Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's Not the President Who's "Unteachable"

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had an edit page piece on "An Unteachable President." And the whole conservative commentariat chimed in too.

Yeah, the president is unteachable. Unreachable even. But that's not the point. President Obama is not an island entire of itself. He is exactly what the liberal ruling class wanted. First of all, black, so it can pat itself on the back for its evolvement and its fight against racism. But the whole constellation of President Obama's policies, from Obamacare to green energy to the response to the "rape crisis" in the universities, all of it is just what the liberal professor wanted from his willing student.

It is not President Obama who is unteachable. It is the whole liberal ruling class.

It is not just President Obama who wanted to ram Obamacare down America's throat, it's the whole liberal ruling class. They think that they are called to design and administer the whole US health care system, because fairness, and nothing is going to talk them out of it.

It is not just President Obama trying to ram green energy down our throats, it's the whole liberal ruling class. They think that the science is settled, the earth is going to fry, and they have a moral duty to manage the switch from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable energy, and nothing is going to talk them out of it.

It is not just President Obama pushing the whole sexism, racism, homophobia agenda, it's the whole liberal ruling class. They think that racism is America's Original Sin, and they are called to atone for it--with your money and your life and your job. That's what the whole "victim culture" is all about. The world is full of victims, and the liberal ruling class is called to advocate for them.

It is obvious that nothing is going to educate the liberal ruling class, nothing except a rebellion.

A couple of early 20th century philosophers knew what had to be done in a case like this. Smokoe Joe of Brendan Chase and The Badger of The Wind in the Willows both understood that, with certain people, you can't teach them. You "learn 'em."

That is the situation we face with liberals. There is no way of teaching them. Why, they are supposed to be the teachers, the educated evolved ones. So we will have to "learn 'em." This is also known as learning the hard way when your fashionable theories collapse of their internal contradictions and you lose political power to the insurgents.

If you look back, we almost had liberals on the ropes in the 1980s. Liberals said in the late 1970s that in the complicated modern world America was ungovernable. So the inflation and recession and the failures of President Carter were facts of nature. Nothing can be done, as the song has it.

Then came President Reagan and proved them all wrong. And then WASPy President Bush succeeded him. Liberals made a tactical correction and pretended that they were New Democrats and that they agreed that "the era of big government is over." But they couldn't change their spots, didn't even want to. And so we got to President Obama and his "fundamental transformation." I wonder who taught him that catchphrase?

The good thing is that we can definitely experience the existential disquiet bubbling up in the great American middle class. They know that something is wrong.

But look, this is democracy. Just because the people think that something is wrong doesn't mean that help is on the way. We could elect a chucklehead for President who could compound the Obama liberal errors into a real disaster. All that the voters can do is vote for Four More Years or they can vote for Time for a Change. That is all.

The good news is that almost all the Republican candidates are proposing about the same agenda. That's not surprising. They all have pollsters, and they all have conservative intellectual policy analysts, and they all swim in the same water.

The bigger problem is how to change the culture. How to delegitimize the victim culture. How to up-vote bourgeois dignity, bourgeois equality, and bourgeois virtue and down-vote the sexual revolution, entitlements, and the victim culture of Julia the Government Girl, Pajama Boy, Mattress Girl, and Clock Boy.

It's the cultural agenda that troubles me. Because we have not yet begun to fight.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Robert Reich and "Rigging the System"

Perennial leftist Robert B. Reich has a piece out on "rigging the system" and "The Real Divide in America."

After doubting the sincerity of GOP candidates like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and their rhetoric against "fat cats" and the "rich and powerful" he admits that things have changed.
It is likely that in coming years the major fault line in American politics will shift from Democrat versus Republican to antiestablishment versus establishment.

That coming divide will pit much of the middle class, working class, and poor, all of whom see the game as rigged, against many of the executives of large corporations, the inhabitants of Wall Street, and the establishment billionaires, who are perceived as doing the rigging.
What chaps like Reich cannot seem to understand is that everything that government does amounts to "rigging the system." I've been reading Eric Foner's Reconstruction, a blow-by-blow account of the ten years after the Civil War. It was a disaster, and the disaster had mostly to do with the fact that everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted the government to rig the system in their favor.

Let's take one issue: railroads. In the 1860s railroads were like green energy today. Everyone wanted the government to get into it. They proposed grants and subsidies, and many state governments went into debt to help finance railroads in their states. But when the railroads were up and running then the farmers got all pissed off because they didn't like the sky-high freight rates and the discounts that were only available to big shippers. So they wanted government to rig the system in their favor and give the farmers lower rates. (Never mind that before the railroads there was no way to ship farm products except by water and by horse and cart.) In other words, Americans are shameless. They want the government to rig the system in their favor, and they are enraged when the government rigs the system for somebody else.

The problem, Robert Reich, is not the big establishment players rigging the system. The problem is that we the people open the doors to rigging by voting for the government to do stuff. As soon as you allow the idea that it is beneficial for government to spend public money on some worthy purpose you are opening the door for moneyed interests to lobby for the government to subsidize their purpose.

The consequence is that privilege gets piled on privilege, system rigging follows system rigging until the whole economy is bound hand and foot with special carve-outs for everyone -- or at least everyone that can get the attention of a politician.

Could that be a credible explanation for the anemic Obama recovery?

The problem, Robert Reich, is that liberals like you have sanctified a particular form of system rigging, the kind that creates jobs and power for credentialed experts and political activists and distributes benefits to the "middle class, working class, and poor" in the form of social services. Next thing you know, the "executives of large corporations, the inhabitants of Wall Street, and the establishment billionaires" show up to "help" deliver those social services. That's why Obamacare was a total sell-out to Big Health and Big Pharma. If you want to give free health care to Nancy Pelosi's artists and writers then you have to write a check to the folks that will actually deliver the health care to those deserving voters.

But why do I have to tell you that, Robert B. Reich? Surely you are smart enough to figure that out for yourself.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis Elected by Lefty Cardinals

The election of Pope Francis was a surprise to me. I thought that the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI meant that the Catholic Church had turned away from lefty social and political fashion.

Now the boys at Powerline have made everything clear. Pope Francis was the project of a cabal of lefty cardinals determined to reverse the conservative trend of John Paul and Benedict.
The group wanted a drastic reform of the Church, to make it “much more modern”, and for Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to head it. 
OK. That explains everything. I suppose it's only natural that the Catholic Church should have factions, with one wanting to bring the church kicking and screaming into the modern age and the other wanting to reconnect with the basics of Christian faith.

But I wish that the College of Cardinals would read, learn and inwardly digest the work of Rodney Stark, sociologist of religion. In numerous books he has developed the idea that churches (and their more extreme versions in sects and cults) are faith organizations in some tension with the rest of society. The more they are in tension the more they need to establish and maintain strict rules for member behavior. The Jehovah's Witnesses are an example of a sect in strong tension with secular society and with strict rules for members. The Unitarian Church might just as well be the liberal ruling class at prayer; it is not in tension with the larger liberal society and does not enforce church discipline. This is all explained in Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion by Rodney Stark and Roger Finke.

According to Stark, the decisions that church leaders make about tension and strictness will strongly influence the size of the church. There is a bell curve on church popularity. Both very low tension/strictness churches and very high tension/strictness churches tend to be small. The sweet spot is moderate tension and moderate strictness. Stark explains the decline of the "mainline" Protestant churches from the decision of their leaders to get more "modern" and reduce the tension with the rest of society and strictness enforced upon members. They moved out of the sweet spot of moderate tension/strictness into the less favorable low tension/strictness zone.

Now the Catholic Church used to be a moderately high tension/high strictness church. This seemed to be highly satisfying to the priests and nuns and to the loyal members. It was highly unsatisfying to the highly vocal Catholic children that experienced suffocation and domination from their Catholic childhoods. But the fact is that when the Church executed a lowering of tension and strictness in Vatican II membership fell off dramatically. And Stark shows that "vocations" -- meaning people entering the priesthood or a religious order -- is highest in the US in conservative Catholic dioceses.

So now comes another reform group anxious to liberalize the Catholic Church, reduce its tension with outside society on issues like marriage and climate change, and become more modern. What could go wrong with that?

This all dovetails with my Three Peoples theory. On my view, Christian churches are agencies that facilitate the transition from the People of the Subordinate Self to the People of the Responsible Self. Church reformers like the Vatican II chaps and the cabal that got Pope Francis elected are People of the Creative Self feeling irritated by the schlumps that want to keep on with the job of helping People of the Subordinate Self graduate into the sunny uplands of the People of the Responsible Self.

