Monday, December 11, 2017

The Counter Revolutions of the Modern Age

Every revolution inspires its counter-revolution. The great revolution of our age is the Double Revolution in physics and in economy. The counter-revolution is the great movement of the left.

I first developed my notion of the Double Revolution in my "Communism Week: The Real Revolution of the Modern Age." My idea is that through two revolutions of ideas we moderns have radically changed our fundamental understandings of reality, and both revolutions have unmoored us from old certainties more than any previous revolutions because their descriptions of reality that cannot be described in terms of everyday experience, of the things that we see and hear and touch with our five senses.

This fact is most obvious in the case of the physics revolution. During the 19th century there was a continuing battle over two conflicting theories of the nature of light: the corpuscular theory and the wave theory. Was light a stream of particles, or an emanation of waves? Particles and waves are both everyday experiences for humans. We understand that light bounces off a mirror like a billiard ball off a cushion and we understand the waves in the ocean, by direct experience. But which was it?

The answer developed during the relativity and quantum mechanics revolution was: neither. Or both. The fact is that, whatever is going on at the level of the atom, it is nothing like what we experience in our everyday experience of everyday life. We have mathematical theories to predict behavior and we have a sub-atomic "zoo" of metaphors and stories to talk about what is going on. An example of the mystery of the sub atomic world is the two slit experiment. If you shine white light through a slit it shines as a white slit when it hits a screen. If you shine a light through two close slits you get a wave pattern. But if you shine single quanta of light, one by one through one of two slits you still get a wave pattern. What does it mean? It means that we cannot experience the basic elements of reality as direct correspondences of human-scale phenomena.

But the same thing is true with the economics revolution, the conversion of economic life from face-to-face relations to the abstract coordination of the price system. This fact is illustrated by the story of market value. The classical economists first differentiated between use value, the value of a useful object like food, and exchange value, the value of e.g., "useless" but precious metals like gold. But in fact a price is a price, it reflects the accumulation of individual acts of buying and selling of perhaps millions of consumers and producers. An individual human can grasp the notion of use value: obviously useful things have value; and we can understand the notion of exchange value: grain prices go up and down with the weather. But the truth is that a price is a price; the only thing that is concrete is actual market transactions and their prices.

It is not surprising that this radical and overwhelming Double Revolution has spawned counter-revolutions. The most obvious one is the Communist-socialist counter-revolution. While advertising itself as the acme of progress it is in fact a nostalgic attempt to return to the good old days.

In its communist version the counter-revolution idealizes the supposed unity and equality of the village community. In its welfare-state version it re-enacts the lord-and-serf relation of feudalism. Both reactions advertise that Communism or welfare-state subjection is safer than the uncertainty of life under the market. But both of these assertions are a lie. In the village community, you better get with the program of the male village elders or the community of women or you are out of luck. In the feudal subjection you are only safe while you are useful to your lord, either producing revenue for him with your farming, or fighting and dying for him in his quarrels with the neighboring lords. If you live in a communist state, then your welfare depends on the decisions of men whose talent is for politics rather than production, and the record is that politicians are lousy at creating prosperity. If you live as a subordinate worker or beneficiary in the welfare state then your prosperity hangs on the continued power of your patron. If you work for the government you depend on your program continuing; if you work for a corporation you depend on the corporation continuing to expand and prosper.

Really, the only thing to do is to expose yourself to the market and obey its signals. As a worker you will be forced to update and improve your skills as the labor market changes. As a business you will be forced to respond to the changes in the market for your product. That way you won't wake up one day and find out that your secure job or secure government benefit isn't secure after all, because you never had a chance to go to sleep.

The truth is that politicians do not care about you; they only care about your vote. Corporate CEOs don't care about you; they only care about the bottom line. The only person that cares about you is you.

Another reactionary counter-revolution is the environmental movement, which yearns really for a world before the Newtonian mechanical age and a return to a rural idyll before the invention of heat engines and power-assisted everything. Of course, life was always great for well-born scions, then as now. Well, it is great until the tumbrels start to roll.

The question is, how long are these counter-revolutions going to continue, and what will be the net effect of them a century from now?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Tax That Fellow Behind the Tree

Low and behold! Polling on the Trump tax plan shows that most voters are against it.

