Friday, July 31, 2015

Why Politics is Always About Looting and Plunder

In the era when progressive minds were concerned about the power of the absolute monarchs the word on the street was "limited government." Progressive minds realized that the absolute monarchs, like the feudal monarchs before them, maintained themselves in power by distributing favors to their supporters. That was insupportable, according to reason and natural law.

That lasted for about 100 years, from 1750 to 1850.

But once the absolute monarchs had been dispatched to the dustbin of history progressive minds forgot all about limited government. Now they saw themselves as the rising ruling class and developed a politics where they would replace the monarch and win political power for themselves by offering favors to their supporters. So much was obvious to the best minds. And it was all discernible from the march of history and from social justice.

Of course, the truth is that politics has always been about loot and plunder. It was about loot and plunder when the hunter gatherers conducted their dawn raids on the neighboring tribe, killing the men and taking the women into slavery. It was about loot and plunder when Agamemnon and his pals including Odysseus, sacker of cities, besieged and sacked the city of Troy. It was about loot and plunder when the Roman legions ranged through Europe and the Middle East. It was about loot and plunder when Europeans discovered America and took the silver from Bolivia and the land from the North American Indians.

The formula is simple. A would-be political leader -- we might call him a freebooter or a buccaneer -- recruits an army with the promise of loot and plunder. We might call these followers freeloaders. If successful, this leader takes political power over some territory and taxes and regulates the people therein to benefit his supporters.

For that brief century from 1750 to 1850 the idea got about that maybe the loot and plunder idea was not such a good plan for government. Because, after all, loot and plunder are destructive. They sweep away productive economic relations and strip people of their wealth. And give it to people whose only talent is military or political soldiering. So the idea got about that government, the agency of looting and pillaging, ought to be limited, so that wealth could increase and benefit everyone.

But in the middle of the 19th century, as we have seen, a new idea got about. The educated sons of the bourgeoisie, shocked by the squalor of the industrial slums, intuited a new society in which all the squalor would be gone and society would become truly social and cooperative, rather than hierarchical and exploitative.

But there was one little problem with their ideas. How would we get from here to there? The answer was as old as the hills. We would get there by recruiting a political army with promises of loot and plunder: bigger wages, less working hours, free education, old-age pensions, health care.

It did not seem to occur to these people -- it still does not occur to their political descendants -- that a political movement based on loot and plunder will end up 100 years later as government based on loot and plunder. And what does loot and plunder do? It strips the land and the people of their wealth and their livelihood.

The trouble with socialism, according to Margaret Thatcher, is that in the end you run out of other peoples' money. It's easy to see why. The nature of the political game is that you must come to each election with a new promise of loot. That is what you have taught your supporters down the decades and that is what they demand. That was why President Obama had to lie about Obamacare and pretend it would lower health insurance premiums, and why Hillary Clinton has to conjure up brain-dead ideas to complicate the capital gains tax to make it look as though she is shaking new money out of the trees that can be spent on her supporters.

In the end the politicians over-promise on the loot. In the end you run out of other peoples' money. In the end you get Greece or Argentina.

So the solution is pretty obvious. You replace the current system with a system of limited government, where the politicians do not rally support by offering free stuff.

After all, any sensible voter should be able to see that in the end the government runs out of money to pay its pensions, so the practical thing to do is to make sure that your life is not dependent upon the continued payment of a government pension. On that view the idea of paying payroll taxes for 40 years on the faith that the government will pay the pensions it promised seems close to certifiable delusion.

But that is the system we live under. Until we don't.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The #cuckservative Meme

I get it. Conservative leadership, from Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the Senate and John Boehner (R-OH) in the House to the mainstream conservative media is disappointingly wimpy. You might even say that they had been cuckolded by the shameless hussies in LiberalLand who have been cheating on them for decades. Thus #cuckservatives.

When are they going to do something about it? And act like real men for a change?

The answer is: not until conservatives (or some other non-liberal cultural groups) acquire the cultural power to "put a bit of stick about."

To put it in military terms, the non-liberals have to join battle with the liberals over some issue, win the battle, and put the liberals into retreat, and then go on to win the war. The reason that #cuckservatives are so effeminate is that whenever there's a skirmish on the cultural front they get creamed by the liberals.

This is explained by Mencius Moldbug in his blog, where the universities and the media are the Cathedral that get to define the moral and cultural norms, the Democratic Party is the Inner Party that gets to rule when it wins elections, and the Republican Party is the Outer Party that just gets to govern when it wins elections. If you don't get the difference between "rule" and "govern" it is the difference between making up your own rules as you go along and following the rules.

Another thing to think about is the difference between left-wing extremists and right-wing extremists.

Moldbug has a sneer at Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism over this. Liberals can't be fascists, he writes, because fascism only worked in a limited time in the years after the collapse of a monarchical regime where right-wing judges could wink and nod at fascist street thugs.

But that's the point, and that's why the "fascist" tag applies to liberals. These days left-wing street action gets a wink and a nod from the justice system and the police know which side their bread is buttered on. The riots in Ferguson and Baltimore couldn't have happened if they were right-wing demonstrations. The demonstrators would first have had to get all their paperwork and their protest permits in order, and who knows how long that would have taken, Lois. And then any peep of violence or inappropriate protest sign would have been excoriated from The Nation to The New York Times to National Review.

In other words, today the left has the power. The left can intimidate ordinary citizens with regulators and judges. Why just today we have the report of a judge putting a restraining order on the folks that are doing the Planned Parenthood videos and enforcing prior restraint on future videos. Imagine that happening to 60 Minutes. You can't, because everyone knows that the Cathedral and the Inner Party would erupt into moral outrage. The left can intimidate with the power of the bully pulpit; that's why left-wing bloopers disappear while right-wing bloopers are proof of racism, sexism, homophobia. The left can intimidate with street action by bused-in rent-a-mobs. And it can intimidate with its neo-peasant supporters outraged by any "cut" in their entitlements.

So yeah. Conservative politicians and media are indeed #cuckservative. And they will be until we change the cultural order in America. And I'd say we are decades away from that, because any cultural change comes from the young people, and I view today's young people as mind-numbed robots pretty well completely indoctrinated by and in the pockets of the gentry liberal ruling class and its Cathedral.

Hey kids! Prove me wrong!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How to Talk to Your Liberal Women Friends

I'm going to be lunching with my liberal women friends in the next week or so. We are talking about the kind of woman that will be on board for the idea that it's time for America's First Woman President.

Here I am, aching with sorrow about the way that America's government has failed its people, because of the faith of its ruling class in its top-down paternalism, and your average educated woman of a certain age is serene in her sexist politics without a cloud in the sky.

Just as the idea of electing America's first black president was racism, straight up, so the idea of electing America's first woman president is sexism, straight up.

But you can't tell them that, not directly. They have ideological armor up against that sort of comment.

No, I think it's better to play on liberal guilt.

It's not the 1%; it's the top 20% First libertarian Charles Murray in Coming Apart and now liberal Robert D. Putnam in Our Kids have said that life is great for the top 20% in America. But lower down the socio-economic scale things are not so good. Something Must Be Done, because, as I say from my take on Coming Apart, in the lowest 30% the women don't marry and the men don't work, and that is causing a cultural Armageddon. But what to do?

We know what the liberal response is: more government and more power for liberals. But they are wrong.

More entitlements, regulation, and $15 minimum wage are baloney. Because science. Look, I get it. Politicians get elected by promising free stuff. More entitlements. Free community college. Make those exploitative employers pay a living wage. Only if there is one thing we know from political science it is that the more you pile on the free stuff, the more that people want. And the end of it is you go Greek. What is happening in Greece right now? The young and educated (the top 20%) are bailing out, leaving the bottom 30% to face the music. Same thing happened to Argentina in 2002. We know plenty of middle-aged educated Argentinians here on the North American west coast.

If there is one thing we know from public-choice economics, it is that economic regulation is crap. We have known that for 50 years that regulation kills everything and supports established interests. But liberals can't let go, because it brings in money and support and political power.

If there is one thing we know from Economics 101 it is that regulation of wages is crap. The $15 minimum wage is the cruelest cut of all. It makes it harder for young uneducated kids to get started. And it encourages more and more work to go off-the-books to illegal immigrants. This is basic economics, going back at least to the marginal revolution of 1870.

