Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Government Can't Solve The Problems We Got

Never mind about the white working class and the collapse of good jobs at good wages in the manufacturing sector.

We know that President Trump's promises to the white working class on that score are empty. There is just not going to be a world in which kids can sorta graduate from high school and go down the street and sign on at the local steel plant for a lifetime job.

But it is worse than that. It's not just manufacturing jobs. Now it is retail jobs. My Man Kevin Williamson tells the grim tale, in a piece built around the jolly old days of  Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the not-so-jolly days of a boarded-up retail mall in Oklahoma.

Retail jobs are collapsing, and that is dead serious because there are millions of people (especially, I suspect, white working class women) who have learned the life of work from an entry-level job in retail. Here is a middle-aged woman looking back on her first retail job.
Now that she is an adult with children of her own, she understands that what she was actually investing in was learning how to have a job. “I had to be accountable,” she says. “I had hours, had to be there on time, had to be clean and dressed appropriately. And I had to interact with people in a way I hadn’t before: In a job like that, you have to answer questions, and if someone is kind of mean to you or critical, you can’t stomp off and cry. I wasn’t a kid at work — I was an employee.”
I think that this is the single most underappreciated contribution of capitalism. Even if the customer is mean to you, you still suck it up. Your job, whatever it is from CEO to retail clerk, is to become a servant of the exchange economy, which is all about serving other people.

But those jobs are going away, say Kevin:
At the highwater mark, there were about 5,000 malls in the United States, and there are now 1,100, at least 400 of which are expected to close in the next few years. 
Ouch. And what about the people getting their first entry-level job at the mall?

What shall we do? Where shall we go?

What we must not do is act like Hillary Clinton.
The funniest episode in the protective yet revealing new Hillary Clinton profile arrives when we learn that this sad, unemployed, 69-year-old lady is so desperate to keep her self-image alive that she still employs flunkies and retainers to treat her as though she actually were the president, or the secretary of state, or a president in waiting, or at very least the leader of the opposition.
Sorry, Hillary, it's over. And the worst thing in the world when you are over is to have people telling you that everything is copacetic, and nothing needs to change.

Now back to the economy.

The fact is that we don't have a clue what is coming in the next few years: culture, politics, economy-wise.

And yet our political institutions are all set up to service the current economy. Let us start with the education system, a dreadful, slow, mindless government monopoly.

OK, kids, quick! What should we do with the education system to prepare the next generation of kids for the jobs of tomorrow?

Exactly. Nobody has a clue, least of all in politics and government.

Now, my view is that the point of government is that it is designed to prevent change, most obviously the age-old change of pirates and predators appearing one morning and raping and pillaging the place until the men are dead and the women carted off into slavery.

That sorta worked in the agricultural age when nothing changed on the growing-of-food front. Not any more. Today the market and its prices decide everything, whether people like it or not. The reason the market must decide, whether you like it or not, is the Great Enrichment, which has increased per-capita income by 3000% in the last 200 years.

Imagine saying that the one most amazing thing is all history that has really made a difference, is just a trick, a mirage, as the left has been doing for 150 years.

Imagine a government, any government, planning and executing the Great Enrichment. Exactly. It is impossible. Let us just ask what government would have done about the losers in the successive economic revolutions, the machine textile revolution that put the hand spinners and then the hand weavers and I know not what out of work. And then the railroad revolution that must have put Charles Dickens carter, Mr. Barkis, out of work. And the oil revolution that put the sperm-whale hunters like Capt. Ahab out of work.

The point is that, whatever the particulars of each  economic revolution, life went on, and the losers kinda faded away like the handloom-weaver father of Andrew Carnegie.

We are seeing the fading away right now of the white working class, whose men operated the manufacturies and whose women worked in retail.

So where shall we go, what shall we do?

To me, Fact One is that the current ruling class, the educated liberal elite, doesn't have a clue. All it knows is what it wants for itself, creative jobs and the delicious conceit of leading the People of the Subordinate Self towards Peace and Justice.

But suppose the ruling class is wrong? Suppose its approach to education only works for the children of the educated class? Supposing its single-payer health care notion crashes the health system? Suppose that its one-size-fits-all pension system runs out of money?

If we had market-driven education, health care, and pensions, then all these "systems" would self-correct as the world turned. It wouldn't be easy, and people would suffer. But under the current system plenty of people are suffering, plenty of people are going to suffer in the near future, and yet nothing is changing.  The poor have been utterly betrayed by the current system for the last 50 years, and nothing is changing. Scratch a liberal and they have no ideas, except the move the deckchairs on the Titanic and ask for more money.

But now we are on the brink of really big-time change, that no government program or ruling-class conceit has any clue about what to do.

But we do have a "system" that will deal with it. Markets and prices will adapt every day to the changes that are coming. And people that want to do something more than just die of despair will adapt to the changes, and they will wive and thrive.

On thing is for certain. If you are sitting around waiting for the politicians and the wise men to "do something," then you have a real problem.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ben Sasse Hunting Unicorns

Republican Ben Sasse, US Senator from Nebraska, has written a book, and The Atlantic has reviewed it. The moderate Republican wants to rehabilitate "a shared moral language" for America.

Frankly, it's a little surprising that an elected official could be so obtuse about the political and cultural situation, and start talking about virtue and a shared moral language, in 2017 in the middle of the elite's war against President Trump.

I say that because it ought to be pretty obvious to anyone in the public square that the whole point of the leftist project, from 1848 to today's "woke" progressives, is to slaughter the west's common moral language and its notion of virtue, particularly the seven virtues celebrated by Deirdre McCloskey in her Bourgeois Virtues. After the massacre of the western canon the progressives will examine each and every one of us for our faithfulness to the left's vision of "justice" and administer the intersectionality loyalty oath to those that pass the test.

Sorry, Ben. We are way past the possibility of a shared moral vision, at least for now. That is why Dennis Prager today writes regretfully today about the Never Trumpers. Don't these guys understand that we are in a cultural civil war?

Put it this way. I wrote in my American Thinker piece this week that
In my view, the measure of a man is not what he believes at the end of the rainbow of justice, but what he is willing to concede to the other side in the spirit of good will, right now.
Good for Ben Sasse. If he wants to find a common moral ground then he is a good guy that is willing to concede something.

I tell you what I am willing to concede. I am willing to concede that a lot of people want nice safe government-guaranteed entitlements, even though they cost a bloody fortune in payroll and hidden taxes. If I had my druthers I would like to pay my share to look after people who are unable to look after themselves. But I would really like to take care of my own education, my own pension, and my own end-of-life healthcare.

So tell me, what are liberals prepared to concede to conservatives, right now? Would I be that far wrong if I said: Nothing?

The fact is that in war it is the losing side that makes concessions, and only when defeat is staring it in the face. The fact is that we are in a cultural civil war, which has spilled over into a political civil war, and is like to end up in a real shooting civil war.

The reason for this civil war is that the left believes, in the words of Barack Obama, in "fundamental transformation." You will notice that there is nothing in fundamental transformation that admits of a shared moral language. Indeed the whole point is to change the world, not to understand it.

So that means we have to fight.

But fight for what? That is what I am working on, because I start from the idea that we need something beyond the four virtues of the ancients, and the three additional virtues of the Christians. Let us put it in the language of a book I am reading that is trying to mix up Hegel and Heidegger. In this book, The Critique of Pure Modernity, David Kolb is investigating, shall we say, the use of negation in Hegel, that we proceed dialectically through negation and reflection, while acknowledging that the negative is very often almost the same as the original, and the notion of "unconcealing" in Heidegger.

Let us say that the meaning of all this is that the world is always already right in front of us and around us and within us, but yet it is concealed from us. The way to unconcealing is not just from a mechanical investigation,  the method of science, but more tricky and twisty. It involves appreciating that the world is not just mechanical and action and reaction, but that the whole is not just as the sum of its parts and has a uniqueness in which the parts are fully involved in the whole.

Another way to look at it is in the left-brain/right-brain analysis of Iain MacGilchrist in The Master and His Emissary. In his narrative myth (in its best sense) the left brain is always trying to reduce the world to a model and a plan of domination. The right brain just takes in the world as it is, without prejudgment.

Now the critique of MacGilchrist is that in the Enlightenment, in Modernity, in Newtonian mechanics, in technology, we have overbalanced in the direction of left-brain reductionism, what Kolb calls, from Heidegger, "universal imposition."

I would say that the whole lefty project is one long universal imposition of the left's model of the world, and you better submit.

On the argument of Kolb and MacGilchrist that lefty vision is only half of the truth, and it will lead to disaster at worst, and a very diminished human experience at best.

That is why I say that there is no such thing as justice, only injustice, the universal imposition of ruling class power upon a subordinate population.

The road to wholeness starts with my notion up above. The measure of a human is what he is willing to concede to his opponent, right now.

