Thursday, June 30, 2016

What Do You Mean by "Hate" and "Xenophobia" Liberals?

Liberals react to the Trump candidacy with words like "hate" and "xenophobia."

"Hate," I suppose, is a code word for resisting liberal activism on LGBT. "Xenophobia" is a code word for resisting liberal policy on Muslim immigration.

Do you realize what you are communicating with words like that, liberals? You are saying that your opponents in the political arena are evil. And it does't take much of a leap from that to say that people like that shouldn't be allowed to spew their hate in the public square. In fact they probably shouldn't have a job.

And then liberals wonder why Donald Trump has emerged from nowhere to become the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party.

I'm not that worried that there are partisans running around using rhetoric like that, damning their opponents as monstrous and evil. That's what partisans do.

What worries me is that this good-vs-evil rhetoric filters down to good people that don't really wish hell and damnation on anyone. But they believe what their party and opinion leaders say, and so they come to think that the folks on the other side are beyond the pale.

It all comes of believing in politics as a force (!) for good, which is what liberals think, instead of as a necessary evil, which is what conservatives think.

Government is force; politics is violence. Once you decide that some issue requires a political response and a government program, you are saying that compromise and negotiation are no good. Only a war and the sweet use of government force will resolve it. OK, you only intend a verbal war, using "activism" to raise consciousness, and you only intend to push the market to do something that it should be doing without the nudge of government. But if at first you don't succeed then, no doubt, your activists will want to up the ante a bit. And if the results aren't forthcoming then, no doubt, your legislators and regulators will want to implement an extra nudge to push things along a little.

And it's a funny thing. You don't ever see partisans and activists saying that, hey, that program hasn't worked so well, so let's revise the program and ease off the spending and the subsidy. The classic case is reported in Charles Murray's Losing Ground. Liberals instrumented their 1960s Great Society programs will all kinds of reporting (jobs for social scientists) so they could show how great they were. When the results came in showing that the programs were mostly failures, liberals did nothing. And most of the programs are still here, 50 years later.

The trouble with the program of the left, I am convinced, is not that its ideas cost a bundle, and create and underclass of women that don't marry and men that don't work. The problem is that progressive politics needs a domestic enemy to fight. Which means that progressive politics is always pushing towards civil war. The great thing about conservative politics is that its enemy (and politics must always have an enemy) is typically foreign, not domestic. So conservatives rally Americans to fight Communism and Islamism, not other Americans.

The one time that conservatives really went after a domestic enemy was in the McCarthy era, when chaps like Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) were raising consciousness about Communists in the State Department and in Hollywood and in the schools. Some Communists lost their jobs, and Alger Hiss went to jail for lying. Liberals have never let us forget it.

So going after liberals is beyond the pale, even if there actually were Communists in the State Department and some of them were actually spying for the Soviets. But conservatives? Well, no need for conservatives in the nation's universities. Because hate.

Liberals call the fight against radical Islam "xenophobia" and "Islamophobia" and blame the NRA and conservative Christians for the Orlando massacre.

Because that is what they do.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The End of Conservatism as We've Known It

I'm lunching with a liberal friend today, and I'm thinking about what I'm going to say about Trump. What is there to say?

I think the first thing is that Donald Trump has broken the Republican Party that we have had since the end of the Reagan administration. Initially, the party was inclined to concede a few things to the Democrats -- a little tax increase here, a No Child Left Behind there -- but as time went on the party found itself doing a slow retreat, with nothing to show for its good will, before the culture war of political correctness that has done an astonishing job of marginalizing the Anglo-Saxon culture that underpinned the Bourgeois ethos and makes capitalism possible.

Now all that is gone, washed out with the tide. The good old libertarian conservatism that I have professed most of my adult life is broken. That's what the long withdrawing roar of the #NeverTrump folks is all about.

It is all broken because the chief political victim of the last 50 years, the white working class, has suddenly found a voice in Donald Trump. As is usual with politics the Trump promise to Make America Great Again (in the way that benefited the white working class from 1945 to 1973) is empty. We cannot "make it like it was." The world of the future will not be a world of good jobs at good wages with pensions and lifetime tenure. It just won't.

But the world being promised by the Democrats, of benefits and privileges to the favored victims, won't be the world of the future either. I'd say that the benefit state has gone about as far as it can go -- 35 percent of GDP decided by political power -- and any attempts to boost it with new privileges and entitlements and subsidies are likely to break it.

There's a cry in the land right now to end free trade. I don't know quite what people mean by that, but the simple fact is that free trade is just a fancy name for market prices, letting the decisions of consumers rule the economy rather than the political decisions of special interests. We could say that we want to increase good jobs at good wages, but we can't do it by legislating higher wages or forcing manufacturing onshore. Oh sure, we can muck around at the margins and give out a subsidy here and a tariff there. We can ease the pain of the buggy-whip makers. But the basic proposition of global capitalism, innovation and "trade tested betterment" and the sweeping away of the old methods that use more energy and labor, is irreversible.

It is shocking to a guy like me to see Donald Trump promising to renegotiate NAFTA and teach China a lesson. In my experience Republicans just don't do that. But the truth is that politicians tell voters what they want to hear and then go off and do what they need to do, and call it what they want. What will Donald Trump do if he is elected president? We don't know. What will Hillary Clinton do? We don't know.

What we do know is that governments are armed minorities occupying territory that tax the inhabitants thereof to reward their supporters. Republicans haven't done much rewarding of their supporters recently and their supporters are mad. But then Democrats have promised a ton of Hope and Change to their supporters and they haven't delivered much on that either.

There's a lefty piece out by Harold Meyerson today remarking on the hollowing out of the middle class and the prospects for the Democrats to do something about it while the Republicans become white nationalists. The only problem is that, when the progressives started, a century ago, the US governments at all levels were spending about 7 percent of GDP. Now they are spending about 35 percent of GDP. I'd say that the progressive opportunity to reward their supporters tends to tap out at 35 to 40 percent of GDP. So there is not much more redistribution that progressives can do to attract and reward supporters.

The problem for all governments, and progressives in particular, is that supporters insist on being rewarded. That is bad enough. But they get really mad if you ever take stuff away from them. That's how you go Greece or Argentina or Venezuela. It's easy for a government to give the voters money. It is near impossible to take it back when you have ruined the economy with your handouts.

Yet the art and practice of politics is to promise people things that they shouldn't be asking for and shouldn't be getting.

The Trump phenomenon means the end of conservatism as we know it. And probably the end of a lot of other things too that we don't yet know about.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Progressives vs. Conservatives on Power

I've been having an email exchange with Craig Greenman, who I emailed on a whim after reading a comment of his on NRO. Our exchange is labeled "Definition of a Conservative." His latest email puts up his definition of what progressives want to do against my definition of conservatives as not that interested in power.

In Craig's formulation "both progressives and conservatives want to empower the individual". He allows that a progressive is "someone who *is* interested in power, specifically the *empowering* of other people." The "question therefore is ḧow far to get the government involved in empowering people".

OK. Now I am going to analyze this under the assumptions of my Three Peoples theory, that there are three kinds of people in the political world: People of the Creative Self, who I would think include progressives and thinking conservatives, People of the Responsible Self, and People of the Subordinate Self.

I interpret progressive politics as having two objectives. The first objective is to attempt to empower the People of the Subordinate Self, the workers and peasants. Workers and peasants do not want formal rights and power; they want substantive rights, like minimum wages and union rights and pensions and health care and education. The second objective is to empower themselves, the People of the Creative Self. This is where the progressive interest in LGBT rights and the environment comes from.

Now, when I was a control systems engineer I had a conversation once with a communications specialist. He reminded me that when doing data communications the key is what the system does when things go wrong. Anyone can communicate data over a gin-clear line. But what happens when there is an error? The astonishing success of the Internet, for example, is its amazing ability to deal with all kinds of errors about which you and I have no idea.

The problem with government is that nobody can agree what to do when things do wrong. And if they do, it will be too late. And the fact is that things always go wrong, in every human endeavor, in government and in the private sector. This truth is encapsulated in the elder von Moltke's dictum that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. And he was probably the most successful general in history.

So what do you do if the minimum wage creates unemployment in minority youth? What do you do if the VA provides lousy service and covers up its failures? What do you do if Social Security is underfunded by trillions? The answer is: nothing, not until the sh*t hits the fan, and maybe not even then. Why is that?

The answer is that when a government goes about empowering people it really just hands out free stuff and subsidies, in accordance with my dictum that a government is an armed minority occupying territory and taxing the inhabitants thereof to reward its supporters. But what happens when the government starts running out of money to reward its supporters? The answer is: nothing. Why is that?

The answer is that the one thing that we humans utterly resist is a diminution in our standard of living. We think of our wages and our government benefits are our rights. What was the great railroad strike of 1877 about? The railroads were cutting wages because they were going broke. What about the fictional coal strike in Zola's Germinal? The owners were cutting wages because they were going broke.  It's not just the capitalists that have this problem. The Bolivarian government of Venezuela dare not reduce the subsidies and handouts to the workers of Venezuela when the price of oil gets cut in half. Instead it lets the Venezuelan economy go to rack and ruin in a hyperinflation that hurts the poor the most, just like Germany and Austria when their government revenues got hammered after World War I. They dare not cut government spending to fit the reduced revenues, because the people would toss them out.

