Friday, April 29, 2016

Who Is Conning Whom?

Paul Krugman has a typically annoying piece today on the "Wrath of the Conned," specifically the GOP conned.
Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-and-switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.
While the Dems gave 20 million of their faithful Obamacare, Republicans just toyed with the base.
Their party has historically won elections by appealing to racial enmity and cultural anxiety, but its actual policy agenda is dedicated to serving the interests of the 1 percent, above all through tax cuts for the rich — which even Republican voters don’t support, while they truly loathe elite ideas like privatizing Social Security and Medicare.
Which raises the question, what do those "aggrieved white men" that the GOP strokes with "racial enmity and cultural anxiety" really want?

Well, you tell me. What does the broad middle class of married people with children, who obey the law, go to work, and follow the rules, want from government?

Well, they want to Make America Great Again. They want to feel that the government honors them, and doesn't make it hard to get a job, get a home, raise their children, and doesn't bully them and hector them all the time. And when they have spent a working lifetime paying taxes they feel they have earned their Social Security and Medicare benefits.

The truth is that the GOP has monumentally failed to do this for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that the GOP is the Outer party and doesn't control the culture. And followed by the fact that the GOP went down a rat-hole in Iraq after 9/11, and let the housing bubble pop on their watch.

But what about those "aggrieved white men" and their "racial enmity and cultural anxiety?" Well, I'd say that the GOP has been pretty embarrassed by aggrieved white men over the years. That's why Donald Trump has run the tables in the GOP primaries thus far. The Democrats have been running down white males for 50 years, and nobody until Trump stood up for them. The GOP has been frozen in the headlights by race for 50 years, and utterly discombobulated by the LGBT rights movement and the general left-wing "activism" culture. The GOP faithful know there is something wrong with this, but their party leaders have been unable to draw a line against the race politics of quotas and diversity, and unable to defend ordinary bourgeois marriage-and-children culture against the anti-cisnormative brigade.

So I'd say that the wrath of the GOP voters is not so much the wrath of the conned as the wrath of the badly-led. The job of GOP leaders and their cultural supporters is to promote and defend the culture of the People of the Responsible Self and they have done a pretty bad job of it. The reason for the failure is that conservative cultural and political leaders have been playing the game according to the rules set by liberals, in which, e.g., the racist Al Sharpton is invited to the White House while Republicans are racist for not excoriating David Duke and the KKK on demand. Obviously nothing is going to happen until the GOP grows a pair and kicks over the liberal chessboard and says: we ain't gonna play that game any more, pal.

The other wrath on display is the wrath of the abandoned. We may say that the GOP faithful are badly led, but the white working class that is rallying to Donald Trump was once the Democratic faithful that the liberal elite led, only too well, into the New Deal and powerful unions and payroll-tax-fed retirement benefits. It worked beautifully, and the Dems led the working class from victory to victory for years and years.

But then the Democratic leaders dropped their working class supporters off by the side of the road and recruited a new political army of minorities and women. Now the abandoned are rising up, and -- surprise  surprise -- they are rallying to the Republican Party.

Lots of people still don't realize that the New Deal and the Great Society were all a big con, buying peoples' votes with their own money. But the marks instinctively feel that something is wrong and they are finally revolting.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Free Trade and the American People: It's the Science, Donald

Everyone is against free trade, except an occasional economist, and you can see why. Free trade, in domestic affairs or foreign affairs, means that everyone surrenders to the market, and does not try to use force to alter the verdict of the market.

So when Donald Trump announces that
The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony. I am skeptical of international unions that tie us up and bring America down, and will never enter America into any agreement that reduces our ability to control our own affairs.
That sounds good, because it is dealing in power, which is what politics is all about. But then there is this:
NAFTA, as an example, has been a total disaster for the U.S. and has emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs. Never again. Only the reverse will happen. We will keep our jobs and bring in new ones. Their will be consequences for companies that leave the U.S. only to exploit it later.
Well, no president can promise to "keep our jobs and bring in new ones." Why? Because capitalism is innovation, it is a constant process of creative destruction of old jobs and their replacement with new ones. Put it this way. First the jobs in the candle industry were demolished when the candle industry was replaced by the illuminating oil lamp industry. Then the jobs in the lamp industry were destroyed by the electric lamp industry. Then the government decided to destroy all the jobs in the incandescent lamp industry and replace them with the CFL lamp industry. And now it looks like the CFL lamp and its mercury poision is going the way of the buggy industry to be replaced with the LED lamp industry.

The point is that nobody can promise to "keep jobs." In fact, I would suggest that anyone that uses government power to "keep jobs" is probably destroying a lot more jobs that he keeps. Because the kind of jobs that get kept are usually the jobs of politically powerful interest groups, such as union jobs or Florida sugar plantation jobs.
Under a Trump Administration, no American citizen will ever again feel that their needs come second to the citizens of foreign countries.
Well, I'm all in favor of that.

The question is: what can the government actually do to deliver on the promise to make the needs of America come before the needs of foreigners?

I'd say that the first thing to do is to get the government out of crony capitalism and "saving" jobs. Then, I'd say that it would be a good thing to limit unemployment benefits and welfare so that people cannot molder away for years in a town where the industrial plant left and the jobs with it. It is a lie to say that "good jobs at good wages" can last a lifetime.  Good jobs last as long as a product or an industry lasts. And then they are gone. That is the way of capitalism, or "innovism" as Deirdre McCloskey calls it. The basis of our prosperity is that, time and time again, the old ways have been disrupted and replaced with new ways that have radically improved our standard of living. But not for the folks displaced by the new ways.

So what do we do for the folks displaced by the new ways?

First, I'd say that we have to propagate a new national meme: no job is forever. There are no guaranteed jobs, no guaranteed pensions, no guaranteed anything. When things turn south, as they do in any life, then we have to get on our bikes, or get in our U-Hauls, and go find another job in another city.

Second, let's stop blaming foreigners. The reason we are losing jobs to China and India is that China and India finally got a clue and started going capitalist. So, just like Britain 200 years ago, and the US 140 years ago, people are coming off the farms and working for low wages, starting with simple assembly jobs. Your fancy iPhone costing hundreds of dollars was made in China. But Apple's for the 1%, not for the likes of me. My modest Motorola Moto G 2nd Gen cost $100. Also made in China. It is just not possible to make iPhones for a few hundred dollars a copy in the US at US wages. And for the rest of us, those outside the magic circle of iPhones, what about our $100 knockoffs?

Third, let's not pretend that government can help. The question is not whether free trade works or whether the US is being taken for a ride by foreigners. The question is rather whether government could possibly help, or more likely, screw things up. A lot of the things that government does screws things up. That's because force is very rarely the answer to our problems. Social Security? A system of generational injustice. Welfare? Condemns generations to drink and drugs. Education? A disaster for poor Americans. Tariffs and regulations? End up benefiting powerful special interests at the expense of ordinary people. Labor unions? Benefit a few aristocrats of labor for a while at the expense of workers in general. Affordable housing? Crashed the global financial system with bad loans at Fannie and Freddie.

The thing about capitalism, or innovism, or "trade-tested betterment" is that we barely understand it, even now. It seems to be based on the paradoxical idea that, in order to prosper in the future, you have to have the courage to step away from the past.

But most of us insist of holding onto the past with a death grip. Until we die.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

But Can Trump Beat Clinton?

My man Steve Sailer took one look at the Trump 5-state sweep of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Delaware, and predicted the Democrats' race-based general election strategy, based on the six states that were closest to flipping in 2012: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, Michigan.
The Democrats are going to go to Florida and Nevada and tell Hispanics that this is Race War: Trump has insulted your illegal alien Mexican compadres and therefore has insulted Florida’s Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Hispanic Miscellaneous, who must stand shoulder to shoulder with Mexican illegal aliens and tell the White Man (i.e., Donald Trump) where he can put it. Similarly, Nevada’s Filipinos will be told over and over by Hillary’s people that they are Honorary Hispanics and Official Nonwhites.
The thing is that if the election is conducted upon such lines then Trump is just the candidate to counter it. The point is that for 50 years Republicans have been terrified, not just of touching the Third Rail of Social Security, but the radioactive Kryponite of race.

I say that Trump is the only guy with the cojones to appeal directly for black and Hispanic votes and accuse Hillary Clinton of racism and worse when her minions gin up the Race War.

This sort of fish-market behavior is tough for regular Republicans to do, because we are all socialized to be good bourgeois responsibles. The whole point of middle-class morality, the bane of Alfred Doolittle, is to get outside your tribe, get along with strangers and not insult them.

But politics is war by other means. And as long as the race card works Democrats are going to play it. They will play the race card until one day some brash guy Trumps it.

Can Donald Trump do it? Nobody knows. But if anyone can do it, he can.

