Friday, March 24, 2017

Everyone is Between a Rock and a Hard Place

We conservatives are naturally angry that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has announced that he will vote against the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch. And he will probably filibuster Gorsuch too.

But what else is Schumer to do? The liberal base is all riled up and it demands "Resistance!" The great and powerful United State Senators cannot just wink at each other and let a Republican Supreme Court nomination through on a nod. The base wants blood, and by God, they are determined to get it.

But I understand the fury of the base. The liberal cognitive elite has used the Supreme Court to enact its policy preferences -- abortion for upscale women, gay marriage for upscale gays -- in the teeth of reluctance from the broad American mainstream. Suppose the Supreme Court became dominated by conservative "originalist" justices? What would happen to abortion and gay marriage and the rights of undocumented immigrants and criminal defendants then?

Liberals are tied to the mast, and must defend the activist Supreme Court to the knife. Otherwise all the Court's progressive jurisprudence comes into play.

The irony is that I'll bet my nickel that if abortion and criminal rights and gay marriage had been left to legislatures we would have arrived at some sort of messy, human accommodation on these issues. But because liberals on the court rammed all this down our throats we are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore.

The joke on liberals is that they are using the courts to enforce their moral agenda, just what they inveighed against when they insisted we get the government out of the bedroom.

The short-term result of liberals fighting over Supreme Court nominees will be the end of the filibuster to resist any presidential nomination, so nominations will be purely partisan. There could be eight years of this, liberals, before you get the whip hand again.

But the Republicans are also between a rock and a hard place on Obamacare. The Republican base hates Obamacare and wants it destroyed. But Obamacare has become yet another entitlement, and you touch entitlements at your peril.

Plus Donald Trump was elected courtesy of the white working class voters, and the white working class voters want their entitlements, thank you very much. They earned it.

And they used to talk about the Democratic Party as a coalition of conflicting interests that somehow got it together to win elections.

So the liberals are hoist by their own petard on the Supreme Court, and conservatives are trapped by the success of Donald Trump.

How will it all end up?

Oh, that's simple. It will end up in war. Either a global war against the Muslims or a civil war here at home. And in the chaos of war and its aftermath all the petty squabbles of today will go up in the smoke of a million funeral pyres.

But why? How come we can't just get along?

That's a good question, Senator.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Healthcare Showdown: Obamacare vs. Trumpcare

Remember when the Democrats were shoving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through Congress back in 2010?

It seemed like they were all singing from the same hymnal. Everyone knew to repeat the same talking points: If you like your plan... If you like your doctor... etc.

But with the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare it's like the gang that couldn't shoot straight. All the different conservative groups are fighting with one another. There is no single set of talking points.

Today there's going to be a vote on Speaker Ryan's American Health Care Act. Everyone is making predictions about pass or fail, but I'd say that the science says that every vote is a horse-trade, with many Republican votes available to the highest bidder until the last moment.

So we are in the same position as Obamacare, when Harry Reid was buying the votes of Democrats to get his bill passed in the Senate. Only it's the opposite.

I guess that while the Congress is so divided on an issue, it means that things aren't bad enough to warrant a reform.

Because in my view the problem with the government doing anything is that you can't get the votes to fix it until the boat has gone over the waterfall. That is why it is a bad idea for government to do anything other than fight wars.

But why is it that Democrats always seem to speak with one voice, whereas Republicans and conservatives always seem to be at sixes and sevens?

I'd say the reason is power. The left is interested in power, specifically the cultural power to name and shame and the political power to order people around or else. (Economic power comes as a free gift when you have cultural and political power. Corporate CEOs all know which side their bread is buttered.)

But the whole program of the right, excepting chaps like Hitler and Peron, is to limit power. We believe in the remarkable idea that a nation or a people does best when the cultural Torquemadas are kept in check and the political bosses don't have clunking fists to stitch up the whole town under their rule.

So when Republicans get into power we don't have a new cunning plan to buy votes like the Democrats do. We just want to find a way to release the shackles of big government, and every Republican as a different idea about where to start.

Then there is President Trump, the hero of the white working class, and they just want to go back to the good old days of the 1960s and good jobs at good wages, with pensions and health care for dessert.

I expect that all the flap about health care will subside when the west finally gets around to Doing Something about Islam.

But it will still be interesting to see if Speaker Ryan and President Trump manage to stitch together a majority in the House today for the American Health Care Act.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Maybe the Jihadis Will Help Us Kill Two Birds With One Stone

Yesterday I read a profoundly troubling piece about Islam, an interview of a Pole that converted to Islam. I was alerted to the article by a reader of this blog. Today we have a jihadi attack on the Westminster Palace, the home of parliaments.

This is personal to me because, 50 years ago, I used to walk across Westminster Bridge and past the Houses of Parliament, exactly where the car crashed into the pedestrians, on my way to work at Sir William Halcrow and Partners.

However, I used to walk on the other side of the bridge. So that's all right.

On one particular day in 1965 I filed past the catafalque of Sir Winston Churchill in Westminster Hall where the British national hero lay in state.

The liberal Polish convert to Islam was adamant about Islam. It cannot adapt to the modern world without killing Allah. That's because Islam is completely black and white. Either something is halal, permissible, or it is haram, forbidden.
There is also one hadis saying: there are things that are haram and things that are halal and in between there is the zone of uncertainty – do not go there. 
 So that means no critical thinking is allowed for Muslims: no gray areas for them.

But the whole point of the West is the investigation of the gray area, wrestling with the problem of what lies between the permissible and the forbidden.

So, on this Muslim's witness, Islam must be at war with the West, even as it is tempted and corrupted by the cornucopia of the West's riches and gadgets.

So we get to my understanding of history.

The great revolution in the last two hundred years, with the industrial revolution, is that wealth no longer consists of food-growing land. So the great instinct of humans, to defend their patch of land from invaders in necessary border wars, is defunct. Now wealth does not consist in land, nor yet in natural resources; it consists of intangible capital, the ideas and the techniques in men's minds. And everything is negotiable; everything has its price, so you can always pay to get access to resources like food and fuel.

Naturally there has been a huge reaction against this new truth, because we are all primed to believe in Gerald O'Hara's faith in "land, it's the only thing that lasts." So said the proprietor of a cotton slave plantation, an agriculture that rapidly exhausts both land and slave.

Really, socialism is an attempt to return to a lost agricultural Eden. I saw a book at HalfPriceBooks last weekend titled something like American Socialisms. It is a history of the socialist experiments in the US in the first half of the 19th century, New Harmony, Brook Farm, Oneida, etc., the attempts to instantiate the ideas of Fourier and Owens. These were comical attempts to redo agriculture at a moment when agriculture was about to be transformed by the industrial revolution.

And so we get the great 20th century wars. First the two German wars, about what exactly? Germany, the most advanced country in Europe needing living room? For what? The prosperous Germans could buy anything the world had to offer.

Then we got the battle against Communism, a cold war of position and propaganda, that was won by the United States with a few border wars around the periphery of the Communist Bloc.

Now we are shaping up for a war against Islam. And now the jihadis just attacked the mother of parliaments.

We should thank the jihadis. They are, to coin a phrase, sending out a cry for help: Stop us before we kill again!

If they knew what they were doing, they wouldn't be doing minor acts of terror; they would be quietly biding their time until the moment came for the great uprising, what Hardt and Negri call
“Kairòs,” the “moment when a decision of action is made,” for the “extraordinary accumulations of grievances and reform proposals must at some point be transformed by a strong event, a radical insurrectionary demand.”
Well yes, but you wouldn't want to signal it, and teach the West to prepare a defense and a strategy against violent Islamism.