I'd say there is a problem with a politics that gets into this kind of a hole. In fact I would argue that it is utter folly for the government to promise any benefits to people, because of what happens when things go wrong. When things go wrong people thrash around looking for scapegoats and woe betide the politician that proposes to cut benefits.

But why? Why does government get in such a hole all the time? I'd say it's because of the very nature of government which is to lead us to safety against existential perils, starting with invasion. It is an all-or-nothing thing. Either you beat the invasion, or you are toast. You do not taper or adjust; you bet the country on winning.

Notice that the transnational governing class takes exactly this approach on climate change. Climate change is presented as an existential peril, and we must push ahead on all fronts, because to temporize is to court disaster. Anyone that objects to the full-court press is a "denier" which is progressive-speak for cowardly traitor.

But how much of human relations should be conducted under this all-or-nothing model? Slavery? Well, we had a civil war in the US about slavery, and it didn't end well, not for a century, because the Republican victors quit defending the freed slaves from their former masters after about ten years; they had other fish to fry. Civil rights? It all started well, except that the only way that government could think about implementing civil rights was by quotas and applying the rubric of over- and under-representation.

That's why I have developed my catchphrases: government is force; politics is violence and division; system is domination. Everyone wants to empower people, but is government force the means, is political division the answer? And when something goes wrong, how do we fix it?

Then there is the little wee problem that comes next is that everyone -- conservative, progressive, liberal, fascist, Bolivarian socialist, Bernie bro, BLM activist -- wants to empower himself first. Give me the power, so I can empower you.

I don't know how progressives would propose to empower people in the best of all possible worlds, but the only thing they have tried up to now is to take money from Peter to pay Paul, or to regulate the economy with bureaucrats. Surely, progressives, there must be a better way to a better world than the violence of force and the domination of administrative system.

Monday, June 27, 2016

George Soros: I Wonder What He Meant by That?

I confess that George Soros is to me an enigma. On the one hand he sponsors the Open Society Foundations. On the other he funds the Democratic Party and divisive leftist groups like Black Lives Matter. On the one hand he is a speculator and an investor. On the other hand he seems to be a supporter of the bureaucratic and centralist European Union.

What does George Soros want? On Friday he was writing that the EU would inevitably break up. On Monday he is writing bureaucratic EU-speak about reforming the EU.

He writes that Britain had the "best of all possible deals" with the EU, yet voted to leave. Chancellor Merkel's refugee policy "was an inspiring gesture" but "created panic" and provoked the growth of "xenophobic anti-European parties" like UKIP. Britain's economy could take a hit, he warns, as half of its economy relies on Europe; and Europe could be hit worse as xenophobes like Italy's Five Star Movement get into power. What is needed?
None of this bodes well for a serious program of eurozone reform, which would have to include a genuine banking union, a limited fiscal union, and much stronger mechanisms of democratic accountability. And time is not on Europe’s side, as external pressures from the likes of Turkey and Russia – both of which are exploiting the discord to their advantage – compound Europe’s internal political strife.
All of this elite hand-waving misses the point. The problem with the European project is that it is not a project that seriously attempts to create a European people. It does not unify the people of Europe as a European people. Instead it amounts to a divisive politics-as-usual with the usual special interests competing for favors in Brussels and the transnational elite grandly ruling over all.

But what is the solution? As usual, Bismarck has the answer. How did he unify the disunited German states and principalities? He got them into victorious wars, first against Denmark, then against Austria, finally against France. By the time he had finished he had the whole German people (except the Austrians) unified in a single political unit.

The US had a similar experience. Roosevelt unified the fractious immigrants of the turn of the 20th century, the Jews, the Italians, the Irish, by first leading them to fight the Great Depression and then drafting them to fight the Nazis. By the end of World War II the US was as unified as it has ever been, before or since.

So maybe, Mr. Soros, the problems with Russia and Turkey represent an opportunity. A nice little Bismarckian war against one or the other might just be what the doctor ordered to unite the various nationalities of Europe into a united European people.

The problem is to make sure that Bismarck and the elder von Moltke are directing traffic and not Wilhelm II and the younger von Moltke. The first two were geniuses; the second two were not.

Who is George Soros and what does he want? Maybe the truth is rather prosaic. The thing about most people is that they are experts in their own field, and develop fruitful ideas to guide them. But for the rest of their worldview they just go with the conventional wisdom. Soros has been a successful speculator, and has developed a theory to guide him. But otherwise he is just a conventional Euro elitist. He knows that the people can't be trusted not to fall for another Hitler, and so wise and educated people like him must make sure that nationalism never rears its ugly head again.

And, I think, a moneybags like Soros needs to keep onside with the ruling class. Just as Warren Buffett is known as a Democrat and serves up helpful sound bites on occasion, so a speculator like Soros needs to pay his protection money to keep out of trouble.

We have met the enemy and he is us, wrote cartoonist Walt Kelly. That is especially true in politics. What people want from politics is stuff they shouldn't have. That goes for George Soros as much as Brits that want things back the way they were and Trumpkins that want to Make American Great Again and geezers that demand our Social Security and Medicare in full and gays that want to poke at Christian bakers and teach them a lesson.

That's why conservatives think that the less government the better.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Post Brexit: The Eternal Contradictions of Politics

Yesterday, June 24, 2016, the voters in Britain elected to leave the European Union. I think it is time to recall Enoch Powell, of the "Rivers of Blood" speech, who said that the European Union could never work because there is no European demos.

He meant that a pan-European state required, to succeed, a pan-European people.

However, the Brexit election showed that there isn't a British people either. The English voted to get out of the EU but the Scots voted to stay in. England and Scotland have been Britain since the Acts of Union in 1707. But of course the Act of Union was a lie; it was the forcible joining together of two dynastic states, and the English and the Scots have quarreled ever since.

France? Put together by force. Germany? Force, in the wars provoked by Bismarck against Denmark, Austria, and France. Italy? A forcible takeover of the south.

The United States? Conquest of North America, followed by a rebellion by hot-heads against the Brits, followed by a split between North and South that ended in a bloody Civil War that restored the Union but divided North and South for a century.

My point is that nations and peoples do not just happen. There is always politics, and politics is violence. Every nation is some guy's power project. The European Union is the power project of a trans-national elite that decided after World War II that it would end the wars of nationalism by imposing a superstate over the eternally warring nation states. The current liberal project of a diverse America is a power project to end the dominance of white males and replace it with a new demos of women, minorities and immigrants who would vote for big government and empower Democrats to rule forever.

The point is that these power projects sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. Sometimes the political activists create a new demos and rule forever. Sometimes they fail and get thrown onto the dust heap of history.

But here is the problem. When the power projectors successfully establish their power project and create a demos the demos expects something in return. They expect the ruling class to protect them from the swirling winds of power in the world. But what that means in the modern world is protection from the verdict of the market. That's what labor unions are for; that's what crony capitalists are for. They go to government for a sweet application of force to protect them from the market.

So everyone is is favor of freedom; but everyone wants to be protected from harm. Everyone wants the right to work and trade anywhere in the world. But they don't want everyone to come here and compete with them in the labor market. And they certainly don't want foreigners to come here and use government benefits that ought, by right, to belong to people born here.

So the Brits want to get out of Europe and restrict immigration and keep the NHS for Brits. But what about trade with Europe and the rest of the world?

So Trump wants to restrict immigration and bring manufacturing back home to America. And Make America Great Again.

But the point about the Great Enrichment of the last 200 years is that, one way or another, the established powers were unable, time after time, to stop the "trade-tested betterments" that various nobodies launched upon the market. So we got the Great Enrichment in spite of ourselves. If you listen to people, they tell you that they don't want to have to change and they are saying that they want government to protect them from the rest of the world. They want the goodies the market brings them, but not if the goodies put them out of business. So people want the betterment of the Great Enrichment, but not if they have to change.

I like to say that the decisive change of the modern era is that Gerald O'Hara's comment that "land is the only thing that lasts" is no longer true. In the old days you occupied land with your chimp troop, or agricultural empire, against the world, because land was life and the very definition of survival. But not any more. Today you can buy and sell food on the global market as grain travels around the world in giant 100,000 ton grain ships. Today what matters is the innovation of new products and technologies, new applications of technical knowledge.

But we humans are still living in the old world of Gerald O'Hara. We still believe in the permanence of land, even as we all move to the city and the suburb and work in offices rather than down on the farm.

Ever since the start of the industrial revolution we have been dealing with the problem of rural people moving to the city with their rural, tribal culture and confronting the urban, bourgeois market order. The Muslim hordes that are presently terrifying us all are just the latest wave in the migration to the city.

