Monday, July 31, 2017

The Left's Syllabus of Errors, Part One

I experience the left as a reactionary and nostalgic movement that arose at the time of the industrial revolution with the goal of turning back the clock to an imagined golden age of perfect and equal community.

Obviously, the first error of the left was the French Revolution, and that is where the term "left" was invented. My knowledge about the revolution is sketchy, but it is obvious to me that the French Revolution is an example of How Not to Do It. Whereas the American Revolution and the Constitution are an example of How To Do It. The result of the French Revolution was that French hegemony in Europe was over. For most of us, that was great. For the French, not so good.

The second error was the folly of the socialist communities like New Harmony, Indiana, founded by Robert Owen who bought Harmony from a German Protestant sect in 1824 and tried out his socialist ideas -- for two years until the experiment failed.

The third error is Marxian economics, based on Karl Marx's idiosyncratic reading of classical economics and its dual theory of value: exchange value and use value. Marx published his theory in 1867 and in 1870 it was blown up by the marginal revolution, that there was no such thing as use value and exchange value, only marginal value. But here we are, nearly 150 years after the marginal revolution and Marxists still haven't digested the annihilation of their flawed economics.

The fourth error is the faith in top-down administrative government, started in a big way by Bismarck in Germany and his government social-insurance scheme in the 1880s. It was left to the economist Ludwig von Mises to predict in 1918 that socialism could not work because it could not compute prices. But this is true of all government centralized administrative programs. Designed to sidestep the price system, these cunning plans always founder on the fact that they cannot adjust day-by-day to changing circumstances. In fact they are designed to prevent adjustment. Thus they always end up in bankruptcy, injustice and waste, whether in pensions, health care, education, or welfare.

The fifth error is the left's intervention to favor its little darlings. This started with the workers, and ended up with unionized workers bankrupting the industries they had organized. It continued with the left warping the law to favor its feminist and minority clients, thus making both women and minorities worse off. The best way to approach marginalized communities is to start with my catchphrase that there is no such thing as justice, only injustice. Thus it is one thing to write civil rights laws; it is another thing to legislate and impose initiatives to benefit "underrepresented" groups.

The sixth error is the left's war on religion. Experts now agree that all humans practice what we would call religion, some way of understanding the meaning of life, the universe and everything, and what to do about it. The deep wisdom of the American founders was to understand that religion and politics needed to be separated. But the left is a secular religion and thinks nothing of installing its preachers throughout the government. There is a word for this combination of religion and government power: totalitarianism.

The seventh error is the left's war on the nation state. With Marxism the left determined to press for a global government based on the class principle, that workers of the world would combine together to fight the capitalists. But World War I showed that the workers identified first with their nation states, British workers believed in Britain, German workers in Germany, French workers in France. In other words the nation state was an astonishing concept that could command the loyalties of humans from all walks of life living in a geographical area, and get them to loosen their blood and tribal and class ties in favor of a single abstract notion of a nation and its people. Then, when the ruling class screwed up in the aftermath of World War I with inflations in the 1920s and the Great Depression in the 1930s, ordinary people strengthened their loyalty to nation, and supported Mussolini, Hitler, Baldwin, and Roosevelt that promised to make their nations great again. The ruling class interpreted this loyalty, after World War II, as "fascism" and a disaster which should never be allowed to happen again. But they were wrong. What never should have been allowed to happen again was the ruling class screwing up the economy again, as in the 1970s inflation and the 2000s housing bubble.

The eighth error is large-scale migration. This error proceeds from the ruling class's war on the nation state and its conceit that it can rule over the result. In fact the best political unit currently on offer is the nation state with its fiction of a single people speaking the same language and descended from a common ancestry. The lesson of US immigration down the decades is that the new immigrants always tend to form sub-communities walled off from the national community, and that it takes a war, e.g., World War II, to bring them all together.

The ninth error is climate change, the notion that we are roasting the planet with fossil fuel use. It may be true, but since we are presently in an "interglacial period" in a major ice age, probably not. In any case, humans are good at adapting, and not so good at predicting. When we make a mess, we work to clean it up. We are really bad at predicting what is going to happen next week, or next year, or next century, and spending a ton of money on the assumption that we can predict the future is utter folly.

Well, that's enough for starters. Next, Postmodernism.

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Trump's Not Getting Anything Done"

I had lunch recently with a liberal friend who declared that Trump wasn't getting anything done.

So I had the option of silence or disagreement.

I decided not to disturb this New York Times reader. After all, why argue the point? As far as I know, President Trump is doing a pretty good job of reversing tons of regulations pushed through by the phone-and-pen Obama administration. He seems to be cleaning up ISIS in Syria; he is putting the brakes on full-bore green energy. He seems to be putting the kibosh on "net neutrality." His Education Secretary  seems to be moving forward on a conservative agenda, maybe introducing a smidgen of choice.