Big government and presidential executive orders are recipes for corruption and injustice. I imagine that gentry liberal women don't hear too much about the IRS scandal, the EPA ignoring its requirement to base its policy on science, the crony capitalist mess in renewable energy if they listen to NPR and read the New York Times. Obviously when you are a member of the top 20% and a gentry liberal you figure that Obama and his appointees are doing the Lord's work. Oh good, you think, President Obama believes #BlackLivesMatter and wants to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows. Oh good, President Obama is fighting carbon pollution and dirty coal plants. Oh good, the Supreme Court is finally OKing gay marriage. But what about the cultural chaos in the inner city, where the war on "broken windows" policing is making the chaos for black lives worse? What about the utter waste of resources on crony capitalist wind and solar power that slows the economic recovery and prevents Americans from getting good jobs? And what about the collapse of ordinary heterosexual marriage in the bottom 30%? Doesn't that seem to be a little more important than gay marriage for the 3% or so?

The trouble with government and politics is that it can't fix anything until it is so well and truly broken that even an upper-class educated woman can see it.

I don't think that my liberal women friends are within ten years of realizing that something is desperately wrong with the gentry liberal agenda. But I do think that they are going to be pretty shocked by the 2016 campaign.

That's because we are going to find out over the next year that a lot of things that gentry liberals thought were agreed upon and settled by all educated and evolved people actually aren't.

Because the ruling class is always the last to know. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It Must Be The Greedy Bankers, Otherwise...

I just had an epiphany on the Blame the Bankers meme that every Democrat and every liberal instinctively believes as the cause of the Crash of 2008.

I'd always assumed that it was pure cynical political blame-shifting, the natural instinct of the ruling class to find a scapegoat to take the blame for its feckless and foolishness.

Of course, that's what it was, mostly. You can't run a country and admit to your foolishness. That's chalk and cheese.

But you can't discount the bigger picture. You can't discount the fundamentalist faith that liberals have in a wise, educated elite dispensing rational, expert governance from on high.

When the real-estate crash began and then nearly buried the country in the fearful days of September 2008 when the Dow could fall 500 points in one day, the one thing that liberals could not admit even to themselves was that their policy of pushing low-down payment mortgage loans on sub-prime borrowers was just about the most stupid thing anyone ever made into national policy.

It couldn't have been, because liberals are the most educated, most evolved, most compassionate people in America. They could not have just about ruined America as a result of their generation-long pursuit of the great white whale of "affordable housing" for minorities and especially for minorities in "red-lined" neighborhoods.

No. That was unthinkable. It must have been the Greedy Bankers.

Needless to say, the same thing applies to the rest of the failed liberal project. The endless failures of top-down expert-led government can't be due to the nature of the beast, that government is useless for everything except wars. No the failure must be due to corporate greed, or racism, or sexism, or some other enemy of the good and the great.

I think that is an important thing to understand about liberals. Yes they are unjust. Yes they are cruel. Yes they are mind-numbed robots that can't think for themselves.

But the point is that they really believe in their right to rule. They cannot face themselves in the morning and admit that their governing philosophy is a crock. They have to believe, and they will continue to believe until their dream has punched them in the face and knocked them out.

And even then there will still be a remnant that continues to believe. Hello Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Yes, but what is the solution? Let's go to JayMan on "National Prosperity."
All that matters are two things: high average IQ, and high-trust people. 
Obviously, IQ is a given. But liberal politics is all about sowing mistrust, and dividing up people into clans. The results are just what you would expect. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Gentry Liberals are Uneducated Idiots

I know a guy that knows a guy that used to be married to Kshama Sawant, the Seattle Brahmin from Puna who's leading the liberal war on jobs by raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

I guess that's close enough to the old song of the girl that danced with a boy who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales.

Anyone that knows anything about science knows that the minimum wage is a job killer.  The minimum wage, as Milton Friedman told us, is $0. That's the wage earned by a guy without a job.

Anyway, the chickens are coming home to roost in Seattle as low-wage workers that have had their wages jacked up by the minimum wage legislation in Seattle are having to deal with the Unanticipated Consequences of the higher minimum wage. They are asking their employers to lower their hours worked so they can continue to qualify for welfare benefits.

Oh really. Who could have seen that coming? After all, liberals are the educated, evolved ones that go with science every time.

Then there's Hillary Clinton proposal for a new complicated and higher capital gains tax, to discourage that old liberal chestnut, capitalism by quarterly results, and fight inequality. Hasn't she heard of the science of marginal utility, already over a century old?

We are also hearing about the utter failure of state Obamacare exchanges, usually costing a cool $100-200 million a pop, of which former Maryland governor and presidential candidate Martin O'Malley is the poster boy. This of course is fruit of the old Progressive Era faith in experts and rational administration. Except that the science of the last century says that it is all baloney. Politics is politics, and to get results you need the market economy.

Then there is "climate change." Who knows what is in the stars, as far as climate is concerned. But one thing we know. The headline climate scientists, chaps like Jim Hansen and Michael Mann, are not behaving like scientists. They are behaving like politicians. Science proceeds by trial and error of theory and experiment. Politics proceeds by declaring emergencies and demanding emergency powers, and damning opponents as corporate shills and "deniers."

The acerbic Angelo Codevilla has an article out that takes eminence-grise Henry Kissinger -- and most post-WWII foreign policy -- to the woodshed. He blames Kissinger for the follies of US foreign policy from Vietnam to Iran.
Facing an adversary, U.S officials assume that it is amenable to compromise and thus open negotiations with preemptive concessions of U.S. interests. Discovering that the adversary persists in its purpose and in fact is hardening its demands, our officials, falling back on Kissinger’s “creative ambiguity,” craft “agreements” based on the pretense that the adversary accepts the U.S. understanding thereof, and that our officials do not accept the adversary’s understanding.
As I understand this, Codevilla is insisting that, contra Kissinger, international politics is power politics. You want something; you push. You do not talk about "peace processes," because in proposing a peace process you are advertising that you don't really want to fight, you just want to get out of the fight.

There is no-one more annoying than that one that thinks he is smart but who really doesn't have a clue. Our liberal friends get massaged everyday by the knowledge that listening to NPR and reading the New York Times are markers of educated sophistication.

But the truth is that educated sophistication is only obtained by doing the hard reading that goes beyond the approved texts and approved opinions that you pick up at the university and the elite media.

And as the current presidential campaign season progresses liberals are going to discover that their take-no-prisoners politics of the last 20 years, inaugurated during the Clinton impeachment when liberals decided that issues that sent Richard Nixon out of the White House in disgrace didn't apply to a Democrat, has flown them into a box canyon.

What should an educated progressive politics be in an age of global commerce and diverse cultures? Liberals haven't thought about it, except to declare a fight against inequality and agree that all conservatives are haters and should be forced to wear a "C" on their chests.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Are We All Just Peasants at Heart?

As I weave my ideas about a better world, in which the domination of the welfare state administrative system is replaced by a just world where people cooperate to help each other rather than compete for freebies, I wonder.

Think of things this way. A couple hundred years ago most people were serfs on some lord's estate. They were, in a profound way, his dependents, living at his pleasure and subject to his power. Yet people owed, and felt they owed, loyalty to their lord, and expected in return the lord would protect them, after a fashion. And he usually did.

The commercial and industrial era changed all that. Now the subordination was dissolved -- and also the privileges of rank.

But no sooner had the industrial era got started than a counter-movement began, that the rich owed the poor a duty of care, that "rights" were not simply rights of legal equality but rights to a decent standard of living.

The result has been the construction of the vast administrative welfare state, the principle of which seems to be that people have access to economic benefits as a right of social membership. Just like in the days of the agricultural age and what we used to call feudalism.

So now we have a politics divided between those that believe in this new subordination, this neo-feudalism, and those that believe in freedom from subordination through responsible individualism.

But how do you speak of freedom to the new subordinates?

Mona Charen chides the Republican Party, the party of freedom and responsible individuals, for a lack of outreach to such people.
A number of Republican candidates for president have been seeking to recast the Republican Party as the party of reform and outreach. They recognize that a party that lost not just the Hispanic vote, the black vote, the women's vote and the youth vote, but also the Asian vote has an image problem.
But the thing about the Hispanic, black, women's and youth vote is that these are people that think like peasants. They look to a community organizer or a political boss or a union leader to deliver the goods. They do not believe in surrendering themselves to the market, but to a human, political leader.

It is said that the core of the Republican Party is people that think of themselves as "typical Americans." This means, if it means anything, that such people are willing to submit to whatever America is. They do not experience themselves as being peculiarly defined or disadvantaged by some particular identity.

The point of all the Democratic Party identity groups is that politics can in some way advantage their members against oppression and "economic injustice". The world is stacked against them and only force can rectify the situation, by forcing employers to pay more to low-wage workers, or forcing employers to hire and promote more women, or a forcible system to deliver old-age pensions and health care.

To believe in the essential justice of the market, to abjure the resort to force and the political fixer, this is what requires the leap of faith.

It is, of course, a leap of faith that is based on the imperfect science of economics, that the price system is the best and most just and most efficient way of signaling what should be produced and sold and exchanged, and that the surrender to this faith is the royal road to prosperity both for individuals and for humans as a whole.

