Tuesday, May 31, 2016

McCloskey Again: The Bourgeoisie is not That Interested In Power

I've been blogging and writing about Deirdre McCloskey's Bourgeois Equality for the last week. It was a disappointment to me because it didn't take the argument beyond The Bourgeois Virtues  and Bourgeois Dignity.

McCloskey's big idea is that the Great Enrichment of the past 200 years, from $3 per day to $100 per day, did not come from capital accumulation and/or institutions but from rhetoric. People started to dignify the occupation of trader and innovator and refrain from smothering innovations in their cradles. And the result was what we see around us.

But I wanted something more, and I didn't get it. So I blogged my complaint here and then wrote about it in today's American Thinker piece: "Attention Deirdre McCloskey."

But the McCloskey dead end forced me to think. What is it about the bourgeoisie, you and me, that McCloskey is missing? And then I got it.

The bourgeoisie is just not that interested in power.

So I wrote in the AT piece:
When you are not that interested in power, you find that the whole world opens up to you. Now the way is clear to get into “virtue” and “create a rhetoric” to “dignify” innovation and “having a go,” and watch the Great Enrichment sweep across the world. Now the way is clear to free the slaves and enfranchise the working class, and even indulge upper-class women and sexual adventurers in their shallow enthusiasms and conceits. All because you are not that interested in power.
All down the ages, rulers have been obsessed with power. In Nicholas Wade's memorable words: "men like power and will seize it if they can." And so, down the ages, men have been at each others' throats, and mankind has been half throttled.

But what if a race of men arose that were not that interested in power? They would be men -- and women -- that did not feel the need to slip the stiletto in the other guy's ribs first, just to be on the safe side. They might be men that lived according to the iterated Prisoners Dilemma, and believed that you generally offer trust and reciprocity to other people, on principle. But if they show they are untrustworthy then you stop dealing with them right now. This new race might be men that thought about what they could offer to the world before they started to think about what they wanted from the world. They might be men that surrendered to the verdict of the market and did not, like union workers and crony capitalists, go running to the government for a sweet use of force whenever things went against them. They might find, to their amazement, that such behavior would result in a Great Enrichment, as per McCloskey, that increased per capita income from $3 per day to $100 per day in 200 years while also increasing human population from one billion souls to seven billion souls.

Then we get to understand the fatal mistake that our liberal and lefty friends have made. They think that the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything is power. Power to the people. Power to educated evolved people like us. Power to government. Power to the experts. Power to peaceful protesters. Power to traditionally marginalized groups. Power to suppressed voices. Power to silence "hate speech." And so on.

And it is not just wrong. It is folly. Worse than a crime, it is a blunder.

You can see where this faith in power comes from. It comes from Nicholas Wade's words, that men like power and will seize it if they can. It seems to be the answer to everything and maybe it was in the old hunter-gatherer days. If you want food, you better grab it before someone else gets it. If you want to eat you must defend your territory, to the last man.

But the market system changes all that. Because all of a sudden, things aren't a question of life and death, of kill or be killed. Now everything is negotiable. Now the question is what you can make that other people want to buy. Maybe it is a product, maybe it is a skill. Maybe it is just labor.

Hegel in his dialectic of Master and Slave has a parallel analysis. When two men meet in the wilderness, it is a question of kill or be killed, a Fight to the Death, unless one of the combatants surrenders and becomes a Slave. What humiliation! And yet it is the Slave that benefits from the relationship, because he learns how to master Nature in his Work for the Master, and then he begins to desire freedom. Yet that will be achieved not by another fight to the death, but by getting the Master to recognize him, the Slave, as another person, not just as a subordinate Slave.

Our lefty friends, unfortunately, cannot seem to escape from the dead end of Mastery. They must be Masters, that is all.

We are seeing, at this very moment, the problem with Mastery. Nicolás Maduro is Master of Venezuela, and a lot of good it is doing him and the Venezuelans.

Imagine what Venezuela and even the United States could become if the rulers and their supporters just weren't that interested in power.

Just like the bourgeoisie.

Monday, May 30, 2016

How to Put Conservatives Back Together Again

After all the division and the tearing-apart of the 2016 election what happens next for conservatives and Republicans? John O'Sullivan gives us a tour d'horizon that reminds us that we are always arguing and divided.

But he makes important points about the Trumpites that need to be shared. Especially the question of entitlements.
Conservative writers have long pointed out that the present structure of such payments is fiscally unsustainable, destructive of self-reliance, unrelated to the contributions beneficiaries have paid in over years, likely to undermine the dependent–worker ratio on which the entitlements depend, and much else. 
Easy for us to say. But the ordinary voters are on the sharp end of entitlement reform and they see things differently.
Most suburban conservatives don’t see it that way, however, and in particular they distinguish morally between different kinds of transfer payments. As Rod Dreher found when talking to his father, they think that welfare payments going to idlers are quite different from Social Security payments going to retirees. In the first case, they reward vice and/or encourage dependency; in the second, they are the return on their investment in America as hard workers, good providers, helpful neighbors, potential draftees, and patriotic citizens.
Hmm. The way I've read about it, suburban Americans argue that they paid their dues, and by God, they are going to demand they get their reward. It's in the Trust Fund, right?

My own view is slightly different. Ordinary Americans are taxed up the Wazoo with payroll taxes, which is profoundly unjust. So they are right to have a bloody-minded attitude about getting back their contributions with interest.

So then John O'Sullivan comes up with his reality check, borrowing from James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus in America 3.0, and their prediction of the "Big Haircut."

"Haircut" is the term generally given to the treatment of bondholders when a government entity won't pay its debt. Nothing will happen to entitlements until a government debt crisis that forces everyone, even Democratic politicians, to agree on a solution in which everyone shares in the haircut.

In other words, big changes are afoot, but the times are not yet ripe.

In the short term, I can't help feeling, the action is going to be the growing rage against the injustice and the oppression that the Obama progressives have been dishing out to the people that think of themselves as "typical Americans."

So if conservatives and Republicans want to do anything they should be doing stuff that helps more people identify as typical Americans. One recent suggestion was to start hearings in Congress about the Asian American quota at Harvard and other selective colleges.

By the way, I just finished Chapter Ten in Alexis de Tocqueville's The Old Regime and the French Revolution and he talks about the disaster of the old regime's policy of divide and conquer and of concentrating all power at the center. It ended up that the whole nation was divided against itself, nobles against the middle class, middle class against the peasants and everything in between. So the French ended up with the Hobbesian war of all against all.

It really is better to avoid a top-down government of experts, and a divisive identity politics that sets every group against every other. You never know when you are going to need the nation to be strong and united.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Tocqueville's Other Book: The Old Regime Before the French Revolution

I finally got to the end of Deirdre McCloskey's overmannered Bourgeois Equality, and then lightning struck. I just happened to stumble over a copy of Alexis de Tocqueville's The Old Regime and the French Revolution in the remainder stacks at HalfPriceBooks. For $1.00. Plus tax.

OMG.

Tocqueville argues that the French Revolution changed nothing in France.

Really. The most famous event in European history and it changed nothing? Surely you are joking, Mr. T.

Here is his argument in two lines:
1. Before the Revolution, France was a centralized top-down administrative monarchy. 
2. After the Revolution, France was a centralized top-down administrative monarchy/republic, whatever.
Yes, but what about them aristos, the nasty chaps that got sliced up by Madame Guillotine unless they were saved by Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pumpernickel?

Good point. But the nobility under the ancien régime was no longer a feudal aristocracy. Its power had been sapping away for centuries. In the years before the Revolution France was governed by the Royal Council, le Conseil du roi, and the council was headed by a Controller-General. The Controller-General governed France through Intendants in each généralité, all across France.

France used to have authentic popular governing institutions. But the absolute monarchy, operating
through the Royal Council, slowly sapped away all the popular and feudal institutions, replacing them with a pure bureaucratic organization through which everything in France, from the fall of a sparrow to the conduct of war, was controlled by the center in Paris.

By the time of the revolution the nobility had no power, but it did have privileges, and especially exemptions from taxation. So everyone hated the aristos, because of their privileges. The middle class hated the stuck-up aristocrats, but they moved heaven and earth to buy some official position, which provided them with an income and an exemption from taxes.

What about the workers? Well, in 1789 we are talking about farmers, and they mostly owned their own farms because the aristocracy had been selling their land off for a while and the peasants were buying. The peasants, of course, hated the fact that they were the ones stuck with the short straw, paying the taxes and supplying the cannon fodder for the militia. So they hated the middle class.

Everyone hated everyone else and they were ready in the old Paris brickyard, you might say, to settle scores with a vengeance once the starter bellowed: gentlemen, start your engines.

But did these warring tribes demand independence from the center? Not a bit of it. Tocqueville writes about various schemes for improvement and reform.
The ends proposed by the reformers varied greatly, but the means were always the same. They wished to make use of the central power, as it stood, for shattering the whole social structure and rebuilding it on lines that seemed to them desirable.
Everyone looked to a strong central government to solve their problems.