Or, to soften this up a bit, what is a man willing to concede, down the road at the end of the civil war, in the peace treaty between the good guys and the bad guys?

Ben Sasse is willing to make concessions right now, but I fear that the time for concession is way off in the future. The last time that the left was willing to make concessions was in 1992 after three straight Republican administrations. I dare say that the same sort of persuasion would be needed this time.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Liberals Wrecking the Law

On my understanding, the modern interest of the state in law issues from the desire of the rulers to appropriate the reputation of law in commercial disputes, and use its prestige in support of state power.

The fact is, as I discovered from reading a history of law some years ago, is that most of law is concerned with commercial disputes and inheritance issues. It was only in the modern era that states began to get into the law-making business.

So now we have legislators and judges poking into the interstices of society pushing their private agendas onto the public square. And as Roget Kimball writes of an Appeals court decision against President Trump's executive order on immigration, the judges break down pretty clearly on partisan lines. You could tell how a judge would vote based on which president appointed him.
As Byron York points out, the decision broke 10 to 3 along partisan lines: the 10 judges who decided against the travel ban were appointed by Presidents Clinton or Obama, the 3 judges who supported the ban were appointed by one of the Bushes.
This, as they say, is not good. And, to add insult to injury, the decision was based on statements that Donald Trump made on the campaign trail. Their decision, the judges imply, would have been different if Trump had not made political statements about immigrants.

I suppose we should take heart from this, that liberal judges are so far into the weeds that they will grab at anything to justify their legislation from the bench. It suggests we are reaching the collapse of liberal judicial philosophy from its own internal contradictions.

The problem for me is that, even if liberal judging collapsed tomorrow, we are so far into the weeds that it will take forever to get out.

That's because the growth of big government and the administrative state and its regulations and its administrative courts -- and of course the liberal lawyering that encourages people to sue people and corporations with big pockets -- has utterly buried the legal system and prevented it from doing its job, which is to adjudicate honest disputes between parties over some messy train-wreck of a business deal or a bankruptcy, to patch up the mess after something has gone badly wrong.

Instead we have liberals and the left endeavoring to use law as the sharp end of their arc of history that bends towards justice. Having first determined some sort of outcome, for health care or relations between the sexes, liberals use law to force their desired outcome on society.

It all comes down to a feeling I have that is growing in me, that liberals really do not understand what they are doing. They have a narrow vision of what they want, in respect of equality and justice, they have protocols of tactics and sound bites, they have the power to impose their will, but they do not really think about the collateral effects of their actions. You have Hillary Clinton and the Democrats protesting the results of the 2016 election without really thinking about what happens to America when election losers do not concede their defeat.

It would be nice to feel that average people would revolt against the liberal culture of politics-all-the-time, and the social and cultural destruction that it meets out.

But ordinary people are just trying to make it from day to day; they must find support where they can, and for many that means attaching themselves to the Democratic Party and its neo-feudal government entitlement apparatus. They must find a powerful patron or suffer extreme marginalization and oppression.

Still, as Adam Smith says, there is always a great deal of ruin in a nation. Unfortunately nobody knows how much is too much, and how much liberal lawyering will end up destroying the law.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Why It Has Come to the Spit-Viper Left

What is it about the world that Russell  K.Nieli calls the Spit-Viper Left? Todd Gitlin, he writes, thinks that the left
may subconsciously feel that reason and argument are no longer on its side. Free speech, a fruitful exchange of ideas, mutual intellectual enrichment — these are not its modus operandi. And those among the most illiberal segments of the Left on college campuses often attract to their protests even more radical and more illiberal supporters from beyond the university, who bring with them a love of violence, confrontation and disruption.
Not to mention lovely money from dear old George Soros.

Well, that's not my line.

My line is that the left is running out of victims for whom it can justify its eternal lust for revolution.

As I say, you have to understand that the left is rich kids looking for a reason to riot. All young men like an excuse to riot, but rich kids need something higher and nobler than simple street riots. That's because they are high-class, not yobbos and deplorables; they have to dress up their adolescent rage in haute couture. No J.C. Penney for them.

But the rest of us can be forgiven for humming the refrain of Elvis Presleyś "Hound Dog."
Well they said you was high classedWell, that was just a lie.
Kids looking for a fight are just kids looking for a fight.

But we have to admire the genius of rich kids Marx, son of a prominent lawyer, and Engels, son of a textile manufacturer. They would gin up the best excuse for a riot ever, and lead the downtrodden workers in their existential battle against the cruel capitalists and the bumptious bourgeoisie that were keeping the people down. The workers were outside the system, without a vote, and Marx and Engels would lead them in a revolution against the power of money and exploitation.

Only the bourgeoisie and the capitalists were not that interested in power, in keeping people down. So when the workers presented their grievances the bourgeoisie realized that, even if the workers would use their numbers to despoil the property owners, it was unjust to keep the workers outside the system.

But if the workers were now inside the system, what price revolution and the intoxication of riot and mayhem for the next generation of lefty activists?

That was the genius of the Frankfurt School and its leading lights, Max Horkheimer and Ted Adorno, sons of rich businessmen, after World War I. These two invented our modern identity politics. They switched the strategic direction of leftist politics from working-class revolution to sexual and racial revolution.

But again, the bourgeoisie was not that interested in power. It understood and respected the claims of women and minorities, and gave them the vote. Hey, and even Affirmative Action and quotas.

And what about gays? Hey, give them gay marriage, said the judges.

Do you see the problem? The whole program of the left is that there has to be brutal exploitation and oppression and the only way to fight it is with resistance and protest. But what is the point if the normals keep conceding the legitimate grievances of the marginalized outside the system?

Good point and if the bourgeoisie has such a record of fairly and generously conceding the legitimate grievances of the marginalized then what exactly is the point of or the need for revolution?

For now, in 2017, we are down to the bottom of the barrel. Who is the left advocating for today? It is advocating for illegal immigrants, insisting that no human is illegal, and for Muslims who want nothing more than to kill little children at rock concerts and make sex-slaves of white working class girls.

If I were a lefty, I would be getting a bit panicky. I would be forbidding anyone from uttering a discouraging word at my lefty university and I would be reinventing the KKK to patrol the borders of the university and keep the racist, sexist, homophobe haters out. And as for the people pushing back against Muslim terror? Why, I would call them evil Islamophobes.

Hey, for once, the left is right. The people resisting Muslim terror really do have a phobia, i.e., a fear, of Islam. Yay lefties! For once you have got it right. Although I would hardly think Islamophobia is a disease, but just a healthy instinct for self-protection.

Now I am a normal kind of person, although a wee bit of a lone wolf. So I can look at a situation in a normal kind of way and respond to it, sensibly and normally. But imagine if I were a lefty.

Exactly. I would be as angry as a Spit Viper. Whatever that is.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Single-payer Healthcare: Clueless

The State of California has been taking a look at a state "single-payer" health plan. The idea is that health care ought to be a "right." Only it will cost $400 billion a year, in a state with a general fund budget of $124 billion a year.

Really does anybody have a clue? Let us count the ways.

In the first place, health care is not a thing. It is not something you can just set up as a government program and leave it.

Of course that is true about everything the government does. You can't just pass Social Security and leave it to the bureaucrats forever. Eventually, Social Security runs out of other peoples' money.

But health care is probably a couple orders of magnitude more complicated than raking in and just handing out money. Which the government is farily good at.

Health care is a universe of needs and products, and it is changing every moment. Now, settled science has discovered that in a universe of wants and of products and services competing to supply those wants there is one certain truth. The only way to manage and to adjudicate between the competing needs and products and services is through a price "system." Only it isn't a system. It is an emergent phenomenon, as they say in chaos theory.

But government doesn't do that. It sets up an administrative system, based on the state of play between needs and products and services on Day One. And then it proposes to administer that system for all eternity.

Only eternity ends up in administrative failure in the not-too-distant near future. Because what will health care look like next year? What will it look like ten years from now? Nobody knows. So that is why we need prices and markets to guide the evolutions, the innovations, the changes that will be coming next month, next year, and next decade. There is one thing that government cannot do, and that it manage change.

But what about the poor? Well, people that don't have the ready are people that must line up and wait for the kindly DMV clerk to get to them. That is the inevitable situation of workers and peasants that rely upon a powerful lord to spread his benison to his faithful followers. That is what a "right to health care" means.

But chaps like me don't want that. We want to pay for our own health care and we want to influence the market in health care so that it responds to our needs, on a day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year basis. Just like the market in groceries.

The assumption about health care is that it is vital, as important as food and shelter. But this is not quite true. In his Rising Life Expectancy James C. Riley explains that there are about eight factors that have contributed to modern life expectancy of about 75 years at birth, and "bio-medicine" is just one of them. Others are: sanitation, income, aseptic childbirth, education of women, vaccination, etc.