Well, they would be, of course, because about half of Americans don't pay federal income tax. Why would you be in favor of a tax cut that doesn't cut your taxes?

So even on the American Spectator website the bubbas in the comments section are hollering to cut the payroll tax rather than the income tax that Jeff Bezos is paying, and rightly so.

Sorry fellahs, but when you are evaluating policy change in terms of "what's in it for me" you amount to nothing more or less than the willing dupes of the ruling class. The ruling class likes its subjects to be quarreling about who gets the goodies. It is called Divide and Conquer.

Now I claim a certain expertise on government spending and revenue, 'cos I wrote the book with and its pal And I say, cut it. Cut it all. Do not cut until the pips squeak. Cut until the pips stop squeaking.

Let us review federal spending. Out of the total of about $4.1 trillion budgeted for FY 2018, there is $1 trillion in Social Security, $1 trillion in Medicare/Medicaid, $0.8 trillion in Defense, $0.35 trillion on Welfare-other-than-Medicaid, and a trillion for everything from Education to interest on the national debt. You could look it up.

So, apart from Defense, which is the proper function of a national government, there is about $2 trillion spending on geezers like me. Everything else is loose change.

Then there is federal revenue. Out of the total of $3.6 trillion budgeted for FY2018, there is $2.2 trillion in federal income tax, $1.2 trillion in payroll taxes, and $0.3 trillion for everything else.

So the real money is in the federal income tax. You can see that the payroll tax about covers Social Security, and the federal income tax pays for everything else, including most notably geezer Medicare for chaps like me.

Now, I ask you, is it a good idea to spend so much of government spending on geezers like me? I say no, for the following selfish -- I mean deeply philosophical -- reasons.
  • Average people would do much better if, instead of paying payroll taxes they saved for their own retirement. First, they would have real personal wealth, which could be inherited by their children; second, they could leverage their gradually accumulating wealth for down payments on houses, startup money for a business, education for the kids. Right now the government gets to keep the payroll tax monies until it decides you are eligible to get your Social Security check. Why? You think government can spend your money better than you can? Of course, there would be idiots that did not save a penny for retirement. No doubt they would be thrown upon the mercy of their children, although I read that in China, where there is no Social Security, people save like fiends.
  • Are we really doing grandma a favor by throwing money at her health care at end-of-life? They say that we consume one half of our life's medical expenses in the last year of life. Is that just?  The truth is that few of us have a clue about what could be done to extend our lives. We go to the doctor and she gives us a pill. Is that really the best treatment? Few people could know unless they have the smarts to research their condition on the Internet.
The point is that, where government is concerned, we each of us act like Genghis Khan or Caribbean pirates. Loot and plunder is our philosophy. We are in favor of government action that puts money in our pocket, and we are against government action that favors other people. We dress up our greed in hypocritical appeals to helping seniors, the poor, and the children, but really it all comes down to whether we benefit, personally. Right now, our Democratic friends are declaring the end of the world because of the end of deductions for state and local taxes. But really, the people that benefit from the state and local tax deduction are the Rich in blue states. Hey Dems! You shilling for the rich today?

Of course, the looter culture used to make sense for humans. You invaded the neighboring tribal lands, killed the men, did a Rape of the Sabine Women on the females, and you got a larger food-growing territory. What was not to like?

Not any more. The industrial economy is based on a mutual-benefit equation. You do something for someone and they pay you for it. You invent something that transforms the world and you become insanely rich on a fraction of the present value of the invention to the rest of the world.

So any time that a corporate predator or a government program resorts to the old culture of loot and plunder -- and just about every government program does this -- they are busily impoverishing their fellow men and women, just like Genghis Khan, and they are monsters.

Now I am not hopeless for the future, because I think that the looter culture will gradually fade away. As proof I offer the actions of the West after winning World War II. What did the winners do after getting the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan?