So, on my view stolen from Rodney Stark, the Pope Francis chaps are going to make the Catholic Church smaller. And that's a shame, because the Catholic Church is needed as never before helping Africans, Asians, and South Americans get out of their age-old subordinate peasant culture and become competent city dwellers and People of the Responsible Self. And that is to say nothing of demoralized underclass people in the developed West.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Are Republicans "Needlessly Alienating Large Chunks of the Electorate?"

Here comes Charles Krauthammer rounding up the usual suspects. Ben Carson is needlessly insulting Muslims and Donald Trump is needlessly insulting Mexican Americans.

Really?

And what about Hillary Clinton who is determined to run on the "rape culture" platform. Is not the rape culture campaign needlessly alienating large chunks of the electorate, namely men?

So let's get real, chaps.

First of all there is Chantrill's Second Law: Politics is Division.

Alienating chunks of people is what politicians do. They do it in order to rally the folks on their own side. The idea is not, of course, to alienate, so much as to divide the electorate down the middle with 51 percent or more voting for your side. The time-honored strategy is to call out some minority, within the borders or without, and suggest that they are a threat to the nation.

Ideally, of course, your enemy should be what H.L. Mencken called a "hobgoblin" that doesn't get to vote. Liberals are the experts in this, with their hate campaigns against "greedy bankers" and job-killing CEOs. How many people are turned off by that? Just a few libertarians like me.

But, of course, liberals don't stop at alienating bankers and CEOs. They are positively ferocious about alienating racists, which could include all white people. They are ruthless about hunting down sexists, which could expand to the set of all males. They are fanatic about stamping out homophobia, which could include all heterosexuals.

Talk about large chunks of the electorate!

David Brooks is harping on a similar theme.

Let's step back a bit. This whole frou-frah goes back to what we will stipulate was a good liberal sentiment of the 1960s and the civil rights movement. The idea was to stop the automatic racism and marginalization of black people. Let us give liberals a gold star for that.

But there is a dark side to this. Conservatives have recently got all hot and bothered about it. It is the conscious leftist strategy, invented by the Frankfurt School, to rile up and separate minority groups from the general population and stigmatize anyone that says a discouraging word against these clients of the liberals. We have seen this political strategy expressed as the future of the Democratic Party in the iconic The Emerging Democratic Majority by Judis and Teixeira in which the future in America belongs to a coalition of minorities, women, the educated and the young.

Hello Krauthammer and Brooks. Do you not see that this Frankfurt School strategy and its culture of political correctness amounts to nothing less than "needlessly alienating large chunks of the electorate," specifically the great honest mass of people that think of themselves as "typical Americans" in the service of a cynical political strategy that aims to fundamentally transform America from a middle-class society of live and let live into a politically mobilized activist state of warring identity groups led by liberals.

Over the last 20 years liberals have successfully divided America by cowing large chunks of Americans into submission through their culture of political correctness that they learned from Frankfurt Schoolman Herbert Marcuse. Their politics was cynically divisive but it worked because the people that they "needlessly alienated" were at the same time cowed into submission.

But suppose these large chunks of alienated people started fighting back? What would it look like? 

I suggest it would look like USA 2015.

Let us give liberals their due, on minority rights and immigration.

It's a good thing to restrain the natural instinct of the majority to marginalize the minority.  But when you amp this up to intimidating the majority and using minorities as cat's paws to humiliate the majority then you are sowing the wind and about to reap the whirlwind.

It is a good thing to leaven the national dough with immigration, but the ruling class first of all owes the native population a chance at a decent life and upward mobility before it lets one immigrant (like me) in the door. Immigration increases the labor supply and that drives down wages. Period. And it impacts the low-skilled native population most keenly. Anyone that argues against this is denying settled science. To coin a phrase.

At some point the voters are going to push back against a ruling class that favors the minority over the majority and refuses to defend the border against illegal immigrants.

Now I think that President Obama has been the trigger that has fired off the push-back. To understand why you could start with this piece about "Bully's Pulpit" by Jay D. Homnick. Jay talks about how Obama bullies his opponents and disrespects them. Talk about alienating large chunks of Americans.

I have written several times that it is one thing to demonstrate and protest and fling insulting words around when you and your party are the Out party. It is quite another thing when you do this as president of the In party.

Liberals have been playing this game of cultural bullying for so long that it just seems to them the natural order of things. They are right and the racists, sexists, homophobes are wrong. It is their historic destiny to curb and correct the atavisms of the American people. They have made the "protest" into a holy religious ceremony and the "activist" into an eternal hero fighting for the powerless against the powerful.

You see, it is one thing to protest if you are truly the helpless and the powerless. But it is rather a different matter, as in Ferguson, Missouri, when the protesters are celebrated by the President of the United States and the ruling class.

Hey liberals! Whose job is it to curb the atavisms of liberals?

I think this liberal culture of bullying is in the early stages of experiencing its moment of truth. It has worked thus far because its targets have been the middle class. Now the middle class, cultural product of the great global exchange economy, are what I call the People of the Responsible Self. They live by working and relating responsibly in the global exchange economy where the watchword is Trust. You trust anyone and everyone unless they demonstrate untrustworthiness. So when liberals descend on the great American middle class and accuse it of racism, sexism, and homophobia, the average middle-class person assumes liberal good faith and looks at himself and sees he is not perfect. That is the culture of the exchange economy's trust culture.

But what happens when the liberals have demonstrated their bad faith, when they have shown that the idea of their politics is merely to cow the great American middle class into submission for the greater glory of liberal politics? What happens when they put up a candidate for president that's the worst liar in US history? That is the question we are now facing. We will have the answer in November 2016.

Because the truth, contra Charles Krauthammer, is that Muslims are a problem for the peaceful development of the global exchange economy. The truth, contra the Beltway ruling class, is that immigration on the scale of the last 50 years is a problem for the harmonious development of the American nation.

And if we don't face facts now we will have to face facts later.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ben Carson, American Exceptionalism and the Huddled Masses

In conversation with a Democratic operative with a byline that is married to another Democratic operative the Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson opined as how he had a problem with a Muslim getting elected as President of the United States.

Because sharia, the notion that Allah and state are one, and taqiyya, the doctrine that Muslims are called to lie about their real intentions.

Of course every liberal in the nation immediately threw themselves on the nearest fainting couch. Because how dare Ben Carson say anything so Islamophobic?

Mind you, I kinda wish that Carson's concern about taqiyya had also been applied to presidential candidate Barack Obama. Isn't it pretty obvious that a lot of his agenda was hidden from the American people, including the notion that he is a Christian? And what about the notion in his famous 2004 convention speech about the pundits slicing America into red states and blue states? Who would have thought that such a high-mnded orator would turn into the cynical divider of 2009-2015? For the truth about Obama is that he is a guy who walks and talks and acts like a secular liberal that believes in the 39 Articles of Liberal Faith with a passion. Now that he is president.

But it all made me think. For Carson's concern is the concern of anyone that believes in American exceptionalism, that the US founding was a unique combination of culture and political ideas, and that every new immigrant group to the US presents a challenge, because they bring to the US a culture that might not assimilate to the glorious exception that is America.

There are two common responses to this problem. The first is what I would call American Apprenticeship. The idea is to indoctrinate the children of immigrants into the culture of American exceptionalism, to tell them that, while we honor and respect where they came from, we also expect them to read, learn and inwardly digest the political, social, and economic culture of America before they take the stage as fully-fledged Americans. This, of course, is what the old idea of the "common school," advocated by Horace Mann in the 1830s, was all about. It was designed to cure the Irish of their shanty Irish culture and their Catholicism. And anything else that needed correction.

The second approach is what we might call the Liberal Plantation. The idea is to indoctrinate the children of immigrants into the culture of liberal victimhood, to tell them that their culture is just as good as ours and that we should honor the differences. Anyway, America has a pretty lousy record, featuring slavery, racism, discrimination and marginalization and "Irish Need Not Apply," when it comes to immigrants. So liberals tell immigrants that they are just as good as any native-born Americans, that any opposition to them and their culture is some sort of -phobia, and that liberals and the Democratic Party are their only friends while native-born Americans are mean-spirited bigots on the wrong side of history. Any difficulties they face in getting up to speed in America are due to racism, sexism, and, in the case of Muslims, Islamophobia.

History shows that both approaches suck. If we take the Irish, the despair of Boston Brahmins in the 1830s, we note that the Irish responded to the "common school" by taking the Catholic Church mainstream, putting St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and building their own parochial school system, building first the school and then the church. How cool is that?

If we take African Americans, the darlings of today's liberals, we note that the programs that liberals have developed to help African Americans have had, at very least, mixed results. But the programs have been really great for liberals, providing them with endless excuses for more political power and government sinecures for liberals. How sick is that?

