Monday, February 29, 2016

Liberal Race Politics and the Movies

Ratings were down on the #OscarsSoWhite 88th Acadamy Awards show last night. So what else is new? What in the world could turn Americans away from the Oscars more than yet another liberal race row?

And really, what in the world is the point of having a racial purity test on the Oscars, making sure that there are regular black award winners? Oh, I see. Social justice. My bad.

Actually, to step back a bit, Hollywood is not really just white, it is Jewish. And the perfectly good reason for that is that Jews invented it. As in Louis B. Mayer. Samuel Goldwyn. They made Hollywood because, back in the the 1920s and 1930s, movies was a new thing, and open to talent. Unlike Harvard and Yale with their Jewish quotas.

Another thing about the Oscars is that secular liberal smart Jewish kids are not that interested in a movie like Straigh Outa Compton about gangs and hip-hop artists. But they are taken by movies like Spotlight about Catholic priests abusing young boys. Now why would secular liberal Jews be drawn to a movie about priests abusing young boys rather than musical gangbangers in LA? Go figure.

Of course, the question of racial stereotypes in movies is a big thing, because movies are all about current cultural moral stories. In the old days the moral stories were about class and white ethnicity. In High Society we were taught about the moral vacuity of the WASP elite and their casual divorces. Louis Armstrong and his band play some music, and are treated by Bing Crosby as almost equals, but the blacks don't engage with the action.

But in a modern movie, like The Martian, modern liberal race and gender politics is all over the place. The commander of the Ares III spaceship is an upscale woman. The pilot of the Ares is a Martinez. And the orbital mechanics expert appplying his equations to a bank of supercomputers is a hip-hoppy in-your-face Magic Negro. But the hero is a white guy, played by Matt Damon as a quirky, inventive, scrappy individualist. Meanwhile the head of JPL is an East Asian and the representatives of the Chinese space agency are inscrutable Orientals. Between Matt Damon and the Latino pilot there is guy insult talk. But the orbital mechanics guy is sacred, so sacred that he gets to butt into the NASA head's office. Of course. Meanwhile the girl commander is racked with guilt about leaving Matt Damon on Mars. Of course.

There is a wealth of possibility in the new multicultural metro city, where educated young people from all across the planet get to mix it up in business and tech and the creative arts. It would have been really cool if TV and the movies had been allowed to present this world without the intervention of the political commissars. But that would be too much to hope for.

In reality, the #OscarsSoWhite mess is liberals' own fault. Their race politics was great fun when it was deployed against Archie Bunker and any Republican politician that got his words mixed up. If liberals had any wisdom they would have known that eventually the black racists they had encouraged and wafted aloft would turn on them. Now elite liberals are getting a taste of what they have inflicted on ordinary Joe Schmoes for the last half century. It would be fun if it weren't so sad.

But meanwhile, race wars at the Oscars doesn't seem to be very good for business. Now that is a real problem.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Thoughts on a Week in Paris

I'm sitting at the gate at Charles de Gaulle airport waiting for the plane to take me back to Seattle. I have had a delightful week with my daughter and her husband and son. She lives just south of the Seine in the 7e Arrondissement, so we were well positioned to enjoy all the pleasures of the city of lights.

We are taught to think of Paris in terms of the Muslim terrorism, but of course you don't get a lick of that, except that there is a lot of security around. What you do notice is that the Uber drivers tend to be North African, while the taxi drivers are white.

But every moment you are reminded what a delightful place Paris is for the educated and the well-provisioned. It is amazing how many little boutique stores line the streets, and every corner has its restaurant. You wonder, how many fashionable women does it take to keep all these boutiques in business with their upscale clothing and furnishings and antiques? And how do all these little restaurants manage to make a go of it?

There are Monoprix supermarkets spreading out in the basement from a doorway onto the street, and there are plenty of McDonalds and Subways around. But the old Paris is still there, including the haute-couture brands and the fancy hotels south of the Champs Elysées. We had afternoon tea at the King George V Hotel and watched the world go by.

Paris is like every big city: it is home to the world, and if you didn't know that there were Muslims no-go areas, you'd think that Paris didn't have a care in the world. Of course, maybe it doesn't. Maybe all the Muslim fuss is just the ruling class needing a reason to tax us and spend us, and the need of Islamia to record its rage and frustration.

We went to the Louvre; it's a good idea to buy your tickets on-line before you go, because it allows you to skip the big security line and get into a shorter ticket-holders line. And then you get to sample just a little of the western colonialist loot that the curator class has accumulated and displayed. We went into the Richelieu wing and saw their huge Dutch collection, including what seemed like a roomful of Rembrandt self-portraits. There were a number of effigies of 13th century nobles, lying in magnificent carved stone on top of their mortal remains. The men were shown in their armor with a lion, for courage, at their feet, and their wives were shown with a dog, for fidelity, at their feet. They each held a pouch on their bellies, to carry their viscera. In stone, of course.

And that's to say nothing of the Egyptian, Persian, Phoenician, Carthaginian, Greek, and Roman collections. It is interesting to note that most statuary shows men in their fighting trim. But not the Egyptians, and not the toga-clad Romans. And hey, you may not be able to read hieroglyphic, but you can read the numbers off the wall, because the Egyptians have a glyph for one, for ten, for a hundred, and a thousand. One is a simple stroke, and nine is nine strokes. La Wik has the details.

No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to the Tombe de Napoléon at Les Invalides. Considering that Napoléon got the French in a bit of a pickle, it is a little surprising to see what an amazing, over-the-top memorial they have built for him. His remains sit in a huge sarcophagus in the middle of a huge rotunda, and in the wings are other French military heroes, such as Turenne and Foch. Alongside the tomb is the Musée de l'Armée, with tons of swords and muskets and uniforms from 500 years of French military campaigning.

Next to the Musée de l'Armée is the Rodin museum, but we didn't have time to visit before it was time to go to the King George V Hotel for tea. Oh well, next time.

And now it's time for the ten hour flight back to Seattle. Hey, what is ten hours compared to the 13 hour flight to Oz?

Trump Trumped at Last?

Last night at the GOP debate the 2nd placers finally laid their gloves on the GOP front-runner, Donald Trump, and gave him some rough handling. Where were you, guys, all this time? As David French writes:
Rubio and Cruz dissected Trump so thoroughly that I kept asking myself, why only now? Why didn’t they pounce earlier — before Trump gained the die-hard loyalty of between 30 and 40 percent of GOP voters? The GOP’s best candidates finally took down Trump, but it may have been too late.
Since we all know that Rubio and Cruz are seasoned politicians, with seasoned campaign operations, there must have been a good reason not to hammer away at Trump before last night. But what was it, and why? And is it all too late anyway?

Is Trump as rich as he says he is? Did he hire illegal Polish workers for real-estate construction? Was Trump University a scam? Does Trump hire H-1B workers over native Americans? We'd better get all this worked out and debated. Because otherwise we will be leaving the fish-fileting for the Clinton campaign, and boy, do they have sharp knives.

I was talking to a liberal feminist woman yesterday who asked, without really wanting an answer, about the US election. There are two sets of folks that are unhappy, I said: young people, and you can understand why. And also the white working class, and you can understand why.

That's the basic point that I have been trying to understand about government and its relation to life, the universe, and everything. Because government is force, it always ends up making the people on the receiving end of the force angry.

Young people are having a rough time right now, because the goodies have been hived off by government for the benefit of others, and they are left with a lousy job market and unpayable college loans. But I tell you kids, the answer to your prayers is not free college.

The white working class, and indeed anyone without a basic education, is having a rough time, has been ever since the unionized manufacturing game went over the top in the 1970s. It was a good time, for those that got the goodies, when private-sector union workers held good jobs at good wages. But now that's all over, and so the white working class, that thought it had a guaranteed ticket is stuck in a swamp of misery and helplessness. But I tell you, white working class, the answer to your prayers is not a wall and tariffs on imports.

Yes, but what do we do?

We conservatives and libertarians know the answer: stop the spending; stop the regulations; stop the crony capitalism; reform and dial down entitlements; reform and shake up education; stop the race politics; stop the gender politics. Because government is force, and force ends by making the world grind to a halt. The trouble is that nobody is allowed to say this. That's because the default position in politics is the patron-client relationship. The politician is the patron, and the only thing he is allowed to do is offer free stuff to the peasants.

It may be that Donald Trump is crazy like a fox, offering to make the economy great again while carefully avoiding the specifics, knowing what has to be done while cunningly hiding the knife that will scythe through the special interest carve-outs and welfare offerings. Or it may be that he doesn't have a clue.

The only way we get to find out is to let the process proceed, and hope for the best.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Nobody Knows What Trump Would Do

The common hit on Donald Trump, now the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, is that he is all bluster and no program. What, after all, are his ten point programs for immigration and health care and growth and Supreme Court nominees?

Me too. I'm a conservative libertarian and I like a candidate that spells out chapter and verse. Only there is one little problem. Politics just doesn't work that way.