No, we did not loot them to the bare walls. Instead, after a couple years of futzing around we lent them money to rebuild their economies, and we did not impoverish them with the traditional indemnities that used to be applied to the losers right up to and including World War I. Why?  Because the German and Japanese factories were no use to us as loot. Moreover, since we thought of ourselves as humanists, we were faced with the little problem of feeding the Germans and Japanese camping out in the ruins of their empires until they all got a job. In fact, we were right. Within 20 years the German and the Japanese economies were the envy of the world and -- this is important -- their products enriched us all, and challenged us to up our game.

(But the Soviets looted East Germany to the bare walls, transplanting all the factories in East Germany back to Russia in accordance with the reactionary loot-and-plunder philosophy of socialism. A lot of good it did them.)

Yes. I am a true radical. I believe that the only thing the national government should spend money on is defense. All the rest is merely loot and plunder that impoverishes us all.

Oh yes, there are some genuine public goods that cannot be delivered by the private sector. But I would say that the burden of proof, and it should be a heavy burden, should be on the chaps that say that that more government spending is needed to "help."

No, the only thing the government should be doing outside of defense is executing on my Perfect Plan. First, teach the workers and peasants newly arrived in the city how to become middle class. Second, stop ragging on the middle class and stigmatizing them as "deplorables." That is all.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Conventional Wisdom and Women Presidents

I am still descanting on my lefty pal Michael Mann's summary dismissal of the leaders of the central powers before World War I. They suffered, he wrote, from a culture of "militarism." They thought that all real men resolved their disputes with a nice little war complete, I imagine, with flashy uniforms and glittering medals.

Yes, of course the emperors and the generals of the time were idiots. But they were just average guys doing the average thing that they learned in emperor school.

Now we today have a different problem. Instead of the reflexive culture of "militarism" in our political elites -- which you still see in vestigial form, e.g., with the British royal family whose men still dress up in military uniforms -- we have the culture of "activism." Today all people in the educated elite think that they solve problems with political activism and beneficial legislation and identity politics.

So 90 percent of your politicians and your activists and your media personalities and your academic experts are just consumers and producers of the conventional wisdom of the cult of "activism."

But that is normal; that is the way the world works.

What is interesting is the man that breaks the mold. Never mind the guy that inherits a corporation as CEO, or that inherits a monarchy when his dad dies. Never mind the Buggins Turn in the US Republican Party that always seems to nominate for president the guy that lost the nomination last time.

The interesting people are the successful startups: the Gateses, the Jobs, the Google guys. Because they invented something that wasn't there before. What about the Founders, from Washington to my man Hamilton, that invented a new form of government based on their reading of the Montesquieus and the Hobbses and their actual experience of fighting and winning a revolution?

And what about the folks running for president in our own time? Jack Kennedy? Pretty conventional guy that succeeded in convincing everyone he was a genius. Lyndon Johnson? A master political operator. Nixon? A conventional man of his time that managed to derail the left-leaning Democrats. Carter? Utterly conventional, but played beautifully to the liberal desire for a faux populist with a big smile. Reagan? A man that had done his reading, formulated a strategy, and successfully ran against his party's conventional wisdom and won. Bill Clinton? A political genius that managed to steer his party away from its knee-jerk liberalism. Bush, father and son? Both utterly conventional. Obama? Utterly conventional lefty, but made to seem like a genius. Hillary Clinton? Utterly conventional without an idea in her head.

Then we come to Trump who found the white working class wounded by the side of the road and decided to act like the Good Samaritan. The point about Trump is not that he is a genius, which he probably is, but that he was the first person after Reagan to see the political potential in the white working class and figure out how to appeal to it. Today his strategy looks obvious: make a populist appeal to the broad middle: Make America Great Again. Hey, I couldha come up with that! Only I didn't.

Here's what I wonder. I wonder how long it is going to take for the Democrats shake off their politically correct microaggression anti-hate conventional wisdom and actually figure out how to appeal to the broad middle of America like Bill Clinton did.

I think it will take a couple of election cycles, just like it did after Ronald Reagan got elected. I think that the Democrats will have to burn through a couple of diversity candidates, starting with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in 2020 who came up the old-fashioned way through the grace and favor of Willie Brown, before they decide to become New Democrats again and earnestly tell us that they have changed. No really!

Here's what I think. I think that at some point the women of America, the blacks of America, and the Latinos of America are going to find our that, despite what the Democrats tell them, they are really Americans first, and helpless victims second.