The comparison with our own times is chilling. Tocqueville argues that in the old feudal times people got on pretty well. There were parlements and the Estates worked together, middle class and nobility, to solve problems. People up and down the social scale had the power and they used it sensibly to work out their differences. The towns were mostly self-governing, and so they governed themselves.

But by the time of the revolution nobody had any power except what they could wheedle from the Intendants and their subdelegates. So they retreated from politics and governance and argued about precedence. The guild of lawyers demanded precedence over the plumbers, and so on. And they schemed to win privileges and exemptions and government jobs.

By the time of the revolution, according to Tocqueville, France was already pretty equal: there was not much to tell between a noble and a bourgeois: they walked and talked and thought the same. But they imagined enormous differences in blood and in the quarterings on their escutcheons.

Enough said for now. Here is the heading for Chapter Ten, next up.
How the suppression of political freedom and the barriers set up between classes brought on most of the diseases to which the old regime succumbed.
Hello liberals! How is that divide-and-conquer race, class, and gender politics doing for you today?

Because I wonder. I wonder if one day your divisive politics might throw up a man on a white horse promising to Make America Great Again.

Click here for Part II of Tocqueville's Other Book.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

McCloskey Again: Why Not Call The Book "Bourgeois Rhetoric?"

Deirdre McCloskey has finished her magnum opus Bourgeois Trilogy with Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. And now I've finished the book, all 787 pages.

Start over: Conservatism's Big Problem.

I'm afraid I have a problem. What was the point of the third volume? McCloskey has said it all already. Here is how I understood her message five years ago after Volume Two hit the stores, in answer to the question What did it? What made the Bourgeois Era?
The key thing that changed, according to McCloskey, was not technological change, but a cultural, rhetorical change. About three hundred years ago, around the North Sea, societies started to respect the commercial bourgeoisie and the things that it did. It allowed, for the first time, the bourgeoisie to do what comes naturally, to innovate and change things.
I already went through saying that I didn't think she had anything new to say a couple of days ago. But I hadn't quite finished the book, all 787 pages, back then.

So when I got to the end of the book, I read that the Bourgeois Revaluation "came out of a rhetoric that would, and will, enrich the world." You mean, just like she said back in 2010 in Bourgeois Dignity?

OK. So why not call the book "Bourgeois Rhetoric: How I am right and the Guys That Say It Was Capital or Institutions are Wrong." Because that's what the book is all about, picking fights with other academics and going into the long grass with the Oxford English Dictionary to show when "innovation" ceased being a pejorative.

I tell you what I am looking forward to. I am looking forward to the day when racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe is no longer a liberal pejorative, but a pathetic joke.

McCloskey invokes Edmund Burke as an enemy of innovation, which I regard as a bit of a low blow, perhaps intended to hit the nostaglic Russell Kirk. Burke wasn't opposed to innovation so much as opposed to "sophisters, economists, and calculators," the Newtonian mechanics of materialism. As an opponent of mechanism and materialism he was on McCloskey's side. And his life centered around four great campaigns that fit right into the Bourgeois culture: for Catholic emancipation in Ireland for which he lost his seat in Parliament representing the slave port of Bristol; for the anathematization of the plundering imperialist Warren Hastings; for letting the North American colonies go their own way; and for predicting that the French Revolution would end in the gallows. Nothing very innovative there, of course, just Russell Kirk presiding as a loving lord over his neo-feudal estate at Piety Hill.

Throughout the book McCloskey is likes to equate right wing with left wing opposition to her "trade-tested betterment." I suppose there are righties down the last two centuries that have pushed against the Great Enrichment, chaps like Carlyle and, in the last century, Russell Kirk of Mecosta, Michigan. But their influence has been minuscule compared with the influence of McCloskey's "post 1848 clerisy," the Left. To keep asserting "balance" by hitting the right and left equally is distracting, and pandering to the New York Times set ("My people" in The Bourgeois Virtues).

And here are some more problems that I have with McCloskey. She represents Zola's Germinal as anti-capitalist. So it is, perhaps, in a superficial reading. But in Germinal Zola humanizes the bourgeois owners of the coal mine who know and hate that they are hurting the miners. But prices are down, so what can they do? And Étienne, the community organizer that leads the miners in the strike that destroys their livelihood, leaves the miners at the end of the book and sets off for his next community organizing gig in another town. Did Zola nail the nascent left-wing "activism" culture or what? Maybe I am reading too much into it, for after all, Zola must know that bashing the bosses sells books.

In The Ladies Paradise (now a BBC TV series) McCloskey is equivocal, quoting a bit of anti-Semitism that may or may not come from Zola himself. The hero, M. Mouret, is a counter-jumper brimming with innovative ideas for bringing retailing into the 19th century and inventing that ladies' paradise, the big department store. Among other things, Mouret learns how to use the haute bourgeoisie, including a a rich-bitch mistress and a financier, to grow his business. The heroine, Denise, is the compleat bourgeoise, utterly principled and virtuous in the full seven virtues celebrated by McCloskey in The Bourgeois Virtues. McCloskey equivocates, but I experience The Ladies Paradise as a celebration of innovation and everything bourgeois even as it does not shrink from showing the miseries of the small shopkeepers, that Mouret sees as fools, driven to bankruptcy by the innovations of the big department store.

Another thing. The aristocracy 500 years ago was starting to move away from Hegel's pure Herrschaft. In England, once the Tudors had stripped them of their castles and their private armies, the aristocrats got interested in "improvement," making money by improving their agricultural estates and advancing the agricultural revolution that "hurled" the peasants off the land. So, by 1600 at the latest the landed warriors started to compete in the market economy for the wealth they needed to win at competitive social events in the courts of the absolute monarchs. So the rise of the bourgeoisie did not take place in a vacuum. The king's monopoly on armies meant that the warrior class had to diversify away from war-only. And it did.

But enough of cavil and calumny.

Even though Bourgeois Equality is heavy reading, and does not advance the narrative beyond the first two books, it does not subtract from McCloskey's overall achievement. The Great Enrichment of the last 200 years, that has brought each individual from $3 per day to $100 per day and more, is a stunning achievement, never seen before in history, and the bourgeoisie did it. This astonishing and unique event rests on bourgeois virtues and the culture of the bourgeoisie, that people should have a go at innovation and improvement, and that the established interests should not stand in their way, at least not much. That is something that needs to be said, over and over again, and McCloskey is not too shy to do it.

But what I was hoping for, as I read Bourgeois Equality and its occasional swipe at the lefty "post 1848 clerisy," was an analysis of the clerisy, some theory or depth of understanding that could help us all make sense of the left's negativism and its war on "trade tested betterment." I didn't find that, so I am still pushing my Three Peoples theory, with the People of the Creative Self descending into violence and compulsion to exercise their taste for creativity.

You see, if you have a yen to be creative you have two options. You can innovate and submit your innovation to the trade-testing of the market. Or you can declare war on society and force it to bend to your brilliant ideas. There are two ways to get to Scotland, the high road and the low road. The "post-1848 clerisy," the People of the Creative Self, chose the low road, and for sure, they got to Scotland before ye. But millions of people have suffered and died for their sins by the bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sorry, Charles Murray, You Don't Get It

I revere Charles Murray, who has written books about politics that, I hope, will stand the test of the ages.

We are talking about Losing Ground, which told us that the liberals knew that their Great Society welfare programs weren't working. But they did nothing to fix them. Then we are talking about Coming Apart, a look at White America from 1960 to 2010, which told us that the bottom 30 percent of white America was not doing well. In fact, the men tend not to work and the women tend not to marry. Now, of course, we are learning that the white working class is dying of despair.

But today National Review is publishing Murray's #NeverTrump piece, "Why 'Hillary is Worse' Doesn't Cut It."
Barring a startling turn of events, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican presidential nominee. There are good reasons to question his fitness to occupy the presidency, because of both his policy positions and for reasons of character.
Perfectly true, but it misses the point. It assumes that the US is in normal mode, where we want a solid citizen on the bridge to watch the dials and suggest a course correction or two.

Yes, Trump's policy positions are a mess, and his character is questionable. And he lies. But that's not the point.

Let's trot out my catchphrases.

Government is force. That means that people on the receiving end of government aren't going to like it. At some point they are going to do something about it.

Politics is violence. It is not about choosing a guy with the best policy positions and who has never lied to us. It is about choosing a leader who will fight for us. That's what Hillary Clinton says in her slogan "Fighting for Us." The fact is that we conservatives and the GOP have done a lousy job of fighting for the typical American that votes Republican. We have allowed liberals to blame the white working class for the sins of racism and sexism, and the white working class has been dying of despair until Trump came along and spoke their language. And how. Have you heard him speak at one of his rallies? He doesn't make grand gestures, he just speaks in a low-key way that sounds like he is letting his audience into his confidence.

Government is injustice. It doesn't matter how the ruling class justifies its rule, to the people on the receiving end it looks like injustice. And sooner or later they are going to get really mad about it. On top of this the activism culture of the Obama years believes in government action as a founding principle. It thinks that un-negotiated administrative and regulatory action to implement the agenda of its supporters is politics as usual. It is not. It is injustice, straight up, and it is making people crazy with impotent rage.