We can see the problem that "single payer" health care will get into. We can see it in education, which has been an elite project for the last 100-200 years. The ruling class has always felt that it knew what sort of education their subjects needed. But they have usually tended to propose the system that they prefer for themselves. So we now have a luxurious system to educate good little girls through college, but a lousy system for educating the middle and the lower income groups. But who cares about them? The real clients of the education system are the teachers and administrators. Who cares about the kids?

Now, if we accept that some sort of subsidy is needed, for education and for health care, why not just give the subsidy directly to the people? Why divert it through the special interests, the hospitals, the doctors, the nurses, the drug companies? Why not just give everyone a subsidy to buy health care as they think fit?

I know the answer to that. Not enough opportunity for graft.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Liberals Do Too Believe in Borders

I was at a good liberal friend for dinner last night. They didn't have a "We Believe" yardsign out in front but they did have the No Borders yardsign: "No matter where you are from, we're glad you're our neighbor."

And during the meal my liberal host opined as how he was opposed to borders.

Of course I was very nice and didn't contradict mine host in his own house. But I got to thinking on the way home.

Wait a minute! Liberals do too believe in borders. They believe that no conservatism should take place inside the borders of a university. They believe that no conservatives should get tenure within the borders of their university. They believe that no Christianity should take place within the borders of a government child-custodial facility. And they believe that no federal immigration enforcement should take place within the borders of a liberal city.

And the liberals also believe in a strong border police. You might almost call it a wall. What do you think all those anti-fa and Black Block protesters are all about? They Shall Not Pass, those nasty stinky deplorable racist, sexist, homophobes. And the liberal KKK will make sure of it. Yes. really, those peaceful protesters are nothing more that the liberal militia, just like the racist militia in the Jim Crow south.

Hey, how about those right-wing militias that the FBIs have to kick in the butt to get them to do anything but grouse around at their local gun range? The left-wing militias are out and about every day marchin' and protestin'. And they are up to the task of intimidating the lifer admininstrators in the university, the ones that actually need intimidating. There is the Berkeley Militia; there is the Middlebury Militia. And you will note that the folks on the barricades are usually little rich kids. Just like the rich kids in Les Mis back in Paris in the good old 19th century.

So the only question is: which borders matter to the ordinary person in Manchester, England, or San Bernardino, or Paris or Nice. Does the average person want to protect the world from corruption by racist, sexist homophobes, or does the average person want to be protected from low-wage competition from immigrants and terrorism from woke Muslims?

You tell me. I've got to go downstairs and finish loading the FY18 budget up on usgovernmentspending.com.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When Will The Ruling Class Cry "Uncle" On Islam

Our beloved Mark Steyn today satirizes the establishment instructions after the Manchester bombing by invoking the naughty "Carry On" movies. Keep Calm and Carry On, the WWII posters used to say, and the Carry On movies made a joke of it for about twenty years.

And that is what the establishment proposes after the Manchester killings.

That's because, I suppose, the ruling class thinks that while it is OK to angry-up blacks and feminists and gays and ordinary liberal college graduates against the Deplorables and the irredeemables, there is one thing that is not allowed! Not to be endured! And that is for the ordinary white middle class and the remainder-of-the-day white working class to get angried-up.

Because that would be fascism.

What is going on here?

It is simple. After World War II the wise and the evolved elite decided "never again." They would create a politics that would never descend into extreme nationalism and fascism.

The obvious solution was that the lesser lights would be excluded from national and international politics. Only the educated and the evolved need apply. This would prevent the outbreak of aggressive nationalism and populist leaders like Mussolini and Hitler.

But, as I have said before, this completely misunderstands the rise of Mussolini and Hitler.

That is because, as I say, Trump is the idiot you get when the usual idiots have screwed up.

As in the Great Depression.

Here is my analysis of how we got to fascism in the 1930s. First of all, there was World War I. This was a gigantic mistake of the powers-that-be who hadn't really thought through that there was no point in Germany defeating France and France defeating Germany. For what? Money-losing colonies in Africa?

After World War I the Allies decided to make Germany pay. Fine, but that unbalanced the international financial system and led to loans to the Germans so they could pay their reparations. And then Winston Churchill and others felt that the UK had a moral obligation to return sterling to the pre-war parity against gold. That led to deflation.

Then we had the fairly new US Federal Reserve System stumbling and bumbling around: first it was expansionary, then in the bubble of 1928 it turned contractionary and let the whole financial system collapse after the Crash of 1929. Because bureaucratic stupidity.

When you have the governing class idiots stumbling and bumbling like that, you tend to get populist leaders that offer extravagant promises to get out of the mess that the ruling-class stumblers and bumblers have created. Sorry about that. It has something to do with rats trapped in a maze.

Today the problem we are facing across the West is that the ruling class decided it would be a good and noble idea to allow immigration of non-white peoples into the predominantly white European first world.

In part, I suspect, this impulse was a judgement that eventually the whole world would get mixed together, and partly a conceit that the educated and evolved had a duty to help and educate the marginalized peoples of the world. And in part, I suspect, the impulse was a response to the empty wombs of educated first-world women. If first-world women weren't having babies, then we would need to import women that would have babies and provide the workers to pay the taxes to fund the west's bankrupt pension and health-care entitlements.

Anyway, it is obvious that the judgments of the ruling class have been wrong, in various and numerous ways.

And it is obvious that we are going to have a smash-up sooner or later in which the average voters look for a new ruling class that will attend to their needs rather than tell them to keep calm and carry on.

Notice how the needs of the average voter conflict with the politics of the left. The left, since 1840ish, has been a political movement dedicated  to representing those people that are presently outside the system. First it was the workers, that in 1840 did not have the vote. Then it was women, then minorities. Now it is illegal immigrants and Muslims.

The reason that the left keeps finding a new group outside the system to represent is that it justifies the left's primary approach to society, which is that political force is the only option. There must be some issue, must be some group that requires educated young men and women to issue manifestos and non-negotiable demands and Occupy Wall Street and demand a resort to force and a new administrative government program.

My judgment is that this political philosophy is dead wrong. It is wrong because in the modern age it is seldom necessary to use force to solve social problems. The whole logic of the market system (which is not a system but an emergent phenomenon) is that anything is possible at a price. Even if you are excluded, and outside the system, you can still participate; it is just that you will suffer a certain amount of disadvantage. This might be if you are a Muslim that wants to pray five times a day in a workplace where nobody else does that. Or it might be if you were a conservative Christian working in a liberal media conglomerate. In either case, the Muslim or the Christian are going to have  to keep a buttoned lip.

We could have solved all issues these decades ago, but for the pride and idiocy of our ruling class, and the longer we wait to do something about it, the more gruesome the solution will be.

Monday, May 22, 2017

No, THIS is the Fundamental Error of the Left

Here is a piece, about the Left's stupid "net-neutrality" movement. The idea is to regulate the wild and crazy competitive internet business as though it were a monopoly radio business. It begins with the usual accusation about crazy lefties:
Leftism is a bereft ideology.  It is a certain set of ideas and government policies - all of which are horrendous when put into actual practice.  It pretends human nature isn’t human nature. And tries to reshape it - and the humans it imbues - with the fires and on the anvils of government.
But I think this is a misunderstanding of the left's position and world view.

Let us start with net neutrality. The left believes that unless strong and consistent government force is applied against corporations and businesses the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.

This is encapsulated in the view of a young acquaintance that "capitalism keeps people down."

To say that this "pretends human nature isn't human nature" misses the point. That's because down through the ages the whole point of government was to keep the raiders out and the people down. Every tribe or dukedom occupied some patch of land, and defended it against raiders. The result of this was that the tribe depended on its rulers to protect it from raiders, and that meant that the rulers had to have a free hand. And a firm hand. You couldn't have any rebels in the tribe, because that would prevent the tribe from defending its patch of land from the rest of humanity.

In other words, in the old days the government had to keep the people down.

But now things are different. That's because everything is tradable. In the old days only luxuries and vital metals like tin, that was needed for bronze weapons, were traded. Food was grown and eaten right there on the patch of land. Thomas Sowell has shown that, in those old days, the price of grain would double from just one day's transportation by horse and cart. Right now, as I sit in a friend's house in West Vancouver, there are at least 12 grain ships sitting in the outer harbor waiting to go in and load grain from the giant grain elevators and transport it to the world. I wonder what the grain transporters charge to transport grain half way around the world: 10 percent markup? 20 percent? But you can see the point. You can trade grain across the world because the folks in India and China can afford to buy the grain after transportation half way across the world.

This is what the left doesn't get. You can trade everything, all across the world, and you now need force, not to keep the raiders out of the patch of land, but to keep pirates from attacking ships in transit.

In the old days men were needed to grow food and to defend the patch of land against raiders. Now men are needed to produce goods for sale on the market and to serve the consumers.

This has been an astonishing revolution, and it has only really kicked in during the last two centuries.