All skilled politicians are the despair of people like me. They make a lifetime career out of saying things that get people enthusiastic, but avoiding things, what the media call "specifics," that might give their supporters pause. Here's an example.

Derek Hunter faults Trump on college loans. A woman asks Trump what he is going to do about college costs and he delivers a bromide.
We gotta do something with the cost of colleges. Now, what’s happening is you’re a conduit for government to give money to you to give to the college. And the colleges, their costs are going up by a factor that’s faster than anything else, practically, is going up. People are making phenomenal salaries at the top.
Trump goes on to say that he is going to "look into this" and "come up" with something. Yes, but what exactly is his ten point program to do something about this? Trump doesn't say. Therefore he is an enigma and we conservatives have no clue what we would be electing if we make him president in November.

But that's what politicians always do. They make sure to sound concerned about a constituent's problem and then utter some meaningless bromide. Of course they do. That's how politics is played.

But let's pause for a moment. Look at the quote above. In response to the question "what are your plans to make college more affordable?" he accurately spells out the problem, that students are a conduit for government to give money to the college. How cool is that?

Really, we can't ask for more than that, on education, the man we elect to be President of the United States understands the problem of high college costs. The only thing he left out is that students are left with the bill. He would be a fool to get down to specifics, because the specifics would tell us who is going to pay for any program to make college more affordable. And that would annoy both students and colleges. It's pretty obvious what needs to be done. We need to stop sloshing free money around. But don't tell the students, and don't tell the college administrators, or you won't get elected president.

Nobody knows what Trump will do. But maybe that's not a bug, but a feature. I'd say that in the US right now practically everyone except the ruling educated class is feeling that nobody cares about them. Here's Donald Trump that has found a way of rallying the non-conservative middle Americans to his banner.

Isn't that what the wise heads have been telling the GOP to do since whenever? That the GOP has to break out of the base, do outreach, and create a message that resonates not just with white conservatives but with, e.g., Hispanics?

Suppose that is exactly what Trump is doing, except that he is not doing outreach specifically to Hispanics but to the whole universe of non-college-educated Americans, white, black, and Hispanic.

Can he do that? Is he doing that? Well, latest word is that the Democrats are starting to get nervous.

Because maybe Donald Trump has found a way to appeal to nominally Democratic voters that the Democrats have owned for the last generation with their race and gender politics.

Imagine if the Democrats woke up one day and pressed the race button and nothing happened.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The President's Rhymes-with-Bucket List

Just imagine if President Bush had declared, in the spring of 2007, that in the last two years of his presidency he would be working on his rhymes-with-bucket list.

Oh, the liberal gnashing of teeth! Oh the disrespect to the country! Oh, the disaster for the Republican Party! Oh, the final proof that Bush was an idiot!

Actually, it may not be so bad. Because what the president meant was doing all the things you are not allowed to do, like go to Cuba and hob-nob with the Castro brothers. Like closing the Guantanamo Bay terrorist jail. Like nominating a liberal to the Supreme Court in your last year when tradition has it that the president doesn't do that, out of respect for his successor.

What all those things are likely to do is rile up Republican voters in November 2016. And what could be wrong with that?

The path not taken is the path taken by President Bush in 2008. Like nominating a Democratic Treasury Secretary with a nasty financial crash looming on the horizon. Like working with Nancy Pelosi in the spring of 2008 to pass a stimulus program to help ward off recession, or leaving the auto bailout half completed at the end of 2008 so that the incoming Democratic administration could put its imprint on it.

The thing is that we want a president that so loves America that he would not do anything to hurt America, even if it were politically advantageous. He wouldn't do anything to rile up the opposition. Not because it would help his party but because it would keep America from unnecessary division.

But President Obama is different. He is mean. He is petulant. He doesn't really love America. He doesn't even really love his party. So he does nasty stuff. He stiffs Sen. Chuck Schumer some extra money for anti-terror funding in New York. He doesn't attend the funeral for Justice Scalia. He resumes diplomatic relations with Cuba. He plans to visit Cuba, home of the cruel Castro brothers. And the repression increases on Cuba's democracy activists.

Now my feeling is that there's a reason why most presidents don't do this. It's not because they are good guys. It's because doing your rhymes-with-bucket list is really stupid, for getting anything done with Congress, with helping your party, with keeping the rage of the opposition down to a dull roar, with making America a better place.

For some reason, President Obama doesn't get this. Maybe it's because he's a Saul Alinsky leftist. Maybe it's because he's an Ivy League liberal. Maybe it's because he was abandoned both by his father and by his mother, and left to be raised by his "typical white people" grandparents. Maybe it's because when you are a Magic Negro being wafted aloft by liberaldom and the Democratic Party you never have to mend bridges with the rest of the world, never have to say your are sorry. Maybe it's just because President Obama is a small, unpleasant person.

But I think that the president and his rhymes-with-bucket list are worse that a crime,  they are a blunder. For him, for his party, and for the nation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Trump's Big Advantage

Here we are down to three candidates in the Republican presidential race. And the leader is the guy that has broken all the rules.

How could this be? How could the political novice Donald Trump break all the rules and win? How could the practiced and polished politicians like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio be outgunned by a novice like Donald Trump?

The answer lies in the Breitbart dictum: politics is downstream from culture. Liberals have dominated the culture and they have remade the culture so that conservatives cannot win in politics. Conservatives are racist, sexist homophobes. But racism is defined as opposing race-conscious diversity and affirmative action. Sexism is defined as not hiring and promoting enough women. Homophobia is defined as not affirming the gay agenda with sufficient enthusiasm. In other words, liberals are racist, sexist, genderists, that accuse the other side of racism, sexism, and genderism.

It's brilliant. Liberals have confined conservatives in a cage without a door.

But Donald Trump has succeeded in breaking out of the cage cunningly designed half a century ago by Herbert Marcuse, the inventor of intolerant tolerance (or was it the other way around?). How he has done it is still a mystery to me. And I am sure it is a mystery to Cruz and Rubio and their campaigns. After all, if they knew how to do it, they would have done it first. Hey, they are in the game to win.

The key to controlling politics is to control what people are allowed to say and not allowed to say. That is what the whole universe of political correctness is about. And that is what Trump has blown apart.

But notice that the only guy that has broken out of the cage, to this very moment, is Trump. The others are still sitting around wondering what has happened to them. They are still wondering how to play the game by the new rules. If the game has changed, and if the rules have really been broken.

Yes, but, you may say. Trump is in the enviable position of being able to throw caution to the wind. He is 69 and wealthy and can afford to play a high-risk game. If he wins, he gets all the marbles. If he fails, he is still rich and powerful and married to a beautiful woman. Cruz and Rubio have their political careers to think about.

The fact is that Trump should not have been able to happen. It was supposed to be death to insult a woman journalist, as Trump has insulted Megyn Kelly. It was supposed to be death to get into an argument with the pope, but Trump has done it and survived.

OK, but Trump has connected with the white working class that has been abandoned by the Democrats for the last half century. He has said things that they have been longing to hear. Exactly, but haven't Republicans been longing to discover the magic bullet to penetrate the hearts of the Reagan Democrats since forever? How come that Trump is the first politician to do that?

How come a political novice was the first to figure it out?

Let's think ahead and wonder if Trump can win the general election. Over at Mark Steyn there is a piece on the shriveling of the map for Republicans since George Bush senior. Look at the map, he says.
In the south-west he won California. In the north-east he won four New England states. He won the home state of a young community organizer called Barack Obama.
And he won Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Since then things have gone straight downhill so that the idea of a GOP win in 2016 looks pretty improbable.

But with Donald Trump you have to say that the map has been scrambled. The ideological divide of the past three decades has been shattered. How or why is for the historians to decide. Trump has found a way to scramble ideology, break the rules of political correctness and simply appropriate the voters' general unfocused anger into support for him personally. It does no good to point to Trump as a classic confidence trickster, or to complain about his complete lack of worked-out issues. The fact is that politics is about charisma and bombast, about grand denunciations and accusations; it is not about a serious and well-argued discussion of the issues, the careful calibration of messages, and appeals to various constituencies.

Nobody knows what will happen from here on out. All we know is that Donald Trump has blown up the liberal grand strategy in which America would become defined by liberal identity, as liberal identities expanded and included more and more of the electorate, and the rest of America would cower in the shadows, afraid of the mortal accusation of racism, sexism, or homophobia.

When you blow up the world, you don't know how the pieces will fall. By the fall the liberal cultural hegemony may be back in control and everybody will be minding what they say, afraid of the political commissars as of old.

But for now, Donald Trump has broken all the rules, and lived to tell the tale. And that is all that matters.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mend the Fed? Be Careful What You Wish For

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has accused the Fed of keeping interest rates low at the behest of President Obama. Marco Rubio waffles about Fed overreach that has led to an unhealthy “Fed-centric economy.” Ted Cruz talks about tying monetary policy to the price of gold.

But I wonder if anyone has really thought about what it would mean to reform the Federal Reserve System.

No doubt, the Fed’s zero interest rate policy is all about keeping the government’s debt interest costs down and protecting debtors from the aftermath of the Crash of 2008. But what would it mean to return to a normal interest rate policy?