System is domination. All the wonderful programs that liberals have been pushing for the last century have this one problem. They are administrative systems, on the Newtonian mechanical model. They treat humans as billiard balls to be knocked around a pool table. System is domination, and humans don't like to be dominated.

Politics is civil war by other means. Politicians like Barack Obama and the whole liberal culture like to think of government as helping people. It is not. Government is forcing people. And then they get mad.

Government never learns. This is baked into the cake of government. If government is force, then the whole point is not to listen to people saying "this doesn't work" or "this hurts people like me." Government is a bulldozer. It pushes through to victory, no matter the casualties. Victory isn't everything, it's the only thing. And anyway, as any leader knows, if you admit to mistakes then people are likely to start looking for another leader.

The bottom line is that conservatives and the GOP have failed to protect its voters, the people that think of themselves as typical Americans. So to complain that Trump doesn't have coherent policies, or the right character, misses the point.

And anyway, when did any party have coherent policies? All political platforms are a sludge of bad ideas gussied up for the ball. And as for character? Eisenhower was bonking his driver through World War II. Kennedy was bonking everything in sight. LBJ, nuff said. Ronald Reagan got divorced. Clinton, as a Democratic friend delicately told me in 1992, had a silver zipper. George W. Bush was a drunk. And so on.

Nations get lumbered with men on white horses when the regular ruling class has failed to do its job. And then things get worse before they get better.

But I will continue reading your books, Charles Murray, because you are a national treasure. And this one parting shot. Doesn't your By the People: Rebuilding Liberty without Permission kinda tell people to kick over the traces and start disobeying administrative government, because injustice?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

McCloskey Again: 787 Pages For What?

The third volume of Deirdre McCloskey's Bourgeois Trilogy is out, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, all 787 pages of it.

And I am left wondering: what exactly is new in the third volume that had not been thoroughly thrashed out in the first two volumes, The Bourgeois Virtues and Bourgeois Dignity?

So I went back through my McCloskey Week blogs of 2010 to see what I had understood from reading the first two volumes.

OK, so the first volume was all about The Bourgeois Virtues, that, whatever the bourgeoisie says, it is not a Prudence Only operation, but a culture that embraces all the virtues, the four classical virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Courage, and the three Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love.

There is a lot of stuff in Bourgeois Equality about the limitations of Prudence Only, and a restatement of the need for all the virtues. Frequently.

The second volume was Bourgeois Dignity. Here McCloskey pointed out that the rise of the bourgeoisie coincided with the upvaluing of the middle class and the things that it did.
People stopped sneering at market innovativeness and other bourgeois virtues exercised far from the traditional places of honor [in religion, politics, and war].
Instead people started to approve of innovation, at least until the clerisy started to badmouth it. And so we got the Great Enrichment of the last 200 years from $3 per day per person to $100 per day per person, and more.

So what is left to say in Volume Three, Bourgeois Equality? I think what is left is to lay down a thundering World War I artillery barrage to assert without limit that McCloskey's ideas about the rise of bourgeois virtue and bourgeois dignity are right and everyone else's ideas about accumulation, about technology, about science, about capital markets, is wrong.

What is new is that McCloskey has come up with a new catchphrase to replace "capitalism," which has been a leftist pejorative at least since 1848. She calls our current way of life "trade-tested betterment." She means by that bourgeois entrepreneurs coming up with innovative ideas for betterment, such as, oh, smartphones, and then submitting them to the test of the market.

The villains of Bourgeois Equality are the people of the "clerisy." But the clerisy were marked out already in The Bourgeois Virtues, as the "opinion makers and opinion takers... readers of The New York Times...  book readers... My people. Like me."

So I guess that explains the gratuitous swipes at conservatives as equally to blame for standing in the way of "trade tested betterment" as the post-1848 clerisy. You gotta throw some red meat out to the lefty intelligentsia or they won't read to the end.

But does it work? The New York Times reviewed The Bourgeois Virtues, damning it with faint praise. But Bourgeois Dignity didn't rate a review. However, The Wall Street Journal gave McCloskey a chance to write up Bourgeois Equality last weekend, so that's all right.

I get an eerie feeling, reading Bourgeois Equality, because McCloskey seems to have read the same books that I have. She's all over the Dutch for inventing the modern economy; she's all over the Dutch invasion of Britain in 1688. She takes a strong line against Karl Polanyi and his Great Transformation. She admits coming late to Willa Cather, as I did, and she's dipped into Charles Taylor, as I have.

But she seems to miss out on Hegel. Hey kids. I am talking about Hegel's Master and Slave (Herr und Knecht) thingy from his Phenomenology of Spirit, which I am reading from Alexandre Kojève's Introduction to the Reading of Hegel. The big point of the Master and Slave thingy, in my view, is the valorizing of work. The Master, according to Hegel, who wins the Fight to the Death, appropriates the work of the Slave, and lives a life of leisure. But the Slave, forced to work for the Master, learns to transform the world by his work, transforms what is given, and transcends himself and learns about personal autonomy. In other words, the Slave, through his work for another, learns to value freedom and autonomy and learns how to transform the world by his work. He is on the way to becoming a true bourgeois.

Of course, in the real world, men go to work not because they lost the Fight to the Death with the Master but because, as Willa Cather writes in The Professor's House, when a man is "very much in love and must marry at once" he needs a job. It is not the Master that enslaves him and puts him to work but his love for Lillian.

There is not a word of this in McCloskey, and this is a scandal. How is it that I, a mere racist, sexist, bigoted homophobe conservative, can find out that every serious lefty is supposed to have read Kojève and that I should too so that I can understand the mind of the left and at this very moment am reading it faithfully and learning it and inwardly digesting it while shooting star McCloskey completely missed out on it?

I guess it is back to the drawing boards for McCloskey, to get started on Volume Four.

Meanwhile, I am coming up to the last section of Bourgeois Equality and hoping that it will be a Battle of Kursk barrage on the "clerisy." But who knows?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bathrooms and Gramsci and Thermidor

I got in a lot of trouble with the commenters at American Thinker last week when I wrote that Trump is Thermidor, meaning that he represents the inevitable reaction after the virtual reign of terror by the SJWs during the Obama administration.

I think that the commenters' main problem was the reluctance to equate Trump with dictator.

Now here's a piece in the American Spectator about the transgender bathroom debacle and Antonio Gramsci's march through the institutions. What is going on here? Ralph Benko answers:
The left is advancing a cultural revolution of radical egalitarianism, creating a new cultural hegemony of which the Great Bathroom War of 2016 is but the most recent element.
Conservatives don't have a clue about how to counter this, Benko writes. Instead of arguing about the danger of rape in the bathroom, we should argue from the innocence of modesty.

Well, yes. But I think that Benko is missing the point and that my argument, from Crane Brinton and his Anatomy of Revolution is the right one. The point is that a march through the institutions culminating in a real or a virtual reign of terror and virtue is something that ordinary people hate. They don't want to be bullied and reeducated and have their lives turned upside down and made to mouth words they don't believe in. And sooner or later they react against the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks, the Red Guards, the SJWs. They may not react with violence, but the fact is that, as Brinton writes, a reign of terror and virtue puts society into an impossible stress that cannot go on forever.

My analysis of the Obama years follows those that point to the collapse of the Democratic Party everywhere outside the White House. Congress? Republican. States? Majority of Republican Governors and Republican legislatures. Rebellion by the GOP primary voters. I read today that there are a lot of GOP primary voters that didn't vote in the general in 2012.

In other words, ordinary Americans are rebelling against the Gramscian march through the institutions and the totalitarian SJW virtual reign of terror in which you will be made to care about the left's agenda or you will pay the price. But they are not talking about it, because you are not allowed to talk in SJW America.

The problem with a reign of terror is that you don't end up back at the status quo ante. That was the problem with Napoleon. The Directory and Napoleon ended the reign of terror and Made France Great Again. But Napoleon also lost the Second Hundred Years War against the Brits and France has never been the terror of Europe since.

So I don't think that the Gramscians will go on marching through the institutions forever. For one thing, lefties tend to hollow out and destroy the institutions that they invade. That's because humans are social animals first, not political animals, and institutions have a social purpose before they have a political purpose.

But I do think, following Ralph Benko, that a Return to Modesty is part of the solution. Oh yeah, there's a book by that name, by Wendy Shalit. Here she gets to make her point in The New York Times!

Every woman I know is defined by her love and her modesty. Oh yes, women can be pretty immodest when they are looking for a mate. But otherwise they define themselves by their loves, their modesty, and their privacy. That is why it was not evil oil companies, but women, that led the migration to the suburbs. Women do not like to raise their children in the city, not unless they are total rich bitches that can afford nannies and car service and so on. Ordinary woman want to retire to a quiet place to bear and raise their children. And then they want to plant a garden. What an idea!