The migrants to the city come to the city with their culture of land, of defending their land from all outsiders. and they look to a powerful patron to protect them from the pirates and the pillagers that want to plunder their tribal lands. Only the city does not work like that. The city is not a world of separate landed estates; it is a world of trust and exchange and innovation.

How people adapt to the bourgeois culture of trust and innovation, and learn to be not that interested in power, is the great story that is never told.

Meanwhile we live in a contradictory world in which we all work in a world of trust the stranger, but we still want politicians to bash the stranger. That's a contradiction that won't change any time soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Two Cheers for Consumerism

One thing the left whines about all the time is consumerism. Their problem is the combination of corporations and advertising and waste. And liberals really don't like the things that people can be persuaded to buy.

Corporations are always trying to convince consumers to buy stuff they don't need, and then, with "planned obsolescence," they design products to wear out so that consumers will be forced to buy them all over again. And what about the blandness of "standardized mass consumption?"

I suppose this is just what Rodney Stark calls "upper-class asceticism." People raised to a middle-class competence are used to abundance, and they are already looking beyond abundance to a more nuanced relationship to "stuff."

These upper-class snobs tend not to understand how gorgeous it is for people living in their first prosperity after the eternal fears of rural indigence and the forced march of learning how to make it in the city: now they can afford to go out and buy stuff. They forget how young Americans loved getting out of the city after World War II and going to live in the quick-and-dirty Levittowns out in the suburbs. With a Ford or a Chevy that might, if you pushed it, have a V8.

The whole phenomenon of consumerism is not that hard to understand. It is almost all about women, and what they want.

First of all, women want pretty clothes that advertise their sexual desirability. Not that women think about what cleavage or tapered legs or dainty ankles mean to men. It's just that they instinctively want to dress so that they are noticed by men. I know a woman in her 80s that still cares about looking good when she goes out. The fact is that women like to ring the changes on their clothes, with different colors, different patterns, different textiles. Corporations and advertisers and taste makers are just giving women what they want.

Then there is cleaning. Once they have a kid on the ground, women get really interested in cleaning. There is no mystery about that; clean helps keep children alive. So women are eager for anything that cleans or makes cleaning easier. No wonder the supermarket shelves groan with cleaning and paper products that are designed to make the cleaning operation easier.

Then there is house and home. Women like houses, and they like them to be pretty and comfortable inside. So corporations and advertisers oblige them with beds and baths and cute little villages about an hour out of town where you can go and shop with a friend and bring home some knick-knacks.

And let's not forget food. The fashions and government mandates on food reflect the profound concern that women feel for the health of their loved ones. So if the government comes out and says that fat is bad, then women believe them and shift their eating habits to non-fat. If the government comes out and says that trans-fatty acids are a problem, women will act on that information. Because food and health are important to them.

If the left sneers at all this, and maintains that the sheeple are the victims of eevil corporations, I say that they are missing the point. And they may even be anti-woman. Because women are interested in clothes and cleaning and house and home and food, and they always will be.

But what about guys? For guys there is Cabela's, "the world's foremost outfitter." Because a man never knows when he may need to go out on an expedition to parts unknown. He never knows when he may need a gun, or a commercial-grade meat grinder, or a smoker, or a commercial-grade deep fryer. And then there are cars, with dials and gadgets and insane amounts of horsepower, but you never know when you may need it. And trucks. And sporting gear.

Then there is the great liberator of the modern age. Power tools. No modern man can or should resist the urge to possess power tools. In fact, most men need a building where they can store and use their vital and important power tools. The advent of inexpensive power washers means that men are now eager to go out ant scour the sidewalk outside their home.

All of this guy stuff is completely unnecessary, but it sure is fun.

Back in the day the left was outraged at capitalism because of the poverty of the working class. Now that the working class is rolling around in excess, they blame capitalism for the excess.

Really, when are we going to retire these whiners and all just go to work and get along?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How to Turn Left Through Modernism and Postmodernism

For straight lefties the "postmodern turn" is a bit of a puzzler. When you attack "meta-theory" as a form of domination, what is left of the granddaddy of all "meta-theories," Marxism?

That is the problem that David Harvey sets out to solve in The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. And he is a solid Marxist, in the sense that his chapter on "Modernization," meaning the modern industrial market economy, is pure Marxism.

But in the end, he manages to privilege his own meta-theory above all others in a chapter headed "The Crisis of Historical Materialism," i.e., Marxism. And his judgement is: Not to Worry; our faith is good.

After all, he writes, what problem could historical materialism have with a postmodernism
that is anti-authoritarian and iconoclastic, that insists on the authenticity of other voices, that celebrates difference, decentralization, and democratization of taste, as well as the power of imagination over materiality[?]
What indeed? The only problem is that the left is profoundly authoritarian, totalitarian even, and raises the most fantastical icons to the sky, and denies the authenticity of any voices opposed to it, and criminalizes difference, abolishes decentralization, rides over ordinary middle-class taste with an M-1 tank.

But the really helpful thing about the chapter is that Harvey lays out his basic lefty Articles of Faith. For instance, the problem with the New Left of the 1960s was that the "push into cultural politics... set the New Left against traditional working-class attitudes and institutions." It was great that the New Left moved into "race and gender issues, of difference, and of the pronlems of colonized peoples and repressed minorities, of ecological and aesthetic issues". But what about the workers? The "New Left tended to abandon its faith both in the proletariat as an instrument of progressive change and in historical materialism as a mode of analysis." It is a central conceit of the left that its politics supports working classes and their needs rather than, as Samuel Gompers warned, substituting their own agenda and demolishing authentic working-class institutions.

But now, with postmodernism, the left has extended its conceit to imagining that it supports all marginalized people and their "traditional... attitudes and institutions," rather than imposing its own world view everywhere from the movies to marriage by force.

But the "interrogation of 'orthodox' Marxian formulations" was a good thing for Harvey as it forced the orthodox to consider new developments in the economy and state functions and culture. It taught the left the following lessons.
Difference and "otherness" This should not be tacked onto Marxism but be a part of its core.
Images and discourses "Aesthetic and cultural practices matter, and the conditions of their production deserve the closest attention."
Time and space matter Lefties need to take note of the way that modern art jumbles up space and time, and also how global capitalism exploits space, place and time in ways that lefties must challenge.
Marxism must be open-ended The postmodernist attack on "meta-theory" (i.e, the one true theory) should teach lefties to avoid their once-for-all approach to theory. "Meta-theory is not a statement of total truth" but must be a constantly updated battle plan to understand and take the fight to global capitalism.
 You can see what is going on here. Harvey understands that the expansion of victimhood from the working class to all the other marginalized groups of the world is a necessary part of any leftist future. And the control of the culture, what is allowed to be thought and saide, is vital. Lefties need to adapt to the new global, instant, pervasive culture of capitalism so they can compete mano-a-mano with the evil CEOs and fascists. And Marxists can't just keep spouting original Marxian chapter and verse forever (Although Harvey's economics is almost pure 1860 Capital); they need to update their theory as the cunning capitalists find new ways to exploit and to immiserate.

The sad thing about this is that lefty David Harvey is determined to keep the shackles on the economic and political and social phenomenon that has increased human prosperity from $3 per day to $100 per day in 200 years wherever it has been tried. He is like the slaveowner that feels he has to abuse his slaves just to make sure that they never even think about the possibility of rebellion.

In the end, Harvey wants the good old time religion, but informed by the postmodern turn into not just an updated historical materialism but a "historical-geographical materialism."
On that critical basis is becomes possible to launch a counterattack of narrative against the image, of ethics against aesthetics, of a project of Becoming rather than Being, and so search for unity within difference[.]
And thus "promote adherence to a new version of the Enlightenment project."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Think of Liberals as Trapped Rats

The political situation in the US would be obvious if the ruling class of educated liberals weren't so determined to deny it.

The whole progressive project of class politics and race politics and identity politics, and liberals running the place as their administrative fiefdom, is dissolving in chaos, and liberals are having to resort to more and more desperate measures in order to keep their troops in the front line. They need to silence their critics because the news is getting worse and worse for the liberal project.

And hey, why not bump up Social Security benefit payments to keep the racket going for one more election cycle?

You can get the feel of this by checking out any embattled ruling class in its last days. The Nazis would be a good start. It means saying black is white, that our troops are merely experiencing a setback, that the old totemic texts are as good as ever to explain life, the universe, and everything.

Greg Gutfeld of FoxNews has a piece bemoaning this mess. After Orlando, why do half of us insist the problem is gun control and the other half terrorism? Why would half of us insist that "a black person, or a gay person, or a fat white male, see a terror attack differently?" We are divided on who deserves to be punished: liberals blamed Republicans and Christians and guns for Orlando. We are "divorcing cause from effect" by pretending that Christians or guns caused Orlando.

Of course, Gutfeld doesn't make the obvious judgment, which I make in my American Thinker piece today. The liberal world view is collapsing around its progressive ears but the liberal file closers are still busily whacking their troops into line and successfully maintaining ideological discipline.