No doubt the Fed has badly warped the economy, not just in the past few years, but ever since its inception in 1913.

No doubt, all things being equal, it would be best to link the dollar to gold.

But what, really, should we do? And more to the point, what do we dare to do?

We all complain about the Federal Reserve System. But do we really want to do anything about it?

Modern central banking started with the Dutch and their Amsterdam Exchange Bank. It provided the credit that enabled the Dutch to fight and win independence from Spain. Then the Dutch Prince William of Orange invaded Britain in 1688 and within a decade founded the Bank of England and used the British National Debt to conduct a Second Hundred Years War against the French, ending with victory in 1815. But the fact is that the central bank tended to roil the economy badly, since its war finance operations created inflation, and its post-war resumption tended to bankrupt debtors with withering deflation. Even without a central bank, the US Revolutionary and Civil Wars created first ruinous inflation and then bone-jarring deflation.

Our situation is the same, but different. Now the central bank is involved in goosing and/or cooling the economy on the conceit that monetary policy can help moderate the boom-and-bust cycle.

But I suspect that the real role of the central bank today is to smooth over the distortions caused by the huge presence of government operations in the modern big-government economy.

In the old days, the central bank’s credit operations helped the government commandeer the nation’s resources so that it could fight its national wars. That would result in ruinous inflation during the war and ruinous deflation after the war.

But today the central bank’s credit operations are intended to help the government commandeer the nation’s resources so that it can conduct its redistribution operations, from Social Security to mortgage subsidies. This has resulted in a century of inflation punctuated by various financial panics and banking collapses. The Crash of 2008 was caused by the Fed trying to cool the Fannie/Freddie fueled housing bubble of the 2000s. Call it the government’s clumsy right hand trying to correct the errors of its clumsy left hand. But before that was the Savings and Loan collapse, in which the government’s subsidized Savings and Loan lenders collapsed in the 1980s. It was a case of the government’s deflationary policy of the 1980s having to deal with the fallout of its inflationary policy in the 1960s and 1970s.

We are taught to believe that the Fed wisely guides the economy with the predictions of its economic models and economic data. But most likely it is just muddling through, trying to pick up the pieces of the government’s continuing failed interventions in the national economy. And every time we never see the crash coming.

So what are the chances of reforming the Fed so it doesn’t keep interest rates down to reduce the government’s interest payments. or reduce the “Fed-centered” economy, or get back to gold?

I’d say the chances are slim to none. As long as the government is seizing 35 percent of GDP to redistribute to to powerful interests, and using the credit system in all kinds of ways to favor certain interests, it is going to set up inflations and deflations, and crashes, and it will need the power of the printing press get itself out of a jam, by bailing out banks and frequently acting as lender of last resort to prevent a “sudden stop” in the credit system, and using cheap money to "stimulate" the economy.

And we will continue to build up the Chairmen of the Federal Reserve System, from William McChesney Martin to Alan Greenspan to Ben Bernanke to Janet Yellen, as wise financial soothsayers protecting the nation from fearful portents in the financial heavens.

Because the alternative of recognizing that they are all dull political hacks fumbling their way in the dark is too horrible to admit.

Friday, February 19, 2016

No, The US Budget Is Not Bankrupt

In the American Spectator today they do the usual piece about how the United States is bankrupt, that Barack Obama is doing nothing to fix the budget and that spending is going up and revenue not so much. So it says:
The U.S. is bankrupt. Not in the same sense as an individual, of course. Uncle Sam has the power to tax. But at some point even Washington might not be able to squeeze enough cash out of the American people to pay its bills.
Actually, the US is not bankrupt. That's because, unlike you and me, the US is a sovereign nation and it can renege on anything it wants. Only one thing matters to a sovereign nation: Can it sell its debt? Venezuela is bankrupt; it cannot sell its debt and so it pays its bills by printing currency and launching hyperinflation. And yet it is not bankrupt. It is still operating, and it will continue operating even after it reduces the economy to ruins.

The situation of the United States is that it has promised all kinds of entitlements and programs to the American people and the many special interests and client groups, and there isn't going to be enough money to pay for them all. Basically, Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are going to eat the budget.

But really, what else is new? Every government has promised all kinds of things to all kinds of people and the fact is that a lot of people get disappointed.

So at some point the US will start to renege on its promises. It can do it clean, and cut the spending and reform the entitlements and put the special interests on a diet, or it can do it ugly, like Venezuela.

The problem is, of course, that when the cuts come, the recipients will be mad as hell and will declare that they won't take it anymore. Just like the folks in Greece. So the government will do nothing, until we get to Greece.

At no time is the US really bankrupt. The US has the power to renege on anything it wants to. So there! The only question, at any moment, is who it decides to renege on. Will it be entitlement recipients? Will it be government bureaucrats?  Will it be bondholders? Will it be holders of US dollars and dollar denominated bank accounts?

The answer is obvious. When the US gets into a bind about meeting all its obligations, it will take the easy way out. It will renege on the folks that have the least political clout. That is not bankruptcy. That is just politics.

So the US budget is not bankrupt. It is just a measure of how badly the government is lying to us.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Waiting for the Moral Revolution

We've heard a lot recently, all of a sudden, about the drugs and heroin epidemic in the white working class. Only, according to Kevin D. Williamson, it ain't just the white working class. It's everywhere, including in the Volvo and trustafarian set.

(I thought that liberals had abandoned Volvos for Subaru Outbacks years ago, but maybe not on the east coast.)

Seems like the driving force, what you might call the "root cause," of addiction in the Subaru set runs more towards "divorce, and addiction in the family" than the failure to find good jobs in the energy industry.

With all this "dysfunction" and "substance abuse" you really get to see the point of what liberals sneeringly call "organized religion." As if listening to NPR and reading The New York Times and babbling today's liberal talking points isn't organized religion.

The fact is that 99.7 percent of people aren't moral philosophers (assuming that moral philosophers are any more moral than other folks). They need to join some sort of moral community to get straight about things. There is no particular mystery about this. Humans are social animals, and they like to be well-thought-of by the people they know. Modern organized religion is a spontaneous means to do this. You join a church or a liberal activist group and you internalize its moral structure, and you behave in ways that win the moral approval of the others in the community. And you go on to have a stable, worthy life that leaves a brace of kids and a passel of grandchildren behind.

The glory of the US is that, by an accident of history, its moral communities have tended to live at arms length from the state and its political power. So churches have tended not to be bureaucratic Departments of State Religion, but entrepreneurial outfits that have had to figure out what ordinary people wanted in the moral community line, and then give it to them.

And yes, people want structure, and rules, and costs. That's what makes a moral community worthwhile.

Of course, not all moral communities are a good idea, and every moral community is one step away from getting in bed with the state to impose its moral code on the rest of society. We are seeing this with our gay friends who are busy agitating to make it a crime against the state to say or do anything against gayness.

That's been the problem with the Left from the beginning. It can't get its mind around the fact that limited government and the rule of law are designed to limit the enthusiasm of people just like them, who cannot see anything wrong in combining the political, the economic, and the moral/cultural into one total system, providing that they are in charge.

System is domination, as the Frankfurters imply, or at the very least, "internal colonization."

According to Kevin, "There were 47,000 lethal overdoses in the U.S. in 2014, almost 30,000 of which were prescription painkillers and heroin." Maybe that's a lot, maybe that's a little. Back in the 19th century, the consumption of alcohol was said to be four times what it is today. And you could get opium without a prescription. You have to think that that kind of consumption led to millions of broken lives and premature death. In those days it was cheap gin that had the working class by the throat. The current heroin epidemic is said to be caused by a crackdown on the overprescription of opioids and painkillers. But is this worse than it used to be?

Here's a thought. Maybe the peculiar placidity of the famous Fifties was due to the government regimentation of World War II. Maybe the government tamed everyone to live good regular lives when it sent a generation of young men into the services to fight Hitler and Tojo. But then the kids of the Greatest Generation grew up in the Sixties and decided to go for more excitement. Or something.

And then the government decided to kick the white working class to the curb and get in bed with minorities and women.

Here's what I think. I think that liberals have so totally messed up America's moral communities, by their moral imperialism the last hundred years, that it is going to take a moral revolution to recover.

And if you ask me what that means, I admit that I haven't a clue. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Is the Politics of "Crush or be Crushed" The Only Way?

I got an email yesterday from Sam, a long-time reader of my blog, and he wonders if the Left has it right after all, that "the ends ALWAYS justifies the means." He continues:
[W]hile I debated how many Bastiats could dance on the head of an anarchistic needle the Left was busy owning education, passing socialist programs for over a century, wholly controlling the popular media sphere, co-opting judeo-christian religion, dominating every bureaucracy, writing every rule, setting every tone, winning and losing battles but nearly always the victor in culture wars. 
Frédéric Bastiat was the French economist who famously developed the notion of the Broken Window fallacy, "what is seen and what is unseen" and the modern idea of cost as the foregone opportunity.