So it is not surprising that a reactionary movement erupted in the first years of the Great Enrichment on the belief that this new revolution was just a flash in the pan and that, sooner or later, and probably sooner, we would revert to the old regime of "immiseration." That how the world always used to world, in the Malthusian limit of food that could be grown right here on the patch of land, and any "surplus population" periodically starved in periodic famines.

I am reading right now Andrew Roberts' biography of Lord Salisbury, Salisbury, Victorian Titan. It covers three famines in the mid-19th century that were regarded in British politics as scandals. The first was the Irish famine of the 1840s. The other two were famines in Bengal. In all three the British government was criticized for not doing enough, and Lord Salisbury, then a young politician, felt deeply the obligation to relieve the famines.

But the point is that it was only in the 19th century that there was anything that anyone could do about a famine. First of all you need timely information about an impending famine, and it certainly helps to have a world-wide telegraph system for that. Secondly you need a transportation system that can rush grain from areas of surplus to areas of deficit. I don't know what date to establish as the first day when a government could do this on any scale other than local, but I'd say you need railways and steamships and telegraph before you can do anything significant.

Leftism is certainly bereft. But it is merely applying the age-old remedy for human problems. And that remedy, outside the immediate family or tribe, is force.

In the old days you sought shelter and safety from a tribal leader or local lord, and he dispensed justice and favors as the mood took him. Now you seek shelter and prosperity by finding a way to serve your fellow humans, across the globe, by performing some service that the market shows, by the price system, is valued by other humans.

Simply put: in the old days the ruler ruled. Today, the price system rules.

This is an incredibly advanced notion, that replaces the realities of the ten-thousand years of the agricultural age. It is hardly surprising that most people cannot yet grasp it.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Removing Trump Per 25th Amendment

I guess I was asleep at the switch, because I've only just woken up to the latest wizard wheeze of the ruling class; it is to remove Donald Trump per the 25th Amendment as "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

See, the idea, from Section 4, is that:
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments... transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Pretty cute, huh?

The idea, from a long tweet series from Ross Douthat, is that removing Trump per the 25th Amendment has to do with the "central *use* of an elite - their ability to respond swiftly to a situation the public as a whole can't reckon with."

Oh yeah. Except I can't think of a case where the elite did usefullly "respond swiftly," and there are other cases where I'd say the elite did respond swiftly when it wasn't necessary.

In general, I would say that an elite is absolutely useless in doing the things it is supposed to do. I'd say that is to stop the people from doing something they might regret.

But the elite never does that. Instead it manipulates the people in order to increase its money, power, and the love of beautiful women. The whole point of the mega-administrative state is that it has been useful for the elite to acquire political power, by enticing the support of the people by offering them free stuff. Then it gets us into stupid wars that cost a ton of money and the lives of young American men. And then, per Margaret Thatcher, it runs out of other peoples' money.

So now the elite is saying that Donald Trump is somehow "unable to discharge" his duties? You mean that he gets pissed off when leakers and bureaucrats embarrass him with memos to the file? Golly! That's really bad! So that's why we need an elite. To punish populist presidents when they get mad having to deal with the permanent government.

One could ask: why aren't more presidents getting pissed off with the high-born leakers in the bureaucracy?

You know the answer to that. If you are Barack Obama, you don't have to bother, because the permanent bureaucracy is on your side, just waiting for a hint to go on a rampage to double and redouble the regulations of the regulatory state. If you are, say, George W. Bush you know that it is useless to even try to fight the permanent bureaucracy, 'cos they will probably eat you for breakfast one day.

Maybe it is time we had a president that lacks the trained-poodle blandness of a seasoned Republican. Maybe we elected Donald Trump to get into a knock-down drag-out fight with the permanent government before it is too late.

Because I will tell you what I think. I think that the good thing about the Trump administration thus far is that he has flushed the permanent state out of the bushes -- and on stupid penny-ante issues.

Who cares if the Trumpsters dallied with the Russians? It's the job of a candidate's people to make contact with foreign powers.

Who cares if the president asked James Comey to take it easy on Gen. Flynn -- although it looks like Flynn was a naughty boy taking money from the Turks. But hey, the Clintons take money from foreigners! They all do it!

My point is that if the Deep State was more serious, instead of a bunch of rich kids with sinecures, it would hold its fire for something really big and then swoop down with devastating effect. Right now, the Deep State is just teaching President Trump how to deal with it.

But aside from that, what exactly has President Trump done that is so horrible? He has a mild reform of Obamacare in the works. He is proposing a tax cut. He has cut back a bunch of stupid regulations. He has flooded the airwaves with his tweets.

But look at the good side, from the viewpoint of the elite. He is having difficulty with his wall and his immigration policies because of pushback from the Deep State. What is not to like?

Here's my beef. The "elite" ought to know that government handout programs are a really bad idea because you can never cut them. So a wise elite would always combine to prevent that. The "elite" ought to know that the science of regulatory government has been settled for a hundred years, ever since Ludwig von Mises pointed out that socialism couldn't work because it couldn't compute prices.

I could go on.

So what's the point of an elite that can't pull the people back from common mistakes? What's the point of an elite that makes really big mistakes?

I'd say that in President Trump the elite got the president it deserves. Trump is the result of decades of elite conceit that didn't bother to consider the needs of the ordinary man-in-the-street. The elite hasn't even begun to get serious about getting its own house in order before running over to Trump's house to complain about the dust and disorder there.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Is Trump Toast Yet?

To understand how the frenzy over the Comey Memo could provoke a 370 point decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Index on May 17, consider this by a liberal, Damon Linker, bemoaning the sickness of an America that elected "to deliver the presidency to a man of uncommon ignorance and sociopathological malevolence."
Every day Donald Trump shreds the rule of law in novel ways — by lying constantly and continuously, by bringing corruption into the highest levels of the executive branch, by expressing contempt for and defying ordinary norms of democratic governance, by refusing to hire people to staff the federal government. And every day, the president's own party makes it worse by ignoring or making excuses for the transgressions.
Oh please! Gag me with a spoon, as we used to say. You'd think the fellow was describing the Obama administration. Lying? As in "If you like your plan you can keep your plan?" Corruption? As is hiring Hillary Clinton? As in condoning the lovely Lois Lerner and her war on Tea Party groups in the months before the 2012 election? Contempt for ordinary norms of democratic governance? As in Rule by Phone and Pen and middle-of-the-night regulations? What planet are you on, Mr. Linker?

Somehow there is never a need for a special prosecutor in a Democratic administration. Why is that? Is it something in the Constitution?

But back to the important stuff. Is Trump finished? Will he be impeached next week? What we have seen this week is Democrats turning on a dime from calling for James Comey's scalp to expressing their shock, shock, that President Trump might put in a word for Gen. Flynn, a man who seems to have been grievously and unjustly treated by the Deep State's campaign to discredit President Trump.

Honestly, I don't know. But I will tell you this. I was talking to a young skull full of mush yesterday and he didn't like hearing the argument of Charles Murray that the US is turning into a society segregated by IQ, in which the top 25 percent is doing fine, the middle 40 percent only so so, and in the bottom 35 percent the men don't work much and the women don't marry much. That's just for white people. No clue about how the Murray Doctrine applies to minorities.

So I assume that the argument that liberal politics has segregated the nation by IQ is a powerful argument that pierces liberal conceit at its very heart. After all liberals think, they know, that their welfare state is an engine of equality and justice that is helping marginalized communities, only more programs are needed. It cannot be, it just cannot be that liberal politics is having the opposite effect, marginalizing the low paid, the low IQ and throwing them on the dust-heap of history right there with the white working class.

Yes, but what about Trump? Honestly, I don't know. Obviously liberals are using everything they can to angry up their base which was caught completely with sails aback last November. But there is a problem. If liberals angry up their base they might end by angrying up the Republican base. And really, is the angry-up strategy working? After eight years of angry-up politics we have the most Republican Congress and state legislatures since the 1920s.

Before we assume that Trump is finished we'd better understand why all the protests and the accusations and the marchin' and resistin' failed to deliver a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President.

Maybe it's because Democrats ended up believing their own press releases that the future belonged to an Emerging Democratic Majority of women, minorities, the educated and the youth. Maybe that's why Hillary Clinton didn't bother to contest the Rust Belt states of Michigan and Wisconsin.

What I do know is that liberals have no clue how much trouble their top-down administrative state is in. My young skull full of mush was a bit shocked when I explained that any administrative system is like an army. It is designed to implement the strategy of the guys at the top and the kids at the bottom in the firing line are just cannon fodder. As in: System is Domination.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Should Trump Take Credit for 4pct Growth?

Stop Press: The Atlanta Fed is forecasting four percent GDP growth for the second quarter.

Should President Trump take credit for that, or is this finally the economic policy of the former President Obama taking hold?

There are two obvious answers to that.

Point One: This is taking place on Trump's watch. So he takes the credit.