In the history of the last century or so, the century of the Left, the constant demand has been to accommodate the outsiders with neo-feudal politics that betrayed the promise of the market and its culture of trust for the rest of us.

And the good old middle class has acceded to many of the left's demands, even though it has replaced the lean republics of the 19th century with bloated administrative states in the 20th century that have given out the national treasure to organized special interests.

But now, I suspect, we are reaching the moment of truth. Can the west accede to the demands of Islam? Can it accommodate Muslim immigrants without demolishing the idea and the practice of the west? Can we allow the left to champion another outsider group, and force us all to sit around for another fifty years while its members learn the way of the city and the culture of trust?

My feeling is that just as German follies gave us two world wars and Communism a half-century of cold war, we cannot avoid a momentous clash with the Islamic world.

The problem is, as the liberal Polish Muslim admits, there is no common ground between the west and Islam. And since Islam has nothing except oil and gas its strategy is naturally to migrate from the barren lands of Arabia to the rich lands of the west, and then metastasize throughout the host.

But I think that the necessary development of antibodies to Islam in the west will force us to finally deal with the Left, and its vile policy of indulging outsiders in their feudal, pre-bourgeois culture.

Because the only really valid job for government is to protect the people from foreign and domestic enemies.

And there is nothing like threats from knifers and bombers to remind us all of that.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Are We Peasants or Drug Addicts?

Yesterday, reacting to the quandary of Republicans as they try to "repeal and replace" the Obamacare entitlement I argued for a strategy that tries to keep a market going in the cracks between the monster brutalist skyscrapers of the welfare state.

That is because I believe in the 100 year old settled science of Ludwig von Mises, that socialism -- and by extension, the administrative state -- could not work because it could not compute prices.

Put another way, socialistic and administrative programs must fail because they have no mechanism, no feedback loop, to adjust to changing conditions.

Mises himself (I think) argued that the Soviet Union survived as long as it did because, while no genuine prices existed in the Soviet Union, there were reference prices in the outside world. So the Soviet bureaucrats and planners could do their sums using western prices.

So the trick is to preserve the market somewhere in the concrete desert of big government administrative programs, so that when the crash comes we have a beam of light in the darkness to tell us what to do.

Dennis Prager argues instead that the entitlement state is a disease, and that entitlements are an addiction worse than sex drugs and rock-and-roll.
All addictions -- whether to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or cigarettes -- are very hard to escape.

There is one addiction, however, that may be more difficult than any other to escape, in part because it is not even regarded as an addiction. It is entitlements addiction, the addiction to getting something for nothing.
Of course, Prager has a point. But I think that he misses the larger point. I believe that the pre-bourgeois mindset properly enjoins the workers and peasants to find a strong patron, adhere to him through thick and thin, and expect to receive scraps from the lord's table.

If you were a peasant in northern Europe your biggest fear was invasion by the nomads from the east. They would kill the men, take the food, and enslave the women. Compared to that the indignities of sucking up to a feudal lord and putting up with his droits de seigneur were minor inconveniences.

The great challenge of our modern era is to help people move from their age-old existence as People of the Subordinate Self that bow to a powerful patron, and become instead People of the Responsible Self that bow to the orders of the market and its prices.

The whole point of the left for the last 200 years is that it says: Oh No! to this program.

Instead the left says: You poor workers and peasants should not have to change from subordination to your liege lord and submit instead to the market. Instead, the left says, We will protect you from the rigors of the market and we will step into the place vacated by the feudal lords when they threw you off the land a couple centuries ago only to dump you into the cities to the slavery of the factory and the time clock.

Really, can you blame the workers and the peasants, and now the immigrants from rural Latin America and the tribal Middle East? It is a wrenching change, the biggest ever, to change from the tried-and-true culture of a tribal or feudal retainer to the responsibility culture of the individual in the city that must adjust to the dictates of the market and believe, against all instinct, that things will turn out all right for the man who dares to swim in the riptides of the market.

But still. Do you think that the average Venezuelan blames the leftist government for his miseries? Or do you think that the average person blames the saboteurs and wreckers, the bakers that are withholding bread from the market?

They talk about the necessity of education, but where are the schools teaching that the market is the royal road to prosperity and that the only wreckers and saboteurs are the politicians and activists blaming the private sector for their own mistakes and follies?

Monday, March 20, 2017

How to Weaken the Welfare State

The difficulties Republicans are experiencing as they attempt to "repeal and replace" Obamacare remind us that the most difficult thing in the world is to cut a government program.

That is why the history of government domestic spending over the last century was described by Margaret Thatcher as a "ratchet effect." The best that conservatives have achieved is to stop government programs expanding, and when they are replaced by a liberal government, the progressives give another tug on the ratchet to increase the amount of free stuff.

Is there nothing we can do? Will liberals take their pipe wrenches to society and keep ratcheting away until the pipe breaks, as in Venezuela?

The fact is that our era is an age of neo-feudalism. Most people, most of the time, are content to be subordinate peasants, tugging their forelocks, and expecting in return to be protected by the lord of the manor from harm. In return for their loyalty to the Big House they expect to be taken care of. In the old days the lady of the manor went around the village handing out flannel. These days the lord of the manor hands out Social Security and Medicare to his grateful tenants.

For years, conservatives thought they would get to reform and reduce and "privatize" the welfare state, some day. But the nomination of Donald Trump ended that.

The old Republican Party was the party of the middle class and its culture of personal responsibility, to obey the law, go to work, and follow the rules, and for 30 years it failed to close the deal with the white working class that the Democrats cast out into outer darkness in 1971 when they decided that working class Archie Bunker was a racist, sexist bigot.

The reason the Republicans couldn't close the deal with the white working class is the that white working class decades ago sold themselves into welfare-state slavery with its labor unions, its pensions, its health care. It was great! But it couldn't last. And so the welfare state model imploded on the white working class. No longer could they walk out of high school into a well-paying life-time factory job. No longer was the welfare state a light burden on the workers, paid for by the middle class, for now the cost of the social benefits docks workers 25-35 percent of their wages. Once a slave, always a slave.

But Republicans hate all that stuff. We want to save for our own pensions. We want to direct our own health care. And as for education, we are slowly leaving the government education system for home-schooling. We want to privatize the welfare state, not enlarge it with the ratchet.

Too bad. Now Donald Trump has demolished the old Republican Party, and brought the white working class in by endorsing the working-class agenda. Restore the good old days of good jobs at good wages and no cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

So what are we libertarian conservatives to do?

I'd say that the key is to keep the market alive in pensions and health care. The principle is a simple one. It goes back to Ludwig von Mises back in 1918 and his dictum that socialism couldn't work because it couldn't compute prices.

But really his point is a much bigger one. He is saying that any attempt to subvert the market, by socialism or by the administrative state or buy special interest handouts, is bound to end in red ruin, because the market and its prices are nothing less than a daily reality check, and government programs are always and everywhere an attempt to ignore the reality principle.

That is why I keep reiterating my definition of government as: an armed minority, occupying territory, taxing the inhabitants thereof to reward its supporters. You can see that every act of government, and every promise of a politician can easily be fit onto this Procrustean bed. Everyone wants free stuff, a relief from the rigors of life, and everyone fights like mad to avoid the reverse experience, the horror of losing any of that free stuff and having to go out and get a job.

That is why government is always and necessarily a ratchet. There is always some new free stuff that can be conjured up and offered to the voters. And it is always electoral poison to withdraw any benefit from the ungrateful beneficiaries.

That is why Obamacare could be bullied through Congress, and why "repeal and replace" is going to be horribly painful.