Let us rehearse what Trump has done this election season. He has revived the white working class and brought it in from the political wilderness where it had been left to die -- and is in fact dying of drink and drugs and despair -- by a Democratic Party that had graduated from class politics to race and gender politics and a Republican Party that had nothing to say to an abandoned working class.

Obviously the Democrats will be going after Trump hammer and tongs, starting no doubt with the miserable Trump University. The question is: can Trump dominate that battlefield? If he can, he can win; if not we get Hillary Clinton and a 5-4 liberal Supreme Court and a bigger clumsier administrative state.

But there is hope. I expect that African Americans are sadder and wiser after the existential disappointment of Obama. And I dare say that Hispanics and East Asians are a lot less Democratic inclined than they were. After all, if America's First Black President can't bring on the millennium, how can Hillary Clinton be anything but worse?

For those disappointed that 2016 will not see a glorious conservative renaissance, the old saw still applies: Put not your trust in princes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Bigger Task for Conservatism

Powerline contributer Steven Hayward asks today "How Did the Left Get the Drop on Us" after the resounding conservative victory of the Reagan years? His answer is that we conservatives assumed we had won the victory of the big ideas and just needed to work out the details.

And it was easy to argue against socialism and its totalitarianism during the Cold War rather than against the amorphous and contradictory mess of the welfare state.

I would disagree with this line. I have always felt, going back to the Reagan years, that conservatism needed a much broader and deeper foundation than the Reagan revolution provided. I felt that, without a strong moral/cultural movement, the Reagan revolution would lack staying power. Even so, I have been surprised by the ease with which the left has rolled back the culture and economics of the Reagan years.

In retrospect, the success of the revanchist left is not so surprising. Educated people, the ones that write and talk, are all raised in a liberal culture and really know nothing other than the platitudes they learned in their student years and that roll forth from the media and the New York Times and NPR. The average educated person has never encountered "conservative" ideas and has no basis for critiquing, e.g., the politicization of mortgage credit that led to the Crash of 2008 and the conversion of the banking industry into a regulated industry by Dodd-Frank. Nor could they possess the knowledge that an administrative-bureaucratic initiative like Obamacare would be bound to fail, because Hayek.

Also, the collapse of conventional Christian religious belief has left a hole that had to be filled by something. People that don't believe in God don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything.

That is why I have been interested in books like Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform by William G. McLoughlin, who argues that every period of political reform in the United States has been preceded by a religious revival or Awakening. That is why my bible is The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism by Michael Novak, which argues for what I call a Greater Separation of Powers between the political sector, the economic sector, and the moral/cultural sector of society. That is why I believe in the late Andrew Breitbart's dictum that politics is downstream from culture.

That is why I have written my American Manifesto, to imagine the possibility of an America after the collapse of the welfare state.

But what I have not been able to imagine is a religious movement to counter the secular religion of political correctness that has rolled over America and the west since the end of the Reagan years. We all know what political correctness is about; it is a reformulation of the totalitarian culture of Marxism based on race, sex, and economic identity rather than the pure economic class conflict of the original Marxian program. It uses all the tools of religion, from the building of an orthodoxy of correct opinion to the hounding of heretics with its Social Justice Warrior Inquisition; it is religion in everyting but name.

I have analyzed society into three parts, with my Three Peoples theory, and I have posted a dire warning to all those that trade their birthrights for a mess of pottage as the "little darlings" of the ruling class. But what I do not see is the moral/cultural or religious awakening that could challenge the PC culture and then move into a great reform era to end the cruelty and injustice of Big Government.

Obviously the Trump phenomenon in the US and the rise of nationalist parties in Europe reflect the bankruptcy of our current transnational ruling class with its foolish conceit that it can rule without the political advice and consent of ordinary people and can mix the world's peoples together and remain in control of the ensuing cultural mashup. But this neo-nationalist movement seems to be political rather than cultural, so it ignores the Breitbart dictum that politics is downstream from culture. Indeed, all observers agree that the Trump phenomenon is populist, a mere rebellion of the people against the ruling class, rather than a revolution in thinking.

Possibly the moral/cultural movment is already aborning, and staring us in the face, and we cannot see it because we are blind to it, being old and set in our ways.

And probably nothing will change until the present ruling class runs out of other peoples' money. After all, the French Revolution could never have happened without the Bourbons running out of money to fight against the Brits in the Second Hundred Years War. And the Bolshevik Revolution would never have happened without the Romanovs running out of money in World War I. And the Reagan revolution could never have happened without the stagflation of the Carter years.

But who can wish for revolution? It is grand to imagine the humiliation of today's rulers, but not to experience the reality of revolution and armed teenagers in the streets.

So there is no alternative to plugging away, trying to imagine a cultural and moral and religious awakening that will inspire the American people to reject the soft totalitarianism of Obamism and the conceits of left-wing activism.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Three Peoples: What the Better People Owe to the Other People

A great theme of the 19th century was to persuade the bourgeoisie to care about the working class. In Marx, of course, this theme extended to revolution: the bourgeoisie would be made to care with the help of a revolutionary avant-garde cadre and the working class as a magnificent revolutionary army.

But the broader culture centered on helping the working class with beneficial legislation in the form of the right to vote, wage-and-hour laws, social insurance, elimination of child labor and funding of child education. To fund this, the bourgeoisie agreed to be taxed. It wasn't just practical; it was experienced as the right thing to do.

In my reductive Three Peoples theory, this means that the People of the Responsible Self agree that they ought to help the People of the Subordinate Self. The reason to do this would be partly because it is the right and responsible thing to do, and partly because it keeps the working class out of the street where they might harm the middle class. But also it involves a recognition of the Other. We People of the Responsible Self may want a society that honors and rewards people that go to work, obey the law, and follow the rules, but we accept that other people do not think as we do. The People of the Subordinate Self look to a powerful patron, economic or political, for protection, and they have a right to do so. It is, after all, the only way to live, as far as they know.

Enough of what the People of the Responsible Self and what they owe to the People of the Subordinate Self. What about the People of the Creative Self?  What should they owe to the People of the Responsible Self? Should they treat the People of the Responsible Self in the avuncular way that they expect the People of the Responsible Self to act towards the People of the Subordinate Self? Or should they regard the People of the Responsible Self as racists, sexists, homophobes, and general all-round religious bigots that should be made to care about the much superior culture of the People of the Creative Self?

The answer of the People of the Creative Self make to this question is unequivocal. The creative people are the bosses and the People of the Responsible Self had better kow-tow to the creative gods or the creative people will know the reason why. This started, on the view of Deirdre McCloskey in her Bourgeois Equality, no later than 1848 when the "clerisy" came out for nationalism, socialism, labor-unions, and economic regulation as a four-front war against the bourgeoisie and everything it stood for.

Of course, while the People of the Responsible Self are to bow the knee to their betters in the creative class and follow every latest rule promulgated by the executive committee of the People of the Creative Self or else, the People of the Creative Self can have no restriction on their behavior and life projects. Because creativity.

I was reminded of this an an excellent show at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Mashup: The Birth of Modern Culture. It is a celebration of creativity for creativity's sake, "documenting the emergence and evolution of a mode of creativity that has grown to become the dominant form of cultural production in the early 21st century." All the great artists of the last 100 years are celebrated above all for their creativity and their breaking down of barriers to artistic freedom.

A central part of the creative culture has been to épater la bourgeoisie by sneering and trashing the bourgeoisie and its responsibility culture.

I'm here to say that this is wrong. I hold that the immortal words of the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell at the turn of the 20th century still apply: Do anything you want, but don't frighten the horses in the street.

Of course in those days the advice was practical rather than moral. The creative culture was still strictly elite and small; it needed to be careful lest its creative freedom unleashed a backlash against the culture of creativity.

The measure of a man is made not when he behaves because he is afraid of getting caught. It is when he has the power to crush and humiliate others and enjoy the lamentation of their women, and he stays the coup de mort.

I am here to say that it is cruel and unjust for today's cultural elite to force their culture on the ordinary middle class of Bible-believing middle-class Christians and ordinary middle-class businessmen. I take this attitude from the work of new-age philosopher Ken Wilber. His central idea is a developmental model of human consciousness taken from the developmental psychologists.

But he issues a caution to enthusiasts. When you construct a multi-level consciousness system you become aware that the people that live in the higher levels tend to look down on the lower orders as fools and bigots. The people in the lower levels tend to think of the people in the upper levels as mad and bad. It is a recipe for discord and chaos.

You can see that there is only one way to avoid chaos and violence. The people in the upper levels need to put themselves in the place of the Other and recognize that the Other will never understand them. So it makes sense to act with compassion towards those less evolved and educated than oneself. And it is also right to take Mrs. Patrick Campbell's advice and not frighten the horses in the street.

Unfortunately I do not think that our liberal friends, the People of the Creative Self, have the wisdom or the compassion to see this truth and act upon it. Certainly in the Obama years they are engaged in a full-frontal offensive against the People of the Responsible Self, humiliating them, and driving them from the public square.