Point Two: After a major economic meltdown like the Crash of 2008 it takes about ten years for the economy to get back on track. That was true in the Crash of 1873, the Crash of 1929. So whatever the  government does, it takes about ten years to shake off the meltdown.

The point is that major crashes are major failures of the credit system. Millions of people lose everything they  have or at least take huge haircuts and can't do what they usually do: start businesses, buy houses, etc.

Now the theory: Per Walter Bagehot in Lombard Street, a healthy credit system requires that loans be properly collateralized and that borrowers should make their payments. If the market thinks that either is in question then you get a credit collapse, and a Lost Decade.

So right about now, the credit system should be getting back into gear, especially as housing prices have recovered. Did you know that one of the biggest ways of financing a new business is by taking a mortgage out on your house? People can't do that when their houses are under water.

Of course, I think that the way this worked out is rather cool. The Crash of 2008 was on Bush's watch, so he is to blame, even though the crash was caused by the Democrats encouraging non-creditworthy people to take out low-down-payment mortgages, and calling opponents to their policy red-lining racists. See Bagehot, above, regarding questionable borrowers and questionable collateral.

But the ten year hiatus after the crash took place on Obama's watch, so he is to blame whether or not he had anything to do with the case. Of course, he did a lot of stuff to slow the recovery, including raising welfare payments, putting a huge burden on small business with Obamacare, putting the financial system in a Dodd-Frank administrative strait-jacket, and throwing money away on crony-capitalist green energy. So there is that.

But now the ten year hiatus is over, and it is starting to look like the economy is ready to take off again. It's happening on Trump's watch so he takes the credit. But imagine if we had had a Republican president the last eight years. Imagine the fake news coming from the Democratic operatives with bylines about the cruel Republicans that didn't care about the suffering of the American people! The Republicans might have been out of power for a generation like after 1929.

But here is what I worry about. I worry that the economy will get such a boost from Trump tax cuts and the Trump Obamacare-lite and the lower energy costs of the fracking revolution, that the economy will overheat in a couple, three years, and we will have a nasty crash and recession.

But that is all in the future. Why, before then we might have Trump impeached and thrown out of office and President Pence impeached and thrown out of office and Hillary Clinton appointed president by acclamation.

So let's not worry about the future. Let's have another cup of coffee, and let's have another piece of pie. Yeah, that song came out in 1932, at the very bottom of the Great Depression.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is Trump Crazy or Crazy Like a Fox

Suppose you were President of the United States and you had a ton of things you wanted to do. What would be the best way to achieve this?

Would you decide to bring each item up, one by one, so there could be a full and fair Discussion of the Issues? Or would you decide that a better strategy would be to ram all the issues through in the dead of night while the media artillery barrage was blasting to smithereens the Russia connection or the Comey firing or the Trump leaking of sensitive intelligence to the Russians?

Honestly, I don't know. My Man Kevin D. Williamson writes that it is one thing to run a nice little family business with your kids, but another thing to sit astride a monster bureaucracy like the federal government.

On the other hand, the whole point of a gigantic bureaucracy, of which the modern armed forces are the gold standard, is for the commander-in-chief to concentrate on grand strategy and let the lower ranks, the army group commanders, the general staffs, and so on down, concentrate on the details of strategy, operations, and tactics. And, of course, all those lower ranks are expendable, particularly the twentysomethings doing the actual fighting.

The point is that there is only enough bandwidth for one-and-a-half-issues to come before the American people at one time. That is what happens during election campaigns, and that is what happens in the day-to-day reporting of " issues." And since the mainstream media are all liberals down to the last lesbian activist, the only thing that gets discussed is the liberal "take" on the issue of the day.

On the other hand it is also true that the President of the United States is supposed to embody the calm and overwhelming power of the United States. So there is supposed to be something majestic about him, about his presentation, about his gravitas. There should not be any suggestion of feet of clay, that the whole thing could come tumbling down what with the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare and all.

However, the fact is that the Republicans' Big Problem for the last 50 years has been that they are always in the position of having to apologize. It used to be they had to apologize for being the party of big business. Now every Republican goes around in mortal fear of being branded a racist, sexist, homophobe. At some point, some Republican politician had to break out of this glass cage, and just blow through the vile high-school-girl accusations of not being cool enough.

I'd say the reason that Donald Trump got nominated and elected is because he was and is the closest thing to a politician that could blast through the Maginot Line of political correctness and tell the SJWs to put it where the sun don't shine.

Maybe the Sturm und Drang is all chaos and stupidity on the part of the president. Maybe it will bring him down and ruin his presidency. Maybe it will prevent him from getting Trumpcare and tax cuts from passage.

Maybe. But we know that the history of Republicans hiding in bunkers to avoid the incoming rounds from the Democrat partisans ably assisted by their willing partisans in the media wasn't working. Someone had to take the battle to the Democrats, and Trump is the one leading the charge.

Whether we like it or not Trump is what we got. Trumpism may end up in red ruin as soon as 2018, or it may go for eight years until the next Democrat comes in on a change election. But the Trump approach is what we asked for, and that is what we got.

The bigger question is how to get out of our cultural bunker, where anything you say that isn't the latest approved liberal line gets you kicked out of your job and send to Outer Slobbovia.

Any ideas?

Monday, May 15, 2017

No, Capitalism Doesn't "Keep People Down"

We have a twentysomething son of a friend staying with us, and very helpful it is. Because an old geezer like me isn't up to date on all the liberal memes, not as much as I ought to be.

Already I have been inspired to make a chart of Deirdre McCloskey's Great Enrichment notion, showing the US and the UK starting at about $3 income in real dollars per person per day in 1800 and reaching $120-140 per day right here in 2017. Go take a look at the links: it's really cool.

But my young friend also has the opinion that capitalism "keeps people down." OK, never mind that the charts just mentioned give that notion the lie.

It is true that capital-ists are often discovered trying to keep people down. I don't mean the meanie-jelly-beanie that won't give his workers a raise. I mean dear old Warren Buffet. The dear chap announced back in the Obama days as how chaps like him should pay more in taxes because his secretary paid more percent of income in tax than he did. Well, Warren old chap, I doubt it. But if she does the reason is that she is paying payroll taxes which are a cunning way to prevent ordinary middle-class people from building assets that can be handed down to their children -- in other words keep them down. So yeah. Warren Buffet wants to keep people down.

And let us not forget that Buffet's support of the Obama administration helped pipelines from being built in the frack-alicious Dakotas, and that helps Warren make lots of lovely money hauling crude oil around in his Burlington Northern trains. But Mr. President, Is It Safe? No, transporting crude oil in trains is a lot less safe than transporting it in pipelines. Any fool knows that. It's the science.

Then, of course, there are out-and-out crony capitalists like Elon Musk, who is making big money from renewable energy credits with his Tesla electric-car company and from NASA with his SpaceX outfit. I know: electric cars and reusable rockets are cool. Still...

Look the problem here is not that capitalists "keep people down." Of course they do, just like SJWs keep the notorious racists, sexists, and homophones down. And just like the welfare state keeps the old white working class and women and minorities down, anesthetized by welfare and healthcare entitlements and opioids. One of the basic facets of social animals is hierarchy. Hierarchy, or pecking order, is one way to avoid violence, and the war of all against all. So today's top dogs certainly have an advantage. In order to have access to money, power, and the love of beautiful women you have to fight for it, like these giraffes.

But the whole point of markets and prices is that you can only be "kept down" so long as you don't have a better idea, and only so long as crony capitalists have access to politicians to write laws to block up-and-coming businesses with licensing laws and regulation. And even politicians and the current crony capitalists are not really smart enough to keep a good man down for long, except in full-on socialist countries.

The astonishing thing about the last 200 years of the Great Enrichment is that, time after time, the ruling class and the crony capitalists were caught looking the other way, and not really understanding the threat from the latest innovation until it had got itself fully in the saddle and able to bribe politicians just like the old rich.

But what really keeps people down are government programs. That's because it is almost impossible to reform government programs. Why? Not because of capitalism, but because of the selfishness and meanness of the government's clients, who will war to the knife to keep their free stuff, their subsidies, their credits.

And why not? Who would go out into the world and endure the stress and humiliation of working for a boss or a demanding consumer when you could get it all almost for free just by bribing and threatening a politician?

No. It is not capitalism that keeps people down. It is government.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Health Care: The View from the Inside

A couple days ago I got an email from a physician, giving me the inside word on the problems of the health care system from his 40 years of experience. He'd read my American Thinker piece, "The Meaning of Kinda-sorta Obamacare Repeal and Replace." His analysis was deep and penetrating.

But who cares? Right now we have a health care system that is riddled with political corruption. I don't mean this in the sense of politicians and crony capitalists milking the system, although I am sure there is plenty of that.

No, I am talking about the bigger issue, the fact that down the years the politicians have offered free stuff to the voters, and the voters have only ever asked: "does that come with sprinkles on top?"