For many people it seems that the leap of faith in the market is only possible after the faith in politics has been crushed by bitter experience.

And that's easy to understand. The market is a rational abstraction; the sauntering politician is real and tangible, part of the always already familiar lifeworld of the everyday.

And yet it is the market that has delivered a world of $100 per capita income per day compared to the world of two hundred years ago that delivered $1 to $3 per capita per day.

What does it take to turn a subordinate peasant into a believer in freedom and responsibility?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How Politics Betrayed African Americans

We are right in the middle of the #BlackLivesMatter nightmare, which I presume is based on the notion that the biggest problem African Americans face is police shooting gentle giants in the back.

And of course, it is woe betide the Democratic presidential candidate that suggests that "All Lives Matter." Because racism.

But let us do a President Eisenhower. You remember him. He said that if you find you can't solve a problem then you should make it bigger.

So let's assume that blacks have a bigger problem staring them in the face than brutal racist white cops.

Here's African American Larry Elder discussing a few black problems under the rubric of President Obama making things worse.
By every key economic measurement, blacks are worse off under Obama. In some cases, far worse off.
Blacks in poverty? In 2009, 25.8%; in 2014, 27.2%.

Black median income? "CNNMoney says, 'Minority households' median income fell 9 percent between 2010 and 2013, compared to a drop of only 1 percent for whites.'"

Black net worth? From 2010 to 2013, black net work declined from $16,600 to $11,000. White net worth? Went up 1 percent to $142,000.

Black labor force participation? The lowest ever recorded, down to 60.2 percent in 2014.

Hey kids!  What do you think is to blame for all this? President Obama? President Bush? White privilege? White racism? Rape culture? Evil Republican haters?

OK, I will tell you. Answer #1 is liberalism. Answer #2 is the fatal black decision to become a block Democratic vote.

Let us review the bad things that have happened to black people in the light of liberalism and the liberal political agenda.

Blacks in poverty and not working? That's pretty obvious. There's the minimum wage that prevents unskilled blacks from getting entry-level jobs. There is the lousy government education system that is worst in the inner cities. Then there is big-time welfare and its associated 50 percent effective marginal tax rate, higher than on billionaires. Then there's the collapse of marriage in the black community. Married men work a lot harder and earn more money than unmarried men.

Black net worth? Well we know what the problem is here. It is the liberal attempt to game the housing market to benefit blacks and minorities with "affordable housing." Liberal activists bullied the banks into lending to low-income high-risk borrowers. The result in 2008 was to crash the financial system; the follow-on result was to wipe out minority borrowers than couldn't service their mortgages. Who could have seen that coming? Thanks liberals! How's that compassion working out for you?

All in all, I'm inclined to say that lefty politics is the most evil thing ever invented. It says to simple folk, just trying to get a toe-hold in the culture of teh city: Hey! You are being robbed! Sign up with our activist group and we will get you justice.

But the problem for the urban poor is not injustice; it is that the urban poor have not yet learned how to make it in the city.

They have not yet learned that the answer to life in the city is to surrender to the market; and that means work to serve other people with useful services. But the lefties teach them that their problems can be solved by marchin' and protestin'.

And nobody have responded to this siren song more enthusiastically than African Americans.

African Americans! Stop up your ears with wax! Tie yourselves to the mast! Do not listen to the Sirens, and do not listen to the community organizers.

Because politicians and organizers do not care about you. They only care about your vote.

And really, why would they try to get you a good job and a nice little nest egg? Your kids might end up voting Republican.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Problem of President Obama's Deceit

It is not, I hope, an insult to say that President Obama is deceitful. I am using the term to avoid the word "lie" which is perhaps too strong. After all, all politicians lie, all the time. They lie because we insist upon it and we cannot stand the truth. We cannot abide the truth until it is too late.

However, there seems to be an etiquette about presidential lying. This surfaced in the late 1960s when President Johnson was said to have lost "credibility" over the porkers he told about the war in Vietnam.

Then of course there was the lying of President Nixon over Watergate and its aftermath. This was insupportable, and so the president had to go.

But when President Clinton lied about sex with Monica Lewinsky, that was OK because everyone lies about sex.

On the other hand, as we all know, "Bush lied, people died" over the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Politicians usually do shade the truth in the run-up to a war. See: civil war, US.

The question is: have President Obama's lies been better or worse than his predecessors?

Obviously, I'm a conservative and a Republican partisan, so for me, the president's lies matter a lot, and they matter to Robert L. Erhlich, Jr., who recites the president's lies on health care, on Syria, on capitalism, on religious freedom, on immigration, on world public opinion, on Benghazi, and now, of course, on Iran.

Is there something different about the president's lies, or are they just run of the mill and merely seem unprecedented to an opposing partisan?

If there is a difference, I would say that it is because the president's lies seem to be deliberate attempts to disarm and humiliate his political opponents. I'd say that the presidential lies of his predecessors were more the normal lies of people trying to "get through the day." Even President Clinton's lies about Monica Lewinsky were the cheap sort of lies that everyone uses to avoid embarrassment and exposure.

The Obamacare lie was a lie thrown up in defiance of the opposition; the lies about the Iran deal are bound to infuriate Congress. Presidents normally just don't do that, because it creates too much ill will in the opposition. That's why most presidents spend so much time on the phone twisting the arms of wavering congressmen.

It seems clear to me that the president use of deceit has sailed the presidency into uncharted waters, with what has to be regarded as tactical brilliance on the part of the president and/or his advisers. After all, it is no small thing to tell the president "you lie!"

The question is, of course, whether his voyage into uncharted waters will make strategic sense or whether he will wreck his liberal ruling class and the Democratic Party on the rocks, charted and uncharted, and deliver a Republican president and a solidly Republican Congress at the next election.

Remember, the last time we elected a Republican president with a solid Republican Congress was in 1928.

The reason that presidents don't stick the opposition in the eye and instead try to build consensus for their policies with the lies of flattery and cajoling is that they don't want to unify the opposition. They would much rather pick off a couple of fence-sitters and divide the opposition.

On that view, the president is setting himself and his party up for a disaster.

But you never know. President Obama may get away with his lies and his cunning ways of getting around the Congress with regulation and with executive action, and the Democrats may come storming back in 2016.

But somehow, I believe that the Democrats are in for a long dark night, and that the old adage is true, that it is better to let the sleeping dogs lie, particularly the dogs in the other party.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

From Legislation to Regulation to Executive Order

I keep coming back to the notion that in its campaign of "fundamental transformation" the liberal ruling class is setting itself up for a massive reset.

My point is that liberals and the left misunderstand politics at a fundamental level. Politics is not a transformative process. It is simply the brute force that is applied after ordinary social cooperation fails.

Katie Pavlich hit the spot today in an article reporting how the government is putting certain Social Security recipients on the government's list of people that can't buy guns. The Obamis have come up with a cunning plan to control guns by denying guns to Social Security recipients that have someone managing their benefits.

Amazing! How come nobody ever thought of that before? Katie writes:
If legislation fails, try for regulation. If regulation doesn't work, issue an executive order.
But that doesn't quite do it for me. My point is that when you have started in with legislation you are already making a mess. Because legislation is the camel's nose of force under the tent.

When you decide that Americans can't save for retirement on their own and need to be forced to do so by a government program then you have made the fatal step. You have gone beyond a pushing a cultural norm, that we should all save for our old age, to the rigidity of a government system: everyone will save for retirement, or else. And system is domination.

And so with every new law, we contract the zone of peaceful cooperation and we convert it into a hierarchical system where free people are reduced to subordinate drones.

That is why great legislative programs are usually passed in Congress with bipartisan majorities. Even though each and every bill passed in Congress and signed by the President is an exercise in force and coercion it is still thought necessary to hide the mailed fist of force with the velvet glove of consensus. We all want to pretend that we are all free people.

Unfortunately there is a problem with this newly created law. Legislation is a very blunt instrument with which to guide the behavior of millions of people. So regulation is necessary, to deal with the thousand and one contingencies that were not thought of in the original legislation. Hello Obamacare.

But regulation by bureaucrats and appointed commissions does not pretend to be the harmless consensus implied by a jovial bunch of politicians from both parties getting together while the president signs a bill into law in the Oval Office. It is just political appointees making a decision with the help of staff and the special interests.

Unfortunately there is a problem with newly created regulations. They are hopelessly inadequate to deal with the complexities of real life out in the world. And, of course, they tend to lean in favor of the current political party in power, its bribed apologists and its supporters.

Even so, the process of regulation is not fast or convenient enough for the supporters of the president's party. They want action, Now!  So presidents are reduced to the expedient of executive orders.

