Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Liberals! Don't Push Yourselves Off the Cliff!

Conservatives and Republicans, whatever our faults, can point to two decisive domestic policies of the last 30 years that really made a difference. The first was supply-side economics. The second was "broken-window" policing. The first policy ushered in the Reagan Revolution and ignited a twenty year economic boom from 1980 to 2000. The second made New York City livable and cut the murder rates in the Big Apple by over 50 percent.

But liberals seem to have forgotten the lessons of the past. No doubt that is why Republicans are surging to political power everywhere in America except the two left coasts. Here is a lifeline to my liberal friends before they push themselves off the cliff.

Supply-side economics is why Bill Clinton ran as a "new" Democrat to split the difference between the Sixties Left and the Reagan Right. When he betrayed his promise and raised taxes and pushed HillaryCare he got himself a Republican Congress in the 1994 midterms. In 1996 he passed welfare reform in order to win reelection and prove he'd learned his lesson.

"Broken-window" policing was an idea advanced by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in 1982. It was implemented in Boston and New York by Bill Bratton, famously while Rudy Guiliani was mayor of New York City in the 1990s. The idea was to pin-point high crime areas and harass young men that committed minor crimes of vandalism, thus sending a message to the street that disorder would not be tolerated. It was a counter-strategy to the "police brutality" politics of the Sixties and 1970s; police had responded by retreating from the streets and career trouble, and letting crime rage unabated.

If liberals were smart and if they truly believed in science they would have read, learned, and inwardly digested the theory and the evidence. But they didn't, and you can see that by reading the Wikipedia links above. They equivocate; they dance and jive. So if you are a genuine NPR/NYT liberal you don't pay no nevermind to the lessons of supply-side economics and broken-window policing.

But there is a penalty for ignoring reality; you get punched upside the head. The Clinton generation of Dem politicians knew that they had to pay their respects to supply-side economics and pretend they supported the cops even if they didn't believe a word of it. They had to pretend because the "stupid" voters believed it. But then a generation of liberals grew up that knew not Reagan. Call it the Vox generation, after young Ezra Klein's website. They went to college and got their economics straight from Keynes and their politics straight from the left, and so they never got taught that Keynes and cop-baiting was poison for Democrats, quite apart from the fact that they were poison for the economy and for society.

So let's rehearse for our lefty friends why they must take their supply-side and broken-windows medicine if they want to resume the aborted drive for a new Democratic majority. Look, I get that leftist politics is all about benefits and justice for the poor. But you don't get to do it unless you have the economy working and the streets safe.

So let's do the elevator story on economics that every liberal should know.

Supply-side economics The basic thing to grasp is that Keynesian economics is like a relief pitcher for government. It's a get-out-of-a-jam dodge. It says, in the middle of a financial crisis: oh gosh, we can't reduce government benefits while people are unemployed; we can't let our favored corporate friends go bankrupt. So we must keep spending and we must print money. Unfortunately that doesn't get the economy back on track. Supply-side economics says: yes, you must bail out the banks to prevent a credit collapse, but then it's back to hard money. Yes, you don't want the unemployed rioting in the streets, but the way to stimulate the economy is by cleaning out crony subsidies and regulations and taxes and lowering the marginal tax rates on work and investing.

Here's the elevator story on broken-windows policing that every liberal should know.

Broken-windows policing The basic problem of every city since the Industrial Revolution is that you get a strategic concentration of young lower-class males with few skills that tend towards the instincts of all young men down the ages: the dawn raid. Starting in the 1830s with the London Metropolitan Police the response of the middle class to the criminal gang activity of young lower-class urban males has been vigorous policing. The job of British "bobbies" and America "cops" has been to get in the faces of the young thugs and say, like Dirty Harry, Go ahead, make my day. When the cops do this the young thugs retreat and the city becomes safe. When they don't, as in New York City in the 1970s, the young thugs rampage around and make life hell for the poor.

Let us turn to Karl Marx and my copy of The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. He begins:
Hegel says somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
He means, I assume, that if we don't learn our lesson the first time around, we will be forced to learn it the second time, only this time in the corner wearing a dunce cap.

Supply-side economics was a response to the tragedy of economic "stagflation" in the 1970s. The Keynesians said that they had figured out the business cycle and how to avoid economic reverses. The 1970s proved them wrong, and supply-side economics proved that there was another way, and it worked.

Broken-windows policing was a response to the anti-police politics of the Marcuse Left in the 1960s and the crime wave that followed in the 1970s. It said that, whatever the "root cause" of poverty, there is no alternative to aggressive policing right in the faces of the young lower-class thugs. When implemented in Boston, in New York, in Los Angeles, broken-windows policing worked.

So come on liberals. Stop the madness while you still can. Go with the settled science and stop being deniers about supply-side economics and broken-windows policing.

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