To keep the free stuff coming, the health care system has become horribly distorted, quite apart from the fact that it is administered and regulated by the administrative and regulatory state, which means, according to settled science, that it will be a dysfunctional mess.

And it won't get any better. That's because Rule One of government spending is that the politicians dare not cut spending, ever. President Trump proposed spending cuts of $50 billion (in a $4 trillion budget) and the media couldn't believe it. The end of Meals on Wheels! Oh no!

(I know! Why doesn't George Soros pick up Meals on Wheels. How about it George?)

Or, as my physician emailer put it:
How is this to be done when people become more devoted to free stuff than to the free market?
My line on this is that it all depends on what you are prepared to surrender to. Because you must be willing to surrender to something. That is the basic meaning of social animals and social cooperation.

On my reductive Three Peoples theory there are obviously three ways to surrender.

The People of the Subordinate Self surrender to their liege lord. He could be the village Big Man; he could be the lord of the manor; he could be the local politician. The subordinate worker or peasant surrenders to his lord in exchange for free stuff. Of course, the People of the Subordinate Self are not perfect. They are inclined to resent their lord when he doesn't deliver the free stuff as promised. Sometimes they form a head of rebellion complete with peasants with pitchforks, or they strike their employer.

The People of the Responsible Self surrender to the market. They are saying, in effect, that they agree to serve their fellow men and women by doing something useful for which people are prepared to pay. You can see that this is to aim higher than the People of the Subordinate Self, who just surrender to the local big cheese, and then wait for orders. I do not think we give this surrender option enough credit, for if you ask me it is a noble and selfless thing to abjure violence and the strong arm, and just say that you will accept the verdict of the market on your efforts to wive and thrive in this world. Of course, the People of the Responsible Self are not perfect. They are inclined to look to government for a bit of help when the market goes against them and revalues their contribution to the world downwards. Sometimes they get politicians to give them subsidies, and carve-outs.

The People of the Creative Self surrender to the verdict of history. It is not enough for them just to serve their fellow men and women by being useful. They aim higher than that. They aim to do something original and transformative: in business, in art, in literature, in religion, in politics. It is not enough just to do something useful, it must be special. Of course, the People of the Creative Self are not perfect. They are inclined to force their creations on the rest of us, whether we like it or not, in art, in politics, and the rest. And since the People of the Creative Self are now the ruling class, it means that they use government to force the rest of us to be the chorus of jolly peasants on the stage of their creative projects.

You can see the problem when you apply this theory to health care. The People of the Subordinate Self expect their liege lords to provide for them. The People of the Creative Self have all kinds of creative plans for health care from Health Maintance Organizations (Ted Kennedy's wizard wheeze) to "single payer." So it is only the People of the Responsible Self that are prepared to willingly surrender themselves to whatever the health-care market delivers.

But who cares what we think?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hillary Clinton Epitomizes Government: A Train Wreck

I've been reading Niall Ferguson's 2004 book about American empire: Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire.

Yes, he was saying that the whole thing was a mess, back in 2004 before the real mess began in Iraq and before the Surge, and before the clueless eight years of Obama stupidity.

The thing is: the message of the book is that the American empire has always been a train wreck, even back in the 19th century when the US started getting into messes in Texas, Mexico, Cuba, the Philippines.

But the rulers always have tame operatives with bylines to concoct a pretty story, a narrative, out of the chaos of events.

This pretty-story thing is not really a scandal, because the only thing that government does is war. It can be war on the Nazis, or the Russkies. Or it can be back at home, making war on greedy bankers and homophobic racists.

Now the thing about war is that it is always going wrong, and the leaders have to buck up  the spirits of their followers to keep them "down for the struggle," as we now say.

In more conventional speech, we are talking about the need to maintain morale among the troops, so they will continue to march and fight in the government's latest war. The one thing a government must avoid is for people to lose heart and start to desert from its latest project.

Thus it may be a mistake for President Trump to run a government where he doesn't seem to care whether he is giving the impression of running a 24-7 train-wreck. It may be that people really do need to be constantly reassured that things are completely under control. It may be that a government that does not lie its head off, assuring everyone that the train wreck they can see right  in front of their eyes is not really a train wreck but merely a very brief setback, is not long for this world.

Now we have a ordinary Democratic operative with a byline, Doyle McManus at the LA Times, doing a puff piece on Hillary Clinton's reemergence into public life after her defeat in November 2016's presidential election. He writes about how she has a "right" to return to public life, but maybe she shouldn't.
Hillary Clinton has more than earned her right to be a major voice in American politics. She’s smart and forceful on a raft of issues, from working-class job creation to foreign policy. But she’s not great at running a presidential campaign. She’s tried twice, in races where she began as the presumptive front-runner, and lost both times. That’s enough.
Oh please. "Smart and forceful?" "Working-class job creation?" "Foreign policy?" The fact is that Hillary has been a train wreck on policy, ever since the late lamented Hillarycare. That is why it is always best for defeated candidates to get the heck out of public life. Indeed that is why it is a good idea for former presidents to get out of public life, Presidents Carter, Clinton, Obama. It is best for people to be able to forget the train wreck of your presidencies. And I don't mean that in a partisan way. Every presidency is a mess, when you look back at it. Hillary Clinton is the poster girl for government and political train-wreck.

Why is that? The reason is simple. In Colossus Niall Ferguson has a long chapter on the European Union. It is pathetic. The EU is a high-class bureaucrat's wet dream. It has committees and councils and initiatives left, right, and center, all run by high-born scions of the ruling class or retired members of the ruling class: Hillary Clintons every one. And what is the good of them? What have they ever accomplished? Nothing, except to make things worse.

Just as the foreign policy of the US for the last century or so is a miserable story of stupidity followed by foolishness, so domestic policy is the graveyard of failed programs that are still on life support because they are supported by powerful interests that can make a lot of trouble for a politician.

Let's take the travails of the working class, now replicating throughout the West, about which Doyle McManus writes that Hillary Clinton has some expertise. Really? Who knew?

Look, pal, the working class is toast, and the reason is politics. In the service of noble ideals like compassion and justice, the governments of the western world meddled in the cultural and economic turmoil of the Industrial Revolution to regulate work and pay. It put its thumb on the scale of justice to "help" the workers. It enacted social insurance programs. It validated the tribal, class-bound culture of the working class, and discouraged the working class from getting into the middle class and its culture of responsibility. And so the working class assumed that government would always be there to help it.

Golly GeeWillikins! The day came when the kind Hillary Clintons of the world left the working class by the side of the road to die of despair! Who could have seen that coming?

Look, government does not care about people like you; the ruling class only cares about how it can use you in its power politics. If it can get you to vote for it on the promise of free stuff, Yay! If it can get gays to hate straights and vote 85-15 for Democrats, Yay! If it can angry-up blacks with Black Lives Matter, Yay! If it can wean women off husbands and children and instead work for taxable wages and decline into single parenthood and start to look to government for support, Yay!

But the rulers don't care about people like you. Hillary Clinton doesn't care about you. All they care about is their court politics of who is up and who is down, and how they can use political power to strut their hour upon the stage of power.

And so the whirligig of time spins on, from one train wreck to the next. And you and I are the folks that will pay the price. Every time.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My Take on the Comey Firing

If you want fun and games about President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey, go and read Mark Steyn. When it comes to searing political wit, Mark can't be beat.

But here is my take.

When Hillary Clinton decides to get her a home-brew email server and conduct the business of the Secretary of State on it, that is a problem.

It is not so much that it is illegal. It is not so much that it is the kind of action that would put the average federal worker or member of the armed services in jail. It is not so much that the whole episode shows that there is one law for ordinary people and Republicans like Scooter Libby and another law for the Clintons.

It is not that, from my understanding, any federal worker would go to jail just for copying some stuff onto a memory stick. It is not just that Gen. Petraeus got stuck with a big fine for allowing his mistress to see classified information.

No, for me it goes beyond that. Maybe I understand because I am a computer guy and I understand how much I don't understand about computer security and hacking.

The point is that if I were in Hillary Clinton's position I would never depart from security protocols, particularly where transmission of electronic messages was concerned.

I would think, based on my knowledge of computers and governments that probably the government's security protocols were woefully inadequate and out of date. But, I would think, nothing could be more stupid than to take my official correspondence off-line onto an unsecure private server.

I mean to say that, in my view, setting up a private email server on which official secrets might be stored is so egregiously foolish that the fool that did it should never serve in an official capacity. It shows an error of judgement so big that it brings into question the capacity of that person to make a sensible decision about anything.

Now I understand that Hillary Clinton is old and sick. And I assume, from the nods and winks, that she is an alcoholic. But she is not the only person in the ruling class. Surely there is someone in the ruling class with the wit and the cojones to say: this private email server thing is so stupid that it is going to lose us the next election. Get this woman outta here.