Now in my view there is another factor in play. I believe that the liberal ruling class, over the decades since the Reagan administration, has become more and more frustrated with their inability to manage the United States into a proper expert-led system. It has become harder and harder to pass big legislation; so they have developed various strategies for implementing their agenda by regulation. We have seen this is numerous ways in the Obama administration, from the FCC turning the internet into a regulated utility to the National Labor Relations Board rewriting labor law on the fly and now the HUD regulation to direct suburban land-use planning from on high to enforce proper diversity in housing.

And now we have President Obama's Iran deal that has been passed by the UN Security Council before Congress even had a chance to vote on it.

But it has become harder and harder for liberals to get the results they want with regulation. For one thing, as F.A. Hayek wrote in the 1940s, the man in Whitehall (where the UK bureaucrats work) cannot begin to know what a million consumers and producers know. So the liberal ruling class has needed the emergency device of the executive order to implement the top-down managerial policies they want in order to make society progress.

But I think this is a monstrous and strategic mistake.

In the first place it is a mistake to imagine that you can replace the infinitely adaptable universe of market relations with a single government program. But people do this all the time because they are afraid of economic change. This was the situation in Europe in the mid 19th century when Marx and the socialists came out with their grand plans to tame capitalism. Something had to be done as the economy was being completely transformed by the textile revolution and the steam revolution.

But since the first intervention inevitably fails, due to the man from Whitehall problem, the government's economic managers have to rely on regulation and modification of the original plan to shield people from the mindless march of capitalism. This is called the Law of Unintended Consequences.

And since the regulations fail to produce the results required, the liberal ruling class demand that the president use his phone and his pen to implement their agenda anyway.

But this is a terrible mistake, the kind of mistake committed by military juntas. No wonder, for army officers are military bureaucrats, not practical elective politicians. They just aren't very good at making the arbitrary ukases of government bureaucrats look like the freely assented consensus of the people.

I think that the Obama administration will play out in a "backlash" for decades, as ordinary people come to experience in detail the cruelties and injustices of the programs regulated and executive-ordered into existence in the eight Obama years.

Because the basic fact is that the Obama agenda has been implemented without the consent of the governed.

This shows that the liberal ascendancy is approaching its point of inflection. It no longer tries to obtain the consent of the governed. It just rolls over the sheeple and deploys its bully boys to cow them into submission.

But when a ruling dynasty is reduced to bully boys it is a sign that it is approaching its denouement.

Hey liberals! Humans are social animals. All this force you have deployed is a fundamental denial of our human nature.

Unfortunately, in the years after Obama, it is not going to be a case of simply repealing the laws and the regulations and the executive orders of cruel and unjust liberalism. It's going to be much more complicated and much more ugly than that.

No ruling class ever goes quietly. Nor do its supporters.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Netroots Nation Boos Presidential Candidates

One of Sean Trende's dicta is that political coalitions always fall apart. As he wrote in an February 2015 article on the "emerging Democratic majority" thesis:
In the end, political coalitions in a large, diverse republic such as our own are, and always have been, inherently unstable. Issues that bind groups together in one election disappear, while new issue cleavages threaten to break groups off. Coalitions are ultimately like water balloons: When you press down on one side, another side pops up. The Democratic coalition of the late aughts proves to be no exception.
First, the "Out" party forms a coalition of the disaffected that bury their differences in their common hatred of the cruel and unjust "In" party. They combine under the banner of Time for a Change and soon become the "In" party. But after a couple of presidential elections things haven't really changed, and the members of the new "In" party coalition fall to bickering -- about everything from who got what. They start to realize that they never liked those guys anyway.

Yet if you are a conservative and a Republican it seems, from the outside, that the Democrats maintain an astonishing party discipline. How come our guys never seem to get it together?

But here is cheering news. The latest Netroots conference showed that the Democrats' "Coalition of the Fringes" (H/T Steve Sailer) is starting to get badly frayed.

According to Rachel Alexander the main problem was that a group of black activists weren't having no truck with the idea that all lives matter.
[Martin] O’Malley began his speech talking about the need for ending private prisons and income inequality... [But] about 30 protesters streamed into the auditorium, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and yelling, “What are you doing to stop the killing of black men?” The protesters stopped his speech, and one took over the microphone for 15 minutes.
Then O'Malley resumed his speech with the notion that
“Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.”
That stopped the speech. The Netrooters weren't having anything like that.
They booed until O’Malley left the stage, with one woman standing on a chair screaming, “Burn this s**t down!” 
Then came Bernie Sanders, and he didn't do any better.
[Sanders] yelled as loud as he could, and the activists yelled over him while he said, “Black people are dying because we have a criminal justice system in this country that is out of control.” CNN reporter Chris Moody noted that when Sanders brought up Obamacare, people shouted, "We can't afford that!" 
Yay! The Netrooters have decided that they don't like Obamacare. Of course, what they want instead is "single-payer" which they could afford but which probably deliver a lot in the way of bureaucracy but wouldn't deliver too much in the way of health care.

But you know what I think? I think that the Obama administration's "Black Lives Matter" campaign is going to ream the Democrats in 2016. It's a slogan you want to confine to your visits to black underclass communities. You don't want to bother the 87% of people who are not black about it.

And it's all lies anyway. If you really care about black lives you'd start with the 70% of black children that start out life without a married father and mother. Then you'd proceed to the problem of gangs which amount to proto-states that the governments tolerate within their boundaries. What is the world is any self-respecting government doing allowing any rival state, such as a criminal gang, within its borders? Then you have the problem that ordinary citizens won't testify in court against gang members because of intimidation. Then you have the problem that the police a reduced to arresting gang members for minor "broken window" violations. Then you'd go onto education. Then you'd start to think about how all the "redlining" and "affordable housing" policies have ended up screwing blacks.

If you thought about all that you might have a problem with the rent-a-mobs yelling "Black Lives Matter" as though the problem were just a question of police brutality.

All is proceeding as Sean Trende has foreseen. After seven years of Obama the Obama coalition is starting to fall apart.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What Does President Obama Want?

Conservatives find President Obama rather a puzzle. Here's Mona Charen wondering whether the president is "witless or witting." After analyzing the results of his Iran agreement about which he has lied repeatedly, she decides that he knows exactly what he is doing.
But from his first inaugural address onward, Obama both secretly and openly wooed the Iranian regime. In the process, he repeatedly lied to the Congress, our allies, and the American people, settling, to my satisfaction at least, that he is inflicting this potential catastrophe wittingly.
Then there are new revelations about Obama's Chicago connections, who all seem to be red-diaper babies with actual connections to Communist Party members in Chicago around 1950. That means, according to "Mencius Moldbug" back in November 2008, that Obama is a small 'c' communist.
Arguing that Barack Obama is not a communist is like arguing that Mitt Romney is not a Mormon. Barack Obama is a communist by birth, breeding, education, and profession. His grandparents were communists, his parents were communists, his teachers were communists, his friends are communists, his colleagues are communists, he's a communist. Duh. 
Then he goes off into a riff on Alinsky:
If there's one thing to remember about Alinskyism, or indeed progressivism as a whole, it's that it is the perfect mental framework by which the lordly can do evil, while convincing themselves and/or others that they are small voices sticking up for good. 
Does that ring a bell, or what? So let's read Moldbug on the whole logic of the over-under coalition and its "activism."
In the crudest, most Machiavellian terms, "grassroots activism" is easy to explain. When examined, the grass always turns out to be Astroturf. The alliance of underprivileged and ultraprivileged is always initiated by the latter. The organizer brings youth, privilege, often a trust fund, talent, energy and ambition. The organized bring mass, muscle, power. Julius Caesar would recognize the arrangement at once. No points for guessing who tends to profit most from the alliance. And indeed David Axelrod, Obama's producer, is in his spare time a master of Astroturf.  
It's all about the sweet taste of power.

In my view, politics and government is always about war. Because government is force, it must always have an object in view that requires force: in other words, a war. Historically, a government has two choices; it can conduct foreign wars or domestic wars. The left overwhelmingly prefers domestic wars through "grassroots activism."

So it makes complete sense that the Obama presidency has been all about retreating from overseas wars and lying about it, and making war on the American people, and lying about it. Because that is what lefties do. And really, domestic war makes more sense for electoral politics, for it is all about demonizing the opposition and tempting supporters with promised loot.

So now we know what Obama wants. The question is: are we going to do anything about it? 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Explaining the Japan Syndrome: Quantitative Easing, Slow Growth, and Low Inflation

When Japan's post-Plaza Accord bubble economy popped in 1991 its government applied conventional Keynesian remedies, including low interest rates and big government deficits. All the experts were shocked when the economy failed to revive smartly from the crash, and even more surprised when "quantitative easing" also failed to revive the economy and ignite inflation.