Honestly, I don't have a clue how this is going to work out, but I do think that women are going to redefine culture and politics to provide more privacy and more safety in a way that lets women live out their lives in a more feminine rather than feminist way. To me, the whole "rape culture" flap is related to this. Women don't like a sexual free-for-all, and no wonder, because it licenses boys to use them and abuse them. But the left has no real answer to the brutalities of the sexual revolution, because we are all supposed to be liberated from our bigoted bourgeois patriarchal culture. No more fathers demanding to know "what are your intentions!" So the lefty future has to replace the culture of modesty with a politics of legalisms in Affirmative Consent. Which is madness.

But there is no way back. Whatever happens now, it will be stumbling over the tangle of 20th century themes, from marriage, to abortion, to careers, to work/life balance, to the LGBT diversion, to the excruciating regulation of everything by big government. And above all it will have to deal with the Jacobin narrowness of the politics-is-everything left.

In other words, it ain't gonna be pretty.

Friday, May 20, 2016

African Americans and the Ferguson Effect

There's a lot of hand-wringing going on right now about whether the "Ferguson Effect" is real or Memorex. There has been a significant uptick in the murder rate in major American cities since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a policeman in August 2014. Is this uptick real, a consequence of police failing to police gangbanger thugs in inner cities, or is it move along, nothing to see here?

Here is stalwart Michael Barone making the central point:
Black Americans were the primary victims of the huge crime increase starting in the late 1960s, and they will be the primary victims again if the Ferguson effect continues to result in more homicides. Can’t we prevent this awful history from repeating itself?
To which I say: who is this "we," Kemosabe? It is "they," the African American voters of the Fergusons and the Baltimores and the Chicagos, who must decide what to do.

Do they want to replace all the white cops with blacks? I say go for it. Do they want to reduce incarceration of young black offenders? No problem.

But maybe some African Americans in these cities will decide to vote for an equivalent of Rudy Giuliani, the man that ran for mayor of New York City and hired a police chief that brought "homicides in New York [down] from 2,445 in 1990 to 328 in 2014." Why not, if that is what they vote for?

Let's compare African Americans with another "little darling" of the liberals, the white working class. Back in the 1930s FDR and the New Deal absolutely loooved the white working class. So the workers got Social Security and union bargaining rights, which was cool for a couple of decades after World War II when you could walk out of high school into lifetime union "good jobs at good wages." But the music stopped in the Sixties as the lumbering unionized industries started to face foreign competition and the payroll taxes on labor started to get serious, and the Dems decided they didn't love the white working class so much as they loooved African Americans and women. So the white working class was left out to dry, and has wandered in the political wilderness ever since.

Today the white working class is all excited about Donald Trump and his slogan to Make American Great Again. Hey, maybe he will, maybe he won't. But the white working class is excited about him and that's democracy.

Same thing with African Americans. For fifty years liberals have loooved them as their little darlings, served them up their First Black President, and what good has it done them? I don't know, but if if blacks want to vote for an empty suit like Barack Obama and white radicals like Bill DeBlasio and various black corruptocrats that is democracy.

Generally what happens in politics is that Stein's Law operates and if something can't go on forever, it will stop. So the people wake up to reality and vote to change things. But they usually wake up too late. That's because most people are tribal and vote with their tribe, which doesn't work in the global society and economy. If you ask me, that is the situation with the white working class. And really, they still haven't got the message. Whacking China and walling off Mexico isn't going to bring the white working class back to life. Getting up every morning and doing what it takes with what you've got is what it takes.

The problem with America is the idea that a wise elite can fix things behind the scenes, using its expert knowledge, while distracting the voters with free stuff like health care and paid parental leave. There are two problems with that. First of all, the elite ain't that wise, and secondly, eventually you run out of other peoples' money to distract the voters. And then you are Venezuela.

Right now, African Americans are torn two ways, if Ghettoside by Jill Leovy has it right. On the one hand they are pissed off that the police fail to catch and put away murderers. On the other hand they get pissed off when the police harass young black homeboys on the street, charging them with petty crimes.

You tell me what to do.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Why I Voted For Obama in 2008 and What Conservatives Should Do Now

Apart from my remark about the GOP establishment being "decent guys," the other thing that riled up the commenters at The American Thinker on Tuesday was that I have admitted voting for Obama in 2008.

Let me tell you why.

I take the position that politics is violence and therefore politics is civil war by other means. On this view the alternation in power of the two political parties is a way to ensure that the civil war by other means doesn't develop into actual civil war.

In my view the healthiest interval for exchange of parties is two presidential terms. Eight to ten years in power is enough. Why? Because after about ten years out of power the out-party enthusiasts starting looking under the bed; they start spinning conspiracy theories about how the system is rigged. After twelve years out of power the outs become paranoid.

That is why I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I thought that after all the demagoguing of George W. Bush and all his works, particularly in foreign policy, we needed the Democrats to come in and actually show us whether they had a better idea. We now know: they didn't, and the voters know it even if the MSM can't admit it.

So imagine what is was like for Republicans when the Democrats won five presidential elections in a row from 1932 to 1948. How do you think it made Republicans feel? Well, one thing was that they started to look for Reds under the bed, which liberals have anathematized for the last 60 years. The noive (Cowardly Lion for "nerve")! It turned out that there were reds under the bed, which was worse.

But one good thing about that 20 year drought was that it spawned the modern conservative movement. It helped that conservatives could unite around their opposition to the Soviet Union, about which liberals were rather lukewarm.

Today the conservative movement that was is guttering out. Probably one reason is that 70 years is enough for any political combination. But another is that the enemy now is not economic socialism but cultural socialism. Back then we were being made to care about the poor and the working class. Now we are being made to care about transgendered bathrooms. I dare say it takes a different correlation of forces to fight a different civil war by other means than in the good old days of Bill Buckley and God and Man at Yale.

In my American Manifesto I have been conjuring up an ideological apology, using 20th century thinkers, to imagine a new United States based on limited government and unlimited civil society. But it is obvious to me that we won't achieve this without a fight, and that means drawing a bright line between our good vision of America and the alternative, the bad, corrupt, actuality of liberal America.

In other words, we are going to be casting liberals as utter villains in the next few years, because that's the way you do civil war by other means. I think that the way we do this is by copying the method of the socialists 150 years ago. Yes, they said, the bourgeoisie has created amazing things, but they are doing it on the backs of the working class, and for that they should be cast out into utter darkness while we socialists bring on the era of light.

What about our own time? On my Three Peoples theory, the People of the Creative Self are wonderful creative people and all that, but they have cruelly oppressed the ordinary People of the Responsible Self, casting them as gap-toothed bigots, and they have cynically used the People of the Subordinate Self as political cats-paws to enrich and empower themselves, Hillary Clinton.

Back then, the socialists demanded that the bourgeoisie have compassion for and open their wallets to the People of the Subordinate Self, through social insurance and other beneficial legislation to help the poor and the working class. This would be paid for by the bourgeoisie and would be directed by the People of the Creative Self.

Today I demand that the ruling class People of the Creative Self stop using the People of the Subordinate Self as their street thugs and treating them as "little darlings" too compromised to look after themselves. And I demand that the ruling class stop treating the ordinary middle class as racist sexist homophobic bigots and show some compassion for ordinary middle-class people who may not be as bright and privileged and creative as the scions of the professional middle class, and let them follow the rules, go to work, and obey the law without being hounded and humiliated by jumped up "activists" spawned by evil and divisive "studies" departments at our elite universities.

And that brings us to Donald Trump. Love him or hate him, his great talent seems to be that he's got the PC auto-destruct codes enabled on his Twitter account. He knows how to take it to the liberals. Nobody in the last 25 years has had the talent or the cojones to do this. Until Trump.

And people, right and left, wonder how it has come to this, that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party in 2016.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Why Does Anyone Vote Republican?

The commenters at American Thinker gave me a good spanking yesterday for calling the GOP establishment a bunch of decent guys.

Because everyone knows the GOPe are liars that have sold conservatism to the voters at election time and knuckled under to Obama the rest of the time.

But it might be that they are compassionate leaders that don't want to send their followers into a wasteful bloodbath.

For myself I cannot contradict controversialist Vox Day who says that today's conservatism is doomed because it is basically defensive. And you don't win wars on defense.

That's been the bee under my bonnet ever since the Reagan Revolution. Only I wasn't smart enough to coin the Breitbart catchphrase that politics is downstream from culture.

He means that conservatism, or the free society, or whatever, can't just be a nuts-and-bolts policy analysis of tax cuts and spending restraint, or a retrospective look back at Edmund Burke. It has to start from a compelling vision for ordinary people in the United States in 2016 about life, the universe, and everything.

It would have to be a religious vision that captures the hearts and minds of Americans who just feel that something is wrong with the help-the-victims religion of today's educated ruling class.

It would have to be a vision for people did not think that it was a good idea for the government to regulate the labor market by increasing the wage limit subject to the time-and-a-half overtime rule, because it is just another cost on the employers that hire us all.

It would have to be a vision for people that did not think that the state should force schools and employers to make special bathroom provision for them.