Now we know the story of the email controversy between the lines, and the impossible position that James Comey was placed in. He knew that Clinton had monstrously violated the law, and monstrously exposed classified information. But he also knew that if he didn't go public that the whole affair would never see the light of day because the Obama Justice Department would never issue an indictment.

So when Comey went public on the server issue back in July he was probably starting on a path that he knew would lead to his political immolation. But what was he to do? Pass the information to the Justice Department and wait for nothing to happen? And then resign? When would he do that? Most likely the Obamis in the Justice Department would fiddle around until after the election, so there would not be a decision over which he could resign -- before the election.

There have been many complaints about the Clintons and their corruption down the years, and how they get away with everything, because their supporters say things like "one free grope" in the decade when sexual harassment in the workplace became a Thing. Or they prevaricate about the facts on Hillary Clinton's email server, because First Woman President, or something.

I suspect that in the end, God is not mocked. There are plenty of Americans that are disgusted with Clinton corruption, and in the end the Clinton corruption bit the Clintons and the Democrats in the backside.

That is why honesty is the best policy, for a person and for a political party.

But now we need to make a new start. We need an FBI that goes by the rules, and we need a Justice Department that upholds the law. And those are two things that manifestly did not happen in the Obama administration.

It's not surprising. The whole point about being a ruling class is that you get to make the rules. But we bourgeois, we middle class people, we People of the Responsible Self, we believe that we should hold powerful people to account. If we don't we get people like the Clintons and political parties like the Democrats, and that is not good.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Whatever the Left Touches, It Ruins"

My text today is from Dennis Prager, the radio host, writing about the descent of late-night comedy from Johnny Carson to Stephen Colbert and his recent gay-themed comment about President Trump's mouth.

The left ruins everything it touches, writes Dennis:
The universities, the news media, the entertainment media, the fine arts, the courts, the high schools, and the elementary schools... all ruined wherever leftism has achieved dominance.
Why is that?

The answer, of course, goes all the way back to the French Revolution (and before that to Rousseau and no doubt to Plato) and the idea that government can be salvific, and save society. In President Obama's words, borrowed from Martin Luther King, we are talking about using government to bend the arc of history towards justice.

But this means using government force and political power to change human minds. Unfortunately, government force and political power are probably only good for breaking things.

There is a role for force and power, as in breaking up racist accommodation laws preventing blacks from sitting at the same lunch counter as whites, or anti-Semitic policies preventing Jews from attending pricey private schools, as Ben Stein writes. But when it comes to racial quotas and reeducation classes, you pretty soon get into the weeds.

And when you mobilize so-called "peaceful protesters" into violent antifa mobs that shout down and threaten conservative speakers, then you are bending the arc of history towards injustice.

That is why conservative politics has concentrated on limiting government -- because the more force the more injustice -- and designing government institutions from the view that politics is civil war by other means.

I mean by that to design government institutions so that they function to encourage people to compromise their differences rather than take them to the proof of civil war. The point of the complicated US constitutional system is to make it very difficult for one faction to seize all the powers of government and impose its vision on the rest of America.

Case in point: Obamacare. You may think that socialized health care is a good and just thing, and "single-payer" the best way to get there. But there are plenty of people that disagree. So if you pass a health care law that forces everyone into the one single government plan, you are forcing people to pay for something they think is wrong. Those people experience the wonders of Obamacare as injustice.

So the question becomes: how pressing, how important is health care that you must force people to enroll in and pay for your plan and risk their anger and resentment? Or how important is intersectionality that you must name and shame everyone around you that fails to toe the ideological line as a racist, sexist, bigot?

My answer is: not that important.

As you know, I define government as:
an armed minority, occupying territory, and taxing the inhabitants thereof to reward its supporters.
In the limited government case, the supporters are merely the armed forces that protect the borders of the territory, and thus nobody except the soldiers and the veterans look to government for rewards for their support. But once you get away from the limited government it is Katy bar the door, because there is no limit to the rewards the government can offer to win the support of the voters.

But the real case against big government comes after the program has been passed, and after the government has won the support of new supporters with its new rewards. And this case is quite simple: what happens when the world changes?

Let us take a simple case: suppose there is a new life-saving procedure in health care. What do we do? Do we increase funding to provide the new procedure to the people? Do we reduce the use of other procedures? Do we privilege certain people with certain conditions to get the new procedure? How do we get the bureaucrats to get off their backsides to write the new regulations? And how to we get the politicians to write new laws to adjust the health care system to the new reality?

The science was settled on this a century ago when Ludwig von Mises wrote that socialism could not work because it could not compute prices. You can see this applies to any government program that is trying to avoid the discipline of the price system. And then 70 years ago F.A. Hayek said that administrative government could not work because a thousand bureaucrats could not outperform a million consumers and producers. In today's language we would say that the bandwidth of government is too narrow to respond effectively to changing conditions. And then there is the theory of "regulatory capture" developed by George Stigler and others that the regulators of all regulated industries end up being owned by the industry they regulate.

But there is a bigger problem that just the give-and-take of daily adjustment to the normal changes of the world. It is this.

What happens if you are an oil state and you have committed your oil revenues to a ton of vote-winning programs and the price of oil drops by 50 percent? We see that in Venezuela right now. What happens is that the government dare not do the sensible thing and cut government spending to fit its reduced circumstances, because that would prompt riots in the streets. Instead it prints money, crashes the economy, and ends up in exactly the same place as if it cut spending, with riots in the streets.

This is the real reason why government should be limited to the basics. It is almost impossible to cut government spending. In fact, I propose that the only spending governments ever dare to cut is military spending after the end of a war.

In fact, I propose a new and profound principle of government. No government should start a program unless history has shown that it is possible to cut such a program.

You can see why it is true what Dennis Prager says, that "whatever the left touches, it ruins." The reason is that the left has got everything wrong. It thinks it can make the world better with force, both the force of government spending and the force of government naming and shaming.

And it will get worse before it gets better.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Three-part Identity of the British Conservative Party

In Britain they just had local elections and the anti-EU party UKIP got nearly wiped out. Does this mean the end of Brexit and eventually Trumpism?  Not at all, writes John O'Sullivan. It just means that the Conservative Party has pulled together the three strings of its bow and will likely score a blow-out in the elections for the House of Commons in June.

The wise heads all thought that Brexit would divide the Tory Party, but in fact they were wrong again. What Brexit does is bring the Tories home to their most glorious successes.
Toryism has three overlapping identities. It is the party of economic freedom and enterprise — Mrs. Thatcher is the purest symbol of that identity. It is the party of British nationalism — Churchill and Disraeli are the greatest figures in that tradition. Its third strand, however, is a more complicated one: It’s the party that always seeks to interpret, defend, and advance the interests of the British state in a skeptical and non-partisan way — Lord Salisbury and Sir Robert Peel are the most distinguished exemplars of that view.
The point is that the European Union is hostile to all three Tory identities. It is protectionist and opposed to economic freedom; it is globalist and opposed to simple patriotism; it is utterly committed to its agenda of the centralized Euro state, and unable to deal with critique and skepticism.

So when the Tories took Britain into Europe they lost the support of the patriotic working class, and up to 1970 the Tories had got the votes of one third of the working class.

When Nigel Farage started UKIP he was, as befitted a stockbroker, proposing to get out of Europe on "economic freedom and enterprise" grounds. But over the years UKIP has morphed into a Trumpist kind of party, nationalist and also protective of working class support for the welfare state, and UKIP has moved from being a drain on Tory votes to being a competitor for white working class votes in the old Labour heartlands of the north of England.  The North used to be the industrial powerhouse of Britain, from cotton to mines to steel to manufacturing, and now is suffering just like the US Rust Belt that elected Donald Trump.

Of course, the three identities of Toryism are, in many ways, contradictory. How can you be all for freedom and economic growth and still profess the nationalism of British is Best (or America First)? How can you be all for the nation state and still be skeptical like the Lord Salisbury who is famous for this quote:
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of common sense.
There are other, equally delicious, Salisbury quotes here.

Of course our modern experts, the climate scientists, make the old experts look like pikers. To the climate community nothing is wholesome, or innocent, or safe! Not until you submit to the advice of the climate 97%.

But hey, let's not be afraid of contradiction. That was the whole point of Hegel. It is through the contradiction of opposites that we get to the next level in a synthesis of contradictions.

Now in Britain, the opposition to the tripartite Tory identity is split. The lefties go for the Labour Party and the globalists go for the Social Democrats, with each getting about 20 percent of the vote.

But in the US the lefties and the globalists are all in the Democratic Party, which means that the GOP could never get the blowout that the Conservatives are expected to get in Britain in the next election. Maybe that's a good thing, because blow-outs, while very exhilarating, tend not to be good news in the long term for the winning party.