This culture of cultural aggression is cruel, it is unjust, and it is wrong. But I do not see any chance of a peace process on the horizon.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The "Liberals are Just Too Smug" Meme

At least some liberals are beginning to get it. Sort of. According to Emmett Rensin in Vox, liberals are just too smug.

The smugness has occurred because, over the last half century, the working class has moved away from liberals and their political organ, the Democratic Party.
Beginning in the middle of the 20th century, the working class, once the core of the coalition, began abandoning the Democratic Party. In 1948, in the immediate wake of the Franklin Roosevelt, 66 percent of manual laborers voted for Democrats, along with 60 percent of farmers. In 1964, it was 55 percent of working-class voters. By 1980, it was 35 percent.
And in the white working class, the decline has been sharper. The result, according to Rensin, is that a "movement once fleshed out in union halls and little magazines shifted into universities and major press, from the center of the country to its cities and elite enclaves."

The result has been the "what happened to Kansas" attitude, the smug assumption in LiberalLand that the poor schmucks don't know what is good for them. For,
It is central to the liberal self-conception that what separates them from reactionaries is a desire to help people, a desire to create a fairer and more just world. Liberals still want, or believe they still want, to make a more perfect union.
 Well, you know what my answer would be to that.

First, to echo Ronald Reagan, the white working class didn't leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left them. In the 1960s liberals decided that they wanted to help create a fairer and more just world for women and minorities, not working people so much. And part of that turning was to marginalize the white working class as racist, sexist bigots like Archie Bunker that didn't deserve that high-mined help of the liberals.

Second is the delicious confirmation of my idea that liberals like to think they are kindly librarians just trying to help people find a book. But liberals do not "help" people by taking them by the hand and leading them to the Promised Land. They propose to help by occupying the commanding heights of culture and government and using force create that fairer and most just world. That's why I never stop rapping out my catchphrases: government is force, politics is violence. It is one thing to help people. It is another thing to slam down your clunking fist and bellow THIS is the way it's going to be. And my belief is that the "help" that liberals gave the working class is a sufficient reason for the working class's troubles today. It is my belief that to thrive in the city you need to become middle-class and bourgeois and accept the idea of personal responsibility. Liberals told workers that they didn't need to change their culture and become middle class; liberals would take care of them. Until they didn't.

Liberals "know" that their issues are dispositive, that "police reform, that abortion rights, that labor unions are important[.]" Period. And the same with gay rights, the environment, transgender bathrooms etc.

But do you know? We have already done all these issues. Police no longer walk around cuffing people. Abortion is here to stay. Labor unions have risen and fallen. Environmentalists are all over our governments. The Supreme Court just imposed gay marriage. Government spends about a third of our national income, and regulates far more.

The problem for liberals is that they have enacted just about everything they ever dreamed of and now they are scraping the bottom of the barrel worrying about the one-tenth of one percent that have gender identification issues.

And I think that a man from Mars would have to say that all these efforts to help people and make a fairer and more just society are a mixed bag. Let's say that, on balance they have improved things.

But that means that thoughtful people would be concerned that many things in the liberal agenda need tidying up, and other things will have turned out to be not such a good idea and ought to be repealed. Maybe the travails of the white working class illustrate the operation of the law of unintended consequences, that piling all those social gains on workers in the first half of the 20th century set them up for a fall in the second half. Maybe, just maybe.

But what do liberals do now, poor things?
The smug style did not arise by accident, and it cannot be abolished with a little self-reproach. So long as liberals cannot find common cause with the larger section of the American working class, they will search for reasons to justify that failure. 
So liberals must mend their ways and find a way to understand the American working class before they can hope to get back to creating a fairer and more just world.

I don't think so. The problem is not what to do about the American working class. Liberals already did it, and the doing was the problem. As I wrote in The American Thinker:
Perhaps the answer is in the great question asked by Frederick Douglass. “What shall be done with the Negro?” And his answer: “Do nothing with us.”

Really, the same could be said for the white working class, that all of a sudden we recognize is in bad shape after a century and a half of doing from the state, with a suicide rate among white working class men only exceeded by the suicide rate among Native Americans.

As Douglass said, “Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us.” The doing with the Negro was the worst, and still is, but the doing with the worker has come a close second. First the worker had to be exempted from the law against combinations, then protected from the exploitation of long work days. Then the worker had to be protected from want with government social insurance instead of his own mutual-aid society. The result was inevitable. The working class came to expect that the ruling class would look after it with good jobs and good wages forever.
Now the ruling class smugly reckons that the working class is just a bunch of bigots and bitter clingers. So Emmett Rensin wants American liberals to recover their empathy for the working class so they can play the mischief with them all over again.

The problem is not that American liberals are too smug. The problem is the things they know that aren't so.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Nationalism, Socialism, Regulation, and One Candidate for Each

I just got my Bourgeois Era, Vol 3, Deirdre Nansen McCloskey's Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. And what do I read on the second page of the "Exordium?"
For reasons I do not entirely understand, the clerisy after 1848 turned towards nationalism and socialism... and proliferating regulation for imagined but not factually documented imperfections in the market[.]
What do you think I thought about that?

I thought that today in America we have one presidential candidate for nationalism, Donald Trump. We have one presidential candidate for socialism, Bernie Sanders. And we have one presidential candidate for regulation, Hillary Clinton.

So we have one candidate for each of the reactionary movements that arose in the 19th century to battle against "capitalism."

And who is the one candidate that stands for the bourgeoisie and freedom and God, against all that horrible reaction? Why, the much maligned Ted Cruz, that everyone hates. (Actually, it turns out that Ted made a lifelong friend in college. A black guy from Jamaica, David Panton)

But let's get back to nationalism, socialism, and regulation.

The reason that people hate capitalism so much is that it gives them no place to hide. If your skill starts to decline in value, partly because people in another country can do what you do for less, capitalism tells you to get back out there, train for something else. If you find yourself in adulthood with a wasted government education and you can't even get a job dismembering chickens alongside illegal Mexicans, then capitalism says find a job, any job, at any wage, and learn by doing. If prices shoot up because of a war or a government stupidity and you want the government to control those evil CEOs, capitalism says, get a clue: No government can outsmart the market.

So when Donald Trump says that he will make America great by whacking on foreigners, it seems to offer a way out of competing mano a mano with the rest of the world.

So when Bernie Sanders proposes to hammer the banks and give hard-pressed millennials free college and health care, it seems to offer a way to fight back against the demoralizing reality that the market demands you shape up to it.

So when Hillary Clinton... well, I'm not sure what Hillary Clinton stands for, except that she is a ruling class elitist that proposes that people like her make all the decisions for us. Only we know that the elite educated bureaucrat in Washington DC cannot know what millions of producers and consumers know from the signals of the price system. Settled science.

But why are all these people rebelling against the will of the market? It is because, I think, the natural and instinctive thing to do when the world turns against you is to lash out. See, the point is that if you are a hunter-gatherer and you are all out of food because of weather and animal migration, the sensible thing to do is to raid the neighboring village and steal their food. If you are a farmer and your harvest got destroyed in a hailstorm, then the practical thing to do is go to your lord of the manor, place your hands in his, and enter into slavery and three meals a day. If you are a corporation and your market just dried up because the boss's son screwed the business up, then the sensible thing to do is to go bribe a politician in return for a spot of beneficial regulation from the Clinton Crime Syndicate.

So, of course when capitalism fairly got started in the 19th century reactionary movements of opposition sprouted out of the ground. Capitalism, exchange economy, free market, whatever its name it is a wrenching change from the old ways. And even without the periodic messes from government stupidity, there are always people experiencing decline because capitalism has invented something new that has made their skill obsolete or at least less valuable.

And so we have presidential candidates bidding for the support of the disappointed ones. Some people seek shelter in the nation. Some seek shelter in the collective under some great lord. Some seek shelter in government manipulation of the market. And hey presto, there is a candidate for each reaction, for each lunge for the sweet use of force.

Because when peaceful cooperation fails to deliver the goods, humans instinctively resort to force.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Whys and the Wherefores of the Factory System

If you are like me your understanding of the factory system that started up with the Industrial Revolution is a mish-mash of history and Marxist revisionism. Yes, the factory system was efficient, but it achieved its efficiency by exploiting the workers. Yes it produced cheap products, but it threw artisans out of work, "de-skilling" the work environment so it could pay workers less. And, of course, it replaced production for use with production for profit, replacing use value with exchange value.

But now I've read Joel Mokyr's review of the factory system in The Gifts of Minerva, and I find I'm not quite sure what he argues. So I figured I better write a blog post and get the whole thing clear in my mind.

Big picture: The industrial revolution was not a finance thing, of capitalists accumulating and profiting. It was a knowledge revolution, an interaction of "propositional knowledge" with "prescriptive knowledge." Some people invent a machine or a technique; the next question is: how or why does it work? Then there is a theory like Newton's mechanics. How can it be exploited into useful products? When you have a world of constantly expanding knowledge and constantly improving technique, people have to get together to compare notes and transfer knowledge.