It would have to be a vision for people that felt a slight revulsion every time they heard a politician offering free stuff.

It would have to be a vision that made people wonder why it was necessary for so many activities to be conducted under the shadow of government compulsion, when after all most people just want to get along.

Because right now in America most people are accustomed to thinking that anything they don't like ought to be fixed by the government. Which means by force.

It is said by Michael Barone that Republicans have historically always thought of themselves as "typical Americans." In today's context I think that means people that don't feel embattled. The whole point of Democratic Party politics is to encourage people to feel embattled, whether as workers, as women, as blacks, as gays, as artists, as anyone who wants force to be applied against his or her tormentors.

The "typical American," I imagine, is someone that says: "Don't bother me, government, by 'helping' me. Just let me get on with my life, and if I get into a really tough spot, I'll give you a call."

Or maybe that is wrong. Maybe the Republican Party is and must be people who have got fed up with the government. However victimized they may feel, they just decide that government doesn't help them, it just makes things worse.

The truth is that we all like free stuff; we like nestling under a powerful lord, and we like to catch the coins thrown into the street from time to time by his steward out of his private stash. Because we are all peasants.

Until we are not.

Meanwhile Donald Trump has won the Republican Party nomination for president by waving a magic wand promising to Make America Great Again out of pixie dust.

(I imagine he knows that what it takes is tax rate reduction and spending cuts and taking a pair of scissors to the regulatory state. But he can't say that. Why?)

I wonder if the bathroom brouhaha will cause a bunch of women to do the Ronnie and realize that they didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left them. Because one thing women really hate is men in the women's bathroom. You know, as in safe spaces.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Fundamental Reality of Our Times, Four Ways

It's an insider's joke that politics is all about Four Point Plans, as in "my four point plan will reduce inequality by 50 percent. Why do the politicians do it? Because we are all Slaves, and we want our kindly Masters to ave us from the Persians and tell us what to do. But the basic reality of our times is this.
Point 1: Per capita income has gone up from $3 in 1800 to $100 right now. There has been nothing like it in human history. Ever.
But why? Why did it happen now and now in Roman times? Or Babylonian times? Economic historian Deirdre McCloskey in her "Bourgeois Trilogy" writes that the reason is that only in the last five hundred years have individuals been allowed to try out their ideas for "betterment" without being stomped on by the ruling class.

You can see how the normal way works, because any time someone comes up with a new idea everyone stomps on them for a fool or a knave. And the established interests run to government to stamp it out. Right now we have the established scions of the educated ruling class running around trying to frighten people about "fracking."

Yes, but unregulated capitalism created cruel and unjust inequality. So government had to step in and fix it.
Point 2: Go and read Point 1.
Really, what difference would a war on inequality make? Let's say that, in the days of $3 per day we could have helped the poor. Actually we did, starting in 1598 with the Elizabethan Poor Law. But it didn't make a blind bit of difference to increasing overall prosperity. Not until advances in textile technology in the 18th century made it possible to make cheap textiles for the poor. About that time population started increasing and people started expecting to live better than their parents -- when the Poor Law was being eviscerated. So you tell me, what possible contribution could helping the poor and reducing inequality do in helping get from $3 per day to $100 per day.

Yes, but what about slavery and feudalism and all that?
Point 3: Go and read Point 1.
It is interesting to me that anti-slavery agitation began at exactly the moment that capitalism and the Great Enrichment began to take off. Before that nobody seemed to have any problem with slavery. Merchants of Venice and Genoa had no problem transporting Circassian slaves from the Crimean port of Kaffa to the harems of the Middle East. Dutch and Anglo-Saxon had no problems transporting West-Africans to the sugar plantations of the West Indies. Vikings had no problem carting Brits off the slave markets of Dublin, Ireland. Also, nobody seemed to have any problems with slavery in the Soviet Union or in Maoist China. Or in Castro Cuba. Or in Khmer Rouge Cambodia. And US liberals don't seem to have a problem in taxing ordinary labor about 25 percent so they can play Lady Bountiful and give it back after buying a few votes.

My feeling is that the war on slavery was not so much a great moral crusade as a slow realization that slavery didn't pay. That's what the West Indian slave-owners decided. They found it better to relax their slave-driving to encourage the slaves to work more creatively.

At any rate, it is clear that leftist societies require a vigorous and ruthless neo-slavery just to keep operating in the economic basement. Just look at Venezuela right how.

Yes, but without wage and hour laws and safety regulations and labor law where would we be?
Point 4: Go and read Point 1.
What part of wage and hour laws got us from $3 per day to $100 per day? Back in the day of $3 per day, human lives were pretty cheap. You could easily get another starving hod-carrier when the last one wore out. But when you are inventing department stores in Paris in the 1850s you start to think that you need to pay your good salespeople a cut above the rest, because a good salesperson is hard to find. When you are Henry Ford expanding Model T production you advertise $5 per day because you need to attract labor to Detroit. And now the giants of the internet want the sharpest minds in the world working for them.

And as for labor law, you only see labor unions in a fight against decline. What about the Great Railroad Strike of 1877? The workers were striking against wage cuts. And why were the railroads cutting wages? Because of the Depression starting in the Crash of 1873. The railroads were broke. Same with the industrial unions in England in the late 19th century. They went on strike against wage cuts issuing out of low prices and heightened competition on industrial goods in the international market. So what part of union agitation got us from $3 per day to $100 per day?

The fact is that government always and everywhere responds to the demand for protection. From foreign invaders, from domestic criminals, and from the vicissitudes of the creative destruction of the Great Enrichment from $3 to $100 per day. But usually its protection doesn't make a blind bit of difference except to confirm the privileged in their privilege.

So whenever ruling class activists come up with new ways to increase their power there is only one question to ask.

How would this have got us from $3 per day to $100 per day? Let alone get from today's $100 per day to $1000 per day?

In the last 200 years of the Great Enrichment we have gone from $3 per day to $100 per day and more. There has been nothing like it. Ever.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Trump. That's What You Get After a Lefty Mini-Reign of Terror

Yesterday I suddenly woke up out of a sound sleep, where Trump is concerned, and here is what I realized.

Trump is Thermidor.

Thermidor? That's the name for what came after the French Revolution and its culminating Reign of Terror. It is the moment when Maximilien Robespierre, "the incorruptible," was kicked out and, in a while, Napoleon Bonaparte took over as the man on the white horse.

In Barton Crane's Anatomy of Revolution this is perfectly natural and physical (and not the holy horror that the left insists). Here is how I described Crane's theory of revolution in a blog post a year ago. It is well worth reading, if I do say so myself.
Fall of the Old Regime The old regime is discredited, and probably running out of money. But there is hope, for that is what the revolutionaries are selling.
Rule of the Moderates and Dual Power Typically the old regime is succeeded by a regime of moderates, but the moderates soon find themselves in conflict with extremists who act illegally and independently of the moderate regime.
Reign of Terror The extremists win for a bunch of reasons, including that they are more ruthless and better organized. Then they embark on a campaign of terror and virtue, ruthlessly purging the world of injustice and sin and vice.
Thermidor Humans cannot live forever in a fervor of holy rage; eventually the tension breaks and they fall back into a more normal life. But the solution typically involves a dictator, nationalism, and foreign conquest.
 I concluded with this:
Whether the collapse (or "reaction") ends in a Republican president and Congress with a mandate to do serious reform of the administrative welfare and regulatory state is another question.
What a wimp. I didn't have the depth of understanding to predict that the next president would be a Napoleonic character running to Make America Great Again.

But I did make the point that Obama and his acolytes saw themselves as conducting a revolution (with fundamental transformation) and the whole left activism culture sees itself as fighting injustice. When you let the moralists have full rein they conduct a reign of terror and virtue, as in "you will be made to care."

And ordinary people hate it. And fear it.

You can easily fit the Sixties into this mold. After the kids and the African Americans got into the streets for several years the "silent majority" wanted peace and quiet and Nixon for a few years.

There will always be plenty of kids to enlist as the foot soldiers in the reign of terror and virtue. Hello Bernie.

The thing about Donald Trump is that he doesn't seem to care about the activists and the virtuecrats on the left. That fits Vox Day's idea that the only way to deal with the left is to say: "We Don't Care." Vox Day also says that conservatism has failed because its strategy is defensive. Rule One of strategy is that defense fails, and the conservative approach to the left's cultural domination has mostly been to cower and hide to try and go along so that they won't single you out for humiliation.

Say what you like about Trump, but one thing he doesn't do is cower and hide. Now, the whole point of political leadership is that the world is a dangerous place and we need a fearless leader to confront the dangerous world and fill our hearts with courage and determination. Golly. I wonder why the white working class, now reported to be dying from despair (yeah, in The Atlantic!), has rallied to his banner.

I've said all along, from an incoherent burble in the 80s when I felt that conservatives weren't ready to exploit the tactical Reagan successes, that we can't turn America around until we have a religious/cultural movement that captures the hearts and the minds of a significant cohort of Americans. And I still don't see it.