But surely we can create some place, some niche of politics where we can create a space to say: OK, I'll pay my share of FICA taxes, but I want my pension from my savings and my investment. And OK, I'll pay my share of Medicare taxes, but I want to exchange my benefit for a market-based health care experience, where prices are public and ubiquitous, just like they are at Target's in-store medical clinics.

Yeah, imagine. Target has health clinics at its stores and a price list right outside! Last I checked, most everything was $99.

The benefit will be twofold. First, cranks like me will have the satisfaction of ordering our own lives without the company store owning our souls. Then, the fact of market prices for pensions and healthcare will possibly keep enough of a reality check on the government and its administrative state, and keep the whole thing from going Greek, or Soviet Union, or Venezuela.

But maybe not. If the ratchet effect is a law of nature then maybe nothing can be done, that the ratchet of compulsion will slowly extend its force over more and more aspects of life until it throttles the air we breathe.

Every civilization ends in red ruin, with the barbarians killing the men and enslaving the women, and I fear that our own beloved civilization will prove no exception.

But at least we can dream that we are not just victims of history, where the arc of civilization tends in the end towards oblivion.

And surely there is something higher and better than the clunking fist of the welfare administrative state.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Political Power is Just Not That Useful Any More

Today there are a couple of items on Instapundit about social justice warriors doing their social justice warring. One such loser is proposing that St. Patty's Day is a celebration of whiteness. The other wants us to believe that milk is racist.

It's a challenge, isn't it, to find a new issue to protest. These chaps and chapettes are really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Of course, the joke is on the SJWs. St. Patrick's Day was a way for the Irish-Americans, then a marginalized immigrant group, to march down Fifth Avenue in New York City right past the mansions of the Morgans and the Vanderbilts and show them that the Irish were not to be taken lightly. Now, we are told, St. Pat is a racist dog-whistle for the overclass.

In my view, the millennial SJWs are being led down a rabbit hole.

What these easily-led youngsters do not understand is that political power is not the be-all and end-all any more.

You can see the error getting started with Marx in The Communist Manifesto. Marx and Engels proposed in that remarkable document that the capitalist bourgeoisie was to the proletarian factory worker as the feudal nobility was to the peasant.

Good point, Chuck and Fritz. It was a pretty sensible prediction to make back then in 1848. Only it turned out that you were wrong, for a number of reasons.

The first reason, that needs to be repeated over and over, is that the bourgeoisie, then and now, is just not that interested in power, whereas the feudal nobility most certainly was. The difference is, of course, that the business of the bourgeoisie is business, the understanding, the manipulation and exploitation of the market and the consumer. The business of the feudal nobility was politics. They started out as the lords of their lands, almost independent of the kings and princes that ruled over them. And every Harry Hotspur fancied himself the equal of the monarch that ruled over him. In due course, with the rise of the absolute monarch and the taxation of merchants, the feudal nobility got taken down a peg or two. But they still believed in politics.

The point to grasp is that the nature of society has profoundly changed due to the industrial revolution and the rise of the market economy and global trading. Used to be that the foundation of wealth was land and its food-generating potential. The great feudal barons were land-owners. If you owned good rich acres and defended them against rival landowners you were rich and you were powerful.

But now the rich and the powerful are differentiated. There is now a political sector that specializes in power and politics, and there is an economic sector that specializes in invention and production and distribution and trading and consuming.

When Matthew Josephson (a rich kid) wrote The Robber Barons about the 19th century industrial magnates he completely missed the point. These men might have robbed, but they were also lowering the cost of steel by 65 percent, and the cost of illuminating oil by 90 percent. They were innovators, producing new products at low prices. And when they retired they created charitable foundations to give money away. And the beat goes on. When I bought my first personal compute in the early 1980s, courtesy of Bill Gates and his MS-DOS operating system, the price was about $1,600 and it seemed like a complete bargain compared with the $30,000 you would need to buy a minicomputer. But now I can buy a Chromebook for less than $200. Who cares if the Microsofts and Googles and Apples are robber barons? I still get a computer for $200 and very likely less.

So now we have Elon Musk, the king of crony capitalists. But he is in the middle of a reckless process of reducing the cost of launching a satellite from $360 million to $30 million, and the goal is $10 million per launch once his reusable rocket boosters are really up and running. No doubt he is an outrageous manipulator of the political system. But his dream is to get to Mars.

When the whole world is for sale it doesn't matter too much what race or gender the worker is. What matters is the price. For sure, if you are black or Hispanic you face speed bumps because people are hesitant to hire you. But then today people are probably hesitant to hire a white guy in tech, compared to an East Asian.

The fact is that the left today is the most remarkable reactionary movement in history. It is saying that power, political power, is the only thing in an age when the evidence is that political power is the problem and is on its way out.

I wonder if we will look back at the 20th century as the last hurrah of the age-old truth that political and military power, the ability to defend your borders and keep the pirates and plunderers at bay, was the important, indeed the only thing.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trump's Budget: More for Defense

President Trump's FY18 Budget Blueprint came out this morning.

And the numbers are up on usgovernmentspending.com. You can compare the Trump FY18 budget numbers for 2018 to Obama FY17 budget numbers for defense here.

Well, you can't see the whole budget but just the "discretionary" portion of the budget. And the message is simple. There is $54 billion more for defense and $54 billion less for everything else.

Let's see. $54 billion in a $1,065 billion discretionary budget? That's a change of about five percent. Or one percent over the whole $4 trillion budget. Yay!

But, of course, it gores a bunch of liberal sacred cows:

AgencyFY18 Change
in $ billion
Agriculture-4.7
Commerce-1.5
Defense+52.4
Education-9.2
Energy-1.7
Health and
Human Services
-12.6
Homeland
Security
+2.8
HUD-6.2
Interior-1.5
Justice-4.0
Labor-2.5
State and Intl Aid-10.9
Corps of Engrs-1.0
EPA-2.6

It's all in Table 2. 2018 Discretionary Overview by Major Agency, in the Trump Budget Blueprint.

All this is in "Budget Authority," which is not the same as actual spending, or "Outlays." And it represents $1,065 billion out of a $4,000 billion budget. The remaining $3 trillion in "mandatory" spending is yet to come.

And with the rest of the budget will come the all-important Historical Tables on which the data in usgovernmentspending.com is based.

What about the mandatory spending? Right now, FY18 spending for Social Security is budgeted at $1,031 billion and Medicare at $608 billion. President Trump says he is not going to touch them, so that's all right. Then there is Medicaid at $568 billion and I don't know what will happen there, what with Trumpcare and all.

I suppose all liberals all over the nation are going to be screaming their heads off at this budget. Why is this?

The answer is that the programs that liberals really love are the regulatory programs that employ liberals to order the rest of us around. Most of the federal budget consists of handouts of free stuff to middle-class people that cannot be touched. But where liberals really live is where the power lies. And for the last 100 years, power issues from the arbitrary rules and regulations of the administrative state. To make us safe. To save the planet.

I am always amazed at how we manage to scream and yell about the tiniest things in politics. Wow! A cut of $2.7 billion at the Environmental Protection Agency! It's the End of the World!

If only.

But I tell you what intrigues me. It's the $4.0 billion cut at the Department of Justice. There is nothing about this in the one-page summary for the Department of Justice in the Blueprint. There is a cryptic note about "mandatory spending changes involving the Crime Victims Fund and the Assets Forfeiture Fund." So what is going on?

Could it be that the Trumpists are taking the "negative spending" from fines and asset forfeitures away from the Justice Department and putting them into the general revenue -- you know, taxes -- that goes direct to the Department of Treasury.

If I were president, I would eliminate all "negative spending" where individual agencies get to keep monies like fees and fines and Medicare premiums instead of the money going to the Treasury.

