously, do you Democrats now see what a total mess this president is, now that your liberal ox is getting gored by his incompetence and his petulance? As I understand it the President of the United States is supposed to get on the phone and stitch up the support for his program before we get to votes in the Senate. The whole idea is to do all the horse-trading in smoke-filled rooms out of sight of the public so that the swing votes are bought and paid for just like it says in Buchanan and Tullocks' The Calculus of Consent.

But let's get back to this whole secrecy thing. Not to mention the whole 1,000 page bill thing.

You know and I know what is going on here. Democrats can't publicly vote for free trade because they have been campaigning against free trade since... since the Republican Party crashed and burned as the protectionist party on or about 1930.

Yep, opposition to free trade is bubba bait. Because the science is settled. It's called the Law of Comparative Advantage, but free trade still hurts established interests that have had privileges legislated into law in the past. Because free trade makes a mockery of all stitch-up deals to special interests. What a shame!

So the best way to pass free trade is to pass a black box with unknown contents, so moderate Democratic legislators can't get primaried by extremists. That is call legislative sausage-making.

But all the bubba bait in the world doesn't change the science: Regulation, protection, taxing, spending: all these things make the nation poorer. Period.

I was just watching the PBS documentary "The Commanding Heights" yesterday and they had airline deregulator Alfred E. Kahn as a talking head. The point is that regulation always ends up as a stitch-up for the special interests. In the case of airlines, it kept them all cosily in business for 40 years. And prices high.

Now Sen. Warren is the champion of the post-crash financial regulation, including her own baby, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that is all stitched up into special funding from the Federal Reserve System. So she hates anything that might take power away from her pet project.

I get that.

Personally, I shudder to think what kind of train-wreck will come of Warren's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation act. Because my guess is that these regulatory monsters will empower the government to behave badly and screw up the financial system. Until it's too late and we have a financial Armageddon like 2008.

But not to worry. We can still blame the greedy bankers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Liberals' "Hate Speech" Problem

I decided yesterday that I was going to write today about "hate speech." And today I find that everybody is doing the same.

I suppose it all started when various pundits, from left to right, criticized Pam Geller for her Draw Muhammed art show in Garland, Texas, at which two amateur terrorists were gunned down by police. It had the effect of concentrating the minds of all those that love freedom.

Because freedom begins and ends with the right to be wrong.

Here's Breitbart London descanting on the evil North London bias of the BBC. Here's Victor Davis Hanson writing on the erosion of the First Amendment. Here's Kirsten Powers writing about colleges silencing dissent. Here are college fraternity members suspended for texting "sexual comments about women and girls." Here's a report about SJW entryism in open source software. And then there is the strategic Obama crackdown on the political opposition.

Everywhere you look you see liberals working to silence the opposition or try to take over institutions using the Gramscian tactic of the "march through the institutions."

I want to say that this is a real problem, not for conservatives and libertarians. It is a problem for liberals.

Because of what it says about liberals and liberal ideas.

Do you mean to say, liberals, that you need to suppress evil thoughts and speech in order for your ideas to have the proper environment to grow? Do you mean to say that your ideas are so weak that they do not speak for themselves and cannot differentiate themselves from the dross of the opposing bigotry and superstition?

We've seen this before, of course. There's always a temptation for a ruling orthodoxy to decide that the time for debate is over. Now it's time for dissident voices to shut up; the matter is settled. It always seems much easier to say that the argument is over rather than keep up the hard work of advancing your ideas and continuing a dialog with the opposition.

But I'd say that anyone that starts muttering about heresy or denial has a problem. They are saying that they want an end to discourse; from now on, only force will rule.

I have the same attitude towards the Gramscian "march through the institutions." As soon as you develop a strategy for anything, you are saying that you want force to rule. You are saying: never mind about discussion, about exchange of deeply felt ideas and sentiments; our ideas are the right ones, and we will fight to make them prevail.

Here's what I think about "hate speech" and "entryism."

First: If you deny other people the right to speak then you are saying that your own ideas aren't good enough to prevail in an open outcry. You are closing off a genuine process of intersubjectivity, of putting yourself in the place of the other, of analyzing the other person's viewpoint from their own point of view. You are saying: let the strong rule.

Second: If you need an entryist strategy to advance your cause, you are saying that it will never capture hearts and minds without first capturing the commanding heights of the culture and politics by stealth. You are saying: the only way we can win is with subterfuge.

Third: You are saying that  political power is the only reality.

The great contest of the last 500 years is the question of the limits of power: political, economic, and religious. Some people want to concentrate power, to make politics, economics, and faith work together for the betterment of humankind. Other people want to separate powers, to make the power seekers, in government, in the economy, in belief systems fight with each other, and prevent one single power from lording it over the others.

I'd say that the question is pretty well settled. Concentrating power leads to totalitarianism; Separating power leads to human flourishing. But humans will never agree on this.

As soon as you say: well those people are bigots, and we should shut them up, you are saying that we already know it all. We don't need to give space to people that have different ideas.

As soon as you say: we must staff the institutions with our own people, to make them resonate to the right ideas, you are saying that you have the one final answer.

But the experience of the remarkable last 500 years is that we never have the final answer to anything. As soon as you close down opposing ideas you are announcing the death of your own ideas. As soon as you place "your people" in strategic institutions you are setting those institutions up for decline and death.

In my view the whole apparatus of "political correctness" and marches through the institutions might as well be a public declaration of intellectual bankruptcy. The progressives are saying that their ideas are rubbish, but they are going to force them on us anyway.

One thing is for sure. When you start bullying and ordering people around they have two options. They can shut up and take it, or they can start to form a head of rebellion. Or both.