Trump has not, of course, repealed and replaced Obamacare, and I don't know if that is good or bad. I'd say that the time to fix Obamacare will be when Democrats are shouting the house down that Something Has to be Done, because their voters are being hurt. Obviously we have not reached that point, and meanwhile Democrats are enjoying the fun of making Republicans squirm and look foolish.

All in all, I am not sure if Trump  is an idiot, as his opponents insist, or that he just plays one on TV.

What I would like to see is tax reform, simply a bill to reduce deductions and carve-outs and replace them with lower tax rates. Especially for corporations.

Recently, I read an article arguing for the return of "regular order" to Congress, where bills would be introduced in committee and marked up and then brought before the full houses of Congress. Instead of the current system where bills like Obamacare and Obamacare replacement are cooked up by the leaders of Congress in congress with the special interests and then submitted for up on down votes by the members. And where appropriation bills are replaced by year-end "reconciliation" omnibus bills.

Yes, but. The problem is that government is so big that it is meddling in too many things to allow each issue to be worked out in subcommittees and committees. Even the big omnibus bills can't do the job. That's why they stuffed Obamacare full  of directives for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop regulations for this and that. And why Obama bypassed the legislative process with his phone-and-pen executive order policy.

Only, it is a century since Ludwig von Mises argued that socialism could not work because it could not compute prices. And the same applies to all centralized administrative systems. But it hasn't stopped the merchants of power, because people come to government precisely to use its force to dodge the directions of the market and the price system.

That is why all the big government programs are a mess; that is why omnibus bills and reconciliation are a monstrosity; that is why it is not possible for Congress to legislate using "regular order." All these  approached to social cooperation are trying to substitute the force of government for the give and take of the price system and the natural instinct of humans to resolve their differences peacefully. And these cheap resorts to force are all doomed to fail, at the cost of much human suffering: hello Venezuela.

Meanwhile Trump is dodging and weaving, trying to get something done, and the readers of The New York Times are being taught that he is not getting anything done.

Someone is going to be wrong about that one. I just hope it isn't me.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Universities Have Not "Drifted from their Historic Mission"

What is a university for? As soon as you start to try to answer that question you get buried in an avalanche of ordure. Perhaps nothing provokes a tsunami of blather like the question of the role of the university.

Here's one lament that moans about universities drifting from their historic mission. Or this young academic that has suddenly discovered the monster of bureaucracy, and is off to Germany, the birthplace of bureaucracy.

Is the mission of the university to prepare well-born youngsters for political leadership? Is it to teach the canon? Is it to advance the frontiers of knowledge? Is it to provide robust venues for argument and debate? Is it to protect the rights of minorities? Is it to indoctrinate the youth in ruling-class ideology? Is it to develop big bombs for the military?

Well, you tell me. The answer is that all kinds of actors are interested in the minds of the young, and are willing to spend money and time on that project.

And the thing about universities is that they are "non-profit"organizations. Which means that... it makes it much harder to figure out who is profiting from the university. Is it the students getting an education? Is it the professors that get to reorder young heads full of mush? Is it the donors who get to push the university towards their vision of the universe? Is it the politicians that fund its research? Or is it the senior administrators that get to use the university as an ATM?

What, indeed is the "historic mission"of the university?

Strictly speaking, a university is a gathering of scholars and teachers that offer to teach youngsters that gather together in residential colleges to receive instruction from the masters. Yes, back in the day the students ran  the residential colleges: imagine! But it was never that simple, because the powerful took an interest in the universities. Thus, for many years, the great universities like Oxford and Cambridge in England were primarily involved in training up the second sons of the nobility for the church. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the universities trained young men for the Church of England, the established state church. Even as late as 1832 we get the bourgeois mayor of Middlemarch sending his son Fred off to Cambridge to raise the status of the Vincy family. Only Fred didn't really want to become a priest.

The Germans had another agenda. Deep in the humiliation of the Napoleonic era they founded the University of Berlin as a vehicle of state power. They would educate a new generation of Germans to take it to the French, and invented the research university as one of the means to that end.

In the US, it was the various churches that built universities. Harvard was  founded in 1634 by the Puritans to train up clergy for the new commonwealth. But by 1800 more liberal religious ideas were in the ascendant, and Harvard became Unitarian. Yale was founded by clergy in 1701 to educate Congregationalist ministers. The first Catholic university in the US was Georgetown, founded in 1789. The first university after the German model was Johns Hopkins, founded by Daniel Colt Gilman in 1876. Notice that the university was funded by Johns Hopkins, entrepreneur, investor, abolitionist, and philanthropist. He was not a church.

So you can see that everyone that got into the university game had an agenda. They weren't interested in discovering what parents and children wanted in an education; they already knew what was good for them.