In my administration all money collected by the Feds would be general revenue, and all money would go through the Treasury.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Why Personal Debt is Different from Government Debt

This morning I got an email from a reader who asks about the prudent limit of personal debt vs. government debt. He writes:
it would be reasonable for a couple with annual income of $115,000 to carry debt of $400,000 on a home mortgage, $30,000 in car loans and $15,000 in credit card and $10,000 still owed on college loans for a total debt of $455,000. It could therefore be said that their debt is 4 times their annual income. If we look at our national debt of 16 trillion and our federal annual income from taxes and other sources at an estimated 4 trillion then the ratio of total debt to annual income is 4 times; the same as my household example.
Now I disagree with this, on the grounds that personal debt is very different from government debt. But first of all I must set forth my fundamental belief about debt, that I got from Walter Bagehot's 19th century classic about the credit markets, Lombard Street.

Bagehot proposes two things needed to avoid a credit crash.

First, people with debt must be able to service their debt. Obviously, if people do not pay their interest then the whole credit system goes upside down.

Second, debt must be properly collateralized, so that it can be liquidated when a borrower fails to service the loan. This is a confidence issue.

You can see that both notions applied to the real estate crash of 2008. In reports of the developing crash you heard a lot about "counterparty risk," the worry that the other party in a financial transaction was solvent. This applied both to the risk that the other party might stop servicing the loan, and also that the loan could not be liquidated by selling the collateral. Just as Bagehot wrote.

Now I believe that personal debt is not the harmless act we are taught to think it is. Personal debt is, in fact, a high-risk bet on the future. The family that takes out a big mortgage is betting that it will still have a job in 5-10 years, or that the price of its home will still be high enough in 5-10 years to liquidate the debt if the family had to sell. Obviously this is not true during a crash when home prices decline and jobs are scarce.

In fact, I believe that a family home is an equity play. If you need to get money to buy the home then the investor in your home ought to have an equity share, rather than be a simple creditor. Same thing with student debt. A student has no clue what kind of income he/she is going to earn in the future; nor does the student have any way of liquidating the debt, because there is no collateral. Student debt is an equity play; people financing students should be equity partners in the student's future earnings.

National debt is a horse of a different color. The national debt is in fact the ruling class betting the whole country on its policy. Normally, of course, the national debt is accumulated in a war, where the bet is pretty obvious. Win the war, and the government pays off the debt. Lose the war, and the government repudiates the debt and impoverishes the people.  The other big use of government debt is in the wake of a financial crash. The same principle applies: the government bets the whole country with an increase in debt to avoid a total credit collapse. You can see that on this view government should be running surpluses except during war or financial panic.

(By the way, the $700 billion TARP bailout was the least of the government's actions to rescue the economy. The total bill of bailouts and guarantees was more like $20 trillion. See my usfederalbailout.com.)

When the government diverts a flood of credit to keep insolvent borrowers afloat after a crash it may rescue the borrowers and the credit system, but there is a cost. The cost is what we have seen in the Obama economy, with growth struggling along at 1-2 percent per year. The same thing happened after the Crash of 1873, the Crash of 1929. Moreover a ton of distressed borrowers after 2008 struggled along in their underwater houses, did not move to a better job opportunity, could not use their home equity to start a business. But this cost is better than the alternatives of wholesale debt default or hyperinflation.

So my opinion is that both high personal debt and high government debt are bad. There is far too much personal debt out that that is not properly collateralized and this debt puts the whole credit system in peril, and government debt is not debt at all, but a kind of national equity play. In my view we should convert a lot of debt, personal and governmental, into equity, where the investor is knowingly betting on a high risk proposition.

Is the current government debt dangerously high? No, but it makes it harder to pay for entitlements and more likely that government will default on its debt to pay Social Security and Medicare, and default on Social Security and Medicare with monetary inflation.

Could government have got out of the Great Recession with a bigger and better stimulus program? I doubt it. Government spending goes to powerful and politically connected interests. If their plans and projects were so brilliant they would not need government credit and subsidies. So it is likely that most stimulus spending is crowding out more beneficial uses of the nation's treasure to pay for the wasteful plans of the rich and powerful.

The go-to book on crashes is Reinhart and Rogoff's This Time is Different. They argue that government typically increases national debt by up to 100 percent after a financial crash. And they also point out that governments default on their debt all the time. In the Great Depression the US government went off gold, giving holders of US dollars a haircut, and it reset the interest rate on war bonds from World War I, giving widows and orphans a haircut. They argue that whenever a government gets to a debt of about 100 percent of GDP it is getting into dangerous territory. Note that The New Yorker thinks that Reinhart and Rogoff are all wet.

Anyway, my view is that personal debt is too high, and insufficiently collateralized when you can get 10% mortgage loans. Government should not borrow except for wars and crashes, and the high rate of government spending makes it harder to fight wars and recover from financial crashes.

We ought to convert a lot of the present personal debt and government debt into equity and recognize the real risk in many financial transactions.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Oh No! 14 Million Will Lose Their Insurance!

Considering that the Congressional Budget Office is the very incarnation of the expert-led administrative state, it is amazing how they manage to provoke end-of-the-world headlines.

Apparently, under Ryancare, 14 million Americans will lose their health insurance.

Oh wait.
[T]he assessment by the CBO... said most of the immediate increase in the uninsured would occur as a result of doing away with the individual mandate. "Some of those people would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums," explains the CBO summary.
Ah so! What we have here is sensible Americans without significant assets that sensibly understand that they get nothing from health insurance. So why sign up?

But wait! These people are free-loaders, deadbeats, that are trying to weasel their way out of paying their fair share of the nation's health care costs.

So? What about people on Medicaid? What about geezers like me on Medicare? When is the nation going to get into a tizzy about us failing to pay our fair share?

After all, this is the welfare state. The whole principle of the welfare state is to hand out free stuff to the people in exchange for their vote.

Very well. But two can play at this game. If you ruling class grandees aren't handing out the free stuff to me, directly, in cold hard cash, then why in tarnation should I submit to your evil tax and compel regime without a peep? Just so you can get the support of some other freeloaders and get elected once again?

Because if I am a white working class deplorable without significant assets then the sensible freeloader thing for me to do is to skip health insurance, dump myself in the ER when I get sick, and then declare bankruptcy when the bills come due.

People do that, all the time. I had an acquaintance down the street that had run up tons of bills on credit cards and dumped the whole thing in bankruptcy with the help of a friendly attorney. But he got to keep his car, because people need a car to get to work. And, of course, he didn't have a home mortgage, he rented.

More and more, I am liking the idea of Donald Trump. Instead of throwing up his hands and saying "Oh no! 14 million uninsured!" he is saying that we need to let the sucker "implode." Really, that is what we are paying for when we vote for a president. Genuine brass balls, Queens edition.

The cunning in that kind of strategy is that the freeloaders need to be afraid before they are willing to deal. It is easy to demand your entitlements when everything is copacetic. But when the writing is on the wall, and the whole health care system is going down the tubes, we welfare-state freeloaders are likely to be willing to compromise on half a loaf instead of the whole entitlement loaf we are used to demanding as our "right."

But here is a question. I'd have to think that the people losing out on Ryancare were never going to vote for a Republican anyway? So I wonder how much of a downside occurs if the 14 million become uninsured.

Maybe the difference is that the losers get angry and actually get out and vote.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Deep State? What Deep State?

My man Kevin D. Williamson had some fun Sunday with the eternal need for culprits and demons. First it was "neocons," he explained -- not to mention Jewish bankers, etc. Now it's the Deep State, the criminal cabal deep in the heart of the intelligence community and the federal government.