In other words Bastiat was at the center of what we might call "Second Wave" economics, that included the idea of marginal price and demolished the Marxian economics that was built upon a tendentious reading of classical economics and its dichotomy between use value and exchange value. It is because of chaps like Bastiat that Marxists, to this very day, cannot venture out of the fenced pasture of Marx's economic writings. To do so is to abandon the Marxian dream.

OK, great. So the science is on our side! That, and $7, will get you lunch at McDonalds. My reader Sam continues, noting that history doesn't care how the winner wins, but the fact of winning.
When learning about a past war, no student cares if one or both sides followed the Geneva Conventions.  They only care about who won, because that is all that matters.  I now believe that it is not enough to win the argument, but to force it as well.  The left wins because they have no compunction putting the boot heel to their opponents, so I now believe liberty lovers have to get the bigger boot.  An unavoidable contradiction.  After all, did the founding fathers content themselves with posting their grievances and accepting their lot through gritted teeth - as we do today - or did they rise up and double down on the violence inflicted upon them?  What's one of the few culture wars that the Right has won?  Gun ownership - the one right that the leftist government must get bloody to trample.  Coincidence?
 Of course, to the Left, it is always the capitalists that strike first. The whole idea of "capitalism-and-imperialism" in one word is that capitalism grew across the world as much by force of arms as by exchange and markets. And in a milder vein, Karl Polanyi in his Great Transformation argued that the introduction of the exchange economy in the colonies more or less forced the locals out of their rural idiocy into the global exchange economy.

So if you are a lefty, capitalism is the most powerful force in human history, crushing everything in its path, and it is the bounden duty of all the Melissa Clicks of the world to shout F-words in the face of policemen and call for muscle at their glorious little peaceful protests and fight to protect those in the path of the capitalist Godzilla.

So who is right? How about everyone?

It is true that capitalism and freedom have increased per-capita human income by 30 times in 200 years, but it is also true that it has obliterated everything in its path, and utterly transformed the human experience. In other words, capitalism is transforming the world with almost brutal power, whatever we do or say.

It was completely understandable for the early Left to raise a banner against capitalism and predict that it would all end it immiseration. And it was worthy of the Left to protect and advocate for each new wave of migrants to the city. But it is also true that left politics has encouraged the migrants not to assimilate to the ways of the city and to surrender to the market as the bourgeoisie does. This has caused untold misery, from the death camps of communism and fascism to the predictable miseries of the Castro Brothers' Cuba and Chávez Venezuela, to the demoralization of the white working class where drug addiction and suicide are abroad, and the devastation of the western underclass where the women don't marry much and the men don't work much.

Capitalism and freedom are as inevitable as a Law of Nature. But it is also inevitable that people will fight being thrown into the deep end when they arrive in the city from the countryside, and it is inevitable that sauntering politicians will appear to lead those fighting against their dunking into the capitalist swimming pool.

My reductive Three Peoples theory is an attempt to make sense of this world. The People of the Subordinate Self are people that have not yet acculturated to the modern market economy. They look to a powerful patron or a strong leader as a means of support, and they get it. The People of the Responsible Self are people that has surrendered to the market economy and the radical idea that it is their job to find out how to be useful to the world, and then do it. The People of the Creative Self are people that have mastered the modern world and now they want something better. They want not just to adjust to the world but to amaze it. Thus art-for-art's-sake, progressive politics, the start-up culture, and, at the low end, work/life balance and "lifestyles."

If you are a creative person and you don't want the risks of the start-up culture and invent the next iPhone or the first viable nuclear fusion technology or work in some billionaire's space program, then advocating for those struggling to adapt to the market economy is a natural. The problem is that the creative people running things quickly learn to assume that everything they want for the marginalized is good and beneficial. They think of themselves as kindly librarians rather than ruthless power politicians. That is why AFL leader Samuel Gompers a century ago advised the workers to keep their distance from middle-class socialists. As a later politician put it: they are not interested in you, they are interested in your vote.

It is to deal with this issue, what we might call an instance of the "principal-agent" problem, that I have come up with my "little darlings" notion. If you are a member of a group favored by our current progressive ruling class and lovingly adored as little darlings, beware. One day the ruling class will tire of you, and it will find a new little darling to flatter with its favors. Once upon a time the progressives looved the working class, and lavished it with privileges and benefits. But then the progressives found a new love, African Americans and women, and so they left the working class out in the cold, even stigmatizing it as a bunch of racist, sexist, homophobic Archie Bunkers. In the end, the progressives care about their power, not about the people for whom they advocate. You can see that in the tactics of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as of mid-February 2016. She thought she was going to cruise to the Democratic presidential nomination, but now that Bernie Sanders is showing form, she is resorting to race politics to stir up the African American voters in South Carolina.

So the white working class got left by the roadside, just like Joe Soptic. And far too many African Americans live in corrupt crime-ridden hellholes, fifty years after the Civil Rights Acts, courtesy of their liberal patrons that seem to be able to coexist with the murdering gangs that help them get out the vote. Women have been pitched out of suburban complacency into glittering careers only to find themselves hag-ridden by the impossible tradeoffs of the "work/life" balance.

Yes, but meanwhile the liberals are trashing the greatest country in the world and all we can come up with is Donald Trump! Isn't it time to take a page from the liberal playbook and crush them as they crush everything in their path?

We could, but I don't think it would do us any good. Our theory and our practice is built on the fundamental truth that the modern capitalist market economy cannot be run like a feudal estate. That is the meaning of Mises' argument for the impossibility of socialism, and Hayek's argument that the bureaucrat in Washington just cannot know enough to run the modern economy. We cannot resort to the bully-boy tactics of the left because that would destroy the economy and raise up a rebellion of people unjustly hurt by our bully-boy tactics. The argument for the market economy and limited government is not just that it is moral and right, not just that it works, but that it is both. The smaller the government, the less it is crushing its opponents and provoking them into a head of rebellion, and the more that nobodies get a chance to reinvent the world and surprise us with a new economic miracle.

If you are a member of the ruling class you almost certainly believe in power, and that means you worship the power of the state. So, how well is that working in Venezuela right now? There is not much glory and power in being the boss of a failing country. Now look at China. Mao Zedong plus the Communist Party plus socialism was a poverty-stricken wasteland. But Xi Jinping plus the Communist Party plus capitalism is growing into a global behemoth. Imagine what China could become if it junked the Communist Party bit.

So I am still keeping the faith. I believe that the progressives, far from preparing for their triumphal march at the Capitol breathlessly reported by TV personality Caesar Flickerman, are desperately patching up a failing dynasty. They thought they were going to sweep into power in 2009 and whip the economy into shape with a big stimulus, whip the banks into shape with Dodd-Frank, whip healthcare into shape with Obamacare, and save the planet with green energy. Oh, and clean up Bush's mess in the Middle East. They really did! Now they are like the Chinese mandarins around the emperor in the Forbidden City in the last decades of the 19th century. They don't know whether to double down on the progressive playbook, or...

Yes, just what do the progressives propose to do next? Free college? Free healthcare? $15 minimum wage?

That, and $7, will get you lunch at McDonalds.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Trust but Verify at the GOP Establishment

One fallout of the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to announce, right away, that the Senate would not be considering Supreme Court nominees this year.

This is a pity, according to Mark Kirkorian. Politically, it would have been nice to duck and weave a bit and so avoid antagonizing moderate voters.
The problem is that such an approach would presuppose a certain level of trust between conservative voters and the Republican leadership. Such trust does not exist. After serial sell-outs and surrenders, you can excuse a conservative voter for assuming that the Senate GOP would supinely hand the Court – and the republic’s very future – over to Obama.
Why is it that, according to polls, that only about 40 percent of the GOP party base view the party leadership favorably?  Something like 40 percent of Republicans don't trust the party leadership, whereas only about 10 percent of Democrats don't trust their leadership.

It's easy to say that the reason is simple. Democrats do what the base wants, while Republicans keep betraying their base. OK, but if you are a Democrat you ought to be mad as hell right now because the Obama economy has done nothing for its minority and female base. The Democratic base ought to be mad as hell and not going to take it any more. But it isn't.

So what's the GOP problem? Is it the donors, that keep the GOP doing free immigration and export of jobs despite the wishes of the voter base? If only it were that simple. There are other, more intractable, reasons that makes the GOP establishment betray its base, time after time.

Strange New Respect. That's a term invented twenty years ago by the American Spectator writer Tom Bethell to describe the fate of good kick-ass conservatives after they go to Washington. The problem is that they are human; they want to be liked. They want to be invited to Georgetown dinner parties. And so they succumb to the liberal ruling class culture, and one day the Washington Post or the New York Times writes a piece about the "strange new respect" that Joe Redneck now enjoys.