It only needs a political genius, that can wrap up the current educated elite's "activism" conventional wisdom in a paper bag and throw it in the dumpster, to figure this out and then America will be first-and-ten on the forty yard line.

I also think that Democrats will go through hell trying again and again to elect the First Woman President.

Here's my reasoning, which I can make because I am a sexist. I don't think that women are cut out for rejecting conventional wisdom, which is what it often takes to win a presidential election. More than boys, girls tend to be Good Little Girls that make their way in the world by following the rules and expectations. Hey, most men are like that too, but I suspect that there are more rebels in the ranks of men than in women, just as the IQ bell curve for men is flatter, with more men than women at the extremes.

I think that Margaret Thatcher is the exception that proves the rule. It took her ten years in the 1950s to find herself a parliamentary constituency. I think that she reinvented herself as a man in order to do it. Old videos of her speaking as Prime Minister in the House of Commons show how she learned to master the male Culture of Insult in the very masculine bear-garden of Parliament. Hillary Clinton was not that kind of woman. Nor, as far as I can tell, are any of the women senators on either side of the aisle.

Not to be militaristic about it, but a presidential candidate is trying out for the position of Warrior-in-Chief. He needs to present himself as a brave fighter. As Reagan did, as Trump did. And as Hillary Clinton did not.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Supposing I Got to Set The Syllabus for AP History

The chaps at Powerline are doing the dirty on the College Board's Advanced Placement courses for US and European History. They don't like the knee-jerk leftism of the curriculum.

The critics of AP History syllabi complain that the College Board rehearses the liberal line of a consistent move from superstition to "secular modernization," and leaves out stuff like the history of economic freedom and liberty. Nothing about the Soviets' Ukraine famine. Nothing about the fact that the anti-slavery movement was "inspired by religious faith" of Christians like William Wilberforce.

That set me to thinking about how I would frame European and US history.

Wait. Before framing US and European History I would be framing the human story in an overall Grand Narrative, one in which the liberal notion of "secular modernization" would be a curious millennarian cult of our time significant in its pious faith that it had escaped from the superstition of former times and oblivious to its own superstitions and naivété.

That's because my faith is that religion is a constant in all human eras, and the idea that we are now "above" religion is a pious fraud. The reason is simple. The whole question of "the meaning of life, the universe, and everything," cunningly developed by Douglas Adams in his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, never goes away. The whole point of religion whether a totemic tribal religion, an Axial Age religion, or a modern secular religion like socialism or progressivism, is the eternal human need to determine the meaning of life, the universe, and everything right now as a guide for living life right now. But the truth is that we don't know the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, and we are not likely to find out any time soon. Indeed, I say that the more we know about the universe, and science, and stuff, the more we realize how little we know, and the more mysterious the whole question of meaning becomes.

I suppose the liberal line is that humans were stuck in religious superstition and ignorance until the Renaissance came along and then, with the Age of Reason, humans found that they could understand the world using Science without imagining spirits in trees and God in his Heaven. What people needed was good enlightened teachers that understood the new world.

But if you ask me, Martin Luther King Jr's faith that the arc of history bends towards justice, echoed by President Obama, is just as much of a religious faith as the Christian faith in God's justice and the Last Judgement.

My theory of history, curiously, is fairly close to the Marxian theory, that the economy, the way that people get food and shelter, is the base, and religion and culture are a superstructure built upon the foundations established by the economic facts on the ground. So in my view the "progress" of recent centuries is more a reaction to economic changes than to any enlightenment.