But the next day, Monday, he wrote about how almost all corporate execs are patsies for the liberals. Apart from the fact that they all went to the same schools as the liberals, there is the unfortunate fact that, as William H. Whyte wrote about The Organization Man in the 1950s,
the capitalists are not prepared to offer an intellectual defense of capitalism or of classical liberalism. They believe in something else: the managers’ dream of command and control.
So those eevil corporate CEOs, who the left has never ceased anathematizing, are part of the Deep State as well!

The truth is worse than that. First,

Liberals believe in an elected administrative state, with top-down command and control.

Lefties believe in a revolutionary administrative state, with top-down command and control. and finally,

Corporate CEOs believe in a corporate administrative state, with top-down command and control.

So everyone agrees, right?

Well, I don't. I think the top-down argument is bollocks, as the Brits say.

I take my text from people like Deirdre McCloskey, who argues that the unprecedented Great Enrichment of the last 200 years came not from top-down administrative ukase but from innovation from below.

Or from Matt Ridley, whose Evolution of Everything makes the same point, only follows the Eisenhower doctrine of making the problem bigger.

The point that McCloskey and Ridley are making is that nobody can stop the world and make it comfortable for themselves and their progeny forever. The world changes; the rules change; and you'd better be ready to change with it, or you are toast.

In other words, the top-down command and control culture is utter folly. There is no way you can run the world, or the universe, from the top. While you are focusing your executive energy on one problem the world will be coming to an end from the host of problems that you and your crack assistants have neglected.

The rise of Trump is a prime example of the folly of top-down thinking. Here we had coastal liberals living in their coastal bubble and making the rules for the rest of us in our own best interest. Everything was under control with the lightworker President Obama.

Meanwhile the white working class was dying of despair in the coal belt and the Rust Belt. Who knew?

Actually, Obama knew. When he talked about "bitter clingers" back in 2008 he was talking about exactly that, the factory towns where the jobs left 20, 30 years ago and never came back.

But he didn't do anything about it. Because he believed that the answer to America's problems was top-down race politics, top-down healthcare politics, and top-down financial politics. The plight of the white working class came way down the list. And anyway nobody in the liberal activism world cared about the white working class.

Never mind that the despairing white working class is the victim of the previous generation's top-down welfare state class politics which won working-class votes by giving the white working class free stuff, and then cast them off when liberals switched from class politics to race and gender politics.

So yeah. The Deep State notion misses the point. It's not just a few liberal bureaucrats that are the problem. It is just about everybody, because there are very few people in this world who honestly and consistently vote for and believe in the bottom-up notion of evolution and innovation.

The reason is quite simple. Nobody can get their heads around the notion that, sooner or later, their life, their family, their tribe, their civilization, their species, will be over. Surely there must be eternal life to take care of that.

But Steve Bannon believes just that, at least as far as the admininstrative state is concerned.
The reclusive mastermind behind President Trump’s nationalist ideology and combative tactics made his public debut Thursday [at CPAC], delivering a fiery rebuke of the media and declaring that the new administration is in an unending battle for “deconstruction of the administrative state.” 
Yay.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Can Trump Save the White Working Class? Or America?

Who is right? Is it the globalist elite that tells us to abandon the nation state and submit to the fierce tides of the global economy?

Or is it Trump, who promises to invigorate the national economy and national spirit and Make America Great Again?

The short answer is: Neither.

I'd say that the global elite is right that the global economy is going to transform everything, no matter what local populists say. On the other hand I'd say that a global administrative elite is not the model that any wise Latina would choose to govern the world of the future.

I'd say that President Trump is right to propose a regulatory rollback and tax-rate cut. And I dare say he is right to halt the crony capitalist trade deals. But we are never going to get the white working class back to the good old days of graduating high school and getting a job-for-life at the unionized steel plant down the street.

Moreover, while it is true that the globalist vision of global governance by a wise and evolved bureaucratic elite is rubbish, it is also true that today's nation states will one day go the way of the German Empire. And the Soviet Union. And the Ming dynasty.

We all like to rag on the alt-right, but they are right when they say that migration equals invasion.

Who do you think the Lombards were? They didn't always live in Lombardy in northern Italy. They were migrants that invaded across the Alpine passes. Or the Vikings. They were running all over northwest Europe for about 300 years from 800 to 1100. When they had finished Britland had a Viking monarchy by way of Normandy -- because the Normans were Vikings that the Franks allowed to settle in northern France.

Or North America. There was a migration! It utterly wiped out and swept aside the inhabitants of North America and substituted a migrant culture from northwest Europe. Hello USA!

So what about today's migrations out of Africa and the Middle East into Europe, and out of southern and central America into the United States?

Let's look at the record of northwest European migration of the last half millennium.

Where Europeans encountered nomadic or early agricultural cultures they generally wiped them out; and it helped when European diseases wiped out the original inhabitants. When the Europeans encountered Africa, where the diseases killed Europeans, or where the Europeans encountered the great civilizations like India and China, the Europeans dominated for a century or two, but eventually retreated. India is still India today; China is still China.

The histories of India and China are salutary. India has suffered successive invasions from the Asian steppe, yet every time has lived to tell the tale. China has suffered successive times of troubles, including the Yuan dynasty from Mongolia and the Manchu dynasty from Manchuria. But Chineseness has always succeeded in the end.

And even the end of the Roman Empire was not really the end. The Franks and the Germans thought of themselves as inheriting the Roman Empire and carrying it on. That is what curious notions like the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation were all about.

Let us just say this. The rise of migration in recent decades coupled with the aging of the left's welfare state and the decline of metal-bending manufacturing has put everything in flux and created a feeling that things are not copacetic, and that Something Must Be Done.

What is the right response, culturally, economically, and politically?

That's a good question, Senator.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Even Good Liberals Miss the Point

A reader alerted me yesterday to a piece by a Good Liberal in The American Scholar. William Deresiewicz, a college teacher, rightly takes apart the whole political correctness movement as a pure power play that wants to silence the opposition. And he also recognizes that elite colleges are seminaries that teach ruling class orthodoxy.

Without mentioning Charles Murray he points out that today's elite colleges are segregating by class, and the few that come from lower classes are pretty quickly taught the liberal ruling-class orthodoxy.

But then he goes off the rails.
There is systemic racism and individual bigotry in the United States, and colleges are not immune from either. There is systemic sexism and sexual assault in society at large, and campuses are no exception. 
So the agenda of the left is based "in legitimate concerns."

But as soon as you say that you are legitimizing the ruling class to "do something" about it. And the only thing the ruling class understands is the clunking fist of government power.

Let's back up and remember how we got here. In the US South, after the Civil War, after the Republican Party retreated from Reconstruction and left the black freedmen to the tender mercies of the Democratic Party street thugs in the Ku Klux Klan the resulting domination over the Negro race was still not enough for the Southrons. And the reason was capitalism. Hey, if Negroes got paid less than the going wage for whites, then why not hire the Negro and make more money!

That was intolerable, and so the South implemented what we now call Jim Crow laws. Those were the laws that forced blacks to sit at the back of the bus. It wasn't the bus company that did it; it was government.

When the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s were being debated the question arose whether the civil rights laws should apply to government only or to the private sector as well. Should the law forbid government to discriminate by race, or should it forbid the private sector to discriminate by race as well. The consensus among ruling-class liberals was that the laws should apply the to private sector: corporations, dontcha know.

But Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), the man who had integrated the Arizona National Guard, voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He believed that the law should apply only to government, not to private citizens. And for that he was branded a racist.