Politics is Downstream from Culture. The fact is that the ruling culture in the United States these days is liberal. As we conservative diehards like to say, the media, the schools, the arts, Hollywood, TV, the universities, they are all full-on liberal and they all take up the latest liberal fad without even thinking. Yesterday it was gay marriage; today it is transgender rights; tomorrow who knows. The GOP establishment does not have the power to push against the liberal national culture. The whole point of political correctness is to make it very dangerous to push back against the liberal agenda. If we want to reverse the numbers, and make 40 percent of Democrats mistrust their leaders, then we have to change the culture first, and frankly, I don't see that happening in half a century. On my Three Peoples theory it would require the People of the Creative Self to change their spots or the People of the Responsible Self to stage a full-on cultural rebellion, and I don't see that happening, not while the current ruling class is turning out a generation where 40 percent like capitalism and 40 percent like socialism and a large majority supports gay marriage.

Obama and the race issue. It's hard to oppose President Obama without being suspected of racism. So President Obama has had a pretty easy time of it. There are always second tier media types ready to roll out the race issue when anyone opposes the president, and all the media big shots need to do is vaguely refer to the groundswell of "concern."

Memory of government "shutdowns." Back in 1995 the newly elected GOP Congress went up against President Bill Clinton in a showdown over budget cuts. And the GOP lost the propaganda war. Speaker Newt Gingrich was seen as a beast kicking kids out into the cold.

Memory of the Clinton Impeachment. In 1998 the GOP thought it had a winning issue in the Monica Lewinsky issue and the Clinton impeachment. Instead, the Democrats managed to turn the whole thing around and characterize special prosecutor Ken Starr as a sex-crazed fiend. And the American people just didn't want to kick out a president. The result was that Democrats gained seats in the 1998 mid-terms. Ever since, the GOP establishment has feared that they will inevitably lose any propaganda war.

So here we are in 2016 and we have a candidate who has, so far, successfully challenged the conventional wisdom about how to deal with the ruling culture: Donald Trump. He has successfully trumped the culture of political correctness with the culture of insult. Who knew?

On my Three Peoples theory, Trump has energized a section of the People of the Subordinate Self, frustrated white working class folk that are looking for a leader, no questions asked.

Can Donald Trump roll back the dominant liberal culture all on his own and lead a new Republican coalition of the Responsible people with a rump of the Subordinate people?

One thing is for sure. After a century or more of the present liberal educated ruling class there ought to be a growing group of people that experience the rule of the liberals as injustice, straight up. That's on my theory that all government is injustice and all opposition to government is a fight against injustice.

But nobody should underestimate the power of the liberal ruling class to reassert its cultural power, and make Republican men into mice, and thus continue the frustration of the GOP base that keeps voting conservatives into office only to find that nothing changes.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Six Good Things About Capitalism

Everybody is recoiling in shock at the Millennial Kids. How could they be rallying to the socialist Bernie Sanders? Don’t they know that socialism has been a disaster wherever it was tried? Did they never hear of Venezuela?

OK, I do understand. Bernie is offering the Kids free college. And who ever refused a politician offering free stuff until they got their first paycheck and notice the deductions?

But why be surprised? The Millennial Kids have been taught for 20 years by government teachers. You think the lifer wardens and trusties at the government child-custodial facilities are going to teach the inmates about the wonders of life outside the razor wire?

So when Peggy Noonan wrote that:
In the young [Sanders’] support is understandable: They have never been taught anything good about capitalism and in their lifetimes have seen it do nothing—nothing—to protect its own reputation.
she struck a chord in me.

Actually, those Kids probably have seen a capitalist do something to protect its reputation. Ever heard tell of them “Koch Brothers.” They have put their mouth where their money is.

And look where it got them. It got them mentioned by the execrable Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and denounced by the left everywhere as the epitome of evil villainy. Do you wonder why most capitalists keep their heads down?

So it falls to us foolish scribblers to stand up for capitalism. Here are six good things about capitalism. (Hey, Peggy, how often do you use your bully pulpit to say anything good about capitalism?)

Capitalism has increased per-capita income by 30 Times in 200 Years. That is 30 times as in 3,000 percent. As Deirdre McCloskey writes, there has been nothing like it, ever. She calls it The Great Enrichment and The Bourgeois Era, but that doesn’t really begin to describe the utter impossibility of the whole thing.

Capitalism is not investment, or savings, or accumulation. It is Surprise. Capitalism is the surprise of the textile revolution. Imagine! Cheap cotton textiles for the masses! It is the surprise of the oil revolution, bringing the illuminating oil for those oil lamps in Western movies from 80 cents a gallon down to 8 cents. When I was a young computer guy, working on an IBM 1130 with 32KB of memory and a 1MB disk, I never imagined the possibility of a smartphone with 32GB in my pocket which would play tunes in my car. Back then, it was inconceivable! Not to mention the pseudo-random noise communications.

Capitalism is permanent revolution. You want revolution, you Bernie guys? Real revolution, unlike the fake revolutions of lefty politics where one ruling class is replaced with another? If you do, then you want capitalism. Capitalism is the story of nobodies changing the world. Who was Hargreaves, inventor of the spinning jenny? A nobody. Who was John D. Rockefeller, inventor of the oil industry? A clerk in a store. Who was Andrew Carnegie, who brought us cheap steel? A telegraph messenger. Who was Steve Jobs? A college dropout. You want to talk revolution, forget politics and create a business start-up.

Capitalism gives young people a chance. Notice something about corporations in their growth stage? They hire young people. Notice something about well-established corporations and government? They are full of time-serving middle-aged lifers. ‘Nuff said.

Capitalism learns every day. Government never learns. Of course, capitalism doesn’t want to learn. That’s why capitalists like the ethanol guys in Iowa are so eager to crony up with government and get permanent subsidies. But the capitalists have to learn, and they learn every minute, every day from the world’s most amazing information system, the price system. Of course, the price system isn’t a Newtonian mechanical system at all; it is more accurately a probability state function, like in quantum mechanics. If you want a system, go to government, where Newton’s Third Law operates in a blind battle of equal and opposite forces battling to a bloody stalemate.

Capitalism is the deadly foe of discrimination. Can’t get a job because you are brown or black or white or female or male or gay or Muslim or Christian or an immigrant or young or old? Capitalism says: No Problem! We’ll hire anyone, especially if you are cheap! That’s why they had to have all those Jim Crow laws to enforce segregation in the South and the Davis-Bacon law to enforce “prevailing wages” in construction to keep blacks from competing with whites. And that’s why we are talking about building a wall on the Mexican border.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Capitalism is the magic bullet for young people, because it is a rebellion of termites constantly undermining the foundations of established privilege and power.

But now you understand why Bernie Sanders doesn’t like capitalism. For an old geezer like him, there is nothing good there.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Feminists Reach that Scarlett O'Hara Moment

We all know the moment in Gone with the Wind. After lying and cheating and manipulating her way across 300 pages of novel -- or hours and hours of movie -- Scarlett asks the departing Rhett Butler.
"Where shall I go? What shall I do?"
After last week, in which ageing feminist icons were embarrassing themselves for Hillary, and the brash but eternally foolish Camille Paglia was coming out for Bernie, the real walk-the-walk feminist Carly Fiorina told it like it is.
To young girls and women across the country, I say: do not let others define you... A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses and uses all her God-given gifts. And always remember that a leader is not born, but made. Choose leadership.
But even this is pure modern fantasy. Nobody gets to live the life he or she chooses, least of all women, least of all feminists. Scarlett O'Hara did what she had to do, given the facts on the ground that the South was a devastated land, defeated in war, and given her dynastic desire to save Tara. She didn't choose it; it chose her.

Yes, yes, you say, but Scarlett lived in the patriarchal Old South. She didn't have the choices that today's young women have.

To which I say; Bologna. In my view, young people today are brutally limited in their choices by a cruel and unjust liberal educated ruling class. Back in the 19th century young people had a much broader canvas on which to paint, mainly because the old feudal order had broken down and the New World Order of the educated and the evolved hadn't yet established its hegemony.

Let's tell it like it is, in my language. First of all, a person needs to obtain food and lodging. So that limits the choices, for a start, because if you obtain food and lodging by working it kinda limits your choices. Work has a way of filling up the day. You can, of course, choose to live on welfare, or by living off someone else, or going to live on a commune, but I wouldn't recommend it. It helps, of course, if you have a university professor for a father, like Carly Fiorina. La Wik:
At the time of her birth, Fiorina's father was a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. He would later become dean of Duke University School of Law, Deputy U.S. Attorney General, and judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Her mother was an abstract painter.
So really all the guff about Carly working as a secretary is just presidential log cabin talk. No offense, but I'd call that being born on third base.

Secondly, a person needs to mate and have children. Oh yes, you can choose a diverse lifestyle, picking one of the fifty or so gender options at Facebook. But unless you have children you are voting you and yours off the planet. I suspect this is why almost all religions are pro-natal. If you are a Shaker and don't have children or a modern liberal and you only have one kid, you and yours aren't going to be around too much longer. At a societal level the anti-natal attitudes of modernity are yielding birth rates that point to declining populations everywhere from Germany to Japan. They had a similar problem in the high Roman Empire, and look what happened to the Romans.

Speaking of the Romans, I am reading SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by the worthy and feminist and lefty professor Mary Beard. She frequently alludes to the relative freedom of Roman women, even if it was not satisfactory to the culture of 21st century women university professors.