And they will do that until the troops finally break and run. Because their whole world view is based on errors compounded by conceit irradiated by lies. And every year that passes requires them to compound the lies in order to keep their troops in the trenches. But the truth is that the troops probably won't break and run until the mobs start looting the supermarkets because the checks have stopped coming.

I've just about finished The Condition of Postmodernity by Brit lefty David Harvey. It's really been an education for me in lefty self-delusion. Every economic problem is blown up into an outrage and a fundamental flaw of capitalism; every liberal intervention is reported as saving capitalism from itself. And the biggest conceit is the idea that political action can significantly change anything. It is astonishing, really, three hundred years after Hume said you can't infer cause and effect from two events, that our lefty friends are blandly assuming that political program B solves the problem of capitalist exploitation A, because it's obvious and needs no justification. Again and again.

I'm in the middle of a 90 minute YouTube of a colloquium between lefty Terry Eagleton and righty Sir Roger Scruton. Towards the end a South Asian girl gets up and spouts what her teachers told her about colonialism and cultural hegemony. Scruton obviously was prepared because he told her how amazed the Brits were when their apparatchiks discovered Bengali culture in the 18th century and set about studying it and preserving its texts which were getting lost. These colonialists were enthralled by Bengali ancient culture, something they had never known. Well, said Terry Eagleton, you have a point, but it is outrageously tendentious. Because racism, sexism, exploitation, colonialism.

OK, Terry. Good point. But the problem with the left is that almost everything it asserts, while having a grain of truth, is outrageously tendentious. It assumes, again and again, that everything bad is due to structural contradictions of capitalism and everything good is due to left-wing modifications of capitalism. I get it. The point is to keep the faithful on-side, to feed them some pablum to make sure they keep the faith, and to mumble through the responses so that your own doubts are repressed.

But the problem is that the thinkers and the leaders get to believe their own lies. For instance, David Harvey reports all the radical revolts of the last 200 years as noble working-class fights for freedom and justice, from the 1830s machine-wreckings and rick-burnings to the 1848 revolutions to the 1877 US railroad strike or the 1980s UK coal strike.

Maybe the struggles of the workers are an arc of justice without precedent in human history. But you can also understand them less heroically merely as people reacting violently to a sudden reverse in their economic prospects. Workers do not riot when they are being recruited to staff a new plant. They riot when their highly-paid artisan skills get replaced by machines, when their employer tries to reduce wages during a business downturn or tries to retrain the workers when their skills no longer serve, or makes lame efforts to make the workforce more "efficient" in response to market forces. Yet the left has developed shibboleths to explain everything as exploitation and market failure, from capital accumulation to overaccumulation to socially necessary labor to immiseration to speed-up to de-skilling to union-busting. But the lefties ignore the useful knowledge that is staring them in the face. People hate to face up to losses, and they blame everyone else instead. Then they start to get mad. Then they get desperate.

Let us remember, every moment, that these geniuses are telling us that the social and economic innovations that have taken humans from $3 per day to $100 per day in 200 years are a murrain and a nightmare, and ought to be replaced with the good old recipe of ruling-class power and expertise.

What, you wonder, will these trapped liberal rats do next? Abolish the First and Second Amendments? To stop the peasants from talking back and fighting back?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Capitalist Innovation vs. Capitalist Accumulation

For me it's a no brainer that Deirdre McCloskey is right when she insists that capitalism is innovation rather than accumulation. It is not the conversion of profits into a pile of new capital that creates economic growth, it is the power of new ideas tested in the market. But here is La Wik:
Capital accumuluation... is the dynamic that motivates the pursuit of profits, involving the investment of money of any financial asset with the goal of increasing the initiaul monetary value of said asset...
 This might be "a net addition to existing wealth" or "a redistribution of wealth" says La Wik.

This obviously comes from the Marxist theory of capital in which (again La Wik):
[C]apital accumulation is the operation whereby profits are reinvested into the economy, increasing the total quantity of capital. Capital was understood by Marx to be expanding value, that is... transformed through human labor into a larger value, extracted as profits and expressed as money.
The "extracted" profits are the difference betwen the social value of labor and the wages actually paid to the workers.

I came to the point of really digging into this from reading The Condition of Postmodernity by a Brit, David Harvey. He takes the idea of capital accumulation as holy writ, and the danger of overaccumulation as the justification for political power over the capitalists.

Actually, the investment of monies into a project has nothing to do with accumulation. If you lend money to someone then they pay you interest based on the concept of originary interest or time preference. Money repaid after ten years is worth less than money in the hand now. Money invested as equity is a risk proposition. The future is uncertain, so the assumption of risk about the future deserves a premium, which might or might not happen.

In the old days this process went on without growth, without an increase in wealth. Why? Because the money invested did not involve the development and implementation of an innovative idea that worked out. So the capital accounting merely recorded the time preference and risk premiums of a static world.

But things were different when people started to invest in innovations like machine cotton spinning. All of a sudden, using mechanical devices and water power, humans could produce a ton more cotton for weaving. This lowered the cost of cotton goods and made a ton of money for cotton spinners. But no accumulation.

Let's look at a more recent and familiar example. In the 1990s Apple was almost bankrupt. But then Steve Jobs returned and put several innovative ideas together to produce the iPod music player. These ideas included the new Lithium battery technology plus a miniature disk drive. An innovative idea. But who would buy it, I wondered, skeptically? A ton of kids. And so Apple started selling millions of iPods and Apple stock went through the roof. Accumulation? No. Innovation and the realization among investors that Apple would be making money for years off this idea. But then came the iPhone, combining the iPod concept with a large video screen and cell-phone technology. A staggering innovative success to put all that technology in a pocket-sized device. But would people spend hundreds of dollars on a pocket phone? Yes they would, and Apple stock went through the roof again. Accumulation? No, innovation.

The point is that when people see an innovation taking off they don't take their accumulated profits and invest in the new thing. They sell their old investments to buy into the new hot thing. And the value of the new thing is expressed not in the cost of its inputs but in the present value of the future profits likely to result from the deployment of the new thing. Not accumulation. Innovation.

The operation of the modern venture capitalist community demonstrates this. A new idea is financed by investors that are consciously taking a big risk. They know that the innovative idea has promise, but know that there is many a slip between cup and lip. If the idea starts to take off then the investors seek a new round of investment, but the new investors get less of the company for their money than the first round investors. And that is as it should be since the second-round chaps aren't bucking the odds as much as the first-round chappies. Eventually, if it is successful, the company goes public, raising a ton of money from the public in return for a small share of the company.

The current poster-boy of this concept is Uber, the innovative ride-sharing company that is demolishing the taxi-cab industry with its ride-sharing app that joins riders and drivers and maximizes safety and convenience with no cash and two-way ratings. This company recently did a $50 billion private financing, and is still a private company. Uber keeps innovating. On my last ride to the airport, Uber was advertising package delivery and also a standard meal delivery. Uber drivers will carry around a limited set of hot and cold meals and deliver in minutes. The whole point is innovation. It is innovation that demolishes the taxi-cab industry; it is innovation that brings in the investors, first with their millions and then with their billions.

And what is it that innovation delivers? It delivers more cotton goods for less money. It delivers more illuminating oil for 90 percent less money. It delivers more steel for one third the money. It delivers electric power out of understanding the science of electricity. It delivers automobiles out of the development of heat engine physics. It develops electronics out of the understanding of quantum mechanics. It develops cell phones and GPS out of the understanding of pseudo-random noise communications. All this is only tangential to the idea of investing your profits in a new venture and accumulating capital.

The Great Enrichment of the last 200 years, from $3 to $100 per day is not from accumulation. It is from innovations -- staggering, mind-blowing innovations that nobody had even thought of. Not until somebody did.

And the innovation works both ways. Cell-phones are based on staggering innovation, but can be leveraged in the most mundane ways. A sardine fisherman in his boat off the west coast of India can call buyers with his cellphone in different ports to determine which has the best price for his catch.

In The Condition of Postmodernity Harvey uses the idea of capital accumulation and overaccumulation to justify the supervision of the capitalists by the politicians. This shows the value of the capital accumulation hypothesis. It advances the conceit that political minds can understand the market system enough to regulate and command it.

I'd say that the history of the last 200 years shows that the politicians and their bribed apologists really haven't a clue about the market economy, and only make a mess when they crash in with their regulations and their coercions.

Like right now. The Democrats and the Obama administration thought they were geniuses with their Obamacare and Dodd-Frank bills. But Obamacare seems to been on the way to abolishing the full-time job and Dodd-Frank has put a bureaucrat in charge of every bank loan.

And people wonder why the economy isn't growing.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Innovation vs. Immiseration

Larry Kramer is doing his usual self,  promoting the idea of Trump as “a disrupter.”
The last 15 years of economic policy, especially the last eight years, represent a relapse that harks back to the 1970s… It's a government-planning approach in the U.S. and around the world.
And a government planning approach to the economy means a special-interest carve-out, with the powerful sitting around a table in a room just off the corridors of power deciding who will get what. That’s how they did Obamacare, buying the support of the insurance companies and the medical system and the drug companies so they could get the votes to put it over the top. And you thought that the Democrats were the sworn enemies of insurance companies and drug companies.