So my Grand Narrative starts with the rise of the city in Mesopotamia (and doubtless in China and India) in the two millennia before Christ. The point of a city is that it is a place where trading and markets happen. And that is where the Axial Age religions got started. Why? Because whereas life in the country is governed by the weather and the collective defense of the border, the life of the city is an individual affair. And so you get the phenomenon recorded by preachers as late as the Great Awakening in the Anglo-Saxon world in the 18th century.
When we began to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages... they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to used the means appointed was a damning sin.
My belief is that everyone above the rank of peasant or proletarian, and anyone living in a city, needs to  learn to live life as a "responsible being," and it is my belief that the Axial Age religions are the religions of responsible beings that live in cities and need to think of God as a creator of the universe that says to his people: you figure this out and learn how to wive and thrive in a world by following rules and finding ways of serving your fellow humans. In such an economic environment humans start to need a culture of freedom and liberty because no king or government planner can have enough knowledge to tell people how to serve their fellow humans: each of us must do that for ourselves. And as the cities have gotten bigger and bigger, and more and more of the human population has come to live and work in cities, the need for people to take up the challenge of individual responsibility has grown. But as long as most people were still on the land growing food this culture did not dominate the world. Peasants lived as fatalists and the subordinate serfs of lords that provided them "protection" in its full meaning, including the notion of a protection racket. And that was good enough.

Up until about 1850 I think we can understand history as people gradually moving to the city and picking up the culture and the religion of responsibility.

But in 1850 a new world dawns, the epoch of creativity. We are now in a new Great Awakening, the awakening to creativity. So a teacher of creativity might say:
When we began to teach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages... they seemed to see for the first time that they were creative beings, and that a refusal to used the means appointed was nothing less than deplorable.
My takeup of Deirdre McCloskey's Great Enrichment partakes of this. The reason, on McCloskey's account, that per-capita income has risen by 3,000 percent in the last 200 years is innovation, innovation that has not been snuffed out by the powers that be.

So I would say that the cultural superstructure that allows innovation must be both a culture of responsibility, that has been around for the last 3,000 years in the city, and also a culture of creativity, the faith that it is possible to think new thoughts and invent new things and not have the world come to an end.

Hello. It looks like my reductive Three Peoples theory has snuck its nose in the tent again, since we are talking here about three cultures: creativity, responsibility, and subordination.

Now, in my view, this new Age of Innovation has taken us completely by surprise, and we are still trying to figure out what happened. But that also means we are in another Axial Age, in which people will be reinventing the idea of religion, trying to understand the meaning of life, the universe, and everything in light of the new facts on the ground.

Naturally, when people invent a new religion they tend to think only of their own needs and not how other people fit into their view of the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Thus our liberal friends make a big deal of their culture of creativity, including demanding that Christian bakers bake cakes for gay weddings. 

Now, in my view it is great for gays to go out and get all creative about sex and get married and all. But it is grossly un-compassionate of them -- not to mention bigoted -- to demand that everyone bows the knee to their creative views on sex. For one thing, as Schopenhauer pointed out, the successful creator is one in a million. In our modern notion it means that tons of people want to be creative artists, but only a very few have the chops to make it and the luck to get the support of a Peggy Guggenheim.

Here is how I think the new religion of creativity should look. It should be first of all a religion of sacrifice. Creative artists should expect to be failures, and very humble if they get to succeed. Second, it should be a religion of compassion, meaning its believers should be compassionate for people that are not called to be creative, don't understand about creativity, and don't want to be creative.

So if I were designing the syllabus for AP history we would be looking at the past through the lens of my Three Peoples theory, and understanding how radical the new world is, and expecting that most actors in history would be complete idiots, rehearsing the old ways in a world they don't understand. We would, for instance, be very compassionate about liberal educators that don't have a clue. What could we expect? That a million educational lifers would suddenly get wisdom?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

FBI and DOJ: Idiocy or Conspiracy?

Now that the Trump Russia Collusion Narrative is crashing and burning, we are confronted with the Curious Case of the FBI Bonker, Peter Strzok.

Really, it would take a Tom Wolfe to come up with a chap like that. Because in real life you don't get a consummate villain that has done all the evil things in the movie or the novel: the chap that gets Hillary off the hook, uses the Fusion GPS Dossier to spy on the Trump campaign, and traps Gen. Flynn and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. All in one twisted cartoon villain suitable for appearance in a Batman or Superman movie.

And all, it seems, because the guy is an over-the-top Democrat partisan. What a fool, it looks like he has spoiled the Dems' whole game to catch President Trump in some sort of trap and then consign him and his deplorables to Outer Slobbovia.

No really! If you are going to be the Democratic hero of the ages, and trap the whole Trump phenomenon in Pooh's foolproof Trap for Heffalumps, you really need to keep your nose clean and not be tweeting to the girl on the team that you are bonking outside the holy bonds of matrimony.