But really, in a society where ambitious men proved their worth by getting an army command so they could do a spot of conquering, as Pompey did in Asia Minor and the Levant, and Caesar did in Gaul, what exactly does Beard have in mind for women? As she writes, the tombstones of the era celebrate men's glory in war, and women's glory in tending the home fires. Remember, no free person in that era did anything that we would characterize as "work;" that was for slaves.

The reason we moderns do not continue the old culture is not that we are virtuous but that, on the one hand, we do not need many men to guard the ramparts of empire, and on the other that modern hygiene means that the average women needs to bear only about two children to continue the dance of the generations as against six or more back in the old days.

It is notable that the cultural change affected men first. In the 19th century we invented careers and wage employment and sports. Careers amount to a sublimation of the conquest instinct, and wage work substitutes for long-service rank-and-file soldiering. And sports sublimates the war instinct, where you can root for the home team against the rascally foreigners from another city.

Today, with modern hygiene and machine textiles, women do not have to spend their entire lives bearing and raising children and weaving on the home hand-loom. So where shall they go; what shall they do?

The instinct of the feminists was that women should have education and careers just like well-born men. That, of course, is what Carly Fiorina, the well-born daughter of a professor and an artist, assumes.

Just between you and me, I think that is rubbish. First of all, it assumes that the male education-and-career arc is willingly chosen by men. I suggest that men ideally would like to do nothing, but nothing does not get you money, power, and the love of beautiful women -- or even plump, pretty women -- so men go to work. Secondly, it assumes that women want to live like men, and they don't.

I think that, over the decades, women will move to a more integrated life, weaving together the themes of marriage, family, wage-work, teaching, telling stories, and maintaining family and friendship ties. That is how I experience modern women that have grown out of the indoctrination of their youth.

Here's an idea. Now that western humanity is more or less literate, how about we close down the literacy boot camps we call public schools, and just leave the education of our children up to the women? I predict that they will weave a dense cooperative network of homeschooling arrangements that will educate and socialize children much better than our present administrative and bureaucratic monstrosity? But what about the poor, you say? Well, how about our well-born women getting up off their duffs and opening charity schools in the inner city and getting all the neighborhood women involved? They could arrange "protection" from the local gangs.

But is this remotely possible in the near future?

You never know. The good thing about 2016 is that, thanks to people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the ruling class of the educated and the evolved is is a complete mess. With its pernicious program of internal colonization it has divided, demoralized, and destroyed a thriving bourgeois culture and brought the land of the free and the home of the brave to an angry and vindictive nadir.

But what is the alternative? Is it Bernie or Donald? Of course not. The way forward will be blazed by men and women outside the political world slowly, by trial and error, creating a new world out of the wreckage of the old, and presenting the old ruling class with a fait accompli.  Because politics is downstream from culture. Or, if you are a Marxist, society is an economic base that raises a cultural superstructure.

Then will come the ruling class's Scarlett moment, when they will whine: Where shall I go; what shall I do?

And we will say to the old elite, what Lee Iaccoca said years ago: Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Take Your Pick: Nationalist, Socialist, or Both

In the sore losers department, National Review is running pieces today, here and here, mourning the sad state of America today, how our prosperity and our freedom have been lost to a powerful and unaccountable government by administrative hegemony. Charles Murray, as usual was way in front on this, with his quiet manifesto of revolution, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission.

Mona Charen puts it best, in the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary, tagging the results as "victories of an inane socialist demagogue and a foul-mouthed nationalist demagogue." Gee, why don't we combine the two?

Look, there's no mystery about the anger. America is not working very well for ordinary Americans; they feel trapped. The sensible response of a trapped rat is to lash out. So Bernie Sanders encourages his Millennial Kids to lash out at Wall Street bankers and make them pay for free college and free health care. Donald Trump encourages his white working class supporters to lash out at the China that has stolen their good jobs at good wages.
Sanders blames greedy billionaires for the problems of the middle class and the poor; Trump blames treacherous immigrants, crafty foreigners and incompetent leadership in Washington. Some people seemed surprised that there was overlap between Sanders and Trump supporters, but it makes perfect sense.
 Well, the richest men in America are people that have brought us Microsoft and Apple and Google and Amazon. And what have they done to deserve such riches? They have merely made it possible for anyone in the world to buy a smartphone for $99 that is cheaper and more powerful by orders of magnitude that anything dreamed of in the vacuum-powered 1950s. That is how you make the really big money these days. Or, like Carlos Slim, you can do it the crony capitalist way by charging Mexicans an arm and a leg to phone home to Mexico. Why don't we make him pay for the wall?

The great truth of social animals is that War is not the Answer. Except for pirates and plunderers. The problem is to decide who is a pirate and a plunderer. The whole point of socialism from Marx to Bernie is to blame the capitalists for their riches on the pardonable assumption that they are no better than the feudal nobles of old. The whole point of nationalism is that foreigners are dangerous so we should put them down before they put us down.

And they were right, up until about 200-300 years ago. Feudal nobles were predatory scum, wasting the product of their peasants on their prideful power games. The national land was life, and the land of the neighboring tribe could be put to use feeding our people.

But in the unbelievable increase in prosperity of the last two centuries all this has been turned upside down. The way to make real money is not to exploit the peasants or the workers, but to come up with something new, like coal, oil, nuclear power instead of wood and windmills, textile manufacturing instead of hand-work, rail transportation, electricity, personal transportation, information and communications. And the way to prosper is to trust anyone that demonstrates trustworthiness.

Well, that doesn't seem to stir the hearts and minds of Americans in 2016. What we seem to want is scapegoats and... yes, what comes next after the sacrifice of the scapegoats?

Back to National Review and Charles Murray and their jeremiad against the unjust administrative state. The question is: who will bell the cat? Who will dare to start to wind down the vast wasteful looting of today's big government programs? Who will dare to dismantle the vast injustice of the administrative state? Who will dare to do that when the Millennial Kids are baying for free stuff, and the white working class is baying for the lost Eden of good jobs at good wages.

History teaches us that the only way we get to demolish the privileges and the plunder of today's regime is when Attila the Hun shows up and sweeps everything away.

The problem is that Attila is no respecter of persons. He sweeps away the good with the bad, and leaves misery and famine in his wake.

If only there were a better way.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Politics Always Breaks Your Heart

Government is a devil's bargain. One the one hand people need protection from pirates and plunderers. On the other, they need protection from the protectors.

Think of the situation of English peasants about 1,000 years ago. They were subject to the raids of the Vikings every autumn who would sail up the rivers, kill the men, take the newly harvested grain, and sell the women and children into slavery.

England needed a government strong enough to deal with the Vikings. And it got it, in 1066, from William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy. But the Normans were in fact Vikings that had conquered and settled down a century before in Normandy. Still, after the Norman Conquest the Brits went unconquered for 600 years, until the Dutch invaded in 1688 with a 500 ship invasion force.

Fast forward to 2016, and we have the Republican voters in open revolt against their betters in Washington, DC. So who do the voters choose as their champion against the dreaded establishment? Why, none other than rich kid Donald Trump, who has made a career out of playing footsie with the establishment. This is the man who is to be our savior?

If you vote for Donald Trump you are voting to kick out immigrants and teach China a lesson. If you are voting for Bernie Sanders you are voting to put Wall Street in jail and get free college and free health care. If you are voting for Ted Cruz you are voting against the two-party Washington cabal. That's the trouble with politics and government. It's always a war, and the leader is always promising to mobilize the nation (at enormous expense) to go out and defeat the foe.

The problem is that, in the old Pogo comic-strip line, we have met the enemy and he is us. We got the immigration crisis because we have been condoning illegal immigration for decades. We got the Wall Street crash because lefties like Bernie were advocating for decades against banks "red-lining" poorer neighborhoods and restricting mortgage lending there. We got the RINO Republican establishment because it is death to a politician ever to propose a cut in government spending of any kind, let alone a reform of the big entitlement programs.

Really, nothing has changed in the last 1,000 years. We demand to be protected in old age, we demand the government picks up the tab for educating our children and relieving the poor. And then we are shocked, shocked, to find that government is for sale to the highest bidder?

Here we are after 200 years of stunning capitalism that has raised per capita income by 3,000 percent in 200 years, and half the Millennial Kids think that socialism is a better idea. Here we had, in 2012, a presidential candidate in Mitt Romney who had done nothing all his life but turn around ailing churches, olympic games, and corporations. And we rejected him for a man that had majored in the divisive tactics of community organizing.

Winston Churchill is said to have approved of America because in the end it does the right thing after trying everything else. Even then, I suggest, we do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

So it is my great hope that the Republican Party will win in 2016 because of the support of the white working class that helped defeat Mitt Romney in 2012, and that the new Emerging Republican Majority composed of 50 years of Democratic rejects will revive the economy, repair the culture, clean the Augean stables at the federal government, and roll back the Muslim impertinence under the leadership of a guy that has spent his life playing the crony capitalist.

And after Donald Trump's victory in New Hampshire it is starting to look like the only thing to hope for.