On the other hand, you see around you every day immigrants and the children of immigrants working hard to make it in America. In my acquaintance there are the two daughters of Mexican immigrants, father a high-school dropout working at the Postal Service, who are both now going to college. There is the young son of Hungarian immigrants that refused to speak Hungarian after his first week at pre-school. We should not discount the immense cultural power of the exchange economy and the powerful forces on eager young employees to conform to the dictates of the market culture.

And think of India and China. Both these cultures, that led the world prior to 1500, went for socialism in the 20th century because their leaders genuinely thought that socialism was the wave of the future. Boy, was that a big mistake. Today both India and China are converts to capitalism and working hard to make up for lost time.

And that brings us back to 2015, the presidential election of 2016, and the outsider candidacies of Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina.

Er, just a minute. "Outsider?" These three are all bona-fide members of the ruling class. Donald Trump is the son of a real-estate developer and builder and has spent his adult life as a mover and a shaker in New York. Ben Carson is up from nothing, but a standout success in the very establishmentarian health-care industry. And Carly Fiorina, for all that she started adult life as a secretary and rose to CEO, is a Stanford University graduate. These folks all know how to play the game in the higher reaches of today's American ruling class and power elite. No outsiders they.

What Trump and Carson and Fiorina have succeeded in doing is doing a breakout through the current rules of political engagement. They have dared to say things that you are not allowed to say and have survived to tell the tale. This, as we now like to say, is huuuuge. The best way to appreciate this is to consider Ted Cruz. Up till a month ago, Cruz was considered the wild man in the race. He had set himself up as the man who will fight for the Republican base against the Beltway establishment, and he got what he wanted, for "everyone knows" that the leaders of the US Senate hate the guy. (Do they really? Surely they must know and understand the game that Cruz is playing). But Cruz was pretty careful not to be too wild; he was always mildness itself in TV interviews, and now Ted Cruz seems rather tame and safe compared to the three outspoken outsiders.

Here's what I think. The outsider candidates represent the American Apprenticeship advocates in the American people that think that immigrants and Democratic identity groups, the huddled masses on the Liberal Plantation, should shut up and get a job. The base is really frightened by the Obama administration and fears that their America is slipping away.

When you think about it, the news that the base is frightened ought to be great news for the Republican Party. There's nothing a politicians likes more than a frightened voter begging to be led to safety, especially when the folks in the other party must be just a little disappointed about the failure of Hope and Change to show up.

But is the Republican base right? Is America slipping away? Maybe. But I'd be more worried about America if nobody were worried. The truth is that typical Americans have always been terrified by the latest batch of immigrants and the latest gang of hoodlums creating mayhem in the city. Will the latest batch end up wrecking the whole American experiment? Will Muslims and their sneaky taqiyya really take over America?

The question answers itself. America and the American idea is a lot bigger than the taqiyya guys at CAIR, a lot bigger than the smallness of the Obama years. And a lot bigger than the Republican candidates for President of the United States in 2015.

When America does fall, as it will in the end, it will not fall because of some sneaky Muslims or even because of Obama and his Alinsky community organizer culture. It will be something else, and it will be our own fault, the fault of typical Americans who let the whole thing slip away while distracted by squirrels.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Adorno: Cultural Marxism Isn't All Bad

Conservatives are all riled up about "cultural Marxism" right now, with Michael Walsh's book The Devil's Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West providing chapter and verse for preachers on conservative hustings.

But my encounter with the inventors of cultural Marxism, the so-called Frankfurt School, has been more equivocal.

I agree that the switch from economic Marxism and its liberation for the workers to cultural Marxism and its liberation for everyone else except patriarchal white men has the odor of rank political opportunism, along the lines of: Hey, our war to take down capitalism using the workers as our cat's paws didn't work so let's try it with women, blacks, and gays.

I agree that the Gramscian idea of the "long march through the institutions" is chilling, and the Marcusian doctrine of intolerance towards the opponents of progressivism is monstrous. And Reich is getting into cuckoo-land.

But The Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno is a book that any supporter of capitalism and freedom ought to respect, and that is why I give it its due in my American Manifesto. Horkheimer and Adorno argue that Enlightenment and its cult of reason is about freedom for humans gained at the expense of the rest of creation. "What men want to learn from nature is how to use it in order wholly to dominate it and other men." Here is Alex Thomson in Adorno: A Guide for the Perplexed:
[M]an's attempt to set himself apart from nature is bound up with the domination of nature, which reveals that man has not in fact escaped from nature at all.
You could say that with reason man has made nature his plantation slave, with all that implies.

Here is Thomson's gloss on Adorno's idea of freedom, a treatment that explains the Marxian distaste for capitalism.
Freedom is partially activated in the transition from feudal or absolutist to a bourgeois society. The individual gains a degree of autonomy in being able to determine his own actions, and in buying and selling his or her goods or labour power. However freedom it a market society is in theses terms submission to the market. The freedom of the individual is only partial, remaining dependent on economic needs. Freedom fails to live up to its promise of reconciliation between the individual and society: a promise which allows us to criticize not only social unfreedom, but also the partial freedom hypostatized in liberal philosophies which justify the freedom of the individual.
Now I think that this paragraph is telling. It says that capitalism promised freedom and didn't deliver. It freed the peasants from feudalism but enslaved them to the market. And the paragraph also sets up the argument for the socialist promise. We will complete the freedom revolution, say the socialists; we will liberate you from the market. That is what Nancy Pelosi was talking about when she proudly announced that because of Obamacare artists and writers could go on writing and painting now that government had taken care of their health insurance.

Only, of course, such a promise is rubbish. All humans live under the daily servitude of finding the means to live: food, shelter and so on. The only question is how, in a human society, to do it. There is the idea that we should all go out and work and share and share alike. That doesn't work because of the problems that e.g. the Pilgrims discovered immediately on arriving in the New World. Some people shirk work and other people get demoralized and slack off too. So something other social arrangement is needed.

What we are left with are the two options developed by Eric Hoffer in "The Readiness to Work." Either the boss tells everyone how and when to work or the worker shoulders that responsibility himself. There is also a third option that rests half way between the two: the laborer hires his time out to an employer and the employer tells him what to do. The worker works for wages.

The conventional Marxists got themselves all in a twist about the exploitation of wage labor under the system of capitalism. But Adorno's student Jürgen Habermas saw that system was domination in any social setup: not just capital but government exploited and dominated by the nature of any hierarchical system, and government's form of domination amounted to an "internal colonization" of society. His solution in The Theory of Communicative Action was to leaven the dominatory systems with the reciprocal exchange of human-to-human communication and truth values in the day-to-day lifeworld.

Adorno also sees beyond the Enlightenment cult of reason and the fantasy of liberation. Suppose you experience reason not as the transcendental key to understanding the universe but as a natural development of man's instinct for self-preservation. You experience that reason gives man a competitive advantage over other animals. But, as Thomson paraphrases Adorno:
The fact that reason can reflect on its own nature, also allows for the possibility of going against nature. Reason means that we have the chance of going against our instincts and desires.
But we must not forget that reason does not free us from our natural condition. Freedom does not mean freedom from nature. Human life is equivocal, not a simple march to liberation.

These more careful voices have been drowned out in the modern left's lunge for power. The anti-colonialists in the left rail about the colonization of non-white peoples, yet they propose and advance a complete and cynical internal colonization of everything in their own society. Nothing is to be hidden from the gaze and the power of the social justice activist.

The optimistic thing about left-wing politics is that it fails every time it is tried. But it would be nice if some of the left's practitioners had actually thought a little about politics beyond the immediate tactical problem of how to dominate the political conversation and silence opposing voices.

It would be nice if they used their critical theory to critique not just bourgeois society but their own ideas.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Republicans Have Never Reached Out

Last Monday I was listening to Michael Medved doing the liberals' work for them by castigating Ben Carson on the Muslim issue. Michael ended his radio show segment by asking how the Republicans possibly can expect to thrive if they don't reach out beyond the Republican base.

Er, what planet are you broadcasting from, Michael? The Republicans have never reached out. at least not in my lifetime. They don't know how, because they are just a teeny bit embarrassed about handing out free stuff.

And yet Republicans have still managed to elect their share of Republican presidents and now control Congress. What gives?
It is simple. Republicans are nothing more than Americans that have been chucked out of the Democratic Party. Starting with Ronald Reagan, who famously said: "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me."

That's how it works for everyone else. Remember the Reagan Democrats of 1980? They also felt that the party had left them. Then it was Conservative Christians that found the Democratic Party didn't want them. Then it was white men.

Oh, and don't forget the whole South. Democrats have been telling themselves ever since I came to political consciousness that they lost the South because of Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy. Could be. But the reality is that Democrats have been dissing the South for decades and the South has got the message. Just in case the South didn't get the message the Democrats just reminded them how they don't belong in today's inclusive Democratic Party with an unmistakable message in the Confederate battle flag flap.