When you look at the pattern the whole Trump Collusion game it looks like a monstrous conspiracy. It looks as though the Dems all got in a room together and the Democratic Mr. Big handed out assignments.

But I prefer the Idiocy Theory. I prefer to think that these people are swamp creatures that haven't yet advanced to consciousness and rational thought. So they are reacting to the election of Trump on pure instinct, not on rational strategic thought. They are all running around chaotically like Keystone Kops.

And by the way I think that also applies to Hillary Clinton and her operatives. The word seems to be that the Hillary campaign thought up the Russia Collusion narrative on the day after the election. And you can see why.

Want to know why they did it? Because they were ashamed, embarrassed that the smartest guys in the room had lost the election to an amateur with a combover. The Idiots.

So these small men came up with a way to deny that they had been well and truly beaten by Trump and his merry band of Trumpsters. The Idiots.

Hey, We woz robbed! they said. The Idiots.

Hey geniuses. When you are in a game in which, as St. Augustine wrote, the only difference between you golden boys of politics and a criminal gang is that you have "impunity," then you shouldn't be shocked, shocked, that the other guys came up and picked your pockets. You are all in the same game. You Idiots.

But, of course the real story is Hillary Clinton. The job of the defeated candidate, like the job of a defeated general, is to sue for peace. After an election, the job of a defeated candidate is to make a concession speech, that very night, to say that the election is well and truly over, that the other guys won, but we are all Americans before we are political partisans. But Hillary Clinton did not do that. The Idiot.

She is such a weak and foolish person that she let her campaign people cook up the Trump Collusion Narrative.

Just like that other weak and foolish person in 2000, Al Gore, that did not concede the election and riled his supporters up into the Hanging Chads narrative. How did that work out, sports fans?

This all echoes to me with the disaster of World War I. In The Sources of Social Power, Volume III, my lefty pal Michael Mann talks about "militarism," the culture of European leaders of the time that assumed that all international disputes were settled by war. So they imagined that the disputes of the early 20th century could be settled on the battlefield. And then lost their thrones and empires.

Of course, the use of the term "militarism" is problematic, right off. That's because it's a left-wing pejorative, a verbal battering ram that the left uses to devalue and marginalize any narrative except the One and True Lefty Narrative about class and race and gender and liberation and emancipation.

There is a better narrative for World War I. Let's just say that most European rulers in 1914 were dull idiots, playing the only game they knew, utterly oblivious to the fact that the world had changed, and that industrial nation states really did not need to settle their quarrels with military force. Forget that the policy of war was evil or monstrous. It just didn't make any sense.

Fast forward to 2016. Your Al Gores and your Hillary Clintons are playing the left-wing game of "activism." It's the only thing they know. They imagine that the way of the world is to offer their supporters "rights" and "entitlements" using government power to extract moneys from productive individuals and businesses. They are utterly oblivious to the fact that their politics is a creaking anachronism, just as "militarism" was a creaking anachronism a century ago.

Now I don't know if President Trump and his people are greater or lesser Idiots than their Democratic counterparts.

But I do think that the folks in the Democratic Party, from Nancy Pelosi -- who really seems to be exhibiting mild dementia -- to Chuck Schumer to mini-Idiots down in the Deep State like Peter Strzok are Idiots.

I keep getting back to my old pal Charles Dickens, who characterized the government bureaucrats of the mid-19th century as Barnacles and Stiltstockings working at the Circumlocution Office, with the motto "How Not to Do It."

I ask you: has anything changed?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Sightings of Strategery in Trumpland

Everybody knows that Donald Trump is a blowhard idiot -- that nevertheless won the 2016 election by colluding with Russia without, if the current results of special prosecutor Robert Muller tell us anything, leaving a trace.

But I wonder, more and more, who is the Mr. Big hat is directing the strategic operations of the Trump administration.

Whose idea was it to feature an Oval Office photo-op for each annulled regulation? Who was responsible for getting an Acting Director for the revolting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the  door immediately upon the resignation of lefty Richard Cordray? Who is behind the investigation of shenanigans at the FBI and the Justice Department that are just coming to light? Who set up Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt to set upon the Education Department and the Environmental Protection Agency from Day One?