Now the British economy at the time of the industrial revolution was typically a domestic economy. People usually worked at home. The stereotypical process at the time was the textile "putting-out" system, where entrepreneurs supplied cottagers with machines and materials and paid piece-rates on finished products.

Why then did entrepreneurs change the system to a factory system, where workers had to commute to work and get paid hourly wages instead of work at home and get paid piece rates? You'll be shocked to learn that it wasn't so that they could extract more socially necessary labor and convert use value into exchange value. No, the reason was practical and prosaic. Mokyr comes up with four main drivers towards the factory system.

Fixed costs and scale economies. Many of the new technologies could not work at the scale of a domestic cottage. Many of them represented fixed costs, and the employer had an interest in supervising the workers and maximizing the machine utilization.

Information costs and incentives. Piece-rates incentivize the worker to maximize quantity. But suppose consumers are more concerned about quality? Then the employer will also focus on product quality. Then he will want to bring the work in-house and pay the worker a time wage so he can specify exactly the process to be used and inspect the quality of the product. Also, in a complicated production process it is difficult to "disentangle" the value of the individual contributions of workers. In addition, the new processes required more "team production," such as the continuous flow, or assembly-line production system.

Labor effort. The Marxians argue that putting labor in a factory makes it easier to get workers to work longer hours and increase profits. Alternatively Gregory Clark argues that the factory helps get more effort from workers lacking self-control. There is, of course, an economy of scale in supervising workers at a central location rather than running around visiting their cottages.

Division of knowledge. Mokyr argues that the new factories required a lot of specialized knowledge. How to build them, how to fix them, how to improve the process. "[A]fter 1760, efficient production required more knowledge than a single household could possess." Here we have an interesting counterpoint to the Marxist "de-skilling" argument. The new processes required specialized knowledge. The machine operator or line worker may have needed less skill than the old domestic artisan worker, but could not thrive unless backed up by mechanics, process experts, and specialized knowledge that were constantly adapting to new propositional and prescriptive knowledge.

So let Joel Mokyr sum up:
[A]s long as the minimum competence requirement is small, plants can be small and coincide with households with all the associated advantages; when it expands it will require either a sophisticated and efficient network for the distribution of knowledge or a different setup of the unit of production... Factories thus served as repositories for technical knowledge and vastly reduced access costs to this knowledge for individual workers. (p.141)
In addition, of course, the industrial revolution featured "professional associations of mechanics, machinists, engineers, and skilled workers" which provided communications channels for the propagation of knowledge.

Similar arguments are made regarding the creative synergy of artists' colonies, and the concentration of the IT industry in Silicon Valley. The more you can concentrate people together at their work, the more they can talk to each other and exchange ideas and experience.

And, of course, there is the modern argument that, with the Internet and its efficient communication of information, we can all work at home as "telecommuters" and save the significant cost of commuting.

So there you have it. The factory arose because of the need to bring people together to exchange knowledge and information.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Students Were Wrong in 1962, and Wrong Now

Here is a lefty professor, Jonathan Zimmerman, author of Too Hot to Handle: a Global History of Sex Education, chastising modern students for doing the opposite of the kids that issued the Port Huron Statement in 1962.

Back then students wanted to take power away from university administrators; now students want new administrative structures at the university to implement their agenda for them. In 1962,
Students needed to ‘wrest control of the educational process from the administrative bureaucracy’, The Port Huron Statement declared. Otherwise, the empty suits who ran the university would drown its emancipatory potential in a sea of bland rituals and senseless rules.
Now students want more bureaucracy in an already over-bureaucratized university.
[U]nlike their predecessors, these protesters demand more administrative control over university affairs, not less. That’s a childlike position. It’s time for them to take control of their future, instead of waiting for administrators to shape it. 
Well, I'd say that the infantilism starts with the idea that politics is good for anything except destruction. The infantilism of the 1960s was the infantilism of left-wing male activists, who wanted to create a dawn-raid-like chaos that appeals to the young male mind, with rape and pillage to follow.

The infantilism of the 2010s is the infantilism of left-wing female activists, who want a mean-girls naming and shaming of everyone not in the lefty mean-girls clique, and if anyone offends the lefty mean girls they get to go into their lefty safe-space kaffee-klatsch, no boys or townie girls allowed.

It cannot be said often enough: the university, down the centuries, has tended to be a seminary for the training of the ruling class's orthodoxy. When fictional Fred Vincy, son of a businessman in Middlemarch, went to university, it was to become a nice respectable clergyman.

But the Germans had other ideas; they made the university into a regime idea factory that would make the state strong. It was one of the seminal ideas of the last 500 years and it has strengthened the state enormously and covered university professors and administrators in money, power, and the love of beautiful women.

In the US we have adapted the German model to make young scions of the elite into "activists" who will advance the ruling-class agenda while appearing to challenge it.

The Port Huron Kids, in the age of "liberal parents, radical children," dutifully advanced the left-wing cause of their parents into new channels.

The Safe-Space Kids, in the age of diversity and hate speech, are also preparing the battle space for further left-wing advances.

But I argue that all these left-wing movements are tearing society apart. Government is Force; Politics is Violence. The end of government and politics is the silence of the grave and grass growing up in the streets. Yet human society is based on the idea of reducing force and curbing violence.

My old math teacher, Commander Bateman, used to complain that math was easy, just based on four rules. Yet everyone thinks that the complexity of the arts is easy, and the elegance of math is hard. Of course, the Commander was dead wrong. The simple elegance of math is the hardest thing in the world.

The same thing applies to capitalism and politics. All capitalism asks is that we all observe a simple principle. Find something useful, that other people will pay money for, and do it. Easy? Not at all. Grasping its simple elegance is the hardest thing in the world.

The whole effort of politics and government is to short this gentle idea with the mailed fist of force and the hurricane winds of political discord. People will be made to pay for my support and my security, or the lefty students thrilling to the fantasy du jour will know the reason why.

It is scandalous that we the people have not put an end to this madness that threatens our society and the safety of our children and the generations yet unborn.

It is even more scandalous that we have not even begun to fight.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Human Orgasm vs. Human Love

Once is happenstance. That's what Goldfinger told James Bond back in the day.

So it must just be happenstance that I encountered on the same day two articles that spoke about the intersection of love and sex.

First, let's talk about the Death of Rock around 1960 when, Brent L. Smith tells us, the powers that be decided to kill the racial mix and orgiastic combination that was the rapidly metastasizing rock-and-roll scene. They did it with the payola scandal, that ruined the career of disk-jockey Alan Freed. He quotes Bob Dylan:
I was still an aspiring rock n roller. The descendant, if you will, of the first generation of guys who played rock ’n’ roll — who were thrown down. Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis. They played this type of music that was black and white. Extremely incendiary. Your clothes could catch fire. When I first heard Chuck Berry, I didn’t consider that he was black. I thought he was a hillbilly. Little did I know, he was a great poet, too. And there must have been some elitist power that had to get rid of all these guys, to strike down rock ’n’ roll for what it was and what it represented — not least of all being a black-and-white thing.
Then Smith goes on into Norman Mailer descanting about orgasms. So you can see the incendiary mix that rock represented circa 1960. Race and youth and sex. Any ruling class would probably want to put a damper on it. Because the whole point of human society is to control sex, Virginia, so that the men don't kill each other off in sexual competition.

Oh, and so that women can practice love. Because there is another side of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. Women get treated like sex objects.

And that is rather thoughtfully communicated in a piece  by M.D. Aeschliman about Mary Shelley, the creator of Frankenstein, born in 1797. Mary Shelley was the daughter of radical lefty William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft -- of A Vindication of the Rights of Women.
[Mary's] mother was the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, like Godwin an opponent of marriage as “the grave of love,” but who had nevertheless persuaded him to marry her for the sake of their child[.]
In 1816 when Mary wrote Frankenstein she was the mistress of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in the radical circle that included Lord Byron, of whom it was said he was "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." Shelley married Mary in December of 1816 and she had four children by him, of whom one survived. Life was not easy for a woman in those free love circles. One of Mary's children at least died of neglect on Shelley's part as his radical clique bucketed across Europe. Then we have the testimony of Claire Clairmont, only discovered in 1998.
Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, one of Byron’s many lovers and the mother of one of his illegitimate children, accompanied Mary and Shelley on their elopement to Switzerland and subsequently formed part of their household in England, Switzerland, and Italy. As Daisy Hay points out, Claire left an autobiographical manuscript about Byron and Shelley that was discovered only in 1998 in a collection of letters now owned by the New York Public Library. It vindicates Tom Stoppard’s clever but profound insight that “What free love / is free of / is love.” Claire, William Godwin’s stepdaughter, had been part of his London circle, and in her manuscript she looked back on her relations with Shelley, Byron, and their friends, wishing to demonstrate “from actual facts what evil passion free love” caused, “how it abused affections... into a destroying scourge,” and “what victims it immolated.” “The worshippers of free love,” she went on, “not only preyed upon one another, but preyed equally upon their own individual selves” and turned “their existence into a perfect hell.”
Now, I like to say that men are fighters and women are lovers. And my further insight is that the big problem for society is to promote the safe practice of woman's love.