What is needed is Growth, writes Larry. “Growth is the key, not inequality.” Yes, but “growth” is not the right word to use.

That’s why I think that “innovation,” the word used by Deirdre McCloskey, is the right one. Not growth. 

Why? Because growth is too close in meaning to “accumulation” as in the left’s catchphrase about the “accumulation of capital.” The assumption in both cases is that you are growing a new bud from an existing tree, or accumulating a bigger heap of gold coins.

And that is wrong. It is the innovation, the disruption, the permissionless economy that powers the Great Enrichment in 200 years from $3 per day to $100 per day. And that means an economy where the established players do not have the power to order a special interest stitch-up and a government man with a gun shouting Stop.

Right now we are seeing an attempt, ordered by the Obama administration, to start bringing the internet under the control of the regulators. And this "is beginning to strangle a great engine of freedom," says Wayne T. Brough in The American Spectator.
[A]s the internet matures, it is becoming the target of special interests and overzealous regulators seeking to control the bounty that the internet provides.
And the trouble is that our liberal friends, from President Obama on down, believe in a managerial solution to most problems. They want to control and regulate to avoid sharp swings in the economy and to prevent large extremes of wealth and poverty. Their faith is a faith that of Napoleon, après moi, le dèluge

I am reading a conventional-wisdom history of postmodernism, The Condition of Postmodernity by a Brit, David Harvey, written in the late 1980s. Harvey is knowledgeable about architecture and urban planning and Jane Jacobs. But his account of modernization is pure Marx. Really? 150 years after Marx, with detailed histories and accounts available, and he goes back to the largely mythical accounts in The Communist Manifesto and Capital?

Now the big thing about Marx is that he got a lot right. He got the idea of innovation, the “constant revolutionizing of production” and that the bourgeoisie did it.  But then he goes off the rails and assumes that the benefits will all go to the rich while the working class and the petite-bourgeoisie will suffer from immiseration. He thinks that someone needs to control and regulate capitalism. In the event, that is not what happened; that is not what is needed. And that is a big deal.

Following this setup, Harvey goes on to talk about Fordism and Keynesianism and a post 1970s era of “flexible accumulation” which may or may not rescue capitalism from its contradictions. Always the question is, who will control the capitalists?

I am not reading Harvey to gain any new insights into life, the universe, and everything. I am reading him to look into the conventional leftist account of the postmodern turn. What does he and his lefty buddies think is going on?

The point is that the left has a static view of the economy. They see workers being thrown out on the street while moneybag capitalists accumulate wealth by stealing from the workers part of the socially necessary labor needed for production.

But that’s not how it really works. What really happens is that an entrepreneur makes a breakthrough in something that radically reduces cost or provides a completely new product or service. If the idea works then he starts to hire people and swamps the market with his new innovation. At this point the established players start trying to compete by lowering prices and trying to lower labor costs, so the workers of the established players find that their apparently secure jobs at good wages are not secure at all. But that doesn solve their problem, so the workers strike, and the CEOs go to the government for help, perhaps by hobbling the new entrant. It is the wailings of the disappointed that Marx and Co interpret as the exploitation and immiseration of the working class.

In fact, even as the workers of established businesses suffer and the old-line businesses get taken over and repurposed, the overall income of society increases, because the new innovation benefits nearly everyone. But that doesn’t make it any easier for the disappointed and the impoverished.

So that is why it is vital to keep the eye upon the prize. Our present prosperity is built upon innovation, not accumulation, on people having a go and not being stopped by the powers-that-be. Or, if you like, by growth and not by government programs to promote equality.

This is very hard for many, even most, people to understand. So it cannot be said enough.

Innovation, new ideas, new products, new services. That’s the key. Management, regulation, accumulation, special-interest carve-outs. That’s the problem.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

End the Cringe Now!

Back in 2014 Paul Krugman was happily celebrating the news that "Democrats have lost their post-Reagan cringe." And here I thought that the only problem was the conservative Cringe where race, women, and gays are concerned. Every conservative public figure knows that a clumsy word can end a career. So anyone to the right of Elizabeth Warren knows they better zip that lip, or the liberal speech police will zip it for them. And zip their job as well.

Now I can't say that the Cringe has hurt me, not too much. The CEO of the consulting firm i used to work for did ask "where did he come from" when I made a WrongThink remark at a diversity training session. But I did keep my job. So there's that. But then I'm a sensitive guy and am pretty careful to tailor my remarks to my audience.

And yes, Krugman has a point about the Democratic post-Reagan cringe. The Democrats realized after Reagan's Morning in America 1984 blowout election that their hippy-dippy days from the Sixties were over. They discovered, rather late, that Americans hated the fascist left of the Weathermen and the campus rebels. They hated riots in the cities; they hated inflation; they hated recession; they hated gas lines;and they hated being bossed around by liberal hypocrites.

So yeah. Democrats have lost their post-Reagan cringe. But I think that Krugman's assertion that it is "the craziness of the right in some ways empowers the moderate left" is clue-less. The point is that a new generation of "progressives" has arisen that knew not Reagan. Just like it says in South Pacific, almost, you've got to be carefully taught, K thru grad school, to believe in lefty rubbish, and they have. So the new generation of lefties has put the pedal to the metal, even though, since Obama's election in 2008, we have seen two Republican wave elections and the unusual 2012 election where a president running for re-election got a smaller share of the vote than when he was first elected. And now we have Donald Trump.

No the Real Cringe is the receiving end of the cultural hegemony of the left's racist, sexist, homophobic naming and shaming aggression. Do not, repeat, do not get caught making a remark that the left can use to accuse you of racism, sexism, or homophobia. It is laughable that Krugman does not get this, and imagines that the moderation in leftist rhetoric demanded by the election of Ronald Reagan is any way comparable to the relentless leftist cultural war that can cost a typical American his job for a careless word. You have to be a regime insider in the ruling class bubble to write as Krugman writes.

Notice that the cringe, for Krugman, has to do with losing elections. The Cringe, for conservatives, has to do with liberal cultural imperialism that seeps into every corner of American life.

The problem for Republicans and for conservatives in 2016 is that their voters are fed up with the Cringe. Fed up to the back teeth, as the Brits say. And the fed-upness extends beyond the rebel voters of Ted Cruz. Thus Donald Trump.

The point about Donald Trump is that he offers the hope of a possibility of the End of the Cringe. Even though he recently did a cringe on the Judge Curiel issue.

The problem for conservatives and Republicans is that the Trump tactics to End the Cringe rather go against our People of the Responsible Self culture of politeness and decorum. Not to go all Hegel on this, but the Trump tactics return to the hunter-gatherer Fight to the Death instead of the mutual recognition of the "other" that is required of the Slaves who Work in the global economy.

The question that should exercise the Trump skeptics and other #NeverTrump-ers is simple. Where is your plan to End the Cringe? If you chaps have a plan to reverse or outflank or double-envelop the liberal cultural imperialist army, let's hear it.

The fact is that Donald Trump is the only guy in town that has demonstrated the ability and the stamina to End the Cringe. He even has the cojones to call out The Washington Post on a blatant Democratic-operatives-with-bylines headline that monstrously misrepresented Trump. Imagine!

It doesn't hurt that just about now the whole ruling class agenda is crumbling around its ears. Its top-down regulation-by-experts model is crumbling; its buy-the-voters-with-their-own-money entitlements are tottering. And the immigration surge has provoked a terrorism surge rather like the anarchist surge of a century ago, recently discussed by Steve Sailer.

Did you know there were recent immigrants running around bombing people in the Good Old USA a century ago, and eventually, the government "did something" about it? Go read about it; it's fascinating.

And now an Afghan American gay has murdered a bunch of Hispanic gays in Orlando.

Mr. President, is it safe? Because some of us think it is time to End the Cringe Now!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We are not that interested in power

I admit, I was frustrated with Deirdre N. McCloskey’s Bourgeois Equality. Five years and more since her excellent Bourgeois Dignity I was expecting something to wrap up her Bourgeois Trilogy with a bang.
But she already said it all before, when arguing that the bourgeoisie brought something new into the world, a rhetoric that celebrated the dignity of ordinary people, innovation, and the spirit of “having a go.”

But I admit that the disappointment forced me to do Heidegger’s thing of “what is called thinking.”
What is it about us, the bourgeoisie, the people that I call the People of the Responsible Self that encapsulated what McCloskey has been saying about the bourgeousie, its virtues, its dignity, its equality? And then, Alger-Hiss-like, cudgeling my brain, I got it.

The point about the bourgeoisie, the middle class, the middling sort of person, is that we are not that interested in power.

And that is a very big thing. Because if you are not that interested in power then you can do things like surrender to Adam Smith’s invisible hand. You can say that you will inquire first how you can contribute to the world before you demand from it you cut, your share. And in that modest submission to the opinions of others develops the whole flowering of McCloskey’s Great Enrichment, the 200 year progrtess in per-capita income from $3 per day to $100 per day and very likely more. There has been nothing like it in human history ever.