What we do see, every day, is the ubiquitous presence of the left-wing activism culture and its reign of terror and virtue that is "peacefully protesting" into every corner of American life to insist that you be made to care.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Yes, Let's Think About the First Principles of Capitalism, Rana Foroohar

Over at Time magazine, one of their managing editors, Rana Foroohar, has penned a long think piece about "American Capitalism's Great Crisis," and ends up with a typical non-ending:
Crises of faith like the one American capitalism is currently suffering can be a good thing if they lead to re-examination and reaffirmation of first principles. The right question here is in fact the simplest one: Are financial institutions doing things that provide a clear, measurable benefit to the real economy? Sadly, the answer at the moment is mostly no. But we can change things. Our system of market capitalism wasn’t handed down, in perfect form, on stone tablets. We wrote the rules. We broke them. And we can fix them.
The article is based, presumably, on Fohoorar's book Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business. But the article fails to address its subject in the same way that the AP's Seth Borenstein fails to address the question of climate change. When you are a media hack you really can't move too far from the conventional wisdom on your beat. It's not just that journalists are "Democratic operatives with bylines;" it is just a fact of life for a beat reporter that if you move too far from the conventional wisdom you will lose your audience and you will kill your access to powerful people.

So what do we learn from Foroohar?

There is, she writes, a crisis of faith in capitalism. In a poll, only 26% of millennials "considered themselves capitalists." Indeed, "Americans have plenty of concrete reasons to question their system." And it's not just a question of breaking up banks or raising taxes on hedge-funders or more or less regulation. The problem is bigger than that, as Foroohar's book explains.

In the old days from "the late 1790s to the early 1970s, finance took individual and corporate savings and funneled them into productive enterprises, creating new jobs, new wealth and, ultimately, economic growth." But now "only a fraction of all the money washing around the financial markets these days actually makes it to Main Street businesses." And that goes not just for the US but across the world. "Most of the money in the system is being used for lending against existing assets such as housing, stocks and bonds."
America’s economic illness has a name: financialization. It’s an academic term for the trend by which Wall Street and its methods have come to reign supreme in America, permeating not just the financial industry but also much of American business.
We are talking about everything from the size of finance to "debt-fueled speculation" to "risky, selfish thinking," public and private, the "increasing political power of financiers and the CEOs they enrich," and the ideology of "markets know best."

The rot started when post-WWII growth started to slow in the 1970s.
[Instead of making tough decisions] politicians decided to pass that responsibility to the financial markets. Little by little, the Depression-era regulation that had served America so well was rolled back, and finance grew to become the dominant force that it is today. 
So we got the "Carter-era deregulation of interest rates," Reaganomics "that favored Wall Street," then Clinton era deregulation to get out of the late 1980s doldrums, and Greenspan era loose money that led to today's "near-zero interest rates to keep from falling back into recession." We have a financial policy that amounts to "let them eat credit," a "palliative" to medicate the "downward mobility in the middle class" instead of facing the nation's problems.

Of course, there are many reasons for America's "low-growth economy," from "globalization to technology-related job destruction."
But the single biggest unexplored reason for long-term slower growth is that the financial system has stopped serving the real economy and now serves mainly itself. 
And now small business formation is down and big corporations buy back their stock rather than invest in R&D. Apple borrows money so it doesn't have to repatriate profits and pay taxes on it.

But hey, help is on the way.
Remooring finance in the real economy isn’t as simple as splitting up the biggest banks (although that would be a good start). It’s about dismantling the hold of financial-oriented thinking in every corner of corporate America. It’s about reforming business education, which is still permeated with academics who resist challenges to the gospel of efficient markets... It’s about changing a tax system that treats one-year investment gains the same as longer-term ones, and induces financial institutions to push overconsumption and speculation rather than healthy lending to small businesses and job creators. It’s about rethinking retirement, crafting smarter housing policy and restraining a money culture filled with lobbyists who violate America’s essential economic principles.
This is, of course, mainstream conventional wisdom, as it should be, coming from Time magazine. It's full of standard liberal memes, from the good old Depression era regulation to the crazed Reagan era to the greedy banker stuff to short-sighted CEOs. It is the view of someone "in the arena." And it assumes that the answers come from the usual experts "crafting smarter" policies. Oh yeah.

But maybe there is another way to look at Capitalism 2016. Maybe we need a whole new narrative.

The first thing to establish is that government and finance are joined at the hip. To understand that, go and watch The Tudors on Netflix. In an early episode, Henry VIII proudly points out of his window to a warship at anchor. How do you think that warship and its heart of oak got built? On the profits from Henry's royal estates? Or watch Admiral on Netflix, and then go and read up on Dutch national hero Admiral Michiel de Ruyter on La Wik. In the mid 17th century the Dutch merchants had to do something about the Russian and the Brit and the French monarchs mucking about with their trading system. For that they needed a navy to protect their argosies and teach the monarchs a lesson and for that they needed to give money to government to build a navy to make the world safe for capitalism.

That is the story of capitalism from that day to this. Capitalism can't bring us fabulous goods and services unless government keeps the peace. So merchants have provided credit to governments so that governments could finance navies and keep the trade routes open.

But things never stop just there. After inventing the central bank and national debt and financing their war of independence from Spain, the Dutch launched a 500 ship invasion force on the Brits in 1688 and then installed Willem of Oranje as King William III and set up the Bank of England and the National Debt and used Britain as a base for a Second Hundred Years War against the French, won in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo. British national debt went from nothing in 1688 to 250% GDP in 1815.

National debt won the US Civil War, and World War I and World War II. And probably the Cold War too. The point is that the incredible wealth of capitalism allows government to borrow and spend. On wars, on education, on entitlement programs, on anything that buys votes.

For over a century, from 1848 to 1990, high-minded intellectuals tried to bury capitalism with the romantic idea of socialism and a money-free administrative system, but by the 1980s even socialists realized that a much better system would be to use the wealth of capitalism to finance their agenda rather than replace it with administration and bureaucracy. So now government is busy using the credit system for all sorts of projects. Most notably it subsidized home mortgages, first with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, and lately with mortgages for people that couldn't service them. What could go wrong?

According to Walter Bagehot in Lombard Street, the credit system needs two things. It needs loans that are properly collateralized, and it needs borrowers that can be relied upon to make their payments. Looking back at the sub-prime mortgage era, what could go wrong? In fact, looking at everything that government does with borrowed money, what can you expect but mayhem?

You can see that the problem is mission creep. It's one thing to finance old Grandad de Ruyter to teach the absolute monarchs a lesson on the North Sea, or put the French in their place at a little town in Belgium. That is national debt serving the interests of commerce. But when government becomes 35% or more of GDP and the whole economy is riddled with government credit subsidy schemes, then something has to give. And don't forget that all the time the financiers are joined at the hip to the government. That's because, as I read years ago, the most important government program is the selling of the debt to the financiers. It misses the point to talk about breaking up the banks, or jiggling financial regulation. The elephant in the room is the government and its finances, and the various shifts and tricks it uses to get itself out of the latest jam.

It misses the point to complain that the finance industry doesn't finance growth. It never has. Credit and debt are for solid, no worries, ongoing operations, like financing a store's inventory, or lending money to get goods from where they are to where they are wanted. Financing growth is about startups and private equity and mad money.

It misses the point to complain about CEOs shorting R&D for buying back their stock. Big public corporations are usually reaching the end of their growth phase. They are just money machines until the inevitable day when some little startup puts them out of business.

It misses the point completely to write about American Capitalism's Great Crisis. Capitalism never had a crisis and never will. Capitalism uses credit as it is supposed to be used, to finance ongoing operations. And it can supply, from time to time, mad money for startups and other risky ventures which is the real engine that gets us from $3 per capita per day in 1800 to $100 per capita per day in 2016. The problem is the intersection of capitalism and government. When government grabs all the credit to fight a war, it really bollixes up the economy. When government encourages deadbeats to borrow money to buy a house, it leads to a Crash of 2008. And when government goes the easy money route to get out of a jam, the money sluices into all kinds of cracks and corners and encourages financial shenanigans from all sorts of shady characters.

But don't expect a Rana Foroohar to say that. A mainstream journalist has to stay mainstream. Just like Seth Borenstein, the AP's climate change guy. Really, how could an AP reporter on the climate beat do anything but breathlessly retail the latest wizard wheeze from the $1.5 trillion a year global climate community?

And how could a reporter on the finance beat do anything but retail liberal blame-the-bankers scapegoating?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Liberals Don't Bother to Pretend Any More

The great con about welfare state government is that the free stuff is really "social insurance." That was the idea when Bismarck opened the game in the 1880s. And when Social Security was passed in 1935 it was decorated with all the paraphernalia of insurance, with Trust Funds and Boards of Trustees. If you look at the UN's government spending categories, there is a item for "Social Protection."

But when Medicare passed in 1965 only the Hospital Insurance, Part A, was funded by a Trust Fund. The rest of it came out of regular revenue.