My point is that President Trump himself cannot be responsible for all this. The president just doesn't have that much bandwidth. This whole operation was planned. Somebody set up a bunch of policy people -- probably way back in the campaign, and certainly no later than the transition -- with the mandate to go pedal to the metal and roll back the extremism of the Obama administration.

In recent days I've read accounts of total chaos on the Trump  campaign plane, complete with towering rages from the candidate. No doubt. But that tells us that someone, somewhere, was setting up all this strategery in some quiet place away from the sound and fury of the day-to-day campaign. And I am waiting to hear the first indication of who this someone was.

Just this week is the Trump administration decision to intervene in the question of administrative law judges. This is a case, Lucia v. SEC,
[that] concerns an agency’s decision to allow career bureaucrats to preside as the functional equivalent of judges during enforcement proceedings. These officials, called administrative law judges (ALJs), are hired by career bureaucrats. They are not appointed by the president, a court or an agency head, but they exercise significant authority on behalf of the U.S. government in official proceedings.
It sounds like inside baseball, but Charles Murray wrote a whole book, By the People, about the monstrous injustice -- and enormous power -- of administrative law judges being the judge, jury, and executioner in their own bureaucratic cause. Murray's solution was to encourage US citizens to make life so uncomfortable for the bureaucrats that they would be brought to heel. So this Trump administration action is shocking: it suggests that the Trumpists want to Do Something about the administrative state beyond mere civil disobedience. So I want to know who picked up on this and decided to get the Trump administration backing the anti-ALJ side.

My approach to this is similar to the Kremlin watchers of the Cold War. You couldn't know what was going on inside the Kremlin, and everything you heard or read was propaganda. But you could try to establish a pattern from Kremlin actions.

This is what I am trying to do with the Trump administration. We know that the left wants to paint a picture of complete chaos and incompetence. And the Trumpists themselves want to put out the notion of a strong and all-conquering leader. So we Trump watchers are reduced to figuring out what is going on behind the scenes, based on actual Trump administration actions.

All I am saying is that the actions of the Trump administration can't just be the sum total of one impulsive man in the Oval Office. There is evidence, if you like, of a Conspiracy. Some Mr. Big set all this up, with the approval and/or the direction of Candidate Trump, way back in 2016 or even 2015.

And if I were a betting man I would put money on the notion that all the tweeting and insults are also a part of the strategy, an effort to hide the movements of the Trump troops under a smokescreen of diversions and confusion.

And, for me, it is more than coincidence that the Trump administration is executing on a ton of issues that have been developed by the center-right policy institutions over the last couple of decades.

Friday, December 1, 2017

No, Liberals; The Danger is Not Nazis, It's You

The flap over the Nazi in Ohio, "A Voice of Hate in America's Heartland," has now got to the Weekly Standard.

New York Times reporter Richard Fausset wrote about an ordinary white guy, a welder, in Ohio, who is "the Nazi sympathizer next door." The problem is, according to Andrew Ferguson, that reporter Fausset didn't lay it on thick enough. He didn't excoriate the welder in good round terms, and so, the Times notes, the "article has drawn significant feedback, most of it sharply critical." You see Nazis are bad, bad, bad, and that's all you need to know.

Interestingly, the Times has a photo of the welder's bookshelf, which includes William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Gibbon's History of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, and even The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism, byJohn C. Bogle. So the guy has actually read a book.

Of course my line on Nazis and Nazi sympathizers is that liberals have completely got the wrong end of the stick. The right response to the rise of Nazism and populism in the citizenry is not to "stamp out hate," but should instead be to ask a question: what are we ruling-class types getting wrong?

Nazism in Germany didn't just fall out of the sky on a sunny day. It came after the German ruling class had got Germany into a stupid war that Germany lost. It came after a ruinous inflation that wiped out all the mom-and-pop savers. It came after the French occupation of the Rhineland. It came after the Federal Reserve Board in the US screwed up its lender-of-last-resort role after the 1929 Crash on Wall Street.

Do you see the golden thread linking all these events? No? I will tell you. The golden thread is: stupid incompetent governing elites.