You can describe the people of the Responsible Self any way you like, but I like the notion of Robert Bellah that this kind of person emerged in the Axial Age when religion developed the idea that individual humans could understand the world and could therefore do something about it. And then, of course, they ought to do something about it.

How are we to symbolize this Person of the Responsible Self; who is its poster boy?

Thank you, senator, I can help you with that. But I am afraid that the poster boy is not a boy, but a girl. The poster girl of the People of the Responsible Self is Denise Baudu, heroine of Emile Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames, translated in English as The Ladies Paradise and available on Netflix as The Paradise. (But beware: The Paradise in Netflix is a BBC production and so it completely misses the point of Au Bonheur des Dames in exactly the way you would expect from a bunch of North London luvvies.)

Zola’s Denise Baudu arrives as a 20-year-old from Normandy, appearing on her uncle’s doorstep in Paris one morning in the 1860s, orphaned, with her two younger brothers in tow. But her uncle can’t help her because his mom-and-pop drapery business is in the toilet on account of the monster across the street, the growing innovative department store, Au Bonheur des Dames, run by Monsieur Octave Mouret, who has a genius for predicting what the ladies will adore.

OK. If Denise can’t work at her uncle’s shop she’ll work across the street for the monster, and so she does, thin and wan and chétive and casually abused by her boss and co-workers. She goes to work because, after all, Denise must be responsible and provide for her little brother Pépé and bail out her improvident apprentice brother Jean in his frequent bouts of girl trouble.

This being a novel, the boss of The Bonheur takes a shine to Denise in spite of her shyness and clumsiness, and he is right, for as she starts to find her sealegs in the ocean of the Bonheur she turns out to be an excellent vendeuse and really pretty. The day comes when she gets a summons to dinner with Mouret, at which, the according to lore, the invited vendeuse is herself to be the dessert. Only Denise is the perfect bourgeoise, a poster girl for the People of the Responsible Self. She refuses to become the mistress of the boss. She has responsibilities, brothers to provide for. So the This decision rocks the Bonheur to its foundations. She did what? It cannot be that she refuses the gifts and blandishments of M. Mouret on account of her honor and virtue; it must be her cunning that causes her to refuse the boss’s summons. Denise also rocks M. Mouret to his foundations; her consistent refusal haunts him. Again and again he propositions her, but the answer is always non, toujours non. Are you in love with someone, he demands? Yes, but… Finally she can’t take it any more and quits so she can take her brother and his new wife off to Normandy for a month of honeymoon. And then, on her last day at work, Mouret breaks down and offers to marry her. Oh no, says Denise, she cannot marry because she must care for her brothers. OK, sobs Mouret -- he is really a wreck at this point -- I give up: go to the man you love. So finally we get to the dénouement, as Denise breaks down and rushes into his arms. “Oh monsieur Mouret, c’est vous que j’aime,” she says, sobbing on his neck. Cue wedding bells and everyone lives happily ever after.

Now of course Denise Baudu is a woman so perfect that she never could have lived on this earth. She is so completely and devotedly responsible that she is super-human. But that’s what makes her a poster girl of the People of the Responsible Self. And she is not interested in power. Not at all.

Now, the rest of us are not perfect Paragons of the Responsible Self. So we live in a less exalted realm than a Zola novel. It can only be said of us that we are not that interested in power. Still, that is something.

But our liberal friends, and even more so their pas d’ennemis à gauche, they really are interested in power. In fact they believe in power: political power, cultural power, artistic power, administrative power, naming and shaming power, their power. It doesn’t matter whether they are Enlightenment rationalists, or Romantic artists, or Marxists, or modernists that believe in an overarching meta-narrative or postmodernists that swear on a stack of Power/Knowledge that they abjure all meta-narrative and hegemonies over the “other.” Rubbish. They all believe in power, political power. It is their religion.

But they are wrong. As the bacon billboard might have said: if you believe in power, YOU ARE WRONG.

The whole point about the bourgeois era is the astonishing discovery that if you ease up on the clunking fist of political power, if you allow moderate innovation and keep the established interests from killing innovation in its cradle, if you allow the middling sort of person to “have a go” then, if all the stars are in alignment, some nobody will invent a steam engine to pump out mines, another nobody will invent a machine spinner. Some clerk will develop the oil industry, some telegraph messenger will develop the steel industry, a couple of rural yahoos will invent the airplane, a mechanic will decide to assemble cars on an assembly line. Some rich kid will drop out of Harvard and sell another guy’s PC operating system to IBM. And so on. A Great Enrichment from $3 per day to $100 per day. All that without the vital and indispensable clunking fist of political power. “Impossible,” as the son of an iconic New Yorker editor gets to say again and again in The Princess Bride. Who would have thunk it?

But I have a question. I thought we were all postmodernists now. I thought that the whole point of the post-modern turn was the turn away from hegemony and domination of the single answer, the meta-narrative. It was supposed to liberate the “other:” women, minorities, LGBT, and formerly colonialized peoples.

So how come the first thing that gays did when they got “marriage equality”was to beat up on Christian bakers and pizza parlors if they were all postmodernists that would never “other”anyone? How come the crazed lefty Twitter mobs? How come the name-and-shame postmodern university?

How come Obamacare? Surely, in the postmodern era, with its new-found declaration against the one rational solution, the first thing you say is that the Single Payer health care idea is a crock. Because it is the one single solution, and that cannot be in the non meta-narrative society. There must be a diversity of health care provision to allow diverse communities to approach health care in their own way. How come our Democratic friends have not proposed to privatize Social Security because, of course, it is rubbish to insist that all lifestyes should follow a single Fordist trajectory of education, then work, then retirement. Suppose you are a lesbian quilter on your third “marriage equality” marriage? What does the Fordist monopoly government retirement program mean to you? Instead President Obama has proposed a unilateral increase in Social Security benefits. How would he know? Does he have an inside track on the one true answer to retirement provision? Or is he just a power-crazed politician pandering for votes? And is then the postmodern turn nothing but a lie, not merely a lie that our liberal friends have told us but a lie they have told themselves and ended up believing?

I think you know the answer to that.

It really is appropriate that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate for president this year. Because the Democratic Party, like its liberal culture, has descended into an endless swamp of lies. And so the Democrats, true to their last, have nominated a candidate that was first fired for lying when she was a young lawyer on the Watergate committee in the 1970s. Then she lied about cattle futures. Then she lied about the White House travel office. Then she lied about Whitewater. Then she lied to cover up her husband’s career of serial sexual harassment, telling us that the real story was a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Dear God, if only! But there’s a problem. We righties are not that interested in power. So we really wouldn’t know how to create a little conspiracy, let alone one so vast… And now she is lying about her stupid e-mail server, a truly Talleyrand moment that is worse than a crime, it is a blunder.
Up to now, I have been dealing with the importance of the bourgeois ethos, we are not that interested in power, at the macro level of rich kids wanting to get into activism and politicians wanted to impose a top-down one-size-fits-all administrative cramdown on health-care, Christian bakers, what have you. But what does this mean to you and me, down on the street, where ordinary people try to follow the rules, go to work, and obey the law. I will tell you.

The gospel of we are not that interested in power requires of us a very small thing. It is that when things go against us in the normal course of life, we do not go to government and demand that government and save our job by hobbling the innovators that are putting us out of a job. Instead the gospel asks us to be true to our last as People of the Responsible Self. It asks us, in the words of British politician Norman Tebbit, to get on our bike and take the loss and do the responsible thing and overcome our fear and disappointment and go and find something else to do that can provide a service that other people are willing to pay for.

This may be a very small thing, but it is very hard thing for people to do. We know that because of the intersection of the Trump phenomenon and the sudden discovery by the social-science experts that the white working class is dying of despair.

Of course, liberals are to blame for the despair of the working class as well as everything else. It was they that told the working class that they were horribly exploited, they that comforted the working class with a mattress of wage-and-hour laws, they that saddled the white working class with a boatload of payroll taxes payable in the future with wonderful entitlement benefits, they that helped the white working class infect their employers with the economic parasite called the labor union, that ends up killing its host, as well-ordered parasites in Nature do not do, they that turned on the white working class as racist, sexist, bigoted Archie Bunkers in the 1970s.

Back in the years of the French Revolution, Condorcet wrote that “a good law must be good for everyone.” That was easy to say, but hard to realize. We know better now, and so in the light of modern experience I propose the following catchphrase to check anyone proposing a new program: Government is Injustice. Of course, not all government is injustice, and occasionally a government does pass a good law that is good for everyone. Most of the time, alas, governments pass laws to reward their supporters, and the rest of the people, on the receiving end of the new law experience it as the clunking fist of injustice. And it stands to reason that the more government you have the more people are going to be on the receiving end of its taxes, its regulations, its men with guns, and will experience government as injustice directed particularly and with malice aforethought against them.

This truth is understood, I think, in the basic position of postmodernist turn. No meta-narratives. No othering. The logic of the postmodernists would lead them that government action would often result in negative results for the “others.” And, moreover, if government power is deployed in the interest of the "others" then the ordinary "us" will get othered. And so the hills are alive with the sound of rage. So what went wrong?