The problem couldn't be Keynesian economics, so it had to be that Japan was a special case. But after the crash of the 2000s real estate bubble in the US and Europe the same thing happened. Interest rates were reset to zero, as in ZIRP, quantitative easing was implemented to flood the world with money, and growth was pitiful. So What Went Wrong?

In a recent paper "Understanding Benign Liquidity Traps: The Case of Japan(pdf)", Stefan Homburg of Leibniz University, Hannover, Germany, runs a couple of computer models and comes up with an answer.

The reason that Keynesian economics didn't work is because of "credit constraints" that prevented corporations from issuing as much debt as they might have wanted. And then meant less growth and lower prices. At least, Homburg's models can repeat the Japan experience if you assume that some sort of credit constraint applies.

But what sort of credit constraint? After all, the whole point of Keynesian expansionism is to take the safety valves off the economy and let her rip. Homburg cites the following possibilities:

  • Lack of collateral and declining land values.
  • Direct financial regulation, e.g., Basel Accords.
  • Unanticipated consequences of financial regulation.
We saw that in the United States mortgage borrowing cratered after the crash because so many people were underwater on their mortgages.

The first round of the Basel rules were applied in the early 1990s. The idea was to constrain bank lending to avoid bank failures. Some people might say that bankers know how to run their businesses better than professors and international bureaucrats.

I suppose you could say that in the aftermath of a crash the politicians and the bureaucrats rush to "do something" and typically that something is to impose tough new financial regulations at the very time that savvy investors like Mr. Potter are buying up bankrupt Bailey Building and Loans.

In other words it is during the post-crash period that credit standards should be relaxed, and then gradually resumed as the economy improves and animal spirits start to revive. But in the US we implemented Dodd-Frank and its evil twin the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to bury the financial system in regulation and paperwork.

There is another explanation, and that is that the the government's first priority is the financing of its debt. Low interest rates and credit constraints actually help the government in the post-crash period since it keeps the government's interest cost down and allows it to continue to reward its supporters without interruption. So it is possible that the "lost decade" in Japan and the slow Obama recovery are not a bug but a feature within the halls of the ruling class. After all, there hasn't been a revolution or riots in the streets. So what if the people are suffering under low growth! They don't seem unhappy enough to change their ruling class.

Greece, on the other hand...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Obama Ends Post-Ottoman Era

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I western diplomats got to carve up the Middle East in the Treaty of Sèvres, the Treaty of Lausanne, and the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Etcera, and don't forget the Balfour Declaration.

The result was an arbitrary drawing of boundaries that had little to do with tribal and religious reality on the ground; the Middle East became a plaything of the western powers. It existed under the hegemony of the winners of World War I, for such is the logic of war.

But now that hegemony is over, signed away by President Obama.

Now all good conservatives think that President Obama's Iran Agreement is utter folly, for it gives Iran a pathway to nuclear weapons. It is merely a side-effect of the agreement to end US hegemony in the Middle East.

If you think about it, Obama's apparently chaotic foreign policy does have a point. It seeks to end US hegemony as the world's dominant superpower. The reason it appears chaotic is that Obama can't really admit to us what he is trying to do. He uses the shibboleths of a century of foreign policy politics as a shield to distract attention from what he is really doing.

And that is the theme of his entire administration. He and his appointees have been trying to advance a left-wing agenda as fast as they can while pretending that there's nothing to see here: move along.

But maybe it is time for the west to end its Middle East hegemony. It has reduced the peoples of the Middle East to the status of spoiled children competing for the attention of Daddy.

Now that Obama in his feckless left-wing way has withdrawn the US from the Middle East, because colonialism, the first thing that has happened is that Israel and the Sunni Arabs have started to form an alliance. Who could have seen that coming?

Obviously there will be war in the Middle East, with horrible atrocities and casualties. And from time to time there may be a stoppage of oil, although I suspect not for long since oil is money.

The point is that it is probably past time to let the Middle East sort itself out, and let the various tribes and religions compete for supremacy. And meanwhile we in the rest of the world should frack, baby frack.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hillary Clinton's Messed-up Economics

Ever since the days of the Pharoahs, government has been expected to deliver prosperity, and woe betide the government that delivers Seven Lean Years from 2009-2015 instead of the required Seven Fat Years that obtained in the good old days of 1993-2001.

The truth is, of course, that there is very little that governments can do to make the economy better. There is a lot that they can do, and do do, to make things worse. That's because all governments take monies from productive economic actors and give it to their supporters.

Governments can't make it all better. They can't even command the tide to turn.

So Hillary Clinton's recent economic speech, labeled as "growth and fairness," delivered on Monday July 13, 2015 at the New School in New York City, points up the eternal problem of governments and the economy. Clinton is quick to complain about "an economy that still isn’t delivering" and about Wall Street and "short-termism." And she has the usual half-baked ideas to paper over the cracks. But she is pretty light on what government might be doing to make things worse. That is what ruling classes and their governments always do. They respond to every economic problem with more laws, more regulations, and more subsidies. They seldom worry about what government already does to screw things up.

Of course, the first thing to do is to blame Republicans.
For 35 years, Republicans have argued that if we give more wealth to those at top by cutting their taxes and letting big corporations write their own rules, it will trickle down, it will trickle down to everyone else. Yet every time they have a chance to try that approach, it explodes the national debt, concentrates wealth even more and does practically nothing to help hard-working Americans.

Twice now in the past 20 years, a Democratic president has had to come in and clean up the mess left behind.
Notice what she gets flat wrong here. Republicans don't argue that "we give more wealth to those at the top." Republicans argue that we reduce the top rate of taxes on income so that successful business owners will have more money to plow back into their businesses.

I'm sure that Hillary Clinton understands the difference between wealth and income. But the trouble is that she and her minions will end up believing the lie.  So after extolling the glories of the Clinton 1990s, she says:
Now today — today, as the shadow of crisis recedes and longer- term challenges come into focus, I believe we have to build a growth and fairness economy. You can’t have one without the other. We can’t create enough jobs and new businesses without more growth, and we can’t build strong families and support our consumer economy without more fairness. We need both.
Probably, as far as we can know anything about the mysteries of the economy and the market system, Clinton is dead wrong.

Probably the only thing that matters is growth. Once you have growth then everything else takes care of itself. When you don't have growth then everyone starts fighting over the crumbs. See Greece.

What happens when you get growth? First, the new successful businesses start hiring. So wages go up. Then the the successful business owners convert their capital gains into new enterprises. Which means more hiring, more jobs, a strong middle class with "strong families" and more "fairness."

Right now the hot growth sector is the "sharing" or "gig" sector from Uber to AirBnB and TaskRabbit. But Clinton doesn't like that because it threatens the old full-time job with benefits economy that center-left politicians have spent the last century manipulating and decorating for the benefit of their political supporters.

So Hillary Clinton gets out her two-handed economist.
This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation.

But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

So, all of these trends are real and none, none is going away. But they do not determine our destiny.
Exactly. The new gig economy is going to smash all the pretty little entitlements and benefits that politicians have worked into the old industrial economy to buy votes.

And, contra Clinton, the "trends" do indeed determine our destiny. There is nothing a Hillary Clinton is likely to do about it except get in the way and support rich established interests against the nimble new technologies and techniques. Just like politicians did in response to all the other economic revolutions of the last two hundred years, from textiles, to steam, to electricity to information.

Just like President Obama is doing by turning the internet into a regulated-utility Obamanet.

The real problem with innovation is that it devalues the contribution of the once-dominant industries and their workers. They must adapt to the new situation. Only they don't want to; humans never do.

What politicians could do would be to make it easier for workers to respond to the changes and get with the new changes. Supposedly government already does that with its training programs and assistance to displaced workers. But then government makes it hard and expensive for workers to change career because of its stultifying regulations on occupational licensing and credentialism and its subsidies for education that make it more expensive.
We also have to invest in our students and our teachers at every level, and in the coming weeks and months, I will lay out specific steps to improve our schools, make college truly affordable and help Americans refinance their student debt.

And let’s embrace –

(APPLAUSE)

– let’s embrace the idea of lifelong learning. In an age of technological change, we need to provide pathways to get skills and credentials for new occupations and create online platforms to connect workers to jobs.

There are exciting efforts underway and I want to support and scale the ones that show results.
Earth to Clinton. We have been "invest[ing] in our students and our teachers at every level" for decades, and I'm here to tell you that "we" have mostly been making things worse.

But you wonder. What in the world could government "invest in" that isn't going to involve big expensive bureaucratic organizations like our current educational blob.

Because maybe the really "exciting efforts underway" involve the gig economy where students can go to school and work at the same time. Or take time off from school to earn some money and then finish their schooling after they've built up some cash.

Maybe what the government could really do to help is to get out of education and cut all its regulations so that education could be lean and responsive and cheap.