Now it's the turn of the Trumpers, who sound to me like the much maligned white working class when they call Rush Limbaugh's radio show. Remember when the Democrats just loooved the white working stiff? That's ancient history now.

And what about chaps like you, Michael, America's corps of smart Jewish kids? The Republicans have never known what to do about the Jews, not since the days of the Jewish quota at Harvard, but they didn't have to. First of all liberal Jewish intellectuals like Irving Kristol got mugged by reality in the 1960s back in New York, and now Jewish Americans know that the Democratic Party is the party of Muslims and Palestinians and is developing a reputation for anti-semitism. So Jews are moving silently into the Republican column. Not because they left the Democratic Party but because the Democratic Party left them.

I wonder who will be next? Obviously married people with children would be crazy to vote Democrat. And in fact any unsuspecting "cis-gendered" American today would be unwelcome in the ranks of the inclusive. After all, any uncloseted cis-gendered American is committing a microaggression by just existing.

Then there are college men. Why would any man in college have anything to do with the Democratic Party? After all, the Democrats want to criminalize good healthy young male behavior, by making any sexual assault accusation into an immediate ticket to oblivion, without benefit of the court system and its protections for the accused.

Then there is the Uber generation. Anyone that works in the gig economy is bound to get the message sooner or later: Democrats are not your friends; they are instead the pals of established interests that want to roll over you and continue to enjoy the customary rents they enjoy as a reward for their votes and their contributions.

That's not to mention ordinary wage workers. One fine day the workers are going to wake up and wonder what they are getting in return for the swingeing payroll taxes they and their employers pay for the possibility, one day, that they will get a pension and a bit of death-panel-administered health care. They might think that the Democratic Party and its politics of tax-and-spend is a direct attack on people like them. They might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

But never mind about the nobodies that nobody who is anybody cares about. How about east Asians? They are already being Asian-quota-ed at the nation's select universities, and they have pushed back against the Asian quota at the University of California and at Harvard. How long can it be before the signal goes out to the Democratic operatives with bylines that Asians are really as racist and exclusionary as cis-gendered whites? How long till Asians find out that they didn't leave the Democratic Party, the party left them?

What about Hispanics? The information I've read is that Hispanics are Democratic when they first arrive and want to bring the rest of the family to the US. But when the family is all here and they start to thrive -- well then they start to vote Republican.

And hey, what about the most Democratic of all Democrats: African Americans? Surely African Americans must be fit to be tied by the disappointments of the Obama administration. In fact they would have a good argument to say that they were the hardest hit by "fundamental transformation." And pretty soon they won't have to support America's First Black President as a part of their racial identity.

Maybe the only people left in the Democratic Party after a suitable period of adjustment will be the liberal poster-children that we have learned to know and love in recent years: Julia the Government Girl, Pajama Boy, Mattress Girl, and now the Muslim Clock Boy, all celebrated by non-cis-gendered people, credentialed social justice warriors, and those darlings of the Democratic Party, the Global Association of Green Energy Crony Capitalists, Tom Steyer, proprietor.

So come on Michael. Get a clue. We Republicans don't have to do anything to win elections, even if we knew how. All we have to do is sit here on the sidewalk with a nice cup of Starbucks Blond and wait for the migrants and the refugees pouring over the border from their forty years in the wilderness of the Democratic Party into the Promised Land of the People of the Responsible Self.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Liberals' Modest Proposal

A couple centuries ago, Jonathan Swift wrote "A Modest Proposal" to solve the problem of poverty in Ireland. The subhead for the article was:
For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being A burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public
The solution? Parents should eat their children. And this was over a century before the Potato Famine.

Yesterday I read Charles Murray's review of the book of a fellow poverty intellectual, Robert D. Putnam. Putnam rose to fame on his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse of American Community, which bemoaned the fact that Americans don't join organizations any more. Gosh, I wonder why?

Now Putnam has written Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. It is the liberal answer to Murray's recent Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010. Both books demonstrate that things are not well with America's working class.

Like Charles Murray, Robert Putnam grew up in a small town in the 1950s.
Port Clinton had class divisions in the 1950s, but the town corresponded closely to the American ideal: lots of interaction across social classes, stable and mostly loving families in all social classes, low crime, and high levels of community engagement. I grew up in the same era in the same kind of town.
But things are different today.
Since Putnam left Port Clinton, it has become a radically different place, with haves and have-nots separated by chasms not just in income, but on a wide range of cultural dimensions that, to borrow from the book’s subtitle, have put the American dream in crisis. The kids of today’s working class have it worse in so many ways that climbing the socioeconomic ladder, as many of Putnam’s classmates in the 1950s succeeded in doing, has become dauntingly difficult.
Murray's book tells a similar story. Things are great in Belmont, a suburb of Boston, where folks like Mitt Romney live. Things are horrible in white working-class neighborhoods like Fishtown in Philadelphia, where the women don't marry and the men don't work.

From Murray's perspective, Putnam's book provides a good view at the liberal conventional wisdom on how this could have happened.
The leading culprits are economic—globalization, stagnation of working-class wages, and loss of manufacturing jobs. When cultural factors are involved, they are such things as the sexual revolution.

Could the policy reforms of the 1960s be a cause? Not a chance.
This is not rocket science. Why do women marry? To bind the father of their children to them. Why do men work? To provide for their children and maintain access to sex. But marriage to an unskilled, undisciplined man is a hard row to hoe. It's much easier to take free stuff from the state.

In Visible Man, George Gilder showed how this works. He tells the story of a disabled vet from Vietnam that knocked up an underage girl and worked hard to support her and his child. But when the girl got old enough for welfare she ditched him and got a nice apartment.

Putnam has a raft of liberal ideas to fix things, including universal pre-K. But Murray argues that pre-K doesn't make that much difference. What really matters is IQ, and that is inherited.

So that set me to thinking. If you look at the range of liberal policies they appear as though they were designed to hammer the poor. Margaret Sanger and abortion and cleansing the race of the unfit with Planned Parenthood conveniently close to minority neighborhoods? Check. Welfare policies to discourage marriage and fatherhood and so make lower-income boys into gang-bangers? Check. Lousy inner-city schools that don't even succeed in basic discipline? Check. Race and identity politics that divide the poor and recent immigrants from the basic cultural myth of the American Dream? Check.

Here's another issue that Charles Murray brings up. The IQ chasm between college graduates and high-school graduates has been getting bigger. Back in 1960 the gap was 14 points. Today it is 23 points.

So the result of another liberal policy, that "everyone goes to college," means that everyone with an half decent IQ goes to college and the rest get left behind. And their children get left even further behind.

Now we all know what a big premium liberals put on being the smartest people in the room and how they know that they are more evolved, more intelligent that other people.

People like that would instinctively make life difficult for people with a low IQ. They would naturally segregate themselves into a kind of Brahmin caste. Oh, they would care for the Untouchables, but not so much that they would dirty their hands.

And think about it. The modern workplace requires people with a certain facility for service and interacting with computers and media. There is not much need for the strong back. Wouldn't it just be a kindness to put the low IQ People of the Strong Back out of their misery?

I don't know. You tell me.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why Would Ta-Nehisi Coates Ignore the Elephant in the Room?

Understanding a chap like Ta-Nehisi Coates is troublesome for a conservative. Why would he insist in his book Between the World and Me that anti-black racism is still America's big problem. Why would he pen his 17,000 word "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration" in The Atlantic and never mention the problem of fatherless boys. Kay Hymowitz:
You might think that an article on the Moynihan report and the black family would mention somewhere that today 72 percent of black children, up from 24 percent when the report was written, are born to unmarried mothers. 
Instead, what Coates wants to talk about is that "Mass incarceration is the latest iteration of the American oppression of black people."

Well, maybe, but there is the unfortunate fact that young black males commit murders at 8 times the rate of young white males. Of course we could let them back on the streets so they could kill more black people.

So what is going on here?

It is really quite simple and it is staring us right in the face. It is the problem with capitalism. The problem with capitalism is that it says that, if you sort out a few things like property rights, you don't need much in the way of government to supervise the economy.

And that is a problem -- for the ruling class.

If you are the son of a bourgeois father with a yen for politics and a hall pass into the ruling class, untrammeled capitalism must not stand. Because if you are into politics, you are into government, and government is all about finding things that need force, and even a war.

Marx was the guy that first got a handle on this. Capitalism was a monstrous system of oppression and exploitation, he argued. Only revolution and complete subjection of the capitalist class to the political class would release the burden of exploitation and oppression on the working class.