We are now seeing that he was right. Today liberals of all stripes are using civil rights law to beat up their political opponents wherever they find them: in government, in non-profits, in the private sector. Elite ruling-class gays are using civil rights law to beat up Christian bakers that don't want to service a gay wedding.

I argue that the liberal approach to civil rights in fact encourages racism and sexism and homophobia. By raising the question of race on everything from professional sports to diversity in tech companies, liberals are forcing Americans to think about race every waking hour. They are forcing race consciousness into every corner of society.

I would call that "systemic racism." And, of course, the whole diversity racket is simply racism by another name.

I think that leftist politics is the most cruel and unjust religious and political movement ever, because it builds roadblocks on the Road to the Middle Class. In that book I argue that people coming to the city need to shuck off their tribal and peasant ways and become responsible individuals in the city.

The Great Enrichment of the last 200 years is the most amazing thing ever for ordinary people. But to get the full benefit, I argued in Road, you need to slough off your old ways and learn the culture of the city.

But the left, ever since its official birth in 1848, has encouraged the workers and peasants, the People of the Subordinate Self, to stay in their tribal enclaves. And modern identity politics has further encouraged the lower classes to identify by race and gender rather than shuck off that skin and become responsible middle-class citizens that obey the law, go to work, and follow the rules.

We know why the left does that. It wants to lead the workers and peasants in the streets; it wants them to switch from being the subordinates of the old land owners to become the subordinates of politicians, crime bosses, community organizers, and race hustlers: the soldiers in their political armies.

And this is cruel, unjust, and vile.

Here's what I want. The government shall write no law respecting a race, a gender, or a class. The rest of us are free to discriminate all we want.

And so we do. If we are tech companies we hire East Asians over hillbilly whites. If we are football teams we hire African Americans over whites and Asians. If we are baseball teams we hire Hispanics from the Caribbean.

As long as the government stays out of it people find their niche and everything works out in the end.

If you want to talk about "systemic racism" then you are talking about liberals sticking their racist noses into everything in America and teaching people to hate each other.

And dear William Deresiewicz doesn't have a clue.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Obamacare-lite Debuts

I suppose that "repeal and replace" where Obamacare was concerned was always a pipe-dream. That is because, once the government has started a program it is almost impossible to stop it. The clients of the program will tear down the state rather than give up their free stuff.

So the Obamacare subsidies for people buying health insurance on the exchanges won't go away in the new Ryan health plan.

And there won't be a national health insurance market. And the special status of corporate health plans, with their tax-deductibility that puts individual plans into such a bind: that won't go away.

On the other hand the plan does propose to "do something" about Medicaid by moving to a per-capita grant from the Feds to the states instead of the current system.

It will be interesting to see what happens next, because conservatives and libertarians are outraged and naturally a chap like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had his sound bite all ready. Said he:
Trumpcare doesn’t replace the Affordable Care Act, it forces millions of Americans to pay more for less care.
Chuck is probably right. Whenever the government changes its spending, it is going to make life easier for millions on the one hand, and make life harder for millions on the other hand.

And since tens of millions are getting a break from their corporate plans, and tens of millions a break from Medicaid, and tens of millions like me a break from Medicare you can see that there is not just one third rail that a politician doesn't want to touch, but several. Because I can tell you, all of us demand that nobody lay a finger on our health plans.

No doubt Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his assistants are trying to put together a plan that insulates him and the GOP from electric shock as far as possible.

And no doubt the master negotiator President Trump will get in the act to finalize the deal.

But I am trying to think about the bigger picture. How do we get out of the box canyon of the administrative state, where government programs and processes are almost impossible to adapt and change before the inevitable pileup into the canyon wall, as in Venezuela?

If you are an underappreciated genius, this would be the miracle of the ages. How to escape the civilizational cycle that ends up in financial collapse because the government has promised too much to too many people and can't reduce the free stuff for anyone.

There is one method that seems to work. You declare a group to be the enemy of all good people. Marx and Engels did a good number on the bourgeoisie back in the 19th century and created the space to tax and punish the bourgeoisie and make them pay for benefits for the working class. And modern liberals in the 1960s demonized whites as racists so they could dump the white working class and give benefits instead to blacks and women.

So who do we demonize so we can reduce the huge burden of the modern state? The liberals? The cognitive elite?

Maybe that is what Trumpism is doing, provoking the left's bully boys to come out into the streets and beat up women college professors, as at Middlebury College last week.

Frankly, I prefer the workings of the market. The worst thing it can do is drive you into bankruptcy. That is much gentler, and more civilized than the demonizing and Othering and "mostly peaceful" protests of the political world.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Folly of the Activism Culture

We all know what went down at Middlebury College, when foolish students shouted down and assaulted a mainstream libertarian scholar, Charles Murray.

But the vile left-wing thug culture is all around us.

Here is climate activist Peter Gleick, identity thief, according to Wattsupwiththat.com.
Peter Gleick impersonated a member of the Heartland Board of Directors to steal documents, then spiced up the swag with a forgery when he discovered it didn’t contain anything incriminating, all while serving as chair of the American Geophysical Union Taskforce on Scientific Ethics.
What is Gleick up to this week? He is sending out the following message:
I’m Marching to Fight the Alarming War on Science. Join Me
"Marching?" "Fight?" "War?" What planet is this guy living on?

What we have here is the delusional "activism culture" of the left, that started with the Communist Manifesto in 1848. The idea back then was that the proletarians working in the factories of the industrial revolution were condemned to "immiseration" and exploitation unless well-born activists represented them and fought in the streets for their rights.

The idea now is that the climate is going to spiral out of control unless well-born activists fight in the streets to save science from the deniers.

The lefties were wrong then, because the bourgeoisie heard the cries of the workers and did something about it; they gave the workers the vote.

And the lefties are wrong now. The question of climate change is not a question to be fought out by marching and fighting in the streets. It is a question to be worked out in the normal peaceful progressions of politics and elections.

Because that is the whole point of elections and legislatures and courts and political speech. It is that everyone agrees not to go to the streets, but instead resolve and compromise their differences in peaceful debate and in the corridors of power.

But the left has absolutely no intention of allowing anyone else to have a vote, on climate change or on the welfare state, or race or gender or anything else. That is the point of the left's pejoratives: racist, sexist, homophobe. That is the point of shouting down conservative speakers on campus. That is the point of marching to fight the war on science.

The funny thing is that the great lesson of the last two hundred years, the Great Enrichment, is that force is usually not necessary to get useful things done. All the great economic disruptions of the last two hundred years did not need central control and top-down direction to mitigate their effects. People just went to work and worked it out with each other and got past it.

So it is a great irony that, just as humans entered an astonishing period where they found that they could negotiate pretty well everything using market exchange instead of defending their patch of land to the last border warrior, we have the growth of a secular religion that makes politics its god: what we now call leftism, or what I call the "activism culture," and this culture proposes that only by marching and protesting and "marching" and "fighting" can we bend the arc of history towards justice.

I understand why we have the activism culture. The development of the universal exchange economy is a wonder for ordinary men and women, allowing them to wive and thrive without having to enserf themselves to a great lord or a local political big-wig.

This development has not been good for people with an appetite for political power. What? No need for high politics? Just let the market take care of it? Even at the level of religion: just let the religious sects compete in the religion market? You must be kidding! There has to be a need for the modern equivalent of the well-born Prince Hals and Harry Percys to duke it out on the battlefields of intersectionality and science and climate change!

Are we condemned to an escalation of this present enthusiasm for activism? Or will the activism of the 2000s go the way of the activism wave of the 1960s?

You may remember what happened after the riots and demos of the Sixties. What happened is that ordinary people absolutely hated it, and they voted again and again for candidates that promised to put an end to it.