Now when your ruling class is screwing you over, you have two options. One is to do nothing and hope that the elite finally gets its stuff together. The other thing is to do something about it, and follow a leader that promises to Do Something About It.

Generally, a leader that promises to Do Something About It will go back to what worked in the past. That is why Hitler promised to return Germany to a culture of Blood and Soil: Teutonic tribalism and land for the tiller.

Of course, his policy was absolute rubbish for Germany, which had quickly become in the late 19th century the most advanced industrial country in Europe, from its manufacturing to its chemical industry to its physics revolution. But what did the people know? The people know nothing; they only know that things can't go on like this.

Well, the Germans put their faith in Adolf Hitler and he promptly made things worse, by losing the biggest war in history that ended in the total occupation of Germany by foreign powers and the rape of every German woman east of the Elbe.

But hey! This is America! Why should white welders in Ohio be rallying to the racist banner? Don't they realize that they are the residual legatees of a thousand years of white privilege?

It's a funny thing, but people don't tend to obsess over the wonderful advantages they have had in life. The Ben Steins are few and far between. What gets most people up in the morning is their rage at all the injustice in the world, particularly the injustice that hurts them as individuals and as a group.

The fact is that, for the last century, our liberal friends have been playing a pretty dangerous -- and I would say evil -- political game. They encouraged the lower orders to combine and to fight for privileges. First they led the working class to fight for special privileges in the workplace, including the right to strike and bargain for above-market wages and benefits. Then they led women and minorities to fight for special privileges in the workplace, including targeted hiring and promotion on the basis of race and gender.

Of course, our liberal friends think that this is all wonderful and advanced and a fight against hate and injustice. But they do not stop to ask how the folks on the receiving end of these privileges might think. What about the business owners, and stockholders and bondholders and customers of the unionized corporations? Well, there weren't too many of them, so the movement to privilege workers went full steam ahead until, in the 1970s it ran out of gas as upstart companies across the world started to compete with the privileged workers of America, and the good times stopped rolling.

At exactly the same time our ruling class started enacting policy to favor women and minorities over the white working class right across the economy, in particular in government jobs like police and firefighting.

And you want to act surprised and outraged that the victims of this policy are pissed off?

We conservatives like to complain about the "liberal bubble," especially the bubble that NPR listeners and New York Times readers live in. Of course everyone lives in a bubble; we all talk with people like us, and we all tend to agree with each other and agree that the "other" is ignorant or worse.

But when you are the ruling class you really need to get out more, and you really need to remember that all your ruling-class talking points are nothing more that bubba-bait. It might be for the white bubbas in Ohio. Or it might be for the brother bubbas in the 'hood, or the sister bubbas in the Gender Studies department. No matter; it is all bubba-bait.

Above all, a ruling class needs to remember that politics is division, and that everything a politician does is to seduce one set of voters with happy talk while demonizing another set of voters as haters and bigots. For half a century, Democratic politicians have been appealing to their supporters in terms of race or sex. Their voters are all helpless victims of injustice either because of race or because of "gender."

Well, what about the folks on the receiving end of this politics, specifically the white working class welder in Ohio? What is he supposed to think? Hey, it wasn't but 50 years ago that this guy's father was being told how the working class was being horribly treated by corporations and "the rich."  Now, all of a sudden, he is the problem because of generations of white privilege?

Don't you think, dear liberals, that your average white working-class welder might start moving towards people that told him that he was the victim, not the minorities and women presently beloved by the ruling class? And who is to tell him that he is wrong? After all, the US government does put its finger on the scale in favor of women and minorities, not to mention illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities.

Look, I get it. People believe what they believe, and reality and science and justice have nothing to do with it. Our liberal friends really believe in all the horse-pucky they have been taught about racism, sexism, homophobia, hate, and xenophobia.

That is why I have developed my catchphrase: "There is no such thing as justice, only injustice."

Oh, there may be some world of perfect justice, probably in another world. But in the here and now, every government action is force. And people on the receiving end of force tend to think  of it as injustice. Or worse.

And if you are the ruling class you better know enough to see through all the bubba-bait you put out in  order to catch bubbas and win elections.