I must say that I like the idea of a political party that is for freedom, nation, and skepticism. If you ask me we need more of it, particularly on the skepticism about experts front.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Horror of Art for Identity's Sake

I was at the Boca Raton art museum yesterday, and came away unsatisfied. I could look at a glass show, including a big installation of glass night-sticks from an anti-Apartheid artist from South Africa and a wall full of stemware inspired by great literature. As the museum website says:
Works included in the Glasstress Boca Raton exhibition incorporate performance, video, interactive media, design, and even video games, and delve into substantial content, from race, identity, and colonialism to themes of science and nature and issues of biological diversity, global hunger, and climate change.
Or I could see an exhibition of rich American ex-pat artists from the 19th century.

Then I went home and stumbled over an article on the fatuity of "identity art," from an Australian! In Australia, you see, government is funding identity art by the bucket load, and that, according to Reilly Smethurst, diminishes people, for it celebrates them as they are rather than what they might be. Identity art and identity celebration is, in other words, patronizing, as in patriarchy. It's what you experience in Australia when you visit some aboriginal rock-art site and view the ubiquitous map of Australia showing the boundaries of the aboriginal tribal territories. How nice, to celebrate aboriginal Australia except that the time to do that was 300 years ago when the European voyagers declared Australia terra nullius and open to colonization and domination and hegemony by Europeans.

In a way, our times are terrifying times. It is plain that the old order is coming to an end, collapsing on its internal contradictions, as the Marxists used to say before the Soviet Union collapsed from its internal contradictions.

In art, I suppose, the next thing will be the 21st century version of the Armory Show, or the Salon des Refusés. But I hesitate to imagine what that might look like, since art and culture, in a way unimaginable a century or a century and a half ago, are bound tight into the ruling-class culture that right now patronizingly celebrates the identity of ruling-class-defined marginalized groups just the way they are. And every art curator is a Good Little Girl that has graduated from one of our modern finishing schools in identity politics and culture, also known as universities. How will artists be edgy and new when the ruling class celebrates the conceit of its own comfortable nostalgia of edginess and newness?

In politics, where I pretend to have some kind of knowledge, I would like to think that the next Big Thing is the middle class rebelling against the coalition of the rich kids, the "activists" of the last 170 years who believe in their creativity, and the underclass, the people that don't think of themselves as human agents.

These latter ones, immortalized as the People of the Subordinate Self in my reductive Three Peoples theory, are the people experienced by the prison physician Theodore Dalrymple, e.g., "the knife went in," according to a convicted murderer. What? All on its own? And lately by Kevin D. Williamson telling the story of the eviction of his tenant, now in eviction court explaining that "my check didn't come." And that's why the renter couldn't pay the rent this month or last month or the month before that.

I'd say that it is time for the People of the Responsible Self to rise up in a rebellion of responsibility. It really is too bad that ordinary responsible people have to pay for themselves, and also at the point of a gun for the irresponsible. It is time for the two century war against the responsible, waged by the rich-kid sons and daughters of the responsible using the subordinate workers and peasants and marginalized as their cannon fodder, to be turned back and demolished in ignominious defeat.

It is time for a glorious Age of Agency, a celebration of responsibility, in which the irresponsible will be cared for, not at the point of a gun or the naming and shaming antics of social justice warriors, but through the kindness and charity of ordinary responsible people that are glad to look after those less responsible than themselves, but that bridle at being forced to do so.

As for what an Art of Agency would look like, I'll admit that I don't have a clue. But I have an idea that if a dull old geezer like me can think of its possibility, some young punk is actually doing it. And it is that faith that sustains me in these dark fin-de-siècle days of political correctness and identity art.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Don't Give Me Your "Governing Well" Rubbish

Yesterday I was reading a piece about the liberal meltdown in the aftermath of the Trump accession; it was a piece by Roger Kimball at American Greatness, titled "Trump Critics Exude Desperate Political Nihilism."
And then it suddenly struck me.

I am am talking about the deep reason why liberals have gone ape-you-know-what since the Trump ascension.

The key is in Roger's quote from Peter Wehner, a kind of conservative. Never mind the maudlin meanderings of the New Yorker’s David Remnick that Trump’s election was
nothing less that a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.
Golly, reading that you get to wonder that maybe liberals actually believe their lies!

But that was not what really caught my attention. David Remnick is not a serious person. What gave me a sense of epiphany were the words of Peter Wehner.
What troubles many of us… who have devoted much of our lives to politics is that we have a president who doesn’t believe in the the higher purpose of his office, which is grounded in the conviction that governing well can advance human good.
OK, Petie boy, I got it! Those loaded words: "grounded" "conviction" "governing well" "human good." You are using these words as magic incantations, a magic spell. I get it.

So Roger Kimball is wrong. The Trump are not desperate nihilists; they are religious believers, driven to madness by the profaning of  their sacred relics.

The trouble with Trump, the reason that he has provoked such wailing and gnashing of teeth in Liberal Land, is that his ascension to the presidency strips the holy aura that every ruling class -- and particularly this ruling class -- conjures up to cover over the ugly nakedness of politics and power and elevate its rule into a noble, even a holy calling. Trump's crudities reveal government for what it is: grubby, incompetent, and not requiring any particularly refined talent or intellectual training. And that cannot be allowed! It is heresy! It is sacrilege! It is not to be endured, as my girl Rosalind says in As You Like It.

And so the Trump critics feel compelled to Resist! and do something, anything to restore the aura, to cover the blotched nakedness of their crumbling faith with the gorgeous shimmer of high fashion and good tailoring. That is why they have turned themselves into whirling Dervishes. It is a desperate attempt to bring back the exaltation they felt when celebrating the First Communion, marching in the pivotal first "peaceful protest" of their political lives in the confirmation of their lefty faith.

If Trump can be president, our sacerdotal class realizes, then anybody can be president, and politics is forever stripped of all the transcendental qualities with which that we have adorned it. Politics and “governance” is then just routine rewarding of loyal supporters, routine men with guns pushing other people around, routine tax collectors sticking up the populace with the demand that Uncle Sam and state and local governments get their 33% before anyone gets to go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s to get a well-earned sundae.

And what is governing well to advance the human good reducing to? At the federal level it is pensions and health care for seniors; at the state and local level it is pensions for government workers.

So your pretentious words are rubbish, Peter Wehner! There is no such thing as “governing well.” There is only a brief pause, every now and again, between long years of governing badly. There is no such thing as a government that “can advance human good.” There is only government, that in brief shining moments between centuries of robbery and plunder, does something completely out of the ordinary. almost by accident, like writing the US Constitution, and stops meddling, for one blessed hour, with ordinary people going about their ordinary innocent lives.

And that is enough of an exception to show that the exception proves the rule. I am thinking of my rule, that Government is Force.

You know what ordinary government is like? It is siccing the IRS on the government’s opponents; it is inventing an excuse to use the government's intelligence agencies to spy on the opposition. It is branding the free speech of your opponents as "hate speech." It is excusing the excesses of violent mobs as "mostly peaceful protest." Nobody can say, after an administration that sicced the IRS on his opponents -- and not real mobilized, weaponized opponents but a bunch of naive sincere Tea Party groups that wanted to do politics according to the prescribed rules -- no serious person can talk about the presidency and the “higher purpose of his office, which is grounded in the conviction that governing well can advance human good.”

All we can talk about is that government is force, and the first principle of honesty about politics is to notice that the people attracted to politics, from Remnick to Wehner to Podesta to Rove to Obama to Trump, are people that are interested in power.

As opposed to most people, who are not that interested in power.

Once we recognize the truth about government and politics, that government is force, whether it is forcing people to contribute to other peoples' pensions, other peoples' health care, other peoples' education, and forcing people to relieve the poor, and that politicians are people who are interested in power, then the blather of “higher purpose of his office, which is grounded in the conviction that governing well can advance human good” is revealed as a lame apology for a philosophy of force. Indeed, it is the moment to go straight to Edmund Burke and remember his indictment of that notable attempt to found a Republic of Virtue (read: advancing human good) in the French Revolution.
All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off... [and] at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.
He is arguing that it is not government power that makes the nation, but everything else. Because the end of state power is nothing but the gallows.

When governmental apologists make the argument that advancing the human good can be achieved by "governing well," they obviously have not read Deirdre McCloskey, who twinkles about "the sweet use of force."

On the contrary, I would say that if you want to truly "advance the human good" then you should be working on ways to improve the human condition, whether it is relieving the poor, helping old people, educating children, recovering drug users, assisting abandoned women, doing everything related to human community beyond the cash nexus, in other words the things we do together, without the use of force.

You might take a look at the 19th century, when ordinary people conjured up a universe of mutual-aid associations, when ordinary people paid for their kids' education, when government had not put a thumb on the scales of employer-employee relations, and when government had not transformed child labor by forcing children to work 5 days per week in government child-custodial facilities without pay.

You see, my Big Idea of "governing well" is that we all put our heads together to discover new ways to live and work together without getting government into the mix. And the first thing we do, aside from the usual thing about the lawyers, is to say that people interested in power need not apply.