It must be obvious even to second-rate minds that whenever government gets in to help with something then lean and responsive turns into bloated and slow, and ruinously expensive.

Look, I get Hillary Clinton's problem. She's got to sound upbeat and forward-looking, because voters are in a Time for a Change mood. But she's also got to take care of the Democratic Party's supporters. And almost every one of them is part of the problem.

Clinton's problem pulls her in two different directions. And the result is a mess.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Liberal Army Group A in the Caucasus

Kurt Schlichter has a piece out today saying: Hey, liberals changed the rules on politics, so here goes. We are no longer talking about the rule of law and allowing space for our political enemies. It's all about power, all the way.
Until now, we conservatives have been guided by “principles” and “values” that only serve to distract us from what’s really important. Under the new rules, we will no longer let arbitrary ideas about how America should work get in the way of maximizing our ability to exercise our authority over others. After all, our supremacy is a moral imperative.
And so on. The effect of the piece is to realize just how far liberals have gone in the Obama years, and how it is almost unthinkable for conservatives to abuse power like that. Because the whole point of conservatism, from Burke onwards, is to limit political power,

But I think that the lawlessness of the Obama liberals illuminates a huge fact. Liberalism is failing. Liberalism is failing and so liberals have to break the rules just to get through the day, in the way that an alcoholic has to start the day with the hair of the dog. Obamacare was never popular, so liberals had to break the rules to get it over the finish line. Then they had to put in on IVs and change the black letter law with illegal administrative actions to keep it on life-support. They had to mew up their Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Federal Reserve to protect it from assault.

That's why I think that we should think of liberalism like Nazis on the Eastern Front. The liberals failed to take their Moscow. That was the repulse they suffered in the Reagan era and the fall of communism. So now they are sending Army Group A into the Caucasus.

But what's the point? What did the Caucasus do for the Nazis except expose their left flank?

It's pretty obvious that right here in 2015 the natives are restless. Pretty soon there is going to be some non-name issue that will become as famous as the no-name Stalingrad on the Volga. Maybe Donald Trump is doing that with immigration. Maybe it will be something else.

I keep coming back to this. The reason for the rule of law and limited government and all the other shibboleths of modern politics is not that they are good and wonderful in themselves. It is that playing fair and limiting the power of government functionaries limits the amount of injustice that the government is able to inflict on ordinary people. It is the experience of injustice that gets people riled up and determined to form a head of rebellion.

So the reason that prudent politicians follow the Moynihan Rule and determine to pass big legislation with a 70-30 vote in the Senate is that they make sure that they can at least pretend to have a consensus for the change. Notice that the 70-30 vote is way above the 60 vote barrier required by the filibuster rule. With 70-30 you have persuaded a good part of the opposition that they had better climb on board because the train is leaving the station.

When Republicans repeal Obamacare in 2017 they need to observe the Moynihan Rule. They need about ten Democrats to vote for repeal and reform, Democrats afraid for their political lives. And if all goes well, there will be plenty of Democrats in the right frame of mind for that.

In my view Democrats have the same problem with green energy and gay marriage and the war against the suburbs to corral Americans into high density urban environments. They didn't ask permission for all that; they didn't build a consensus. They used the tactics of the bully and the mob. There will be hell to pay on all that, and the bill isn't even in the mail yet.

The words of Dr. No to 007, James Bond still apply. Obama liberals are fools, and fools must pay for their folly. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Worker and the Hedgie Should Be Friends

Ace has a long piece at the Ace of Spades HQ (H/T Instapundit) on class warfare within the Republican Party. The Middle/Working Class whites don't like the Professional Class (or Comfortable Class) and the Professionals don't like the crudities of the rubes down in the cubicles and on the factory floor. Ace calls down a plague on both their houses.
Both classes, frankly, disgust me, depending on the day of the week.
In fact, all politics is disgusting. I am re-discovering that as I read Eric Foner's Reconstruction. Back in the 1860s everyone -- radicals, abolitionists, workers, planters, hill-billies, freedmen, free blacks -- was out for themselves, didn't give a damn about anyone else, and wanted the government to do the dirty for them.

So yeah. Of course the ordinary middle class is embarrassing to educated folk, and of course the professional class are sickening hypocrites that suck up to the establishment left by sneering at the bigoted rubes.

Earth to conservatives: The whole point of a political coalition is that it's a group of people that hate each other, but hate the guys in the other party more.

I don't know what white ruling-class liberals think about their black and brown supporters. But I'll bet you'd learn a thing or two if you got to be a fly on the wall at some meeting of the great and good. The point is that, way back, your Marxes and your Frankfurt Schools cooked up an ideology that allowed elite snobs to patronize and gush over workers and blacks and browns and bribe them with other peoples' money and think that their kind were the most enlightened and evolved people in the world.

Talk about genius.

Never mind that liberals have in fact plunged African Americans into a cesspool of cultural disintegration, and are doing their best to do the same to Hispanics. Their ideology blinds them to all that, and lets them know that they are the bestest and brightest ever.

The other technique of the political ideology is to sow division in the other guy's ranks. That's what the Joe Soptic commercials were all about: Hey, white working class, the hedgies up at Bain Capital don't give a damn about you!

I'm here to say that, pace Rodgers and Hammerstein, "The worker and the hedgie should be friends."

In other words, we need an ideology, the right's equivalent of Marxism, that imagines a common interest between the capitalists and business owners and professionals on the one side, and the cubicle workers on the other.

The point of Marxism -- and its child, cultural Marxism -- is that the workers (and now the traditionally marginalized from women to blacks to gays and transgendered) -- are the salt of the earth and are being monstrously oppressed and/or exploited by the evil rich and/or racists, sexists, and homophobes. The educated and the evolved are called to minister to the oppressed and exploited, nd be a scourge to the evil oppressors and exploiters. More than that, they are called to be heroes, doing good in the world instead of merely making a buck like the booboisie.

The point of the new conservative ideology should be that the People of the Responsible Self, whether diligent workers toiling away in offices and service businesses or business owners and entrepreneurs and skilled professionals, are the good guys in this world. We are the people that make the products and deliver the services; we are the people that surprise the world with new technologies and business ideas. We are the ones that have been driving the economy for the last two hundred years as it grew from $1-3 per capita per day to $100 per capita per day.

Some of us are newly-born people of the responsible self, through the agency of enthusiastic Christianity. Some of us are responsible creatives, inventing technologies, risking everything in startups, leading great businesses and corporations that deliver products and services to the world. Some of us are advocates for freedom and limited government. Some of us are just fathers and mothers and good neighbors, raising a family and always ready to help a family member or a person down on their luck.

The point is that Ace is wrong. We shouldn't be disgusted with people who aren't like we are. We should be working together, building a new libertarian-conservative movement on the common faith in voluntary cooperation and limited government, combining a prudent, but realistic faith in tradition with a yearning to make the world better while observing the Hippocratic oath to do no harm.

We can do it, folks. We did it with the post-WWII conservative movement and we can do it again with a 21st century Fight for Freedom.

It's an irony that socialism, the idea that we are all brothers and sisters and should work together through brotherly love, in fact operates on the idea that rich and poor, white and black, are utterly irreconcilable and must fight to the death.

But classical liberalism and limited government promote the idea that, given appropriate defenses against enemies foreign and domestic everyone can get along if, paraphrasing JFK,they ask not what others can do for them, but what they can do for others.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Question of Neo-feudalism

If you go to Wikipedia's entry on neo-feudalism, you get the center-left ruling class's take on the concept. For them neo-feudalism means the privatization of governance, in big corporations. From the right it seems to be a way of critiquing the welfare state and social democracy.

But I want to think of neo-feudalism not as something imposed by a political or economic elite, but as something freely chosen by modern people.

I take as my text Eric Foner's Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877. In it he discusses the experience of the recently freed slaves in the mid 1860s.
For [the adjustment to a new social order] required the abandonment of some traditions inherited from slavery and the adaptation of others to the logic of the economic market, where the impersonal laws of supply and demand and the balance of power between employer and employee, rather than custom, justice, or personal dependency, determines a laborer's material circumstances. (p.106)
Many slaves refused to work for big plantations after getting freedom; others were outraged that they would have to find their own food.

We all, from left and right, use the word "feudalism" as a pejorative. From the left it is thrown at corporations and globalization; from the right it is thrown at big government and entitlements.

But I want to use the word in a different sense. I think that most of us choose to live in dependency. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics table of employed persons for 2014 shows 135 million wage and salary workers and only 8.6 million self-employed unincorporated workers. OK, so there are 23 million people in "management, business, and financial operations occupations," presumably including everyone from CEOs of mega-corporations down to the president of B&B Drywall and mid-level corporate bureaucrats.