The sexual revolution, which occurred for rich bitches, male and female, at the turn of the 19th century, was experienced by your F. Scott Fitzgeralds in the 1920s and by the ordinary American middle class in about 1960. That is what Brent L. Smith is writing about. Bliss was it in that morn to be alive / To be young was very heaven.

Yeah. Actually, it was great for young men, but not so great for young women, as Claire Clairmont reminds us.

Nor, I think we can say, is it so great for the special snowflakes in college in 2016. Because the rules of the sexual revolution are that sex is free and without consequence. But the rules of the female heart are that love is forever, and that is what the snowflakes are complaining about. They give their bodies to the local yokel in college and then get angry weeks or months later when they come to resent that their love has been tossed aside like a used condom.

Of course young women get. Mary Shelley or Claire Clairmont could have told them that two hundred years ago. But I suspect that the solution is not anything on offer from the left. And that is the real tragedy of the sexual revolution. Because the sexual revolution, especially for women, turns "existence into a perfect hell."

Friday, April 15, 2016

Did Anyone Ask the Poor What Education They Wanted for their Kids?

I was reading a piece from a pro-home-schooling site recently. This particular site is strong on self-directed learning, letting the kids figure out what they are interested in and letting them get on with it: "Having a set curriculum is so last-century."

Which is fine when you are a whip-smart Jewish mom and your kids are smarter than average smart Jewish kids. And it makes sense for the folks I call the People of the Creative Self. That's why education in general has been genuflecting towards the idea of an education in creativity. Our ruling class believes in creativity and so it believes that everyone else should too.

Back in the day the ruling class had different ideas. The French revolutionaries wanted government education that dished the Jesuits. The Prussians in the Napoleonic War wanted government education that raised up soldiers and an economy that could dish the French. The Brits started out opposing the education of the poor. In the US the Boston Brahmins in the 1830s wanted a state education that would cure the Irish of their Catholicism.

But by the end of the 19th century everyone agreed that education should prepare children to be obedient factory workers, and in this they had a point because research shows that it is extremely difficult to socialize post-pubertal men to factory discipline. It takes violence, just like it did in the good old days of the slave plantation. Or, to put it more gently, it takes basic training and drill instructors.

Of course since then the ruling class has decided that its scions that don't want to take their places in the establishment should all be creative artists, and so they have adapted the west's education systems to suit.

A creative education makes sense for the People of the Creative Self. But what about the People of the Responsible Self, the ordinary job-holding middle class? I'd guess that they would be wanting more of the old-time system: start with the three Rs, and then add in other useful arts that will help in the entry to the job market and the graduation to becoming a responsible citizen.

But what about the poor, the folks I call the People of the Subordinate Self? What do they want for their children? Has anyone ever asked them?

The only thing I know about the poor and education is anecdotal. I know about oversubscribed lotteries for slots at places like the Harlem Success Academy. I know about DC Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee getting fired for trying to get the teachers to work harder. I know also that the government schools serving the poor are the worst around.

Seriously. What do the poor want for their children? Do they want a baby-sitting service? Do they want discipline and the basics? Do they want jobs for teachers? Do they want their children to climb up into the middle class? Do they want to keep their kids out of gangs?

When you ask these questions you come to realize that, in the public square, we don't have a clue what the poor want in the education of their children.

And I think that's a shame.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Can We Teach the Corporate Elite Before it is Too Late?

I had always assumed that the US corporate elite were apolitical, and the reason that they slewed liberal was just taking care of business. If you are Warren Buffett with your oil trains you chime in with a call for tax increases because that's how you buy protection from the liberal ruling class.

But now comes David French to tell us, in the wake of Paypal deciding not to invest in North Carolina because the state doesn't like men in women's bathrooms, that the corporate elite is not liberal out of prudence but liberal out of conviction. He writes:
The business world’s turn toward progressivism is the result of peer pressure, not market forces. It reflects the personal values and interests of the corporate world’s liberal elite, not the values and interests of the country as a whole. Apple, Disney, and PayPal fish from the same cultural and academic pond as the elite media and elite universities. When I was at Harvard Law School, my classmates were recruited not just by top law firms but also by top consulting firms and multinational corporations. Very few of them were conservative. Barely any of them were social conservatives.
So it's war.

But before we open hostilities, let me tell you corporate barons how insulated and narrow-minded and bigoted you are for falling in with the left's cultural and religious orthodoxies. Maybe some of you will see the light.

Oh, and if you don't understand that leftism, progressivism, whatever, is a religion, and just as bigoted as the bitter clingers of Obama's report, then I have a bridge to sell you, cheap, because you look like an easy mark.

The central idea I want to get across is that enthusiastic Christianity, fundamentalism, the sawdust trail, whatever you want to call it, is the royal road to the middle class from the victim culture of workers and peasants. Hey, I even wrote a book about it, The Road to the Middle Class. You could start at Chapter 1.

What is the point? The point is that, to succeed in the industrial, capitalist age, people need to lose their age-old submission to fate and the local warrior lord, and take responsibility for their lives. Here is what a commentator said during the Great Awakening in the 18th century when a ton of people in the Anglosphere were doing just that.
When we began first 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 use the means appointed was a damning sin.
Do you see that progressivism is the opposite of this? It says, oh, you poor victimized dears. There is no hope for you in this cruel and unjust world. Just vote for us, the progressives that care for you, and we will right your wrongs and feed you entitlements forever.

How did that work out for the white working class that got good jobs at good wages thanks to progressive legislation that empowered unions? It ended up with the extinction of the unionized corporations and the good jobs at good wages. And the extinction of the white working class in drink and drugs.

I call this "little darlings" syndrome. If you ever sign up to become the little darling of the ruling class you end up like anyone that cuddles up to a sugar daddy. You end up thrown away for something younger and sexier. How do you think it is working out for African Americans, one of the latest little darlings of the liberals? Even Al Sharpton is discouraged after seven years of a black president.

Hey, CEOs, that you be you! If you get in bed with the government, taking its subsidies and it set-asides, it could all end in tears. Do you ever wonder what will happen when it is politically convenient for the government and the ruling class to dump you and loot you?

Yes, but what about gays and trans and women and minorities?

Well, I have developed a reductive theory to 'splain it all so that Lucille Ball's Lucy character could get it. I call it Three Peoples theory.  Here's how it goes.

Throughout most of history, humans have lived as People of the Subordinate Self. They knew that the world was stacked against them unless they became the client of a powerful patron, such as the village Big Man or the lord of the manor. Even the heroes of The Iliad knew that they were merely the playthings of the gods on Mt. Olympus. But then came the Axial Age religions which advanced the idea that gods were predictable lawgivers. Follow the divine law as a responsible individual and you could go to Heaven. Notice that this applies across Hinduism (get reborn as  Brahmin for good behavior) and Judaism and Christianity. As Nicholas Wade writes in The Faith Instinct, it is a really powerful idea to say that, even if bad guys get away with it in this world, don't worry. Because there is no escaping divine justice after death in the next world.

So the people that bought into the new Axial Age religions became People of the Responsible Self, and they tended to live in cities and engage in trade. That makes sense, because when you are in business, you are in the responsibility business. But most people still lived out on the farm, subject to the vagaries of the weather and the local lord.

With the growth of capitalism in the last 500 years, almost everyone has had to come in off the farm and live in the city. This movement has been marked by notable religious revivals. The Reformation, that centered in the commercial Low Countries. The Puritans in 16/17th century England. The Great Awakening at the dawn of the industrial age. Did you know that the Second Great Awakening centered in the "burned-over district" of upstate New York where the cheap transportation of the Erie Canal had suddenly awakened the population from the sleep of ages?

Yes, but that was then, this is now. Well, now we have the People of the Creative Self. We creatives don't just want to be responsible, we want to make a mark with original and creative work. So we celebrate the courage of the rebel, in business, in culture, and in sex. We celebrate this, the People of the Creative Self. But not the rest of America.

And this is my point. If you are a truly advanced and evolved and compassionate person you will recognize that the creative life is not for everyone. Most people still want to live responsibly under rules, or subordinately under powerful patrons. And the laws should reflect this.

Back in the day advanced progressives said that it was cruel to chuck the working class into the capitalist crucible. They ought to be allowed to maintain their authentic working-class culture, and the state ought to honor this. In other words, if People of the Subordinate Self were not ready to enter the capitalist world of the People of the Responsible Self they had a right to stay where they were, and the laws should recognize this right.