What a country! What a world!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Metastasizing Injustices of Liberal Race Politics

Conservative media sources have noted the dog that didn't bark after the Iowa caucuses. Usually, after such an historic event, the liberal media is all agog with the wonder of the First Latino to Win a Presidential Caucus. But this time, when the son of a Cuban immigrant won the Iowa caucus all we heard was crickets. Until The New York Times ran a piece that told us that Ted Cruz wasn't really an authentic Hispanic. Or Latino. Or whatever the totem word is today.
How is that not being celebrated as historic or at least worth a headline for a day or two?

The answer is not that complicated: Neither Mr. Cruz nor Mr. Rubio meets conventional expectations of how Latino politicians are supposed to behave.

Neither of these candidates claims to speak for the Hispanic population or derive a crucial portion of their support from Hispanics, and neither bases much of his political identity on being a Latino.
For "conventional expectations" you should read "approved liberal ruling class expectations."

And just to make sure, race journalist Jorge Ramos had written a piece in January that "There is no greater disloyalty than the children of immigrants forgetting their own roots. That is a betrayal."

There is a reason why I keep banging away on the idea that Politics is Violence, or alternatively, that Politics is Division. The whole point of liberal race politics is to divide off preferred minorities into the Democratic Party in return for race-based benefits enforced by the government's men with guns. Blacks and women and Latinos qualify; others need not apply.

Back in the 1960s you could make a half-decent argument that blacks needed a leg up after 200 years of slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow. It was a specious argument even then, but life is more than just rigid application of the rules. It is unjust, according to modern Enlightenment ideas, to use the power of government to enslave or discriminate against blacks according to their race. It is still unjust to use cultural and political power to favor one group of people over another in the years since.

You can warble all you like about historical marginalizations oppressions and exploitations, but the use of government power to favor or disfavor particular groups is unjust. Who cares? Well, sooner or later, the people experiencing the sharp end of government injustice get pissed off.

That is one argument explaining the rise of Trump and Sanders in this election cycle. Trump represents the white working class that has been the main victim of liberal race politics over the last century. You might say that it took the white working class a powerful long time to get riled up. Sanders represents the Millennial generation that is suffering from the lousy economy and the sky-high college fees.

You can talk all you like about xenophobia and anti-immigrant bigotry, but wages are depressed by immigrants like me. The people that suffer most are the people with marginal skills and intelligence that are forced to compete at the low end of the wage scale against the new wave of immigrants.

You can talk all you like about the ignorance of the Millennial Kids warming to the socialism of Bernie Sanders, but the Millennials have been screwed. In part they have been screwed because the economy is still suffering after the real-estate collapse, and that collapse was caused by a government program to push mortgage loans on sub-prime, often minority sub-prime borrowers. The sky-high college fees are caused by mountains of government subsidies for higher education, which merely encourage universities to raise the tuition and hire more administrators and end up burying students in debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Our government today is a huge pile of programs to help this or that group that suffered from perceived injustice at some point in the past. Every now and again one of those programs distorts the economy so badly that we get a crash of some kind. The crash may be financial, or it may be the slow-motion death by municipal unions at the City of Chicago.

Anyway, eventually the carefully constructed ramparts of privilege constructed by cunning politicians a generation ago or a century ago start to crumble. The injustices created by the ruling class and their government programs become so large that the victims start to reach a critical mass. And that is what we are seeing now.

Unfortunately there is nothing written in the sky that says that those suffering from injustice will choose appropriate means to right their injustice. Egghead "sophisters, economists, and calculators" like me think that the less government the better. But what do we know? The victims of government injustice just want someone to lead them and "do something" about it.

What everyone would like to know is what happens next. The answer is that nobody knows. And the truth is that whatever happens, there is no guarantee that it will solve anything, and do any more than replace an old injustice with a new injustice.

Politics is violence, and government is force. They are very blunt instruments for solving the problems of social animals like humans. Because the whole idea of social animals is to reduce the expensive resort to violence and force. You can see the problem when you consider that government is here to use violence to curb those that resort to violence, whether domestic or foreign. Where does that end?

It ends, for now, with an election in November. After that, who knows?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Breaking the Liberal Spell

There will be life after liberalism, but it is anybody's guess how long the liberal hour will dodder along into decrepitude. Here are two different looks at the problem.

Jay Cost talks about the problem of the establishment. Don't just rail at it, he writes, do something. And that something has to deal with the fact that it pays the elite players to service the special interests.
I think our political class is not responsive to the interests of their constituents, nor do I think that the rules of the political game make them responsible to the general welfare as a whole. Rather, I agree with Ted Cruz when he talks about a bipartisan cartel, which, in my estimation, is committed to the propagation of interest-group liberalism; the misuse of the state to funnel public resources to the interest groups that supply the most campaign cash, lobby the hardest, and are generally most adroit at the Beltway game.
For Cost, we have to change the rules of the game, so that ordinary corrupt politicians will do good things for America.

But the problem is not just the rules of the game. There is also the Zeitgeist. Joel Kotkin has a long piece about the dreadful effect of elite-liberal faith in densification, which encourages restrictive zoning in blue cities and the California coastal zone. The result is that ordinay middle-class families are priced out of the market by home prices in the Bay Area and numerous other liberal-dominated areas like New York City and Seattle that are sky-high. So young families are moving to cities like Houston and Dallas Ft. Worth, where they issue three times as many building permits per capita as in California.

We know what is going on here. Liberals all believe in sustainability, in protecting the environment by limiting the footprint of urban areas. And, of course, they are trying to shut down fossil fuels, because climate change.

Very well. But, according to Kotkin,
increasingly the worst influence on housing stems from the proclivities of contemporary progressivism. Whereas earlier Democratic presidents, from Roosevelt and Truman to Johnson and Clinton, strongly supported suburban single-family growth, contemporary progressives display an almost cultish bias towards the very dense, urban environment. The fact that perhaps at most 10 to 20 percent of Americans prefer this option almost guarantees that this approach would be unacceptable to the vast majority.
The problem is, of course, that only liberals get to expound on urban policy, and right now, in the Obama administration they are trying to regulate suburbs out of existence, because inequality.

There are a whole host of other issues where liberals are just steamrollering over the culture of ordinary middle-class families with children, because they can.

I get it. I really do. Urban liberals want cities to become creative hubs where young people can go and become creative artists, just like in Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class. Then they find that the poor are priced out of housing so they start campaigns for "affordable housing," as if that is going to make a difference. The problem is that the vast majority of people want to live in a nice quiet suburban house with a yard, and they don't want to live in an exciting urban creative hub. I like to say that Americans prefer this because American women, like the females of most species, like to retreat from the public world when it is time to bear and raise children and build a nice safe comfy fluffy nest. In the end the vast majority of people are going to impose their wants on the elite, but it is not going to be easy.

Eventually the political system will roll back the huge liberal lurch of the last ten years. Even though ordinary middle-class people don't have a voice in the intellectual conversation of the nation, the weight of their concerns will change the nation's politics. But the liberal totalitarian push to implement their vision without regard for other views will make the process darker and more cruel than it could or should be.

Liberals have been governing without the consent of the governed for quite some time now, and their governance is folly. The idea of "the consent of the governed" is not some good-government pablum. It just recognizes that a governing elite, in its own best interest, shouldn't try to ram its agenda down the throats of the governed, because in doing so it will incubate dark forces that will wreak terrible vengeance on it, the ruling class.

If liberals really believed their own propaganda, that history was on their side, they could be a lot more relaxed about their agenda. Just a nudge here and a friendly word there could keep the project on track. The fact that liberals use totalitarian techniques, from naming and shaming to a full-court press in the bureaucracy, shows that they really don't believe that their agenda is on the right side of history. They demonstrate that their agenda can only succeed if it is backed up with violence and bullying, with what the noted academician Melissa Click calls "muscle."

And think of this. Only 10 to 20 percent of Americans want to live in a dense and urban place, e.g., like Portland, Oregon, where, they say, young people go to retire. Yet liberals are going flat out to force everyone to live like that.

The current liberal surge is not going to end well.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Jonathan Haidt is a Good Guy. But...

Back in 2012 when I read Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind I gave it full marks. But I pointed out a basic flaw in his argument.
We humans, he argues, are wired to make instinctive moral judgments, and he has identified a moral matrix with 6 different axes, including Care/harm, Liberty/oppression, Fairness/cheating, Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation, that differentiates out our moral instincts...  Conservatives score about equally on each of the six axes, implying that conservatives value each of these moral axes as of equal importance.

But liberals don't. They rate Care/harm of overwhelming importance, Liberty/oppression pretty highly, Fairness/cheating moderately, and Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation hardly at all.
But, I protested, this is baloney. Liberals do too believe in all six axes. What is environmentalism about if not the sanctity of the planet and the avoidance of environmental degradation? Liberals may not believe in the authority of fathers and CEOs but they deeply believe in the authority of liberals and liberalism, and you will be made to care. Liberals believe in loyalty, otherwise how could those liberal professors all select their own kind for tenure, forsaking all others.