I am trying to say that most of us reject a life directly exposed to "the impersonal laws of supply and demand." We choose to work for a boss as an employee, meaning that we let the boss deal with the day-to-day risks of supply and demand in return for a regular paycheck. And then we complain if he makes a killing, or if we get laid off because our "non-negotiable demands" have bankrupted his firm.

For many of us, even the risks of working for a small company and its exposure to the impersonal market are too much. We look for employment in a big corporation or a government where the impersonal laws of the market are far away, and insured against by seniority rules, grievance procedures and a pot-pourri of benefits and pensions.

Obviously there are many kinds of people in the world. Some are adventurers and seek out risk and difficulty. Others seek out a comfortable billet from which they can never be fired.

The problem is that neither the risk-taker nor the risk-avoider truly face reality. The risk-taker will fall back on relatives or the bankruptcy laws if his plans go awry. And the risk-avoider is never willing to pay the real cost of allocating all risks to his employer or his local politician. So we have highly-leveraged bankers and hedge-fund operators looking for a bailout during a financial meltdown. And we have government pensioners outraged by "austerity" and oblivious to the fact that their demands end up bankrupting the nation when the government runs out of other peoples' money.

So what's the solution? It's perfectly simple. We reduce the incidence of force. If the risk-taker gets in trouble we help him because he's a human just like the rest of us. If the risk-avoider gets laid off because his employer has been asleep for the last 50 years we help him too. Because he's human and we are too.

But I don't believe we want to encourage people to believe they have a right to assistance, enforceable by government enforcement officers. That way is the law of the jungle, not the kindly assistance of neighbors and friends.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Whose Side is Trump On?

Did you know that Donald Trump is a friend of the Clintons, and has contributed to their campaigns? I didn't either.

I say that because when Jonah Goldberg complains that Donald Trump is turning Hispanics away from the GOP with his crude complaint that Mexico is sending criminals and rapists to the US, maybe that's the point.

Maybe the supposedly Republican Trump, the pal of the Clintons, is doing a bit of double-agent work.

I say this because it is still remarkable to me how the independent campaign of Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 helped elect Bill Clinton. We know that Ross Perot hated the Bushes; maybe that's all there was to his campaign. Maybe.

The thing about Hillary Clinton is that she's not very imaginative. (Oh, you've noticed!) So you wouldn't be surprised to see her trying to reprise the techniques of 1992 when she and Bill were young.

You never know. With Hillary Clinton's luck, Donald Trump might turn out to be a net plus for the Republicans.

Look at it this way. No sooner had Trump damned all immigrants than an illegal immigrant felon, released from custody in the sanctuary city of San Francisco, killed a nice middle-class white woman on the tourist waterfront. (A "sanctuary city" is a liberal enclave that arrogates to itself the right not to obey federal immigration law. Do not try this if you are a Christian bakery.)

So that allows Republican presidential candidates to say that they utterly reject the racist sexist nativist rhetoric of Donald Trump. But they also declare that it is time for liberals in their precious gentry liberal enclaves to start obeying immigration law before more innocent middle-class white women tourists are shot down in cold blood.

After all, the whole point of politics is to turn lemons into lemonade.

So, to you folks panicking that Trump is throwing away the Latino vote, and to you Democrats that think that Trump will hand the 2016 election to Hillary, I say: hold your horses.

Let's just say that Donald Trump is a bull in a china shop. And there is no telling whose precious china he will smash.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Grecian Formula for Game Theory

It is said by Jeremy Bulow and Kenneth Rogoff in the Wall Street Journal that the Greek "Yanis Varoufakis, who was pushed out as finance minister on Monday, prided himself on using game theory in his negotiations." Could be.

But game theory also includes the Prisoner's Dilemma. In a repeated game the Prisoner's Dilemma shows that in a long-term relationship it always pays to be trustworthy. But in a final transaction with another party it always pays to cheat.

So I get what the national socialist leaders of Greece's Syriza Party are doing. They are doubling down, playing double or quits. They are playing the final game where it pays to cheat. Because it is not their money that they are playing with.

They are playing the 150 year old game of the left: pay up or we will teach you a lesson.

And France's socialist President Hollande and the lefty Spanish party Podemos, and Italian Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement are all agreed that the EU (i.e., the Germans) should pay up and keep the Greek pension checks coming.

But I am interested in my own game theory, that every government is an armed minority in some territory that supports itself by rewarding its supporters with taxes on the work and wealth of the people in its sovereign territory.

The corollary of my theory is that you must think of the government and its supporters as an army on the march. Never mind about the battles: the first priority of the generals of the army must be to keep its soldiers fed and clothed. Because once the food gives out and the boots fall apart then the army will collapse and the generals won't have an army any more.

Now you understand what the July 5 Greek referendum was about. It was held to rally the troops one more time, to get them to forget for a week that they are running out of food and medicines, to keep the Syriza army in being for one more week so that the Greek government could keep up its rhetoric and keep threatening the EU and its bureaucrats.

The other lefty European parties have chimed in because that's their game too. To keep marchn' and protestin' in the faith that disruption will shake out new benefits from the political system. For now.

I use these metaphors for a reason: to demonstrate the cruelty and injustice of the left's politics. They use their supporters like soldiers in the armies of old, when poor villagers went for a soldier because they were starving. They use them for their power games, but in the end they leave them to die by the side of the road, sick and starving, as the generals of armies have ever done.

Once you accept the government's free stuff you are starting on the road that leads to Greece. You are placing a life bet that the government's checks will keep coming. But the trouble is that you are placing a bet like the starving yokel of the 18th century. You are forsaking the chance to become self-supporting with work and service, and marching down the road to nowhere, hoping that the government's commissary keeps the food coming.

In the aftermath of the July 5 referendum the Greeks were laughing and chanting in the streets. For what? That they were brilliantly manipulated by their leaders for one more week?

In the end, such leaders end up like Robespierre, sent to the guillotine and reviled as the "dirty Maximum."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Next Up: Greek Limbo

All of us peasants just want the Greeks to be kicked out of the Euro so we can get on with our lives. But James Delingpole doesn't think so. Because, as was true of the Soviet Union, you are not allowed to leave the Euro or the EU.

That's because "we" are the Ruling Class of educated experts and "we" will decide when it's time to go.

The annoying thing about Syriza and the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is that they know exactly how to play against the educated ruling class. They would, since they are part of it. Educated lefty experts.

Incidentally, why aren't people calling them "fascists?" They are blaming foreigners and Jews. They have a "stab in the back" myth. And they seem to think that they can do anything they like to the economy. Let's see. A socialist is a lefty pushing class warfare. A fascist is a lefty pushing race warfare. A progressive is a lefty pushing identity politics warfare.

Let's look at all this through my microscopical lens. In which any government is an armed minority occupying some territory and using the usufruct (the right to enjoy the use and advantages of another's property short of the destruction or waste of its substance) of the people that live there to reward its supporters.

Oh, maybe "usufruct" is too tame a word, since what governments typically do is use the peoples' property and destroy it as well.

The way this racket works in the modern age is that politicians bidding for power offer potential supporters benefits and pensions. They they win. Then they enact pensions for their supporters. Then they run out of other peoples' money. Then the fun begins.

The fun in the Greek case is that the Greek governments have been playing the game perfectly for 20 years. They entered the EU on a lie, but a lie that perfectly aligned with the needs of the politicians, to offer their voters more benefits. Then in 2009 the whole thing went belly up. But not completely, because Greece was able to take advantage of the EU ruling class's need to keep Greece in the EU. They could continue their unsustainable pensions by borrowing more money from the EU ruling class.

How unsustainable? Rich Galen has the numbers:
According to Eurostat, the EU statistical arm, Greece leads the EU in percentage of GDP that goes to pay pensions: 17.5 percent. Although we think that every dollar we earn is going toward someone's pension in the U.S. that number is about 6.8 percent of GDP.
The thing to remember is that the Greek leaders are not in the same boat as the Greek voters. They don't care if the pensions can't be paid. They'll find some other gig somewhere. And meanwhile they are having the time of their lives winning elections, running plebiscites, tweaking the noses of the rich uncles in Frankfurt, Berlin, and Brussels. Emile Zola already had that figured out over a century ago in Germinal. Community organizer, name of Etienne, comes into town, organizes the striking miners, leads them to sabotage the mines, then skips town as the miners face starvation.

And the same goes for the politicians and bureaucrats running the EU (and the US). They don't care about you and me. It's not their money. Their pals will give them a gig, somewhere, somehow. And if they don't it was all great while it lasted. Power is the great aphrodisiac, said Henry Kissinger.