Looking back, we can see that the Insurance scam was just a way of hiding the taxes. That FICA tax wasn't a tax; oh no, it was really an insurance premium. Don't believe your lying eyes, and all that.

But Medicare Drug in the Bush administration didn't bother about Trust Funds and such. It was just a new entitlement. And the level of lying ramped into the stratosphere with Obamacare that would let you keep your plan and your doctor. I don't think.

So Mytheos Holt's piece on "ObamaDontCare" about "Andy Slavitt, acting Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS), willfully misle[a]d[ing] Congress on the amount of money spent on Obamacare’s exchanges" is par for the course. Who cares what was spent on the exchanges, "the program’s true legacy appears to be nothing less than pure graft and payola for administrations in safe blue states."

Here's Chris Jacobs warning us that Medicare is broke, even as Democrats are proposing an expansion. to 55 year-olds. Well, yes. But Medicare will keep on keeping on until the government runs out of other peoples' money. And then, really, who cares? It's not as if seniors are valuable workers that are integral to the nation's economy, or bringing forth babies to enroll in the next generation of taxpayers. We are just a cost.

Here's George Will worrying about Amtrak. Is is a government entity or a private corporation? The courts can't seem to figure it out. Well, yeah. Amtrak is a shabby racket. Next question.

Let's clear the air here. When the government proposes some new program it may feel the need to talk about insurance, or clearing up the mess on drugs, where surgeries for seniors were covered but drugs were not. Or it may sell an Obamacare that will make things worse for most Americans while benefiting a few. Or it may sell some crackbrained idea of Amtrak as a private corporation that is supposed to make a profit.

But that is all bullshit. In the end it all comes down to betting the nation on the ruling class's wars, which may be wars against communism or wars on poverty or wars on climate. And it comes down to rewarding the government's supporters. So Hillary Clinton is proposing a child-care initiative which will provide that nobody has to pay more than 10% of their income on child care. Golly, I wonder who will like that program?

The bottom line is, of course, at what point the government starts to go Greece, or Argentina, or Venezuela, or Brazil. You can give out all the money in the world, but every dollar that you give out to your supporters reduces the private sector -- the social organism that makes products and services that people are willing to spend their own money to buy -- by a dollar.

Back in the day, liberals used to pretend they were moderates that cared about the middle class and its responsibility culture. These days they don't seem to care; they just propose more free stuff, because that's what they do.

Is this because the American people don't care or because liberals are just going for broke? It is hard to tell in this era of political correctness where you are not allowed to disagree with the ruling class without losing your job.

All we know is that since Obama was elected the opposition has been getting angrier and angrier, to the point where the opposition voters have fired the opposition politicians in the Trump effect!

Nobody knows what will happen. But I suspect that we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Government by Executive Action is Not Just Wrong, It's Evil

If you want a sign that the current era of expert-led top-down administrative government is dying of its own internal contradictions, look no further than France.

The Socialists are going to bypass parliament in order to force through labor reforms administratively. From a BBC report:
The French cabinet has given the go-ahead for Prime Minister Manuel Valls to force through highly controversial labour reforms.

An extraordinary cabinet meeting invoked the French constitution’s rarely used Article 49.3, allowing the government to bypass parliament.

It came after rebel MPs from the governing Socialist party had vowed to vote down the bill.

The reforms will make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers. […]

The government says relaxing workers’ protection will encourage businesses to hire more people and help to combat chronic unemployment.
And, of course, the French are striking and protesting against the government's administrative actions.

Here in the US Hillary Clinton is proposing to go around Congress in order to enact her child care subsidy plan.

Just between you and me, I'd say that this represents a systemic failure. If you can't get to do the right thing through the normal political process, then maybe you shouldn't do anything at all.

Yes, I know. The normal labor law in the West is a foolish mess, because it gives workers property rights in their jobs that cannot be sustained in the market.  Yes, I know, child care costs are a huge burden, especially if you are a single mother.

But I say that if you can't get a majority in parliament to pass a law easing labor law rights and restrictions then you gotta wait until you can persuade the people to support a change. That's the idea of democracy, right? You run for office on a platform and that platform gives you a mandate for change, which you execute in the legislature. Consent of the governed, and all that.

And France got in this mess by pushing the poisonous idea that the woikers was bein' robbed! They got their rights! Actually, they don't, not unless they can force the costs of labor regulation off on consumers or "the rich." And now France is having to pay the piper for giving people rights that would gum up the economy.

You are outraged that families spend too much on child care? Then you run for office and try to persuade Congress to change the law. If Congress won't change it, then too bad. You better get out and persuade the American people to change Congress so you can change the law.

But wait, you say. We can't wait. People are suffering right now! The president needs to act. Well, you should have thought about that when you pushed the sexual revolution, when you made it OK for men to desert the mothers of their children, when you enacted welfare programs that made it easier for women to marry the state than to marry the fathers of their children, when you jacked housing costs into the stratosphere with subsidized mortgages and restrictive zoning.

I don't know how we are going to retreat from the gummed up mess of the big-government administrative state. I suppose that we won't until the whole structure literally freezes up and fails to deliver anything, so that people are forced to look elsewhere for the services that government presently monopolizes.

Of course, the Trump phenomenon feeds into this. Lots of people think that the government doesn't care about people like them; it only cares about out-and-proud liberal activist groups that grab the national bandwidth with their peaceful protesting and their march through the institutions.

But the Trumpers haven't looked around the corner. The problem is that all government is a waste and an injustice. It is pure power play, smashing down the clunking fist, and forcing them to pay for your goodies because you have the power. Don't forget that if you have the power today, you may not have the power tomorrow. If you really want to wive and thrive, then cut loose the government, its taxes and its injustices its administrations and its regulations, get a job, and don't ever think that you've got a job for life.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

We Are Not In Kansas Any More

Looking back, it's obvious we were going to get here. At some point the American people were going to rebel against the globalist cultural Marxist insanity. They would eventually reject the rule of the People of the Creative Self, for the People of the Creative Self, by the People of the Creative Self.

See my Three Peoples theory for details.

What do they want, these People of the Creative Self? They want to be creative, and they want the political power to make America a land fit for creatives to live in.

They want All Power to the Creatives, and that means a full-court press against the Bourgeois Ethos of the People of the Responsible Self: work, marriage, family and children.

It is perfectly obvious why this should be so. If you have a job, you don't have much time left to write that great American novel. If you get married, you won't have much time left to create an edgy art installation. If you have children you won't have much time to advocate for global health. And as Henry David Thoreau wrote over a century ago, the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation. They work and breed and don't have the means or the time to pop out of Concord, Massachusetts, a mile and a half to Walden Pond to meditate about life, the universe and everything. Yeah, and you thought Walden Pond was out in the wilderness. Check out Google Maps.

If you are wondering whether the world has gone crazy, arguing about rape cultures, about gender-bender bathrooms, about cops on a rampage against blacks, about the crisis of climate change, the answer lies in the needs of the People of the Creative Self, and their need for what Charles Taylor calls "expressive individualism." Creatives must express themselves. All else doth err.

But there is one little problem with all this. It is simply that unless the mass of men go to work, marry, and have children, there won't be anyone left. For the one thing that the People of the Creative Self don't seem much interested in is creation -- of the next generation. I don't want to be too judgemental here, but if gentry liberals don't get on the stick and produce more little gentry liberals there won't be any gentry liberals any more. This process is already far advanced in countries like Germany, Japan, and Italy.

I wonder if it is just a coincidence that most religions seem to be strongly pro-natal. I wonder if humans have always wanted to wander a mile and a half out of town and contemplate the infinite, and that a strong nudge is required to bring us back to the job at hand, the real job of creation, which is making babies.

Yes, you say, but how come we have got to this crazy place?  The answer, I believe, is told by the blogger Mencius Moldbug in his narrative of The Cathedral, the universities and the press (and also the NGO activists). Then there is the Inner Party of Democrats which get to rule when in power and the Outer Party of Republicans which just gets to govern when elected.

In the culture of the Cathedral conservatives and Republicans only get to object from time to time as the arc of history bends them into pretzels. The agenda of the activists, from feminists to environmentalists to LGBT rolls ever onward. Because history. An example of useless objection is this National Review article by conservative Christian lawyer David French objecting to the arguments put forth by the Obama administration and a couple of Obama judges who are putting the screws on North Carolina about bathroom accommodations for the transgendered. This is a typical lay objection to the holy writ of the Cathedral. What good will it do? None. There may be a hiccup, but LGBT rights are sovereign, because they are engrossed in the Articles of Faith of the People of the Creative Self.

That is why Donald Trump is important. He has run for president by kicking over the established rules of polite society as defined by the Cathedral and the People of the Creative Self. That is why he has rolled over the polite and well-behaved conservative candidates in the Republican primaries. That is why he is drawing multitudes to his rallies. That is why just today a new Quinnipiac poll has Trump dead even with Clinton in three battleground states.

Trump is winning because ordinary people instinctively understand that nice polite conservatism isn't going to get the job done any more. Because the activism culture wins that game every time. Because its votaries sit in the stalls in the Cathedral. Because its people own the Inner Party.