But now the People of the Creative Self are saying that if you don't bend the knee to our creative culture that celebrates all kinds of genders and life styles then you are a bigot and we will name and shame you back to the stone age.

I don't think so. And you corporate chieftains had better get evolved and compassionate on this and step out of your Creative People bubble. Because the culture of progressives and their political correctness and their social media naming and shaming of anyone that dissents from the liberal line is narrow, and cruel, and unjust, and flat-out bigoted.

Progressivism celebrates the People of the Creative Self; it patronizes and manipulates the People of the Subordinate Self; and it anathematizes the People of the Responsible Self.

And two wrongs out of three don't make a right.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Silencing the Opposition Means Your Side is in Trouble

A defining characteristic of the Obama era is the widespread adoption of the president's advice to argue with your neighbors and "get in their face." And so on.

Actually, that's fine in an election; an election is a show of force, a contest to see who has the biggest army of voters behind him or Herself. The trouble is that the president continued his robust rhetoric into his presidency, and his supporters have followed his lead.

First we had partisan stimulus, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank bills. Then we had the IRS harassing Tea Party groups. Now we have Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse calling for prosecution of climate change critics using the RICO laws that were designed as a tool to break up organized crime syndicates. And we have state attorneys general going after ExxonMobil for misleading investors and the American people about the dangers of climate change 20 years ago. And they are also going on a fishing expedition after CEI, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. And that's not to mention the harassment of social conservatives that don't want to get with the latest gender-bending fad.

See, whatever the actual issue, whether climate change is the defining issue of our time or just a liberal fantasy, or whether gay and transgender rights are a fundamental human right of just liberal folly, liberals are making a fundamental mistake here.

If you decide to resort to intimidation and punishment-by-process in your issue advocacy, then you are conceding that you are not winning in the court of public opinion. You realize at a gut level that you are losing the argument. You have concluded that only the clunking fist will get the job done. In fact, you are starting a war.

Now our liberal friends insist they are all in favor of peace and justice except for the occasional peaceful protest designed merely to raise public awareness about an issue. In this faith they are probably as delusional as the European colonialists that rationalized that their colonies were beneficial to the backward "natives." What a benefit western traditions of public administration and law were to the people of India!

I have argued this week in the American Thinker that liberals are delusional when they think that their activism is merely a helping hand for the traditionally marginalized. No it isn't. Liberal activism is the power play of the scions of the rich and powerful. Liberal activism is a problem. It tries to turn every issue in America into a political issue, and thus into the moral equivalent of war.

Let us ask our liberal friends what might be the problem of turning every problem in America into a moral equivalent of war. Why, our liberal friend's answer would be immediate if we were talking about the Cold War. The problem is Escalation. Yes. Once you set up conflict between two parties there is always the danger of escalation.

There is also the little problem, as Glen Harlan Reynolds points out, that conspiring to deny Americans their constitutional rights is a crime.

The great problem of the modern age, in my view, is that it has reduced the need for warrior monarchs, warrior marcher lords, and warrior dawn raiders. The logic of the post industrial revolution era is that nearly all things can be resolved by market relationships, based on the profoundly social impulse to make yourself useful to your fellow humans by offering products and services on the global market. The fate of the world need not be decided by feats of arms or even entitlement programs. It can be resolved by peaceful cooperation.

But this is too radical for our hunter-gatherer brains to grasp. And there are plenty of people who want the excitement and the danger of moral war that excitingly verges towards actual war. Thus the liberal activism culture.

If that were the end of the story, there would be no hope for us.

But the saving grace is that power makes you stupid. The whole point of power is to be able to ignore feedback, to silence the opposition and respond with a clunking fist. But clunking fists, like incoming mortar rounds, tend to concentrate the minds of the recipients wonderfully. And when you silence the opposition, and force them to keep their heads down with your mortar rounds, you do not know what they are thinking.

And sooner or later the grateful recipients decide to stop thinking about their problem and decide to do something about it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Here's Why Politicians Always Call for Unity, Dennis Prager

Conservative radio host Dennis Prager is annoyed with politicians that continually call for unity. And then he quotes a bunch of politicians calling for unity, from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama to Donald Trump. That's baloney, he writes.
One would be hard-pressed to name a single free society that was ever united outside of wartime. The only truly united countries are totalitarian states.
But that is exactly the point, the point of government. Wartime.

That's why I hammer away at my catchphrases like Government is Force and Politics is Violence.

When politicians are calling for unity they are calling us to war. They are saying, as they sang in Les Mis,
Will you join in our crusade,
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Politicians are always calling us to war. Of course, in the old days governments actually admitted this. But now, in the age of the welfare state, government is said to be all about peace and justice, but this is a lie. It is a lie that today's ruling class tells itself. Nobody here but us bespectacled librarians.

Government is always saying: enough of the namby-pamby stuff, it is time for force. We must gather together, unite, bury our enmities, and go forth to smite the foe. In the case of health care, the foe is insurance companies and their profits. In the case of race, the foe is white privilege. In the case of the Great Recession, the foe is greedy bankers.

The excellent Reverend Al Sharpton understands all this perfectly with his slogan, No Justice, No Peace. He is brilliantly inverting the do-gooder dream of peace and justice and making it into a war cry.

When you look at all this squarely in the face you realize that we humans have a problem. The people that govern us always get into power with a war cry. And yet we humans are supposed to be social animals who get on by peaceful cooperation. How do we get back to peaceful cooperation when our leaders are always rallying us to unify so we can go off to war?

I don't know the answer to this. The partial answer is that instead of unifying to smash an internal enemy -- which must deal with the contradiction that we are unifying in order to divide -- we unify to smash an external enemy.

Notice that this is what Donald Trump is proposing. He wants us to unify against the Mexicans and against the Chinese and teach them a lesson. He is calling for economic war on the foreigners. Of course he is; he has to be calling for war on something. On the other hand Ted Cruz is calling us to arms to battle the Washington cabal. Hillary Clinton is Fighting For Us, and Bernie is fighting for free stuff for college students.

The next thing for which our politicians will unify us will be the War on Islam.

The problem is that there is no mechanism for undoing the precipitate of force in our own society, the programs to force us to pay for retirement, health care, education, and welfare. All these things could be done without force, but who will dare to start the unwinding of our heritage of force?

In today's America there is nothing that will unify the people like a proposal to reduce the amount of government force in America.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Problem is not "A Drought of Ideas"

Over at the American Interest Walter Russell Mead looks at a failing black college in South Chicago. He blames Democrats for presiding over a corrupt and dysfunctional system, and Republicans for not coming up with alternatives. And then he blames the cognitive elite for "A Drought of Ideas."
Vain and self-aggrandizing politicians deserve a lot of the blame for not trying to tackle the problems sooner, but they are far from being the sole guilty parties. After all, politicians can’t fight for solutions that don’t yet exist. And that there is so little creative thinking about these issues is the fault of think tanks, public intellectuals and academics. It is the cognitive elite that has let the country down.
Well, yes, I suppose. But that ignores the fundamental error of our times that "think tanks, public intellectuals and academics" should be in pole position on the NASCAR Politics 500.

Would we ever worry about the cognitive elite and food, and say that the cognitive elite has let us down on food? Fortunately, think tanks, public intellectuals and academics don't have a lot to say about food production, distribution, and retailing. Otherwise I am sure it would be just as screwed up as health care.

I'd say that the fundamental problem of our times is not the failure of the cognitive elite. The fundamental problem is that something like 35-50 percent of our GDP (used here as a stand-in for the day-to-day activities of Americans) is controlled by government. And government is force. And government cannot learn. And anyone that is getting a government check, from grandma to crony capitalist, will kill rather than give it up.

OK, suppose we throw away all the government programs because government cannot learn, i.e., learn from its mistakes. What then? I think there is still a problem, as was identified by Milton Friedman. He argued that governments always tax up to the limit and spend up to the limit that the society of the time allows. Our 21st century governments have spent the last century and more ramping up spending, on the idea that government can help people. And it has steadily ramped up taxes, on the idea that the rich should pay their fair share.

Now here we are, a century later, and the programs don't really help people. Social Security discourages people from saving; Medicare encourages grandma to make an avocation out of going to the doctor; welfare encourages people to molder away in useless lives instead of getting a job; education is just a jobs program for teachers and administrators that does an OK job educating middle-class students and a dreadful job of educating lower-class students. And as for taxes! Taxeas are a monstrous tangle of subsidies, credits, set-asides and pay-offs. And the taxes on labor make the simple notion of getting a job and getting paid a nightmare for employer and employee.

So I don't think that we can say that the problem is just a drought of ideas. The problem is that the game of taxing and spending has reached its limit. There is no longer any real slack that politicians can use to say: hey kids, how about this free stuff. And the same thing applies to taxes. The obvious new source of taxes is a VAT, but that would go hardest on the middle class and we can't have that.