What went wrong is that, for everyone except the bourgeoisie and the People of the Responsible Self who are not that interested in power, power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

You can see where I am going with this. I am saying that the problem with our liberal friends is that they are interested in power. And like all regimes only interested in power, starting with the Soviet and Maoist disasters, and continuing with the Nazi disaster and all the other stupid human sacrifices to the god of power in our time, power ends in asphyxiation and strangulation, and not infrequently a pile of skulls. There is a simple reason for this, and it issues from the basic problem with a society dominated by power. It cannot adapt, and no wonder. The whole point of government is to stop change. The particular change that government is designed to sop is the attack on the homeland by foreign enemies. That is why government has the right and the power to mobilize the populace to fight the enemy, foreign or domestic, whether the people are a village, a tribe, a feudal realm or a nation state. In such an existential Fight to the Death all the populace must be enrolled in the armed forces or the war machine to fight the enemy and defeat him.

That is all very well, but what about the instances when the homeland is not facing an existential threat, but merely the disruption from some new technical innovation? This is the rub. Governments do not stop at fighting the change imposed by invaders and pillagers and plunderers; they also like to fight against any change, social or economic or cultural, that threatens their power and the status of their supporters. They find it hard to differentiate between real existential perils and mere threats to their regime supporters.

All this is, as Hegel says, about the Fight to the Death. Either you Fight to the Death or you will submit to Work as a Slave. That is what awaits the nation that does not repel the invader. So who would be a Slave and submit to the power of the Master?

Well, we all do, because we are all enslaved to the Masters of the ruling class. But all is not lost, because through Work we learn to overcome Nature, while the Master sits in his castle and learns nothing except more Fighting.

Of course, Hegel's Master and Slave dialectic is fanciful in the extreme. But Hegel is at least valuing the Work of the Slave above the Mastery of the Master, just as Deirdre McCloskey teaches us to value the virtues and the dignity of work celebrated by the middling sort of people, the People of the Responsible Self.

Eventually the world of Work finds a way to overcome the option of the Fight to the Death or Slavery. Eventually the two opponents of the Fight to the Death learn to replace it and Mastery and Slavery with mutual recognition. And in the overcoming, something happens. The supremacy of power begins to wane.

In the world of the Fight to the Death the only thing is power. But in the world of Work there is the possibility of recognition and cooperation. And in that world, it is possible to live by not being that interested in power.

Our liberal friends, alas, are primitives; they are still living in the old world of the Fight to the Death. That is what their sacraments of "peaceful protest" and "armed resistance" are all about, whether we are talking about Marxist liberals, modernist liberals or postmodern liberals. The only thing that matters to them is to be the Master, der Herr. And the rest of us are Slaves, die Knechte, who must submit to the Master and learn to Work, to obey the wage-and-hour laws and pay our payroll taxes. Because power is everything. And that goes for everyone, patriarchs, privileges whites, and victimized "others."

But we, the People of the Responsible Self, have a dream. We dream that one day the world will be peopled by humans who are not that interested in power. We do not imagine a fantasy world, totally emancipated and liberated, in which power has been banished and surmounted by a world of perfect responsibility and community. We do not believe, either, that there will ever be a world of perfect Denise Baudus, so utterly devoted to responsibility as to even deny themselves the joys of love until the last page. We do not believe in a Heaven on Earth.

We just think that things would be a lot better for humans if more of us were not that interested in power.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

After Orlando: Socializing Young Men to Cooperation

I want to dissent from the outrage about young men up and killing people.

Everybody thinks it is a dreadful scandal. To me it is the most natural thing in the world that young men should delight in massacre and mayhem. The challenge, and it is a big one, is to socialize them to Work.

Young men are wired for their characteristic role in hunter-gatherer societies, which societies are, scientists tell us, always at war and losing about 500 per 100,000 of the population to violent death every year. (Our violent death rate is more like 5 per 100,000 per year.) The role that young men play in hunter-gatherer society is the dawn raid on the neighboring village, to kill all the men, and take the women and children into slavery. They are socialized to Fight.

But we in the western world are two revolutions removed from that. First there was the agricultural revolution, that reduced warfare to the marcher lords and their followers on the border of the agricultural realm, while everybody else went to Work on the farm. Then there was the industrial revolution that reduced the armed forces to a professional army, augmented from time to time with a mass draft army, while everybody else went to Work in the factory.

In the western world we want our young men to be socialized to Work, not to Fight. All in all, we have done a good job of it, and young western men mostly do their duty and obey the rules, go to Work, and follow the law.

But there are couple of exceptions, and we know who they are. First of all there are the lefty activists, that have a culture of "violent resistance." Yes I know. The left usually advertises its faith in Peace and Justice, but when you get into the lefty literature -- try the Hardt and Negri Empire trilogy -- they believe in revolution. Here's Huffington Post chappie Jesse Benn flying his true colors.
Violent resistance matters. Riots can lead to major change (*note the irony of that hyperlink going to a Vox article). It’s not liberal politicians or masses that historians identify as the spark underlying the modern movement for LGBTQ equality. Nor was it a think piece from some smarmy liberal writer. It was the people who took to the streets during the Stonewall Uprising. It was the Watts Rebellion, not the Watts Battle of Ideas, that exposed the enduring systemic neglect, poverty, inequality, and racism faced by that community. Similarly, it was the LA Uprising, not the LA Protests, that led to significant changes in the Los Angeles Police Department. More recently, the Ferguson and Baltimore Uprisings both helped prompt the Justice Department to investigate their corrupt police forces.
I love that guy. Hey kids! Let's all get into the violent resistance game. Personally, I think that conservatives should form their own protest group and practice violent resistance against the cruel and corrupt and unjust liberal ruling class and their bribed apologists in the universities and mainstream media, our present cultural hegemons and political masters. Not.

Sorry lefties. You've lost the plot. Violent resistance is one thing when you are the working class in 1848 and you don't have the vote. You are outside the political system and the only way you can get the attention of the ruling class is by street action. But once the working class got the vote it stopped its street action.

It was about 1920 that the left realized that this was a problem. Who was going to get into the streets for street action and revolution if the working class had lost its revolutionary fervor?

Perfectly simple, said the Frankfurt School chappies. They deployed the Eisenhower Doctrine before Ike had even thought of it. If you have an insoluble problem, said Ike, make it bigger. So Frankfurters expanded their class politics to identity politics. Anyone that they decided was marginalized and/or oppressed could now pour into the streets and demand their rights.  Yeah! Violent Resistance, baby!

This is all tremendous fun and it annoys the bourgeoisie something fabuloso. You can put your rent-a-mob into the street and hand our protest signs from here to eternity. And you can threaten, as our liberal friends did back in the Sixties, that unless Congress did something there would be a Long Hot Summer. Right now partly-funded-by-George-Soros Black Lives Matter is playing the same game.

Then along came the Muslims.

I feel sorry for the Muslims. They are playing on a bit of a sticky wicket. Their strike-first-and-ask-questions-later culture seems to be uniquely unsuitable for the modern global capitalist world which thrives on trust-the-stranger across the whole wide world. Why, proper Muslims don't even trust their women out of doors. They marry their cousins and they don't trust anyone outside the tribe, let alone outside their religion.

And it is clear that Muslims believe in power.

Now I believe that the crucial feature of the modern world is the bourgeoisie and its culture of dignity and innovation that is not that interested in power. But it is obvious that many people really have a problem with this. Lefties. Fascists. Tin-horn dictators. Liberal experts. Liberal activists. Muslim terrorists. And these chappies have spent the last 170 years trying to drive a spike into the heart of the not that interested in power culture.

Look at the German problem, in World War I and World War II. What were the Germans thinking? They didn't need to conquer Europe with their excellent soldiers. They were already conquering it with their excellent philosophers and physicists and chemists and Otto and Diesel cycles. And air conditioning. Did you know that the Germans invented air-conditioning so they could make beer in summer?

Look at the Soviet problem. The clueless Bolsheviks thought that the road to the future was worker power supervised by right-thinking lefties that believed in worker power. Wrong! Worker power and government force turned out to be a complete disaster and reversed the trajectory of the rising Russian Empire into a dysfunctional mess.

Now we have the frustrated Muslims of the Middle East thinking that the answer to their problems is power. No it isn't Muslims, but it looks as if we are going to have to teach you that the hard way.

But there is another problem. Liberals and Democrats. They have built their political machine on the Frankfurt School, by dividing the national community into a Coalition of the Fringes of identities, helpless victims that need liberal experts and activists to represent them against the implacable horde of typical Americans. Thus women, blacks, Hispanics, gays, and Muslims all need the beneficent Oz to fight for them against the brutal bourgeois regime that has raised per capita income from $3 to $120 in 200 years. The horror!

Yes but what happens when young men start doing a spot of violent resistance in San Jose and beating up gay Hispanics Republicans? What happens when a young Muslim-Afghan-American shoots up a gay bar in Orlando?