If a dull dog like me could see that immediately, why couldn't Jonathan Haidt, and why couldn't the educated evolved liberals that reported disinterest in loyalty, authority, and sanctity? We know why. It is because liberals think of loyalty, authority, and sanctity as nationalist, religious values, and they know that liberals don't believe in that stuff because they are educated and evolved.

In reality, liberals are in denial. The six moral axes probably apply equally to everyone. The point is that everyone has a religion -- in the broad sense of faith in a narrative about the world and what it all means and what we should do about it -- even the people that insist that they don't. And because liberals are in denial they are putting themselves and us at risk.

Jonathan Haidt now has a conversation with conservative John Leo online that has something important to add to all this. It extends the encounter that Haidt experienced with SJWs at an elite private high school. And it dovetails with my "Three Peoples" theory. The key section is about the moral urgency of social justice in the academy. Jonathan Haidt:
They’re so devoted to social justice, and they have accepted the rule that you can never, ever blame victims, so if a group of victims makes demands, you cannot argue back. You must accept the demands.
And the official victim class now includes seven groups:
You know, the big three are African-Americans, women and LGBT. That’s where most of the action is. Then there are three other groups: Latinos, Native Americans… [LGBT]

But now we have a seventh–Muslims. Something like 70 or 75 percent of America is now in a protected group.  
This really fits into my "Three Peoples" theory, because it tells us a lot about the religion of the People of the Creative Self.

The religion of the People of the Subordinate Self is the Propitiation of the Gods and their mortal representatives on earth, the feudal lords and powerful politicians. The religion of the People of the Responsible Self extends from Hinduism to Judaism to Christianity. It is about living a responsible life and making the most of God's understandable universe.

But the religion of the People of the Creative Self is a horse of a different color. And we can see one of its characteristics in the modern university. The idea is to wage holy war on behalf of the innocent victim groups that have been exploited and oppressed and marginalized through no fault of their own since the dawn of time, or at least since the rise of the West in 1500. That fight is the road to virtue and salvation. Anything less is a damning sin.

Of course, it's a wonderful thing to advocate for those less fortunate or less privileged that yourself. But it becomes a problem when you harness it as your religion to the vehicle of state. Because politics is violence, and government is force. You end up forcing everyone to sit in the pews of your established Church of Social Justice and force them to tithe. There is a word for religion combined with politics. In former times we called it theocracy. But in the 20th century it took on a new form and we called it totalitarianism.

The fact that the social justice warriors in the academy don't get this demonstrates their stunning ignorance or something worse. First, they don't seem to understand that they do too have a religion, and a very enthusiastic secular religion at that. And they also don't seem to have grasped the basic lesson of the 20th century, that you don't combine economic power, political power and moral/cultural power in one and then hand them over to the state, not unless you have a sick attraction for heaps of dead bodies.

By the way, Jonathan Haidt, who once was a Democrat, now considers himself non-partisan. The only thing that would make him vote Democrat would be if the Republicans nominated Trump or Cruz. Which goes to show that Haidt doesn't get it, despite his book and his research and his encounter with the SJWs at "Centerville High." Trump and Cruz represent the two groups that liberals say are beyond the pale: white working class and Christian evangelicals. Haidt is saying that if those two groups, that in my opinion have been egregious oppressed by liberals over the last half century, elect one of their own, he is outta here. We can't have those bitter clingers actually having some influence on public policy.

Well, Jonathan Haidt, back in 2008 I, a severe conservative, voted for Barack Obama. Not because I thought he would do America a lick of good, but because the Democrats and the liberals and the victim classes are after all American they have a right to have their turn on the bridge of state after eight years of George W. Bush. The alternative is civil war. If you don't see that the folks directly oppressed by the liberal establishment deserve their turn at the wheel, led by people who are, after all, perfectly conventional establishment figures, one a crony capitalist and the other a star scholarship boy, then you really need to go back and read your book again.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

When Will the SJWs Catch Up With "Turandot?"

Lady Marjorie and I went to the movie theater last night to see the Metropolitan Opera HD encore of Puccini's Turandot. A grand time was had by all, except that the tenor, Marco Berti, playing Calaf, the unknown prince, was very mediocre.

This Turandot is a 1987 monumental production of Franco Zeffirelli, so it is showing its age. But I started to think about how much longer the SJWs will leave the "orientalism" of Puccini in peace. We are talking about the immensely successful Orientalism of Edward Said. Just in case you hadn't heard of this lefty trope,
[Orientalism is] a patronizing Western attitude towards Middle Eastern, Asian and North African societies. In Said's analysis, the West essentializes these societies as static and undeveloped—thereby fabricating a view of Oriental culture that can be studied, depicted, and reproduced. 
Well, Turandot certainly does that in spades. The story is about an unknown prince, Calaf, that shows up in Beijing and learns that anyone may marry the emperor's daughter, Turandot, if he can answer three riddles. But if he fails to answer, he gets beheaded. Of course Calaf is really a stand-in for rootin' tootin' westerners that can run rings around those inscrutable and insanely cruel Asiatics. On top of that there are three officials, Ping, Pang, and Pong, that interact with Calaf and shamelessly burlesque the tradition of Mandarin bureaucracy.

The opera is really about Liu, a slave girl upon whom Calaf once "smiled" and who holds a hopeless but pure love for the lunk that takes one look at Turandot and then wants to possess her. Of course she eventually kills herself rather than divulge Calaf's name to the cruel Orientals, thereby demonstrating to the barbaric Orientals the superiority of western romantic love over their crude dynastic blood rites.

But where are the SJWs? Where are the denunciations of this crude "cultural appropriation?" Where are the namers and the shamers? Where are the safe spaces for those microaggressed by the naked orientalism and the cultural colonialism of Zeffirelli's production which is chock-a-block with western stereotypes about the inscrutable Orient?

And why stop with Turandot? There's Madama Butterfly about an underage Japanese girl sacrificed by her grasping family to be the concubine of a visiting US Navy lieutenant. What about Verdi's Aida, which makes a mockery of Egypt and Ethiopia? Maybe we could make an exception for Aida because the transcendent black soprano Leontyne Price made it into her calling card. But what about Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio which makes fun of the Barbary pirates and the whole wonderful North African Muslim harem culture. And don't get me started on Wagner's Ring cycle which makes a dog's breakfast of the ancient Nibelungenlied myths by overlaying the purity of the bourgeois woman's love on top of the usual crude politics in heaven of the pre-Christian gods.

So why haven't our lefty friends started in on opera? Is it because they don't give a damn about opera? Is it because the opera establishment is liberal and gay, so there would be no racist, sexist, homophobe conservatives to kick around? Is it just that opera wouldn't make a good soft target for the SJWs because you are immediately dealing with big liberal money?

I don't know. I'm just glad that they haven't come for opera yet. So, for now, we can all bawl our eyes out as Liu declares her undying love for a dumb Italian tenor before plunging in the knife and ending her innocent life until next time.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Actual Reportage on Cruz the Man

Journalist Erica Grieder first met a certain ambitious young lawyer in 2009, and recalls the conversation.
The lawyer and I quickly fell into a lively exchange about the ongoing contrast between the Texas Miracle and the Great Recession, with reference to Dallas Fed data and the political philosopher John Rawls. I was impressed enough to make note of his name: Ted Cruz.
I know. What's not to like? So now Grieder has written a "Field Guide to Ted Cruz¨ in the Texas Monthly. It's one of those by the numbers pieces: "Ten tips to figuring out the 'Wacko Bird.'"

"Ted Cruz is not a fire-breathing extremist." But since he's "running for the Republican nomination, the perception that he is a ferocious hard-liner serves his interests, and he’s not likely to dispute it."

Nor is Cruz an unstable maniac. "He was impeccably polite and well-mannered with me, and in all the interactions I observed."

"He has nerves of steel." Nobody thought Ted could win the Senate seat against David Dewhurst in 2012. And "His presidential campaign itself has been an ongoing exercise in taking risks that would make many of his peers feel faint."

"Ted Cruz is smarter than you", meaning that when he does something crazy, it may be because he is smart. But like many smart people, he may be too smart for his own good.

Cruz is deadly serious about strategy. As in announcing his presidential bid at Liberty University. And he is very careful about words; so if you are a journalist it is probably better to read what he wrote than ask him a question.

"Cruz is a mainstream conservative from the Texas Republican establishment." Imagine!

"Cruz is really into the Constitution." In fact he memorized it while in high school with the Free Enterprise Institute, and he has studied the Federalist Papers. I'm only half way through the Federalist Papers but I can tell you that, more than an apology for the Constitution, it is an incredibly sophisticated analysis of political power.

"Cruz is in it to win." He is not running for vice-president or a gig on FoxNews.
Cruz is running for president because he wants to be president, and because, having surveyed the 2016 political landscape with his dauntingly intelligent and highly strategic mind, he concluded that he can win.
I don't know about you, but I found "The Field Guide to Ted Cruz" very helpful. Thank you, Erica Grieder, for committing journalism.