And the band plays on.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Wake Me When It's Over

We've seen this all before. It was back in the 1960s that the Democrats got a big presidential win and passed a bunch of big-government programs. And the left figured that they were going to take over. There were the hippies and the New Left and Cloward-Piven. The hippies were going to make love, not war. The New Left, inspired by Frankfurt School acolyte and One Dimensional Man Herbert Marcuse were going to transform politics, and Profs Cloward and Piven were going to overthrow the establishment with street action.

Well, they got their Medicare and Medicaid forever, and hippiedom too. And they successfully moved the center of gravity of left-wing politics from class to identity. But Cloward and Piven failed to crash the system.

And most of all the average American just wanted to live a middle-class life in peace. This was symbolized by Ben Wattenberg's 47-year-old housewife from Dayton, Ohio in his book The Real Majority. The theme was taken up by Richard Nixon and his Vice-President Agnew who talked about the "silent majority" that hadn't been yelling its head off during the Sixties.

And so we got a conservative revolution and Ronald Reagan and a 20 year economic boom.

Evidently liberals have interpreted the Obama victory of 2008 as a call for a new Sixties and a new lurch to the left, even though the result has been the most Republican Congress in almost a century.

Of course, after the Supreme Court decisions on Obamacare and gay marriage it looks like the liberals were right. But I have a feeling that they are going to be radically, embarrassingly wrong.

The thing is that we don't know, we can't know, because liberals have forbidden anyone to disagree with them.

But the question is: can we roll back the Obamacare entitlement? Everyone knows that once you give people an entitlement they will resist reform until the place goes Greece. But we must remember that Obamacare was not like Medicare and Social Security which gave the broad middle class something they had never had before. The average American already has health insurance and the average American is pretty upset that Obamacare has messed with their health insurance. Also, I suspect that the folks getting the Obamacare subsidies are pretty upset and confused right now.

As for the social issues like gay marriage: In my view the decisive demographic in all social issues is women: middle-aged women, just like Ben Wattenberg discovered in the 1960s. That's because things like abortion and marriage are central to women's lives. In the end it doesn't matter what the ruling class -- or men -- wants on social issues. What matters is what women want.

It turned out, after Roe v. Wade, that women do not want unrestricted abortion as the high-class feminists wanted. That's because for the average woman, child-bearing is central to her life. Not so much for elite women. There's a similar aspect to gay marriage. Lots of elite people are gay or know someone who is gay. Down in the trenches, not so much. And marriage is central to the life of a middle-class woman.

As you know, I look at the world through the filter of my three peoples model: people of the creative self, people of the responsible self, and people of the subordinate self. Because of the influence of the people of the creative self we all get the impression that everyone agrees with their current enthusiasm. In all the fuss and feathers of elite-class enthusiasm it takes a long time for the influence of the people of the responsible self to be heard.

I was out to dinner last night with Lady Marjorie and her mother and her niece at Ray's Boathouse in Seattle: the last night before the Fourth of July holiday weekend. We were at a table for five, but nearby were several middle-aged middle-class couples out on date night sitting together in booths that looked out on a sun-drenched Puget Sound. It was touching to see the satisfaction of the wives to be out to dinner with their husbands. They looked, from moment to moment, at their husbands with gentle married love. From time to time they would gently put an arm around their husbands.

What do people like that think about things in Obama's America? That's what I want to know.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Unanticipated Consequences of High Deductible Obamacare

The big takeaway on Obamacare is the mindless ruling-class faith in bureaucracy and regulations. Set up an administrative system, the Obamateers seems to think, and equitable benefits will result.

Of course that is pure fantasy. What really happens when a government sets up an entitlement system is that people learn how to game it. Like welfare. Like Medicare. And the costs spiral out of sight.

You dangle a bunch of free stuff in front of the voters and then hide the costs in Medigaps and do-nut holes. But it still costs an arm and a leg.

That's why I was really surprised by the Bronze-Silver-Gold metallic system for Obamacare. To get the only affordable plans you need to go for the Bronze plan. But the Bronze plan typically has eye-wateringly high deductibles. To get rid of the deductibles you have to go for the Gold. But the Gold plan has eye-wateringly high premiums.

In the high-deductible plans that big corporations have implemented to control costs they typically sweeten the pot with Health Savings Accounts so you can pay for your deductibles. In Obamacare they sweeten the pot with subsidies on your premiums. And reports indicate that Obamacare subsidy customers are getting blown away both by the premiums and the deductibles, so that they don't pay their premiums and don't go to the doctor.

The high-net-worth Jonathan Grubers of the world that designed Obamacare should have taken a look at the mini-med plans that corporations offer to their low-wage workers. These plans typically offer co-pays for routine medical expenses. They don't offer real insurance coverage against big bills.

Hey, Prof. Gruber. The low-wage workers don't need traditional heath insurance policies because they don't have a high net worth to protect from unexpected health care costs. And that probably goes for all the people that qualify for Obamacare subsidies.

People without high net worth can get health care and then declare bankruptcy when the going gets tough.

I don't know how smart the Republicans are. But they might think about exploiting this minor little flaw in Obamacare. Or not.

But the Wall Street Journal has come out with an article about the impact of the high-deductible Obamacare plans. David Goldhill and Paul Howard write:
As millions of Americans move onto high-deductible plans, they will change their behavior—and the incentives of the market. Under these plans, in a typical year consumers will pay most, if not all, of their health-care expenses out of pocket. Since they will be spending their own money, they will compare prices for checkups and procedures. Providers will have to earn their business on the basis of quality, price and service, the way companies do in the other four-fifths of the U.S. economy. Competition has the potential to transform America’s sclerotic, overpriced health-care system into something much more transparent and affordable.
You wonder: did the Obamateers really understand that? They don't seem to like it. That's the point of the current "underinsured" campaign that is starting to hit the media. Many Democratic voters are perplexed at having to pay for any health care out-of-pocket.

But for Goldhill and Howard this unanticipated consequence of Obamacare is an unexpected opportunity. We market fundamentalists understand that the only way that we can get the health care system to respond to consumer needs is to irradiate it with the cleansing rays of market prices. Imagine if the Obamateers accidentally wrote a bill and after we found out what was in it we discovered that it would beat the special health care interests into line and force them to deliver what the customer needs and wants at a price the customer is willing to pay.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ban Polygamy Now!

The slippery slope argument against gay marriage was that, next, we'll see the social justice warriors insisting upon "polyamory," or polygamy. And of course, no sooner had Justice Kennedy imposed gay marriage on America than the push for polygamy began.

(By the way, I voted for gay marriage in Washington State Referendum 74 which passed 53.7% to 46.3% in 2012, but I still think it's stupid.)

In The American Spectator today Scott McKay proposes, among other things, that Republican candidates should "Push a constitutional amendment to ban polygamy, and demand the Democrat nominee join you in making it happen."

I couldn't agree more. You only have to watch Raise the Red Lantern to realized what a bad idea polygamy is. If nothing else each wife is fighting with the other wives to get hubby into her bedroom so that she can get pregnant and raise her status. It doesn't seem like #LoveWins there.

Oh well. As Doc Martin says, I don't see why everyone has to be happy.

The real problem with polygamy is that it cuts low-status males out of the marriage market. As my daughter Beatriz Williams writes in her Tiny Little Thing, the attitude of women towards husbands is "why not the best?" Perfectly natural and physical. But when high-status men grab all the girls for themselves, guess who gets left standing when the music stops in the game of musical chairs?

Polygamy is profoundly inegalitarian. Monogamy, on the other hand, is profoundly egalitarian. Monogamy gives the lower-status man a chance at love and marriage and children. Polygamy, not so much.

But wait! Don't liberals looove the poor and the marginalized? How could they advocate policy that bears down so cruelly on the poor?

In that case liberals would hate the welfare state. As Charles Murray writes in Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010 the administrative welfare state of the liberals has turned low-income America into a no mans land of dysfunction where the men don't work and the women don't marry.

Why don't liberals do something about the horrors of the welfare state? Because liberals care about themselves: their power and their class interests. When it comes to the poor, liberals only care about their votes. Family destruction in the inner city is no skin off liberal noses. Those voters keep voting for their benefits, so they must be happy with their liberal political leaders.

But why are liberals so bent on sexual libertinism?

Liberals are the people of the creative self. One of the easiest ways to get creative is on the sexual front. It doesn't take any effort, doesn't take any years of training. You just follow your bliss. And there's always parents to bail you out of trouble.

Also liberals are culturally and politically opposed to the people of the responsible self and their bourgeois notions about cultural matters.

Of course today liberals will swear on a stack of constitutions that they would never vote for polygamy, just as Candidate Obama in 2008 found that his faith prevented him from proposing gay marriage.

OK, writes Scott McKay. Let's call the liberals' bluff on polygamy. Let's ask them to vote for an anti-polygamy Constitutional Amendment and see what happens.