Well, Marx had an excuse. Nobody knew in 1850 that the average person was just starting to experience an increase in material living standards of 3000 percent in 200 years.

After World War I it was clear that, first, the working class was in fact getting a lot more prosperous. Second, it was also clear that the working class identified first with their nation and only secondly with their class.

So the geniuses at the newly coalesced Frankfurt School took President Eisenhower's big idea -- before he had even thought of it. If you don't know how to solve a problem, make it bigger. They decided that not just the working class, but women and the subjects of the European colonies, and oppressed minorities and gays were grievously exploited and oppressed. Therefore an evolved and enlightened elite was morally and ethically bound to do something about it, using government force.

And so was born the whole poisonous culture we call political correctness, from Gramsci's march through the institutions to Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals to the Cloward-Piven strategy.

In his book The Devil's Pleasure Palace Michael Walsh accuses the left of cynicism in formulating and executing on this cruel and monstrous philosophy. But I give the left credit for actually believing in its faith. For it is a faith, a millennial faith in "fundamental transformation" and totalitarian politics. I use "totalitarian" in the strict sense of economic, political, and moral/cultural life being collapsed into the political.

I look at the totalitarian current in our modern ruling class as merely the normal surrender to temptation that you would expect in any ruling class. Any member of a ruling class will believe in the uses of political power. Of course the real message behind any belief in political power is that "I like power" but we humans are smarter than that. We do not usually own up to such a crude philosophy. We say we only want power because of the existential need to fight foreigners or enemies or end oppression. Otherwise we would be like the improbable Iago who revels in his evil.

So I just say that our modern ruling class, descended from the German Romantics of the late 18th century, has just assembled an apology for power just like any other ruling class. If it hadn't come up with economic Marxism, that the working class was cruelly exploited, or with cultural Marxism, that women, blacks and homosexuals were grievously oppressed, because sexism, racism, and homophobia, they would have figured out something similar.

And so a chap like Ta-Nehisi Coates can expatiate in books and articles about oppression and racism and American oppression of black people and make a great name for himself. Nice work if you can get it.

Our problem is to develop a counterculture against this naked apology for power. Our challenge is to formulate and spread a culture that says this oppression stuff is all baloney. It is baloney that is exposed as baloney by the facts. All anyone has to do in America is make themselves useful by acquiring a marketable skill and they will do OK. All anyone has to do on the sexual front is get married before having children. It's the old formula: don't drop out of high school, don't have kids in your teens, don't have kids before marriage.

It's all so obvious that the next question is: how could we be living in an America where the tenets of cultural Marxism are ruling the culture and ruling the country? How could it have happened? How could we have allowed it?

I don't know, but there is no use whining about it. Our task is to restore the great bourgeois culture of responsible individualism, spread it out among the people, and then storm the commanding heights of politics, recognizing that politics is downstream from culture, and take America back.

I suspect that, beneath the extraordinary excitement caused by the Donald Trump presidential candidacy and the extraordinary viewing figures for the first two presidential debates, is an inchoate madness of crowds that is yearning for a different America.

You might say that that different America is as different from Ta-Nehisi Coates' and Barack Obama's America as black is from white. You might think that.

I couldn't possibly comment.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

After the Debate: Obama's Gift

OK, so I actually watched most of the CNN debate. And I wish that the candidates had tried the "Democratic operatives with bylines" gambit. On at least abortion. As in: "hey Jake and Dana, how many minutes has CNN devoted to the Planned Parenthood videos? And when you propose to cover this important, possibly criminal issue?"

And yes, I liked Carly and Marco and maybe Chris and Ted. And I liked that the candidates did not really pick up the invitation from CNN to fight among themselves.

But here I want to shake a finger at the media types that don't like the issue-free nature of the Trump campaign. I was getting it yesterday from Michael Medved on his radio show. And then there is the Wall Street Journal talking about The Joy of Madness of the voters.

I come back to Joseph Schumpeter in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. There can be no such thing as democracy, he writes, in the sense of the people actually ruling.
Democracy means only that the people have the opportunity if accepting or refusing the men who are to rule them.
That definition explains a lot. It explains why political campaigns are typically fought over one-and-a-half rather inconsequential issues. Or indeed basically over two questions: "four more years" or "time for a change."

In this context it seems perfectly ordinary that we should have a candidate like Donald Trump whose campaign has much of the flavor of a TV reality show. The voters are saying "screw you!" Which is perfectly natural and physical.

It is appropriate that voters should act like cornered rats from time to time. When you are cornered, the sensible thing to do is to lash out, in the hope that you will change the situation. That is entirely sensible and practical if you are otherwise screwed. And the fact is that, ever since the start of the agricultural age, humans have been "caged" by the fact that without the benefit of society life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

The Journal knows who is to blame for all this in their "madness" piece.
Barack Obama is fundamentally apolitical... Doing politics, left or right, isn't his thing... You think you're mad? Talk to members of Congress, Republican or Democrat, and you will discover people also driven nuts by the virtual impossibility over two presidential terms of practicing normal politics.
And Michael Barone too:
In 2008 Obama promised he would "fundamentally transform" America, and Obamacare and the Iran deal are indeed fundamental transformations of policy --transformations most Americans oppose...

And so a president who came to office with relatively little experience has managed to tarnish experience, incumbency and institutions: a fundamental transformation indeed.
The truth is, though, that the "fundamental transformation" that conservatives want is only likely to come when ordinary ruling class politics is seen to fail.

And that seems to be the reason for the madness of the moment. Voters are coming to see that their lordly ruling class has got them in a box. And they don't like it. The only thing to do, the rational thing, is to stir the soup, and hope that something good comes up from the bottom of the pot.

And so the bottom line is that President Obama is the gift that keeps on giving. He has done what seemed unthinkable. He has brought the legitimacy of the established ruling class into question.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What is the Right Way to Undo Obama?

The great challenge facing the next President of the United States is perhaps not what to do but how to do it.

It is easy to say that we should reverse all the executive actions of President Obama and teach the liberals a lesson.

But then we would be just making the same mistake as the Obamis made, pushing the limit on everything without bothering to forge a consensus. Arguably, the reason that the Democratic Party has been put in the worst electoral position since 1928 is that President Obama has not governed by consensus. His Obamacare was passed by legislative legerdemain and lies, and was always opposed by a plurality of voters. His Iran deal is a folly. If you can't get a treaty passed in the US Senate, mainly because there is no support in the country, then what you may have agreed with a foreign power isn't a treaty.

So what do we do about Obama?

Victor Davis Hanson asks this question as it applies to The Middle East, The Law, Race, and Debt.

On The Middle East, Hanson says it doesn't matter what Obama's motive was, he's broken the Middle East and now we have to deal with it. But I think that the bigger issue is this. Obama has inadvertently made clear that peace in the Middle East was predicated on US hegemony. The end of US hegemony -- a long-term liberal objective -- means a humanitarian disaster as the various regional powers fight it out. OK, but now we have to decide what to do next. What really is the US interest in the Middle East? Obama has provoked this question like no president before him.

On The Law, Hanson writes:
There will be a temptation for a reform president to use the lawless means that Obama has bequeathed — executive orders to unconstitutionally bypass Congress; arbitrary suspension or simple non-enforcement of laws, depending on where we are in the national election cycle; exemption of party loyalists from legal accountability — to achieve the noble aim of restoring legality. But such short-cuts to reform would be a terrible mistake.  
"Instead," he writes, "the next president must, as never before, obey both the spirit and the very letter of the law to restore to us what Obama has almost destroyed."

Yes, but it seems to me that the only way to make this stick is to make liberals regret they ever tried to cut corners with executive orders and ignoring the plain meaning of the written law, and do it by applying the law to liberals. Hey kids! What a concept! The next president has to get himself a mandate to do this by saying that there will be no corner cutting in his administration, and no liberal opt-outs like "sanctuary cities."

But suppose the president says that -- after liberals overturned decades of consensus on labor law at the National Labor Relations Board, and suddenly decided, by regulatory fiat, to regulate the internet as a utility -- that their lack of good faith means that the NRLB and the FCC must be abolished, because we cannot have institutions of government as cat's paws for a single political party. Could he get a consensus to do that?

On Race Hanson notes that Obama has taken racial tensions and made them worse. He suggests that
The next president should take a hiatus from our racial obsessions, and simply try treating Americans as if their race or ethnic background were irrelevant.
I have a better idea. I think that the next President should list all the failed race politics of the last 150 years, from the disaster of Reconstruction to the cultural wasteland left by Great Society programs to the resentments of Affirmative Action to the poison of diversity, the failure of the nation's First Black President and the community-organizer divisions of #BlackLivesMatter. Then he should say that the only way to solve this problem is to take it out of politics and government. All politics does is divide us. All government goes is try to force us together. There is only one thing to do. It is to beg African Americans for forgiveness. You know, just like they did in Charleston, South Carolina.