So nothing will change until things get so bad that people no longer think that they can hold on to their particular government check, and no longer think they can get what they want from government.

It is pretty obvious that things would have to get really bad, as in riots in the streets, before people would agree to giving up their entitlements. The Charlton Heston rule applies. I'll give you my government check when you take it from my cold, dead hands.

But I am still thinking about the bigger question. Is it possible that there could ever be a government that deliberately did not spend everything it could and taxed everything it could? And that means: could there ever be a people that said, I don't want your stinkin' entitlements and I don't want you taxing the stinkin' rich?

Sadly, I don't think that humans are capable of that.

Nevertheless, I do have an idea. My idea is this. Instead of getting entitlements from the government, people would sign up with entitlement patrons. They would pledge themselves to that patron, and the patron would promise to take care of them. But the patron would not have any coercive powers obtained from the government to force the rest of the nation to contribute to the patron and his clients. In other words, people that want it could live under a kind of neo-feudalism, where they shelter under a powerful lord and get his protection. But nobody outside the powerful lord and his patronage network would owe him and his clients a thing.

We already have this, in the the form of big corporations that offer pretty good feudal benefits and protection, and big unions that offer the same. I just want to make sure that these patronage networks cannot plunder the rest of the nation to feed their clients, and right now crony capitalism and labor law allows corporations and unions to plunder the rest of society. But not as much as government.

Obviously, employees of big government could not have any such client rights, because their rights would be supported by state coercion, government force, and that would be wrong.

Could it work? We'll see. All it would take is for government to start failing at delivering its much-loved checks. Then people would have to start finding a new way to shelter under a powerful patron.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Can Ted Cruz Bring US Together?

On the day that my "I Want a President to Teach Liberals a Lesson" got an Instalanche from Ed Driscoll, let's imagine that the opposite is true.

Never mind about teaching lessons: Can Ted Cruz be the candidate to bring us all together?

I think that liberals are going to get a monster lesson in the next decade, like the one they got from Ronald Reagan back in the 1980s. It will be for a host of reasons, from the bankruptcy of the blue state to the rage of the excluded -- not the traditionally marginalized of liberal imagination but the real excluded that liberals have ejected from the public square and we know who we are. The point is that the divisive politics that liberals have pursued for the last 50 years is about to bite back.

All that aside, what we really need in a president is someone to bring us all together again after the astonishingly divisive presidency of Barack Obama. I give President Obama the benefit of the doubt. I believe that he really believes he is making the world a better place with his mean divisiveness. That's what a lifelong marination in liberalism will do to you.

Of course, bringing us together is what George W. Bush was trying to do 16 years ago with his kinder, gentler America, but liberals wouldn't let him. They needed him as Bushitler, and Bushitler he was. Liberals needed to rally their troops for the 2006 midterms and the 2008 election and by golly they did it. Because politics is violence, starting with verbal violence, and politics is division, starting with scapegoats. And the liberal religion is politics.

But is Ted Cruz, the scourge of the Washington cabal, the man to bring us all together?

OK, so Ted Cruz is not exactly the life of the party, but he has shown in his campaign thus far an astonishing capacity for sweating the details. So here goes on a three point plan to bring us all together.

  • There must be a way to reach out to African American church ladies. Ted Cruz is openly Christian, and the church ladies of Charleston, SC, showed their Christian forgiveness after the monstrous act of Dylan Roof shooting up their church and killing their church members.
  • There must be a way to reach out to the striver Hispanics. Never mind about building a wall, all I see is Hispanics working as hard as they can to build a life for themselves and their families here in the good old USA. Yes, the liberal policy of non-enforcement of immigration law is a scandal, but legal Hispanics are our people and we must be sure that they know it.
  • It is time to start making fun of SJWs. Kyle Smith has a piece on retweeting social-media trolls, and he is right. It is time we laughed the SJWs into irrelevancy. The idea is to create the meme that we are all tolerant Americans and that these deadly serious SJW crybullies are nothing but a joke.
But not all of the bring-us-together plan would be sweetness and light.

I think it is time for Americans of good will to wage a war on the left-wing activism culture, because the left-wing activists divide us. Many of our liberal friends think that activism, and its fantasy of speaking truth to power, is the highest that anyone can aspire to. It is, obviously, the liberal equivalent of the Catholic family encouraging a child to find a "vocation" to be a priest or a nun. In other words, liberals see activists as the conscience of the nation. It is time for a president to remind our liberal friends that just as there is a very small divide between madness and genius, so there is very little distance between the conscience of the nation and the scourge of the nation.

Can Ted Cruz do this for America? Nobody knows. But I'll bet a primary victory that he has a team working on something like this. Because if an ordinary mortal like me can think about it, you can be sure that super-genius Ted has been thinking about it for years.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What Makes People Take to the Street

Everybody, by now, realizes that US politics is hitting an inflection point. The Trump phenomenon means that a chunk of GOP voters are saying, Who Cares, let's break the thing. And then on the Democratic side we have Black Lives Matter tearing the place up and the ideological base plumping for Bernie the Socialist over the capa de tutti capi of the Clinton Crime Syndicate.

Well, I've been reading Michael Mann and The Sources of Social Power, Volume 2: The Rise of Classes and Nation-States, 1760-1914. So there. Now Michael Mann is a Brit and his brain is completely clogged by center-left academic syndrome, a fatal disease. So his narrative is all about those poor exploited workers and peasants and how they struggled for political, social, and economic citizenship. He means that they struggled to be accepted as a partner in political, social, and economic power.

Apart from being annoyed by his smirking leftism, I am trying to get the story behind the story of the glorious rise of the glorious working class in the 19th century. Here are my takeaways.
  • When people experience an economic reverse, as artisans impoverished by de-skilling implemented by industrial manufacturing, or peasants ruined by low grain prices, they don't tend to think about what to do to make themselves useful again in the economy, now that the old gig is up. They tend to go to the government for subsidies or credit relief or some such dodge, and if all else fails they take to the streets.
  • The advantage of giving everyone the vote is that it keeps them all in the system. On Mann's finding, workers didn't go for revolution in the long 19th century unless they were excluded from the political system and didn't have a voice in the councils of power.
Now let's return to the present. We have the white working class kicking up a storm, and we have Black Lives Matter kicking up a storm. What is going on here?

Let's introduce another idea. The final convulsion of young men at the end of the world. There is the Ghost Dance movement of the Plains Indians that erupted in the 19th century, centering on the use of magic Ghost Shirts. La Wik:
[P]roper practice of the dance would reunite the living with spirits of the dead, bring the spirits of the dead to fight on their behalf, make the white colonists leave, and bring peace, prosperity, and unity to native peoples throughout the region.
Another 19th century magic cult was the Militia United in Righteousness, known to us as the Boxers, that rose up in China at the turn of the 20th century. The Boxers believed they were invulnerable to western bullets.

Numerous conservative pundits have noted that the white working class has been pushed outside the magic circle of respectability. Their opinions no longer matter in the councils of state. And Barack Obama famously wrote the white working class off in his "bitter clingers" speech to donors in 2008. So the only thing left for the white working class is some kind of a Ghost Dance with Donald Trump, believing that he will make America Great Again. Here is Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.
Middle Americans, as they appear to the makers of educated opinion, are hopelessly shabby, unfashionable, and provincial, ill informed about changes in taste or intellectual trends, addicted to trashy novels of romance and adventure, and stupefied by prolonged exposure to television[.]
The point is that when ruling class liberals say that and they believe it then they are writing a whole segment of America out of polite society; they are giving themselves a license to ignore those Americans and their needs and their grievances. And that means, per Michael Mann, that the only way for Middle Americans to get the attention of the ruling class is to start breaking things.

And as for Black Lives Matter, it cannot have escaped anyone's attention that liberals have encouraged blacks in social dysfunction the better to harvest their votes at election time. Camille Paglia:
I have been disturbed and repelled for decades by the way reproductive rights have become an ideological tool ruthlessly exploited by my own party, the Democrats, to inflame passions, raise money, and drive voting.
OK, so she was talking about abortion. But Democrats do that with race too, to "inflame passions, raise money, and drive voting." And it works.

But you'd think that, over the years, as things don't get better that African Americans would begin to get restless. And maybe their restlessness would tear the Democratic Party apart.

But the basic message from Michael Mann echoes in my mind. If you treat everyone as an equal, with a right to be in the room at the negotiating table, then you can usually stitch up some sort of political deal to keep the peace. You may make a nonsense of economics, and justice, but you will keep everyone in the tent.

But that's not what the modern ruling class has done. Just saying.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Imagine That You Head a University Without a Mises Library

Jay Nordlinger is doing a series of Impromptus here, here, and here, on the classical liberal university in Guatemala City, Francisco Marroquin University. The university has things like the Ludwig von Mises library. The university has also had an effect on the state of Guatemala. Guatemala now is #33 on the Freedom Index.