What comes next is anyone's guess. It depends on whether the ruling class of the People of the Creative Self use their powers to crush the Trump Rebellion or whether they realize that they should sit down and negotiate in good faith with the rebels.

The key point to me is something I learned from Michael Mann and his Sources of Social Power. Once the political establishments of the European nation states extended the franchise to the workers in the 19th century, he wrote, the workers stopped rioting in the streets. They didn't need to riot because the political establishment was now taking their grievances seriously and they could negotiate in good faith with the ruling class to start to get what they wanted.

Compare that with today, where we have the Obama administration deliberately advancing its agenda outside the formal channels of political negotiation, the legislature, and pushing things through adminstrative diktats and "Dear Colleague" letters and legal ambushes. It's all tremendously cunning, but it misses the larger point. The point is that politics is civil war by other means. Politics is the means by which we negotiate our differences without going to civil war. When you game the system, as the activism culture does, with its Alinskyite practice, you prevent good faith negotiations and compromises of different world-views and interests.

And that leads to Trump and kicking over the traces because the "rules" imposed by the Cathedral and the Inner Party prevent good faith negotiations and compromise.

If Trump doesn't work, of course, it leads to something worse.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Problem is Not Just Political Correctness

Writing in Forbes the lion of history Paul Johnson argued recently that Donald Trump is a natural excessive response to the "mental infection" of political correctness.

When dons and professors "show the white feather" to the crybullies, then something has to be done, especially in a nation that got its start in the 17th century "when the clerical discipline the Pilgrim Fathers sought to impose broke down and those who had things to say struck out westward or southward for the freedom to say them."
[So] it’s good news that Donald Trump is doing so well in the American political primaries. He is vulgar, abusive, nasty, rude, boorish and outrageous. He is also saying what he thinks and, more important, teaching Americans how to think for themselves again.
Yeah, and I will believe that Donald Trump is a true foe of political correctness when his Department of Education starts writing Dear Colleague letters to the nation's universities telling them that any university with a speech code or a presumption of guilt in sexual harassment regulation can say sayonara to federal funding.

The problem for me is that pushback against political correctness doesn't really do the job. It is a pushback, not a declaration of independence like this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that men and women shall be free to express ideas in the public square without fear or favor, and that the power of government shall not be used to intimidate or to silence unpopular voices.
Of course, in the course of human events, it is very seldom that anything prevails but a crude orthodoxy of the powerful, because the arc of human authority tends towards imposed agreement and stasis.

But the story of humankind over the last two hundred years is that the freedom to think new ideas, and especially to implement useful ideas into concrete products and services, has created a Great Enrichment of all the people on the Earth.

The key factor, according to Deirdre McCloskey in her "Bourgeois Trilogy," is that this enrichment requires one key thing. It requires that the powers-that-be do not strangle the babies of new ideas and new material improvements in their cradles.

But the more power that government has the more that it does exactly that. Because people go to government when their traditional way of life is threatened. And from the point of view of the people, it makes no difference whether the threat is from an army of invaders or from a new technique that puts them out of work. They want it stopped, and they want it stopped by force before it marginalizes them forever.

Therefore, it seems to me that the key objective for people that want to encourage ordinary human flourishing linked to a search for something higher is this: How to limit the natural instinct of humans to use force to prevent their current material advantages from being reduced?

We can see this in the argument over immigration and imports. People want to enjoy their current wage rates without having to compete with an immigrant that will work for less. On the other hand, the US must compete on the world economy, so its wages and prices must compete on the world exchange. Special interests must not have the power to jack US wages and prices out of whack.

It is folly to give workers the power to jack their wages up above market rates; sooner or later their high wages will run their employer out of business. It is folly to give industry, e.g., Florida sugar plantations, subsidies and quotas that allow them to price their product way above world prices. Sooner or later those prices will have to come down to earth.

It is folly to set up government pension plans that make assumptions about the future. Most likely they will make the wrong projections and then expect taxpayers to make up the difference. It is folly to put government in charge of education, for the government lifers in charge will slowly turn the education system into a process that serves the interests of the lifers and not parents and students.

We have seen, in the Obama era, the utter cruelties that political correctness metes out to ordinary Americans, and the absurdities of the agenda of the Democratic coalition of the fringes that deny women the safety of women-only bathrooms and deny the right of police to arrest malefactors. We shouldn't be surprised. That is what power does to people. Give them the power to implement their follies and the power to humiliate and to name and shame, and they will take it.

The challenge for humans as social animals is to turn the instinct to dominate into the kindly sentiment to share and serve. And the challenge only starts with the vice of political correctness. There are people everywhere eager to make the shortcut to solving their problems with the clunking fist of government. The job of people of goodwill everywhere is to turn their twisted swords into cooperative plowshares.

Friday, May 6, 2016

What Trump Has Destroyed

It is pretty clear, now that he is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party that Donald Trump has destroyed the Republican Party that was.

Of course, he has not destroyed the Republican Party, only the basis on which the Republican Party has operated for the last 30-40 years. I mean the Republican Party informed by a Buckleyite conservatism that declared the John Birch Society beyond the pale and the Republican Party infused with Jewish neoconservatives like Irving Kristol, liberals famously mugged by reality.

The reason was explained by self-proclaimed reactionary Mencius Moldbug in his blog back in 2008-09. It is the fact of the Cathedral, the secular-religious church of secular liberalim in the media, the schools, the foundations, and the universities and the liberal activism culture. Their church orthodoxy defines what you are allowed to say and what you are not allowed to say in America. Further, the two political parties in the US, following George Orwell, are the Democratic Party as Inner Party, that gets to rule when it is in power, and the Republican Party as the Outer Party, which just gets to govern when in office.

I take the rise of Trump as the great Republican unwashed declaring that they just can't take it any more, being silenced, being tame zoo animals of the Outer Party when the Inner Party adherents get to do and say pretty well whatever they want provided it follows Inner Party orthodoxy.

The voters are saying that the politics of accommodation, of going along to get along with the Inner Party and its Cathedral bishops in the media and the academy, is just too humiliating. They just can't take it any more; they just have to break out. They feel, in other words, that they have nothing left to lose.

In this sense it is true to say that President Obama has destroyed the Republican Party. By going full partisan on his signature legislation and by humiliating Republicans in repeated clashes, he has destroyed the faith of the rank-and-file Republicans in their leaders.

In my view, the president made a strategic mistake. The fact is that, over the last century, the left has operated what Margaret Thatcher's associate Keith Joseph called a "ratchet effect." Every leftist reform ratcheted up the size and the power of government, and has never been pushed back to the status quo ante. If this is true, it is never necessary for the left to go flat out as if the next conservative government would repeal and reverse their agenda. The record is that the reverses are temporary and partial, and the left soon gets to turn another click of the ratchet.

President Obama could have implemented his stimulus, his Obamacare, his Dodd-Frank, with Republican votes. He would not have got as much passed, but the next liberal president would come back a generation later and crank the ratchet another step. Instead, he has encouraged his sluggers to hit it out of the ballpark, and humiliate the opposition.

President Obama is a man of the left and its mechanical systems. He ought to know that action and reaction are equal and opposite. And so the powerful thrust of his dominatory politics has created an equal and opposite reaction. The mass of white working class peasants, that were wandering around without a political home for a generation, have swarmed in desperation into the bourgeois citadel of the Republican Party and will probably have changed the Republican Party forever.

Really, we should thank the president. As conservatives we are hesitant to take a wrecking ball to the United States to implement our glorious conservative vision. We know, following Edmund Burke, that at the end of such a road is the gallows. But President Obama, with his narrow leftist world view, has swung the wrecking ball at America, trying to smash the opposition. Instead he got him a Republican House in November 2010, a Republican Senate in 2014 and now a populist rebellion in 2016.

This is folly, because the Democrats are the Inner Party, and liberals are the ruling class. A sensible Inner Party wants to keep things on an even keel. It wants to keep the Outer Party politicians properly docile, but not insulted. A sensible Cathedral wants to make sure that the proles are respectful of their betters, but wants to avoid humiliating them enough to get them angry.

So, provoked by President Obama, Donald Trump has kicked over the old three-legged stool of the Republican Party: national-defense, economic, and social conservatism. The new party will have to fit a new leg in, to represent the needs and the agenda of the much-maligned white working class. Put in terms of my Three Peoples theory, it means that the Republican Party will no longer be a party purely for the People of the Responsible Self. It will have to accommodate the white working class, and appeal more to People of the Subordinate Self.

That will probably force the Republican Party closer to the political center. Republicans dream of dismantling the big government structures of the 20th century, but the great mass of the American people don't. Grandpa wants his Social Security. Grandma wants her Medicare. Young mothers want their baby-sitting service. And so on.

Of course, eventually big government will run out of other peoples' money. But not yet. As Kevin D. Williamson writes, government learns nothing. All it knows is taxing the people to reward its supporters. Until the very moment that the money runs out. Hello Venezuela.

Then, and only then, will we learn. As we have to start over.