Seriously. What would happen after such a presidential speech? How would liberals deal with the president calling groups of people into the Oval Office every couple of months for their achievements in racial healing?

On Debt, Hanson writes:
When interest rates climb to 4 or 5 percent, the next president will face a budgetary crisis, augmented by Obama’s failure to address entitlement spending. We are in for rough times; whether Obama will get out ahead of the reckoning is unknown.
The way forward, of course, is to privatize as much as possible of pensions and health care and education and welfare. But that cannot be done by shenanigans and budgetary tricks. It has to start with the president and the ruling class selling the American people on the idea that they are much better off running their own pensions, health care etc. than letting government come in and screw it up. But I don't think the American people will be ready for that until after the money runs out.

The governing approach of the Obamis has been a disaster, because the Obamis either knew or feared that they couldn't get their agenda done any other way.

But it won't do for Republicans to do an Obama in 2017. We believe in law, in consensus, in the consent of the governed, and all that rubbish. We have to persuade. Every other way leads to the Maelstrom.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Kidney Stone for Breakfast

This morning, out of a clear blue sky, I got a sudden pain in my lower-left abdomen just before breakfast. Pretty soon I was sweating, breathing rapidly, and finding it painful to walk. After a while, prompted by the Lady Marjorie, I called Group Health and they told me to call 911.

Pretty soon four burly firemen turned up and took my vital signs. The general consensus was to head to the nearest hospital, and so, once the fire truck had cleared the driveway, we headed off to Swedish in Ballard. Thanks fellas!

After the usual admissions frou-frou -- and the first thing they do is hook up an IV -- Dr. Burdick showed up and allowed as how he thought it was urolithiasis. That's a kidney stone to you. And the MRI confirmed a 2mm kidney stone that has just "turned the corner." All the folks at Swedish were pleasant and competent. All except that Burdick guy, who said I'd have to break his arm if I thought I was going to get out of hospital without submitting a urine sample.

OK, so that's all right.

They keep asking you to rate your pain on a scale from 1 to 10. I said 6-7 but pretty soon it was down to 3. Now it's just a ache in the lower abdomen. How do you rate that? Then, after thanking everyone, it was off to Group Health pharmacy to sit around for an hour to fill four prescriptions for pain, real pain, nausea, and a drug to "open up" the ureter.

Of course everyone at the hospital from the doc to the MRI tech said they had already had a kidney stone, so I guess that, as usual, I am the last to know.

Knowing what I know now, I would have said that I would have just sat there and waited for the stone to pass. But you never know. It could have be something else, as in life-threatening! And Lady Marjorie would have none of such foolishness.

Anyway, tomorrow it's back to the crimes and misdemeanors of our abysmal ruling class. But right now I have to go downstairs and do my DuoLingo.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lefties Like Corbyn and Bernie Aren't Mad or Bad. Just Sad

If you are a libertarian conservative you look at the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders and shake your head. You look at the election of left-wing extremist Jeremy Corbyn to be leader of the parliamentary Labour Party in Britain as madness.

But really, the 150-year collectivist movement makes a lot of sense. Of course there are people, lots of people, who want to return to the "safety" of collectivism. That was the human social order since forever. The modern society of individualism is frightening, and comparatively untested. Why wouldn't people instinctively yearn for the good old days when people were bundled up in a family, a clan, a tribe, a village, or a race?

Moreover, the people just arriving in the city are people that are still living under the old order. They expect their lives to be ordered by a patriarch, a village big man, a landed cacique. Because that's the way it has always been.

The thing about collectivism, ancient and modern, is that all you have to do is "go along to get along." There are no responsibilities; responsibility is the job of the patriarch, the big man, the cacique. It is, obviously, profoundly anti-social. You sit there, like a bump on a log, and do what you are ordered to do, but no more. You give your loyalty to your lord. And you expect in return food and lodging to keep you and your family alive.

In reality, the subordinates under collectivism were treated like dirt. They were near slaves; they starved and died and nobody cared.

But then, in northern Europe, a new idea emerged. We call it individualism, the idea that individual people, not just collectivities, are important.

The thing about individualism is that it is up to you to figure out how to "get along." Everything is your responsibility. There is no patriarch, big man, or cacique to tell you what to do. It is, obviously, profoundly social. You have to think, every day, every hour, how to contribute responsibly to society with work, ideas, or your savings. You cannot just hide behind the skirts of your liege lord. You are the principal. And nothing is guaranteed: not food, not lodging, not employment. It is up to you.

What kind of person is drawn to this individualist ethos? Lots of people. The middle class. The bourgeoisie. But not the worker, just starting out in the city without much in the way of skills. And not the creative class, who yearn for something more than responsibility.

When you think about it, it makes complete sense that northern Europe would develop a political-religious movement of nostalgia for the old collectivist ways. The radical movement of individualism would be bound to provoke a movement of rejection.

The only problem for the rejectionists is that individualism works like nothing in the world. The material prosperity of north Europeans has gone up by 3000% in 200 years. The notion that you don't need the big boss in control with an engineer at his side reading the dials and working the levers of the economy is true. The economy does work without a single controller calling the big shots. And so, every time that the nostaglists get political power they push to control the economy with government power and the economy tanks, and whenever the individualists get political power they try to get the hands of the political class off the economy and the economy improves.

In the 1980s the combination of individualist Reagan and Thatcher was so successful that the Democratic Party in the US and the Labour Party in the UK had to produce leaders that grudgingly admitted the power of markets and individuals. But their leadership cadres hated it, and so with Obama and Sanders in the US, and Corbyn in the UK they have returned to their old-time religion.

Only time will tell if they will convert a majority of voters to their collectivist sawdust trail.

If they do, it will be a sad day for all of us. Because collectivism doesn't work.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Will Muslims Take Over the World?

The people of Europe have a long history with Islam. All in all, it's hasn't gone well. From the conquest of Spain to the Crusades to the Fall of Constantinople to the battle at the gates of Vienna.

And when the northwest Europeans darn near conquered the world, there was one place they shied away from: the Islamic Middle East, at least until the Ottoman Empire collapsed after World War I.

Today the Muslims are mad and they aren't going to take it any more. They have plans for world conquest, both by migration and by war.

Will it work?

Of course, the last half millennium of the glorious world conquest by northwest Europeans has seen plenty of counter-movements that were going to take over the world. Communism and socialism were one such movement. History was on its side, and if not, the commies were willing to give it a little nudge. And don't talk about the H-word. The truth is that these counter-movements really did change the world. They made possible the idea that the modern nation-state government could turn the bourgeois state into a neo-feudal state where the average person looked to the state for succor rather as the feudal peasant looked to his lord of the manor.

But the counter-movements have failed in their millennarian dreams.

Of course it is possible that our present western world hegemony is like the ageing Roman Empire that let the Goths in. Or the several Chinese dynasties that collapsed before culturally inferior nomads from the North. Or the South Asia that has experienced numerous invasions from out of Central Asia and the Khyber Pass.

But in retrospect we can see that all the counter-movements thus far had a real problem. The irresistible force of their militant ideology ran up against the immovable rock of the modern economy and its need for responsible individualism to make the product that provides the foundation of wealth and power. However much that young hotheads think that capitalism stinks and they have a better idea their politics-first ideas have failed and failed miserably. Hello Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, and now Chavez.

If millions of Muslims migrate to Germany, might they not transform Germany and then Europe? Might not the Muslims in France presently marinating in the old Communist banlieux around Paris rise up and seize France from the French?

They might. But let us examine the words of a Chinese Christian quoted in David Aikman's Jesus in Beijing. He quotes a Chinese man that had wondered what everyone on the receiving end of the West must have wondered over the last 500 years.
At first we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we did. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics.
In China, Christianity is growing at about 3 percent per year.

But it makes you think. What was it that caused the Great Enrichment of the past 200 years? The simple answer is that we don't know. We each have our faith: Christianity, individualism, capitalism, social programs, labor unions. But really, we don't know.

So it may be that the jihadist movement of hegira and the militant expansion out of the Middle East with Iran and ISIS and Boko Haram might take over the world. But think of the headwinds.

First, the only thing that keeps Iran and ISIS going is oil. These are people that haven't made the least accommodation to the modern global exchange economy. Yet the number one basis for a powerful state in the last 500 years is an economic state that can sustain the political state's projection of power. And that needs a people acculturated to work in the exchange economy and its world-wide network of trust.

Second, the militance of the Islamists is likely to provoke the rest of the world to combine against it, particularly now that the fracking revolution has diminished the value of Middle Eastern oil, so that the world can say of the Middle East: who needs it?

Third, the migration of Muslims out of the Middle East is likely to change the Muslims more than they are likely to change the world. That is, after all, the story of the last 200 years. Peasants and tribesmen from all over have migrated to the city and brought their peasant culture with them, particularly the universal peasant subordination to powerful patrons. The big problem for each migrant peasant has been to shuck off their subordinate collectivist self and surrender to the individualist exchange economy culture. The sooner the migrant makes the transition, the better for his/her life and family. Migrant groups that were slow to adapt -- think Irish and African Americans -- have not thrived, and have tended to isolate themselves in dysfunctional ghettos. Is it really going to help Muslims if they set themselves up against their host cultures?

Fourth, contra Barack Obama, there is no "right side of history." The future is a mystery. We all have faith in our religion -- especially lefty progressives like the president -- but that don't mean nothing. Whatever the future may bring, it won't be the global triumph of anything. It will be, indeed, the usual messy, foolish, incompetent muddle. And people will still be optimistic about their faith in their vision of the future.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hello Progressive "Ancien Regime"

It's always a puzzle, innit. A great civilization, or a Roman empire, or a great Chinese dynasty suddenly crumbles into dust. Who could have seen it coming? As Glenn Reynolds like to say.

Well, we are now living through such a time. "Unexpected" disasters keep crashing in on the western cultural and political elite. Like the current immigration crisis in Europe.

Some people are recalling the Roman emperor Valens, the guy who let the Goths in. Well, the Empire needed the revenue. The rest is history.

Sound familiar? The Germans are letting in the immigrants because they have a fertility rate of about 1.3 to 1.4 children per woman per lifetime. A rate of 2.1 is generally considered necessary to keep the population stable. Obviously when you have a fertility rate of 1.4 and significant immigration you are not going to be Deutschland for much longer. But the Germans have a labor shortage and they need the workers. It is, of course, profoundly symbolic that the German Chancellor right now is a childless woman.

Back in the day the Soviets used to like to predict the collapse of the West as a result of its "internal contradictions." They had a point, especially with respect to their own socialist contradictions, and so Communism collapsed before western Social Democracy.

But western democracy is also certainly built on a profound contradiction. On the one hand the progressive ruling class maintains its political power by encouraging peasant subordinate culture in its people. Western people in western nations have "rights," to pensions and health care and education and welfare, which were invented by leftist intellectuals, and can only be satisfied by politicians with access to big money. You can see that this politics encourages a mean and narrow dog-in-the-manger culture among the sheeple; you deserve your benefits, but not other people. But at the same time as they bribe their voters with free stuff, western politicians also affect a concern for all the less fortunate in the world, and they encourage immigration from poor countries. Anyone that opposed immigration is a bigot and a racist, even though the people most affected by immigration are the low-skilled and the low-paid, the natural constituency of the progressive ruling class.

And that is to say nothing about green energy subsidies and regulation. Its costs necessarily fall most severely upon the low-paid, and its benefits are enjoyed by grant-sucking scientists and subsidy-sucking crony capitalists. Not to mention gentry liberals with their Priuses.

But, as the Marxists say, eventually things fall apart because of their inherent internal contradictions, and we now experiencing that, in Europe as millions swarm the borders, and here in the US as anti-immigration politics suddenly explodes into a blaze with the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.

Who could have seen it coming? Anyone with half a brain.

But the ruling class of the ancien régime is always the last to know. Because, as we have seen from Hillary Clinton's emails, ruling-class princes and princesses are surrounded by sycophantic courtiers that bury them in flattery.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"Identify problems but offer no solutions"

A commenter on my "I Want a President That's a 'Strong Leader.' Not!" piece complained about people "who just identify problems but offer no solutions."

Good point. So here are my solutions. Part One is stuff that can be done in 2017 with any Republican president and Congress. Part Two is the agenda for the rest of the president's term. Part Three is what I really believe.

What Is To Be Done, Part One

First, the easiest. Reverse as many Obama era regulations and executive orders as possible as soon as possible on the Macchiavellian principle that you should do all the dirty work right away. There will be a huge hullaballoo, but the president can argue that his election is a mandate to roll back Obamism.

Then, the economy. The problem here is that government spending is a weight on the economy and government regulation is a brake on the economy, and monetary activism is a distortion of the economy.

So the president should send a mini-budget to the Congress that rolls back as much domestic spending as possible, right now, starting with green energy. Then he should do as much as possible with executive actions to make welfare and disability unattractive, and make it as easy as possible to hire new workers. He should make a start on simplifying the tax code by reducing marginal tax rates as much as politically possible.

Then he should start an attack on all the anti-growth regulations of the Obama era, starting with the National Labor Relations Board and the regulation of the internet with the FCC. Sarbanes-Oxley should be on the chopping block.

Then we have financial regulation and monetary policy. The president should gut Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and return to a rules-based monetary policy with a return to normal interest rates. We should dial back the mad policy of subsidizing sub-prime mortgages which are a constant dagger pointed at the financial heart of America.

What is to be Done, Part Two

There are four big trillion dollar functions of government in the United States. See my usgovernmentspending.com for details. The four big functions costing about $1 trillion each per year are: Government pensions, including Social Security; Government healthcare, including Medicare and Medicaid; Government education, K thru graduate school; and Defense. Non-Medicaid welfare comes in at about $0.5 trillion a year.

So the first thing to do is to reform Social Security and Medicare. Social Security should be started on the road to a real personal savings program, with subsidies for the working poor; Medicare should be moved to a normal health insurance program with subsidies for the elderly poor. We should start to disassemble the education monopoly with education choice. And on welfare we should be looking at fixing its perverse incentives. Right now, a welfare recipient trying to get off welfare typically faces a marginal tax rate of 50%, higher than a billionaire.

What is to be Done, Part Three

Government is force, so we need to ask, with every government program, is force really called for? On retirement savings, the answer is yes if someone willfully refuses to provide for themselves; but most people should provide for their own. On elderly healthcare, we don't want grannie neglected by cruel children; but most people should provide for their own. On education, we don't want children neglected by their parents and refused a chance to rise in the world; but most children want to grow up and at least be like their parents, and today they can get a pretty good education from a tablet, especially if they have to become literate to learn how to play the games. On welfare, we don't want the poor thrown on the streets, but most people could take care of that by belonging to mutual-aid societies as they did a century ago before the welfare state put them out of business. Maybe anyone that ever went on welfare should be forced to belong to a mutual-aid society.

This program would only be possible in an America where the vast majority of people said to politicians and government: you can put that free stuff and those subsidies where the sun don't shine.

But the truth is that humans love free stuff. That's why we have coupons and sales and supermarket specials and affinity programs. And what people really love is getting free stuff from the government. So the world I imagine is not yet.

OK: there it is. That's my three point program!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Are Political Cycles Unnecessary?

We in the West that think that the US is exceptional and that the Western Way is irreplaceable are feeling a little pessimistic these days.

Why wouldn't we when America and much of Europe is governed by men and women that don't seem to "get it." Maybe it's just the civilizational cycle.

Victor Davis Hanson writes that it is all so unnecessary.
Bounty to boredom to decadence to panic to reawakening to ascendance has always been the cyclical way of the West.

Its curse has been that the cycles of nihilism are as long as they are unnecessary.
Well, I'm not so sure about that. Given that the central fact of life is the cycle of conception to birth to growth to reproduction to decay and death and repeat, I'd say there is something necessary and sufficient in the great cycle of generation.

In other words, things can't go on in some Panglossian best of all possible worlds. On the contrary, the old is always getting flushed out, and that's the way that the world gets renewed.

And there always seem to be opposing and opposite forces. In the last two millennia we had the church and state as rival power centers. And probably a good thing too, because we know what happens when church and state get united as in Stalinism and Hitlerism and Castroism.

In our day it seems that there is an endless argument between the constant renewal of the Great Enrichment and the constant critique of the socialist reactionaries that want to return the West to the pre-individualism of the feudal estate or even the hunter-gatherer tribe.

For me as an individualist -- experiencing individualism as a new and remarkably social way of life -- it is hard to deal with the constant backward force of the progressive. The progressive talks about Change but actually wants to pour society into a concrete form, there to set for all eternity.

The problem with all the old empires is that their central political elites were too powerful. They had the power to stop change all over the empire.

But the innovation of the West, intensified in the US, is that change, by the very nature of the market economy, is baked right in. The market is pitiless to old established economic interests. As soon as a new and better idea comes along it relegates the old dominant actors to the sidelines. They can yell and scream and get politicians to pass subsidies and privileges for them, but in the end it doesn't matter. There is no escape from renewal and the verdict of the market.

And yest, contra Hanson, at some point in the cycle there is nihilism. People on the down cycle, in a culture or a market past its prime think there is nothing good in the world, and they tell everyone how awful everything is, and how right and proper it all was when they were young.

(I am experiencing that feeling directly myself as I am reading Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice about how everything was young and fresh and new in Aussieland in the years of renewal after World War II).

And the glorious cause for hope in 2015 is that President Obama has been such a hopeless president that anyone except a New York Times reader and an NPR listener feels it in their bones and right now is fit to be tied about America and its prospects.

Really, if you wanted a Republican resurgence after the election of the nation's First Black President in 2008 what would you figure it would take?  Something like a stupid "stimulus," a stupid expensive Obamacare, a stupid Dodd Frank to mew up the financial system with regulatory bureaucrats, a stupid green energy program to raise energy prices on the poor. But, you would say, the Democrats can't be that stupid.

The nihilism stage of the cycle has its uses. As H.L. Mencken wrote, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Straight Line from The Klan to #BlackLivesMatter

The reason for the rise of Black Lives Matter, the black racist "protest" group, is plain, according to Victor Davis Hanson.
Threats of unrest and collective violence by the urban underclass often come in handy.
In Hanson's interpretation, the Black Lives Matter agitations serve the interest of the "black elites." But I think that he is thinking too narrowly. It's the whole liberal ruling class that likes to have mobilized rent-a-mobs ready to "protest" before the cameras. And the purpose of it all is intimidation.

That's why I link the Ku Klux Klan to Black Lives Matter.

The purpose of the Klan as it developed in the decade after the Civil War was intimidation. By killing a few blacks and scalawags the Klan succeeded in intimidating millions of blacks and Republican whites in the South. And it succeeded in erasing the political power of the victorious North and the policy of Reconstruction. Notice that it did not challenge the power of the federal government directly, as the South had done in the Civil War. No, the idea was just to intimidate the North's supporters in the South.

Notice that it does not matter if the Klan was a part of the Democratic Party in the South or not. It served the purpose of the white Southerners in making it very costly and dangerous for blacks and scalawags to do politics and even business in the post-war South. The key to understanding the whole thing is that the Klan succeeded because the white power structure winked at the crimes of the Klansmen.

The next stop, obviously, in the Nazis in Germany. But before them was the guerrilla war against British rule conducted by the Boers in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century. The Brits won that one. That is to say, they declared victory and then went home and left South Africa to the Boers.

In Weimar Germany both the Nazis and the Commies operated formal armies of street thugs. And the purpose was intimidation, to make Germany ungovernable. Hey, it worked! And the Nazi street gangs couldn't have succeeded in their extralegal violence without the passive acquiescence of the powers-that-be.

Let's talk about labor unions. The whole point is to be able to intimidate workers and employers -- with a nod and a wink from the liberal ruling class. The problem with unions, though, is that they are parasites that kill their hosts. And these days private-sector workers just aren't interested in unions.

Then we get to the Sixties and the anti-war movement. Liberal Parents, Radical Children wrote Midge Decter. The mainstream media wrote about the heroic kids rebelling against the hypocrisy of their conformist Fifties parents. But in fact the liberal parents shielded their children from the strong arm of the law. Barack Obama's mentor Bill Ayers was the son of an executive at Commonwealth Edison. And his terrorist activities didn't disqualify him from a career in the academy. The purpose of the anti-war movement and the New Left was intimidation. And it worked.

Now you know why lefty groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center are paranoid about right-wing extremism. They think that the right wing is just like they are, and eager to use political intimidation to advance its agenda.

But the right isn't really interested in political intimidation. The right is overwhelmingly middle-class and just wants the government to do its job protecting the nation from enemies foreign and domestic.

The Tea Party proves the point. The left immediately assumed that the Tea Party was a radical group of extremists and mobilized (hey Lois Lerner!) to keep them down on the farm. In fact the Tea Party quickly became a part of the Republican Party and organized to promote Tea Party candidates for political office. How boring.

But Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter are simple intimidation groups informally condoned by the liberal ruling class. Else how come that Occupy Wall Street was allowed to occupy a city park in New York City for weeks in violation of all the sacred health regulations? Good luck to the Tea Party trying that.

Black Lives Matter got almost direct encouragement from President Obama and black protesters were allowed to riot with a nod and a wink from city authorities. And Black Lives Matter is trying directly to intimidate police into easing up on the policing of black urban neighborhoods in informal cooperation with liberal office-holders like NY Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

And then we have the Social Justice Warriors. Their whole shtick is to intimidate ordinary middle class Americans into silence and political and cultural serfdom.

The Question is: Will It Work? Will the liberal ruling-class wink for Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter work as the Klan and the Nazi Sturmabteilung and the anti-war movement did back in the day?

Nobody can tell for sure. But the collapse of Democratic Party electoral power since the accession of President Obama is surely telling us something. I would say that the Democratic electoral collapse is directly connected to the fact that the US is overwhelmingly a middle-class nation and it doesn't like street thugs of any description.

Oh, and let me tell you. Middle-class women really hate street thuggery.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Social Justice? Because Politicians Gotta Divide

Isn't it interesting, writes Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, that in the administration of divider-in-chief Barack Obama and in the year of #BlackLivesMatter we have ordinary people coming together with love and forgiveness?

Reynolds cites the multiracial 15,000 that showed up in the streets after the Charleston shooting. He cites the multiracial 20,000 that showed up at Glenn Beck's "All Lives Matter" rally in Birmingham, Alabama. And the 1,000 that showed up at an "impromptu memorial for murdered Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth" in Houston, Texas.

Writes Reynolds:
The American people have a strong spirit of egalitarianism and kindness, one that shows over and over again. But our political class sees more gain in promoting hatred and division.
Well, yes. That's because politics is all about division. There's nothing good or bad about that. It's just the way it goes. When you have an election, or any political issue, the whole point is to have the good guys that want change on this side and the bad guys who want to return to the evils of the past on that side. Or vice versa. You think you can trust those bad guys? I gotta bridge to sell you.

Now I think that the Big Thing about the modern era is that it has radically extended the frontiers of trust. Used to be that you would only trust your kin, or your village, or your tribe, knowing rightly that everyone else could descend on your kin, or village, or tribe without a moment's warning.

But now that has changed. Now, under modern capitalism, the way to thrive is to trust anyone that demonstrates trustworthiness. And the modern information age has extended this principle about as far as it can go by having everyone report on the other guy's trustworthiness in ratings on Ebay and Uber.

This New Trust would have sounded the death knell of divisive politics except for one thing.

Left-wing reactionary geniuses determined to tell the industrial working class that they were famously exploited just as the lower class was emerging from 4,000 years of brutal oppression from the beginning to the end of the agricultural age.

And the working class listened! Bit of a shame really, because wherever left-wing economic policies have been implemented the people have perished.

After a while the working class realized that it was dong OK really, so it didn't need to come out in the streets to protest at the behest of left-wing revolutionaries. So left-wing reactionary geniuses came up with another idea. Just as blacks were coming out of centuries of slavery and oppression the geniuses told them they were famously oppressed. And the blacks believed them. Just as women were being liberated from involuntary childbirth by modern contraception the geniuses told them they had been historically oppressed by the patriarchy. And women believed them. Just as gays... Well the gay thing is such absolute baloney. Self-conscious homosexuality is a modern elite thing, an argument within the elite. It is just a liberal conceit.

On my reading, social justice politics is a last, desperate attempt to maintain the primacy of politics in an age that really doesn't need it. We don't really need to be armed against our fellow men: only against those that haven't accepted the capitalist ethos that you trust everyone that can be trusted. It will fail because it is a lie.

According to Marx,
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
I wonder if #BlackLivesMatter is going to be the farce that makes a stupid joke out of social justice. The point is that African Americans are divided on the question. Some are enraged at the po-lice, but others are enraged at violent young men. And I wonder if President Obama's "legacy" will be to discredit social-justice Alinksy tactics as brutally divisive and un-American, something that every American just wants to forget and put behind them.

You see, I think that the average politician knows that it's all very well to divide the electorate during the campaign, but that after the campaign you want to bind up the wounds and get everyone on the same page again. Problem is that the Democrats of the last few years have bought into the full Alinsky and the permanent campaign, perhaps in confirmation of the Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. I think that the average American doesn't really buy into the Alinsky game. I think that the average American gets tired of endless political war just as the average person tires of a shooting war. Indeed, politicians know that the biggest problem in fighting a shooting war is keeping the morale of the troops up in the field and the support of ordinary people back home. War-weariness is the great enemy of the warmonger.

But if politicians can't divide us over class, and race, and gender, what will they divide us over next? Good point. But, like Scarlett O'Hara, I'll think about that tomorrow.