At the other end of the scale is the modern American safe-space university where student activists are outraged by the Chalkening of Trump 2016 slogans on campus. They feel that the Chalkening is a form of political violence.

(Of course, they are right. On my view politics is violence and so when Trump supporters chalk the campus with Trump slogans they are in fact making a show of force. Just like lefty peaceful protesters.)

The natural reaction of conservatives is to brand the administrators of these special snowflake universities as spineless. So they are, no doubt.

But I think that they are rather trapped by their liberal ideology. If you believe in the current mainstream identity politics then you believe, on principle, that activists organizing peaceful protests on anything must be given the benefit of the doubt as to their sincerity and as the the justice of their cause. After all, nobody with white privilege can really know what it is like to be marginalized and oppressed.

And anyway, I suspect that most academic careerists are rather narrow and limited people. They are good at what they do, attaching to a mentor, getting through a PhD, getting tenure track and impressing the right people on the way to tenure. I doubt if a person with those kind of skills is going to end up as a great academic leader with the chops to defend the principle of open debate and freedom and lead a university through tough times.

I don’t think that your average academic really can see around the corner to the end game of the activist culture. I don’t think they really understands how it leads to SJW mobs, to the bad science of climate change, to the subvention of the university to the power of government and its agenda of force, and ultimately to rebellion and conflict.

We have seen the Trump phenomenon, and how the Trump supporters can explain away anything. You think that campus lefties are any different? Call it group think, or peer pressure, or witch hunt: all humans are social animals and they don’t like to stick out as different. We all, almost all, go along to get along.

Of course, our liberal friends in the ruling class, who never hear a discouraging word about their follies and their corruption, imagine themselves a cut above the average Trumpster. They are educated, you see. Not only that, they have graduated summa cum laude from liberal confirmation preparation classes, and know the liberal catechism by heart.

The problem for liberals is that, educated as they may be in liberal pieties and the rituals of peaceful protest, they do not understand the larger processes of power. That has been the lesson of the Obama administration, which has recklessly pushed the limits of its power and provoked a head of rebellion that has resulted in the most Republican Congress in 70 years and now provoked the Trump phenomenon.

Here is what the Obamis don't understand.

The reason for the rule of law is not to protect private property. It is to provide a process for adjudicating disputes in a way that both sides to the dispute can respect.

The reason for a legislature is to require that changes in government force have a majority support. And according to Buchanan and Tullock in The Calculus of Consent the way that legislative voting systems work is that, to get a majority, the supporters of a legislative proposal have to buy the support of people nominally opposed to the measure.

The reason to have a Supreme Court that does not find rights in the penumbras of the Constitution is that decisions that find new rights in dark corners set up conflict and disunion. As in Roe v. Wade, and maybe in the gay marriage case.

The reason to limit the president’s power to take unilateral executive actions is that unilateral executive actions really make the people on the receiving end angry, because, after all, an executive action is the unilateral power play of the sovereign, done without consultation and compromise.

The reason to limit the scope of government regulation and to maintain a small and limited government is that the regulatory state ends up being springtime for special interests that can influence and corrupt government in a thousand ways without showing up on the media radar.

Notice that I am not talking here about deliberate attempts to nobble the opposition with malice aforethought, like Lois Lerner and the IRS attempt to hinder the operations of Tea Party groups. And I am not talking about the liberal attack on “dark money” or the liberal proposal to criminalize the opposition to their climate-change agenda. And I am not talking about the fact that settled science says that big government cannot work because it cannot compute prices and it does not have the bandwidth of the market and the price system. I am just talking about the divisive effects of unilateral executive actions and the inevitable corruptions of big government regulation.

The reason for all these checks and balances on the use of political power is to soften the clunking fist of government power. It is to present government action as a kind of consensus rather than a brutal cram-down. It is to pretend that everyone is included in the political community and has a right to be consulted and to be heard. It is, in many ways, pure illusion, because force is force, and power is power, but it softens the hard edges of political conflict.

In my view, today’s liberals have forgotten all these timeless nuggets of political wisdom in the rush to implement any and all items of the liberal agenda during the blessed hour of power during the Obama years. But I think that this reckless program of power is a gigantic mistake, and liberals will pay for this mistake big time in the years ahead.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Trump, the Revolted Public's "Objet Trouvé"

What is not to like when people start noticing your book as a key to understanding the times of our Trump. That’s what they have done with Martin Gurri and The Revolt of the Public. OK, so I haven’t read the book, not yet, but the argument seems to be that the people are revolting because they have been promised stuff that hasn’t happened. On Gurri’s blog, he writes:
The American public, like the public everywhere, is engaged in a long migration away from the structures of representative democracy to more sectarian arrangements. In Henri Rosanvallon’s term, the democratic nation has devolved into a “society of distrust.” The reasons, Rosanvallon argues, are deep and structural, but we also have available a simple functional explanation: the perception, not always unjustified, that democratic government has failed to deliver on its promises.
Right now we are merely at the stage where the electorate is eager to punish its rulers.

Now let’s have some more of the same.
The public, I mean to say, cares a lot about outcomes and not so much about the legitimacy of the ballot box or the authority of elected officials. And if the outcomes demanded are a tangle of contradictions that divide the public, the sense of being betrayed and abandoned by “protected classes” is shared across large majorities of mutually hostile persuasions. The landscape in a society of distrust tilts steeply toward repudiation: everyone, at all times, wants to stand against.
To which I would say, no kidding Sherlock! You mean that democratic politics, which is all about politicians making ridiculous promises and conducting civil war by other means and setting neighbor against neighbor to win elections, ends up in a society of distrust in which people fall back into their pre-industrial sects and tribes?

The public “cares a lot about outcomes” as in free stuff? And the public doesn’t much care about where it comes from? Could there be a problem with that?

This shows that my catchphrases about politics is violence and government is force tell you all you need to know. If politicians promise the voters loot and plunder from the exactions of the tax gatherer on the One Percent, then people are going to very quickly revert to the good old hunter-gatherer culture of the dawn raid on the neighboring village for loot and rape and plunder. In that sort of culture you don’t care about the niceties of inter-village Rules for the Conduct of Dawn Raids. What counts is the vision of all the food in the neighboring village and all the nubile young women they have over there wandering around with nothing to do.

Once you start the mission creep beyond the simple notion of government keeping us safe you are setting yourself up for disappointment and the society of distrust.

There is even a problem in the very first promise that government makes: to keep us safe. Nobody can make that promise. There is no such thing as “safe.” There is only life and its uncertainties and its ups and downs. There will be tough times and we will have to deal with them and it will be dishonest to blame the whole thing on the usual suspects and the convenient scapegoat. It will be no use complaining that “I paid my share” and demanding my entitlement. Because if the land is devastated by war, or famine, or earthquake, or just government mistakes, then everyone has to pitch in and dig out of the hole.

That’s why I think that the modern idea of pensions and entitlements midwifed by the government is not just a bad idea and cruel and unjust besides, but the fount of folly: worse that a crime, it’s a blunder. It works fine, as long as nothing goes wrong. But it always goes wrong because nobody should make predictions, especially about the future. Something always goes wrong, and then there is nothing to do but to try to dig out of it.

The great avoidable follies of the last two hundred years during the Great Enrichment from $1-3 per day to $100 per day have been people refusing to submit to reverses when things go wrong for them and demanding that other people pay instead. And the worst of it is that time and time again the evolved and the educated have encouraged the people in their folly. There were the artisans that were put out of business by machine industry. There were the industrial workers outraged by the remorseless workings of the international price system. There were the Germans, in the most advanced country in the world, reduced to rage by their loss in World War I. Now we have the world’s Muslims, humiliated and enraged by the five-hundred-year hegemony of the West.

Then, of course, we have the people encouraged to rage by liberals right here in the good old USA: blacks and students in the Sixties, women in the Seventies, gays in the Eighties. Now liberals are trying to do a number on Hispanics and provoke them to rage as well. What could go wrong?

Our problem, of course, is that our ruling class, led by what Gurri calls the “protected classes,” is like every ruling class. It knows how to do the daily observances of its ruling class dominance ritual, like the citizens of the Hunger Games Capitol. But it has no idea what the rituals mean. It was the long-dead ancestors of the ruling class that actually wielded swords and plotted revolution and sent the old regime packing. As in any late dynasty, our current rulers really don’t know what they are doing. Hey Barack!

Barack Obama was educated in the community organizer tactics of Saul Alinsky. And young Hillary Clinton also studied the master. The trouble is that it is one thing for a leader of the oppressed to harass and humiliate the ruling class, as Alinsky proposed. It is another thing when the community organizer is a member of the ruling class -- the President of the United State even -- and his rank and file are funded in part by a regime supporter like George Soros.

If you don’t understand the difference then you are a feckless ruling-class scion that is cruising for a bruising. And The Revolt of the Public will continue to coalesce.