And it seemed, when Bill Clinton ran for president and excoriated Sister Souljah, that the whole thing had been put behind us.

Unfortunately we have a new generation of lefties that did not experience the long humiliation of Nixon followed by Reagan. Hopefully they are in for a couple of decades of Trump followed by über-Trump that will teach their generation a lesson.

But you never know.

Monday, March 6, 2017

We are not in Conservative Kansas Any More

I happened over the weekend to read a piece by Claire Berlinski on Richochet where she bemoaned what had happened to conservatism under Trump.
I’m outraged by Trump and what’s become of conservatism, I’m depressed by all of it and sad that I’ve devoted so much of my life to a political ideology that in the end looks as corrupt to me as socialism.
I get it. I got there at the Republican convention when I wrote: "All I Know is that Gentlemanly Conservatism is Dead."

But I think that Berlinski is wrong to say that conservatism was or is as corrupt as socialism.

What happened is that being nice didn't work. That was symbolized last week when conservative/libertarian scholar Charles Murray, a true gentleman, was shouted down at Middlebury College.

The whole point of Charles Murray is that he has spent his life painstakingly showing that liberalism doesn't work.

Moreover, he argued in The Bell Curve our current education system with its standardized tests and its college entrance by SAT is segregating America into the intelligent and the not-so-intelligent. And in that battle African Americans are going to lose out because they have lower IQs, on average, than whites.

It turned out that you are not allowed to say that in America. Because racism.

So Murray came back with a book about whites, and made the same point. If you are in the top 25 percent, the intelligent ones that get to go to the good colleges and meet and marry people just like them, you are doing fine. If you are the bottom 30 percent, white working class in Fishtown in Philadelphia, you are living in a place where the men don't work much and the women don't marry much. And this is a national disaster.

But Charles Murray was not allowed to tell the young heads full of mush about that, not at Middlebury College.

So gentlemanly conservatism has failed; the gentle art of persuasion has failed.

You can understand why. Leaving aside the questions of truth and science and ethics and culture and morality there is the simple fact that any change proposed by conservatives is going to reduce the political and cultural power of liberals. And since political power and cultural power is where liberals live, they are resisting change, any change, to the knife.

That is why we have President Trump. For the last eight years, at least, the Republican base has been complaining about leaders that talk a good line when they want to get elected but that fail to fight when they get to Washington DC. Ted Cruz understood that and designed his campaign to exploit it. But Ted Cruz was no match for Donald Trump in the fighting department. So Donald Trump won the nomination. And won the election.

Donald Trump won the election by winning the key demographic that Republicans have been trying and failing to connect with ever since Ronald Reagan left the White House: the white working class.

The grievance of the white working class is not the same as the Republican base. Their grievance, barely articulated, is that the white working class have been the ones forced to pay for the race quotas and gender quotas of the last 50 years.

But both groups want a president to fight for them, and not make nice with Ted Kennedy or Chuck Schumer or whoever.

That's why we have President Trump. He promised to fight, to Make America Great Again, and make America First.

That is shocking to the Claire Berlinskis of the world, and I am sorry that the world is turning out to be a rougher, tougher place than they had wanted.

So it is shocking to have President Trump go straight down the Democrats' throat on immigration. It is shocking to have President Trump turn the tables on the Democrats' RussiaGate and turn it into a DeepStateGate by accusing the Obama administration of spying on his campaign. No Republican has ever dared to do that, not in my lifetime.

We are just not used to a Republican going for the jugular, and that is because in the past it never turned out well to do so. The Democrats with the help of the mainstream media and its Democratic operatives with bylines could always impose their Narrative over any Republican that dared to challenge them.

The point of the administration of Donald Trump is to find out whether it is possible to turn the tables on the Democrats, the liberal ruling class, the Cathedral and its narrative.

If President Trump succeeds in turning the tables on the liberal ruling class then we are in a new era. If he fails then the liberals have won, and it is single-payer everything and the administrative state to rule over all.

Right now all we can say is that there is hope. It looks like President Trump has the chops and the strategic instinct to play the high-stakes game of challenging the liberal ruling class and its Deep State. But the fight in only in its first round. There is a long way to go, and many perils ahead.

But the old conservatism is dead, and we are not in Kansas any more.

Friday, March 3, 2017

But Can This Anti-Trump Gang Shoot Straight?

I imagine that everyone to the right of Patty Murray is outraged by the continuing campaign to delegitimize and destabilize the Trump administration.

And how are they doing this? With accusations of collusion with the Russians, of all people, to swing the 2016 election. This from Democrats that have spent half a century insisting that the worst political crime in America is to accuse elite Americans of collusion with the Russians. That, you will remember, was what the "Red Scare" and the evils of McCarthyism were all about.

Only, of course, back then, in the 1940s, there really were Communists in the State Department and they really were acting in the interests of the Soviet Union and against the interests of the United States.

So now Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from a Justice Department investigation of Russian influence in the election.

But Mark Levin proposes that President Obama has his fingerprints all over this Russia gambit. And now it appears that his aide Valerie Jarrett will live in the former president's new home and help coordinate his activities against Trump.

Help! Murder! Conspiracy! This is a conspiracy to drive Donald Trump out of office!

Yes. So it is, without a doubt. But do you know what I think? I think that this whole anti-Trump conspiracy is a mistake of monumental proportions. And it is typical of the strategic blindness of the world's First Community-Organizer-in-Chief and the rest of the ruling class that presides over these United Administrative States.

The fact is that Barack Obama has mucked up just about everything he touched. Instead of getting the economy going in 2009 after the biggest financial crash since 1929 he went ahead with the accumulated agenda of the Democratic Party: a stupid stimulus -- like that would help -- followed by heaping huge costs on the economy with Obamacare and green energy. Not to mention burying the financial industry in red tape with the Dodd-Frank bill. Then the Obama administration foreign policy has been a disaster, making the Middle East into a bomb crater.

Not to mention that the Russians have twirled the Obamis around like a Russian doll. No wonder the Obama people are angry with the Russians.

But do you think that the tag team of Obama and Jarrett are going to turn the Trump administration upside down? And Nancy Pelosi? And Chuck Schumer? With their track record? With their level of smarts?

I come back, again and again, to Charles Murray and Coming Apart. It's the final version of a story he has been telling for 30 years. In today's America the top 25 percent, the professional class, is doing well, with great careers, merger marriages, and splendid prosperity. The middle half is not doing so good, with stagnant wages and too much divorce. The bottom 30 percent is in trouble: the men don't work much and the women don't marry much. And that is just white people.

The reason we have President Trump is that, for 30 years, our liberal ruling class has been resolutely ignoring this gathering storm, by focusing on identity politics and regulation and green energy.

President Trump won by romancing the white working class, the primary loser from 50 years of race and gender quotas. Now he is busy romancing the blacks, cruelly betrayed by Democratic race politics. Imagine what happens if Trump increases his black vote from 10 percent to 20 percent.

Meanwhile the geniuses in the Democratic Party are shocked, shocked, that Republicans have been talking to Russians. Why, the noive! Didn't we all agree 50 years ago that only Democrats were allowed to do that? Only John Kerry is allowed to talk to the North Vietnamese in Paris. Only Ted Kennedy is allowed to talk to the Soviets about hurting Reagan in the 1984 election. Only Obama is allowed to talk to the Russians about being more flexible after the 2012 elections. Republicans need not apply.

More and more I am coming around to the idea that the Democrats are running out of rope on the identity politics and elite save-the-planet agenda that has obsessed them for the last half century. And the reason is that their politics has done nothing for the ordinary middle-class American.