I'd say that it might encourage some individuals in the Coalition of the Fringes to wonder which side their bread is buttered on. Maybe, just maybe, we should all think about ourselves as Americans, and not as hyphenated identity groups. Maybe, just maybe, gays and Hispanics and African Americans should think about what the Democrats have done for them lately.

Maybe, just maybe, we should return to our basic western menu, which is to socialize young men not to murder and mayhem in inner-city gangs and liberal activism and Muslim terrorism. Maybe we should socialize them back to Work.

That is after all what Hegel was suggesting with his tortured Master and Slave myth. Once you stop the kill-or-be-killed culture , the Fight of the hunter-gatherers, then you enter the world of Work. You start to learn how to dominate the world rather than other men. And you start to recognize other men as men and not as opponents in the Fight.

Yes, I've been reading Kojève's Introduction to the Reading of Hegel as every good lefty used to do, and I'm going to be using his analysis rather freely in the future.

Because if you want to defeat the left you must first understand the left.

And the key to the future is to deal firmly but kindly with the foolish people that believe that the answer to life, the universe, and everything is power. As some chappie said about 2,000 years ago. Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Don't Call It Free Trade

There is a lot of noise going on right about now about "free trade." Donald Trump has come out against it. And here in The American Spectator Esther Goldberg is praising it with faint praise. The point is that:
When traders are purchasing and selling from different countries, the terms under which they may do so is established by Trade Agreements between their respective governments. These Agreements are complex because they have to accommodate a host of interest groups that have been lobbying for terms that will benefit their particular industry.
Actually, that is true about all economic activity. There are trade agreements "to accommodate a host of interest groups" wherever you look, only we usually call it regulation or consumer protection or labor law. Right now we are watching the battle of the special interests as Uber and Lyft elbow aside the taxi-cab industry and its bribed apologists in City Hall. In the middle of the ride-sharing vs. taxi-cab war there is an interesting question raised about fingerprinting. Uber and Lyft think that fingerprinting is unnecessary since their apps identify everyone, driver and customer. And former Attorney General Holder says that, anyway, fingerprinting is racist. But the taxi-cab drivers have been regulated and fingerprinted by City Hall, and they want, as the mom-and-pop shopowners in Zola's novel about department stores, Au Bonheur des Dames, wanted, to continue the ancien commerce. All the way to their eventual extinction.

But I think that the best place to start is with this argument. If you are not going to permit market pricing, just what is your brilliant idea, genius?

Let's look at the manufacture of iPhones, recently analyzed by MIT and announced in the MIT Technology Review by Konstantin Kakaes. Right now, iPhones are assembled in China and Brazil.
According to IHS, a market analyst, the components of an iPhone 6s Plus, which sells for $749, cost about $230. An iPhone SE, Apple’s newest model, sells for $399, and IHS estimates it contains $156 worth of components.

Assembling those components into an iPhone costs about $4 in IHS’s estimate and about $10 in the estimation of  Jason Dedrick, a professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. Dedrick thinks that doing such work in the U.S. would add $30 to $40 to the cost. That’s partly because labor costs are higher in the U.S., but mostly it’s because additional transportation and logistics expenses would arise from shipping parts, and not just the finished product, to the U.S.
So yeah. You could assemble iPhones in the US and they wouldn't cost that much more. Hey, what's $30 to $40 marked up to retail? (My $100 smartphone plus $30-$40 would cost a lot more, percentage-wise.) But you can see that you would immediately get into a regulatory minefield. That's because pretty soon you would be issuing regulations about how much of of the components in each iPhone could be manufactured abroad. And then you would need an inspectorate to make sure that nobody cheated. And what would happen when the smartphone industry switched to another business model that was not covered by the carefully regulated iPhone manufacturing accords?

The point is that you can talk glibly about free trade and protection and regulation and consumer protection but you are always really talking about how much clunking fist can the marketplace tolerate before it turns into Venezuela.

And then there is Deirdre McCloskey's Great Enrichment. We are talking about per-capita improvement in 200 years from $3 per day to $100 per day and very likely more. How did it happen? It happened because the machine spinners put the cottage spinners out of work. And the machine looms put the hand-loom weavers out of work. And the oil industry put the coal miners out of work. And the diesel factories put the Baldwin steam locomotive workers out of work. Right up to the present day when the smartphones put the mainframe computer and the minicomputer and the desktop computer and the laptop computer workers out of work. And then there is Amazon.

All this happened, the enrichment and the extinction of ancien commerce, because innovators innovated and nobody succeeded in stopping them.

We humans have a dream of eternal life, of endless perfection in the heavenly arms of God. It sounds good, except that to try and implement it on Earth means government and force and the forcible prevention of innovation and young people "having a go."

And yet the fact of human life and of the institutions we create is that we and they are born, we and they grow, we and they may reproduce and bring our progeny to adulthood, and then we and they grow old and die. We can't live forever, and neither can our jobs. And neither can our corporations. And neither can our governments. And neither can our civilizations.

The ideology of protection and regulation and consumer protection and government is to regulate and limit everything by force. It is not the way of life. It is the march of death.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Breaking Out of the PC Box

Presidential candidate Donald Trump recently got in trouble for objecting that the federal judge in his Trump University case was probably biased, being a member of a La Raza associated lawyers group and all.

And the GOP elders all united to condemn Donald Trump for racism.

Come on, Americans, this circular firing squad has to stop.

Not that I blame the judge, Gonzalo Curiel. Getting on the bench is a political thing, and if you have Hispanic ancestry it helps to belong to a Hispanic group to demonstrate your racial bona fides to the Great Mentioners that get your name on the List.

But unhyphenated Americans have got to get with the program. We must stop the silencing, the oppression, the totalitarianism of leftist PC politics. Jonah Goldberg this morning has a piece on liberals wanting to start a "conversation," which usually means liberals getting set to shut you up.

And that means, following Vox Day, that we have to take the attitude of "We Don't Care" whenever liberals play the racist/sexist/homophobe card.

Let's give the liberals credit. The whole intolerant tolerance thing invented by Herbert Marcuse is pure genius. You set up a frankly racist sexist politics and then you accuse anyone that objects to your racist sexist politics of racism and sexism. What is not to like?

And liberals will go on doing this until we non-hyphenated Americans say: "Call me a racist, sexist hompohobe. I Don't Care."

And the time to start practicing this new and improved attitude is right now while Donald Trump is running for president.

It ought to be a scandal that a federal judge belongs to a group with "Raza" in its name. It ought to be a scandal that Justice Sotomayor can utter a racist catchphrase to suggest that a "wise Latina" has a special inside track on the law. It ought to be a scandal that liberals are packing public institutions across the land with knee-jerk liberals on the argument of "diversity." It ought to be a scandal that Reverends Sharpton, Jackson, and Wright have not been dispatched to Outer Slobbovia for their frank racism.

Look, I know why the Republican elite responds to a cry of racism by cowering in their bunker. It is because their experience is that you can't win, because The New York Times can put you above the fold for a month to make sure that you know your place, because their experience is that a misplaced word can cost you your career. And it's because Republicans are decent people that are not that interested in power and just want everyone to get along.

Trouble is that Republicans are dealing with people who are interested in power, very interested in power. The aftermath of the anti-Trump riots in San Jose, California illustrated that perfectly. A Huffington Post writer, Jesse Benn:
Violent resistance matters. Riots can lead to major change (*note the irony of that hyperlink going to a Vox article). It’s not liberal politicians or masses that historians identify as the spark underlying the modern movement for LGBTQ equality. Nor was it a think piece from some smarmy liberal writer. It was the people who took to the streets during the Stonewall Uprising. It was the Watts Rebellion, not the Watts Battle of Ideas, that exposed the enduring systemic neglect, poverty, inequality, and racism faced by that community. Similarly, it was the LA Uprising, not the LA Protests, that led to significant changes in the Los Angeles Police Department. More recently, the Ferguson and Baltimore Uprisings both helped prompt the Justice Department to investigate their corrupt police forces.
What this young man does not seem to understand is that once you justify violence for your side, the good side, then you have licensed it for the other side, the bad side. The whole paraphernalia of laws and institutions and elections and representation is to provide ample opportunity for people with a grievance to advertise their oppression and get the ruling class to pay attention without going into the streets.

That's why the liberal resort to shutting up their critics is wrong; that is why teaching young heads full of mush that "riots can lead to major change" is wrong. That's why the cringing GOP establishment is wrong.

If we shut down robust debate in the public square then we are setting ourselves up for trouble. If we practice racism and call it "diversity" then we are setting ourselves up for trouble.

The reason that Donald Trump is presumptive nominee of the Republican Party is that the professional politicians in the Republican Party have failed us. Not because they are evil and feckless, but because they have been cunningly herded into a box by the left and its Frankfurt School identity politics.

Well, now it is time to break out of the box. Frankly, I don't know how to do it. I figure that the professional politicians and activists are the ones that should know the techniques of changing the "conversation."

But somebody has to figure it out, and soon.