And that is why the liberal war on "hate speech" is a real problem. For liberals. Because it will order up a cultural and political movement that will destroy liberalism.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Wages of Division

Everyone is tut-tutting about the breakup of national politics in Britain, particularly with the triumph of the Scottish National Party in Scotland. The Labour Party was pretty well eliminated in Scotland in the UK General Election of May 2015.

But really, this is the wages of identity politics. The average grubbing practical politician may not realize it but identity politics, getting people to vote according to class and race and gender, is going to break up the nation state.

The idea of the nation state is really rather new, a few hundred years old at the max. And I suspect that it developed not because all of a sudden people started to believe in nations, but because the logic of interstate politics demanded a bigger military and political unit than the feudal king, the temporary winner in the game of baronial politics and strategic marriage. The political unit had to be large enough to support a significant standing army; it had to be supported and funded by a thriving commercial economy. And it helped to have a single language. In fact, the emerging nation state imposed a common language on its subjects.

In the 18th century you can see that the national politics in Britain was simple faction: one faction of the landed magnates against another. Disraeli fires the last shot in this war in Sybil when he spends a chapter or two drawing up a bill of indictment against the evil and corrupt Whigs; they got their wealth in the plunder of the monasteries in the 16th century, in case you didn't know.

In the 19th century politics in Britain started to show the influence of class. The Reform Bill of 1832 was about extending the franchise lower into the middle class. Later reform bills extended the franchise into the working class. So politicians learned how to make class appeals, and the factional politics of Whig vs. Tory morphed into the class politics of Liberal/Labour vs. Conservative.

The genius of this class politics, we can now see in retrospect, was that it didn't disturb the nation state idea. That was tested in World War I when the working classes of the world identified with their nations rather than with their class.

Responding to this fact after World War I the Frankfurt School came up with a new twist on class politics: what we now call identity politics. The Frankfurt School taught politicians how to divide people not just by class but by any kind of identity that worked politically. The point was to seize the commanding heights of compassion and identify yourself with an historically oppressed group.

In our day this idea has turned into stupidity and the left's support is always for the identified marginalized group: blacks in the US or South Africa; women; gays, Muslims in the West; Hispanics in the US; Catholics in Northern Ireland; Palestinians in the Middle East; Catalonians in Spain.

In Britain, this played out as validating the irredentist yearnings of the Celtic fringes in Scotland and Wales so that the Blair Labour government legislated regional assemblies for the Scots and the Welsh.

Well, golly gee. Now that brilliant plan has developed into full-on Scottish nationalism and a movement for Scottish independence. Be careful what you wish for.

So what did the Frankfurt School geniuses think they were doing? I imagine they thought they were building a global over/under coalition between the enlightened educated and Marxist avant-garde and the global under-privileged whoever and wherever they were. And this wave of the future would throttle the evil and oppressive rule of the international bourgeoisie.

Allow me to propose my own view against the world view of the educated ruling class of gentry liberals.

The global gentry liberal elite establishes and maintains its power by a cynical revival of pre-modern instincts in its "under" supporters, and it obstructs the "unders" from taking their rightful place in the middle class. Of course it does. When the working class worked its way up into the middle class it stopped voting for the parties of the left.

The whole panoply of administrative welfare state politics and government encourages people to identify as subordinate subjects, clients to a political patronage machine, grubbing for free stuff from a great lord. The subordinate subjects, in the limit case of the African Americans in the United States, end up as a dysfunctional under-class in some declining city where the women don't marry and the men don't work.

The science ought to be settled by now. The way to a meaningful life in the modern world is to climb out of the underclass by getting an education and getting a job. Then you abandon the culture of subordination and take on the armor of responsibility. You shuck off the culture of the people of the subordinate self and you join the people of the responsible self.

Now people of the responsible self are natural citizens of the nation state. They want to work and thrive in the market economy and they want to marry and have children and they want the state to protect them from enemies foreign and domestic that might interfere with their day-to-day work of wiving and thriving. They take pride in taking care of their own and they also extend their circle of caring to other people that need help because that's who they are.

The gentry liberal ruling class is at war with the people of the responsible self because the people of the responsible self want nothing from the political class except peace and security. They don't want free education; they'd rather buy their own and get the right education for their individual children. They don't want a state pension; they'd rather save their own money and retire when they want to rather than when the government wants them to. They don't want government health care; they'd rather pay for their own and get what they need, not what a cabal of political activists wants them to need. They don't want and army of experts regulating everything and "keeping us safe." They prefer to make their own mistakes and learn from them.

On this view you can see that the gentry liberal ruling class has done a pretty good job of marginalizing the people of the responsible self and riling up the tribal instincts of the people of the subordinate self. Nothing remarkable or scandalous about this. They are just following the logic of their political needs.

But the problem is the law of unintended consequences. Politics is division. The more politics, the more division, and for the gentry liberal ruling class politics is everything. We are now seeing the long term result of ruling class identity politics. The result is the breakup of nation states into smaller states, smaller states that cannot swing their weight in international affairs.

It's all very well to have a Scotland. But what happens if the Russian bear should come calling? It's all very well to encourage African Americans in racial pride; but what happens when a Detroit or a Baltimore self-destructs? It's all very well to encourage a Latino identity in Hispanic immigrants; but what happens if, say, California decides to secede.

Our liberal friends have the conceit that their superior intelligence and evolved culture makes them the natural cultural leaders and political authorities, and equal to every political challenge. Don't worry; they can handle the elements of their coalition of the fringes.

But suppose they can't? That's what the collapse of the Labour Party in Scotland suggests. Once the lordly liberal elite has taught the Scots or the Muslims how to organize and protest for their rights there is always the possibility that their students will strike out on their own and start their own activism schools.

And then what?