They are reduced to the status of Scarlett O'Hara. Where will they go? What will they do?

Nothing new here. That is always what happens to ruling classes. They build a world view that turns a mirror on themselves as the noblest, wisest, most evolved people in history. Mirror Mirror on the wall.

All is well until the mirror cracks from side to side.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Joint Address Activism: First Time as Tragedy...

Now that I have got home from emptying out the apartment of Lady Marjorie's mother, I have had time to watch President Trump's first address to Congress.

I know that everyone says it was a smash hit. I thought that it was a learning experience. The president started out a bit hesitant, and tied to his TelePrompters. But pretty soon he got in his stride and starting making political points. It was good because it was not what a State of the Union speech usually is: it was not a laundry list. By the middle of the speech, Donald Trump was in his stride. By the end, he had become a master, doing the Navy SEAL widow piece to perfection.

It was good also because President Trump made full use of the biggest asset of the presidential bully pulpit. The President of the United States is the symbol of the nation, and the sole representative of the American people as a whole. When the president speaks, the American people speak through him. When he calls for unity, for Republicans and Democrats in Congress to get together, he is making a veiled threat: what, you oppose me, the representative of the American people? How could you?

But my big takeaway from the speech was the utter stupidity of the Democrats and their white dresses and their stupid buttons.

I was trying to cudgel my brain to come up with a way of showing the folly of this to you, my readers, and the first thing I came up with was "Activism 101," complete with stupid props for a stupid freshman college course in left-wing social activism. But then I realized that it was worse than that. It was social activism dumbed down for elementary school.

"Now students," says the dull liberal teacher, "I want everyone to come to tomorrow's class as an activist!" So of course the girls choose white dresses, and the boys choose stupid campaign buttons.

But when a government teacher is telling students in a government child-custodial facility to pretend to be desperate people excluded from the system, you can tell that Marx's apothegm still applies. Remember?
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.
OK. So modern activism started in 1848 with Marx and Engels issuing a manifesto for the excluded workers of the world. They had a point. But it was a tragedy that their ideas led straight to the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China in which 100 million humans died for no good reason, and that billions of humans were excluded from the miracles of the 200-year Great Enrichment from $1-3 income per day to $120 per day.

But it is a lie for activists funded by George Soros to pretend to be the excluded and the wretched of the earth. And it is utter farce for the members of the House of Representatives, clothed in the power and majesty of the Government of the United State and trailing clouds of glory to pretend to be little kindergarteners dressing up for a unit in social activism.

My point is that when well-born youth -- never mind middle-aged national politicians -- get themselves all gussied up to protest oppression and injustice, it is all probably a lie.

The story of the last year is what gives it the lie. While liberals have been filling the national bandwidth with their end-of-era obsessions for gay marriage and bike paths and turning the health care system upside down to assist 20 million Americans without health insurance, it turns out, as the Washington Post admits, that the white working class was quietly dying of despair.

Golly who knew? Where were the activists? Where were the white dresses? Where were the peaceful protests? Where were the elite-educated community activists?

It is time to get out of the Marxist cycle of tragedy and farce, and get down to work. And the road to sanity starts with the admission that, usually, government is not the solution, government is the problem.

And activism and well-born community activists have nothing to do with the case.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Liberals Screw the Pooch on Navy SEAL

Back in the Sixties (which actually happened between 1965 and 1975) the left here in America thought that the old verities were demolished. So they sneered at the middle class, humiliated the military, and scorned the police.

Only one problem: the American people were going in a different direction. First they elected Richard Nixon, who every liberal hated because first, he had defeated lefty Jerry Voorhis for a seat in Congress and second, he had defeated pinko Helen Gahagan Douglas for a seat in the US Senate. (I earned all about this from my liberal boss when I first went to work in America in the fall of 1968.) Then the American people elected Richard Nixon again, and then Ronald Reagan twice.

I don’t know if the American people had a clue what Nixon and Reagan proposed economically. But what they did like was that Nixon and Reagan were unashamed American patriots. They honored the Flag; they honored the men and women in uniform, and they honored those who had fallen in the service of defending the United States from enemies foreign and domestic. Full stop, end of story, period.

It took liberals and Democrats about 20 years to realize that they were never going to elect a president again unless they pretended to care for the military and the police and wear US flag pins and make a fuss for the benefit of the widows and the mothers of the fallen. The Democratic Leadership Council was formed in 1985 to shift the Democratic Party away from the leftward turn it took in the 1960s. And it worked. In 1992 America elected Bill Clinton, who rebuked Sister Souljah and went back to Arkansas to witness the death of convicted murderer Ricky Ray Rector.

You can see that this is nothing but common sense. Governments may not be instituted among men for the purpose of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, but they very definitely are there to ,protect the people from enemies foreign and domestic. The people that protect us from foreign enemies are called soldiers; the people that protect us from domestic enemies are called policemen.

But there is a problem. Mothers do not really see why their sons should go for a soldier and get killed in battle or by disease. Every instinct of a mother is to protect and preserve the life of those she loves, whatever the cost. That is why we have notions like Gold Star Mothers and why we make such a fuss about The Fallen, why we have Memorial Day and Decoration Day. Governments need to go to a lot of work to persuade women to sacrifice their loved ones to the national cause. The same goes for policemen slain on the streets of the city. The widows and the mothers must be consoled. Full stop, period, end of story.

But our Democratic friends, starting with the election of George W. Bush, have forgotten this elementary lesson. Again. That is because they don’t believe in nation, don’t believe in marriage, and don’t believe in motherhood. They believe instead in creativity, social, cultural, economic, and political. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of life, the universe, and everything, and one reason why Donald Trump was elected president.

It was Ronald Reagan that started recognizing widows and heroes in the gallery during in State of the Union speeches. Every president since has done the same.

It makes complete sense that President Trump would do the same and recognize the widow of a slain Navy SEAL at his Joint Address to Congress last night. And it is natural that all red-blooded Americans in the House chamber would applaud for two minutes. Number One, the nation’s leaders must always insist that every slain soldier or sailor died a hero and did not die in vain. And Number Two, every red-blooded American knows that liberals hate this sort of unrestrained patriotic display.

The lefties Twitterers that whined and complained about the standing ovation for the slain Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens are fools and knaves. And the Democrats that sat on their hands and refused to applaud President Trump’s applause lines are fools and knaves.

If you are a conservative or a libertarian or an ordinary American, all you can do is shake your head at this folly, this ignorance, this meanness. And then wink to your Trump-voting buddy across the room.

Why is this so? It falls naturally out of my reductive Three Peoples theory. The best thing in the world for People of the Subordinate Self, workers, peasants, and victims, is to learn the ropes of life and of work in the market economy of the city. All the paraphernalia of the welfare state makes that more difficult. The best thing for People of the Responsible Self, the broad middle class, is to go to work, follow the law, and obey the rules, and maybe get a little adventurous, like starting a business. The best thing for the People of the Creative Self, artists and writers and activists, is to practice a little humility and compassion. Very few people have the chops or the courage to sacrifice themselves to a life of creativity where many are called but few are chosen. And those lucky few that are chosen need to have compassion that fail in the battle for creative achievement and for those that just want a quiet life of following the rules.

Our lefty friends make a big deal about bending the arc of history towards justice. But they need to think about how their program is, in fact, the most monstrous injustice, for it views society not as Three Peoples but as two peoples, where We are the community organizers and the communities of victims that we have organized and They are the people opposed to bending the arc of history towards our kind of justice.

In the Sixties it turned out that there was a lot more of They than We, and it took Democrats two decades to wake up to that. If they are not careful, they are going to repeat history.

According to Marx, history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce.