Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Government is Always Clueless

What with the coordinated attacks in Brussels today, March 22, 2016, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility, western governments are looking unusually clueless. As usual.

And we also have President Obama giving a speech in front of a building in Havana emblazoned with a mural of Che Guevara. Apparently the building is the headquarters of the Cuban secret police. But what would I know? Never mind that. How clueless can the president's advance team be to get snookered into a deal like that? I thought that optics was their strong suit.

But this is nothing new. I am reading The Sugar Barons, by Matthew Parker, and it tells a glorious tale of British government stupidity and corruption. But let's just stick to stupidity.

In 1654, after teaching the Scots and the Irish a lesson Oliver Cromwell sent a naval fleet to Barbados to conquer the Spanish and lead the world-wide opposition to the Church of Rome in his "Western Design." The only problem was that the expedition was "sent out without arms and provisions," and withered away in hunger and disease after foolish attacks on the island of Hispaniola. Then Charles II sent out a fleet in 1666 to the West Indies to deal with the French. Five years of war ended in nothing. Time after time, the Brits sent out a fleet from Britain with regiments of soldiers that promptly died of malnutrition and disease once they got to the West Indies. You think they would have learned. But government never learns.

And so here we are in 2016 with our western governments stumble-bumming around wondering what to do about the Islamic threat that directly challenges their policy of unlimited immigration, their plan for dealing with unaffordable entitlements.

Mr. President! What shall we do? Everyone is now deciding that free trade and immigration are terrible ideas that hurt the American middle class. The only thing is: compared to what?

I grant that free trade doesn't solve anything. But what is the alternative? Once you start down the road of protection then every special interest in the country lines up for goodies. You end up with the Florida sugar industry that's protected from foreign competition. You allow mature industries to keep on keeping on without modernizing and competing full on with the rest of the world. Then you are shocked when they collapse like the auto industry in 2008.

Immigration? You certainly don't want the current mess of illegal immigration, in which illegal immigrants are not subject to the law of the land, and compete low-skill Americans out of a job. But it certainly doesn't hurt to bring the best and the brightest here, in moderate numbers, to keep the rest of us Americans up to the mark.

My point is that most economic interventions hurt the economy, because government is stupid and is basically interested in power and revenue and buying up support from the right people. If you put government to work on education, it will wreck education. If you put government to work on health care, it will make it unaffordable. If you put government to work on pensions it will stop people from saving for retirement. If you put government to work on welfare it will fail to relieve the poor.

This spring, in 2016, the best and the brightest are all in a dither about Donald Trump, who doesn't know what he is doing and has no experience of running a government.

But the truth is that the great figures of history tend to be men without experience of government. Instead they seem to possess a sixth sense of how to acquire political and military power and then use it. The ruling classes that they topple are full of seasoned professionals and insiders. But somehow, when it comes to the crunch, the insiders are clueless.

So all the clucking and establishment frou-frou over immigration and ISIS and trade and Trump is just noise. The ruling class doesn't have a clue and never did.

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