It is not surprising that as progressives/liberals/leftists rose to power and prominence that they would seek to remake the university into an institution that would raise up good little progressives and leftist activists. They did not want universities to be seminaries that churned out ministers to send out to the wilderness, or priests that would preach to the embattled Catholic faithful,  or founts of science and state power. They wanted to create secular seminaries that would produce social activists that would go forth and preach the gospel of equality, or rights, or, as now, "intersectionality." Of course they did.

But we, whoever we are, have a different agenda, and the university as secular seminary is a direct attack on everything we hold dear. No wonder, of course, that in today's university, "conservatives need not apply." You don't want no stinkin' heretics in your school of secular orthodoxy.

But what do we do about it? My guess is nothing. The revolution in learning that issues from the internet means that you can learn anything anywhere. You do not have to go to an approved school to get the credentials to make you a safe hire.

I suspect that the modern bureaucratic system of education is a one-off, not to be repeated, the attempt of today's ruling class to ape the structure of the big corporation and big government, which seemed to be the wave of the future a century ago.

But we know that the world doesn't work like that. Big institutions are mature institutions, and the only way for them to go is down. Moreover, I would argue, non-profit ownership is itself a problem, because it fails to establish who is in charge and who is to take the profits and absorb the losses.

We know, with the advent of artificial intelligence, that the world is going to change more than we can possibly imagine. If there is one thing we should have learned from the successive economic revolutions of the Great Enrichment over the past 200 years, it is that the only thing to do is to change as well  as you can when  the new economic era dawns. The  worst thing to do is to resist economic change and erect non-profit institutions and government programs to create a walled garden that keeps the outside world from challenging the status quo. For now.

So the current conservative rage against the PC university misses the point. The current disappointment that universities have "drifted from their historic mission" is beside the point. Everything is going to change and the folks that imagine they are protected from the future by ivied walls or by government favor are living a fantasy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Has The Left's Strategy Reached Its Bridge Too Far?

My claim to fame is the simple idea that the whole point of the left is to find a group "outside the system" and advocate for it.

The brilliance of Marx and Engels was to realize that their rich-kid revolutionary cult needed a reason to use the violence of revolution. And they found their reason in the workers. In the 1840s, when their young heads full of mush were cooking hash, the workers wanted what the middle class had got in the British Reform Bill of 1832. They wanted the vote. So they marched and Charted, mostly peacefully.

Imagine you are a rich kid who has been to university but who doesn't deign to actually work for a living (Marx) or or doesn't really want to deign to work in Daddy's textile firm (Engels). What better than to lead the poor excluded workers to bloody revolution?

But then the evil bourgeoisie upped and gave the workers the vote. So the workers lost their interest in riots in the streets. They settled down to getting free stuff from their elected representatives.

Now what?

Perfectly simple. A new generation of German rich kids, your Horkheimers, your Adornos, and your Marcuses, came up  with a replacement revolutionary creed. The workers be damned: the real wretched of the earth were women and minorities, not to forget the helpless victims of colonialism. Now woke rich kids would lead them to bloody revolutionary victory.

Only, the bloody bourgeoisie was perfectly happy to give women the vote, and minorities civil rights, and walk away from their colonial empires.

Anyway, imperialism got you into a real mess, like when the British Lord Salisbury argued against Home Rule for Ireland on the notion that it would encourage the natives in India to demand the same. The idea!

Anyway, now we have gay marriage and safe spaces on campus, so the only people left outside the system are illegal immigrants and Muslims.

So  of course the left is advocating for illegal immigrants and Muslims, because they are the only people left on the planet that are not already completely incorporated into the system, and for whom violence is still a viable option.

The question we must ask is whether bloody revolution on behalf of illegal immigrants and Muslims is going  to be a winner for the left, for whether it will turn out to be a bridge too far.

The simple answer is that We Don't Know.

It probably depends on the battle to come.

Will the people here in the US and in Europe rally to politicians that address them as the citizens and voters of nation states? Or will they rally to politicians that address them as members of racial or gender tribes, or as citizens of the world.

In the case of Muslims, I think the issue is whether Muslims can deal with the western notion of the separation of powers, that government and religion should be separate but equal. Over the 2000 years of Christianity a condominium has been established between temporal powers and spiritual powers. It is telling that both the left and Islam believe in totalitarianism. The one believes in a totalitarianism of secular politics; the other believes in a totalitarianism of the religious community: a theocracy.

Personally, I think that both the illegal immigrant and Muslim problem can be solved with strategic deportation policies. It took less than 500 deportations to deal with the US "anarchists" in the 1920s, and I should think that same would apply today. It is tremendous fun to rile up the ΅undocumented" and would-be Muslim terrorists. But the truth is that more than fun-and-games, people want to live in the prosperous West and wive and thrive here.

Anyway, we are living through the resolution of this great question: Where do we draw the line between the in-crowd and the outsiders? Are illegals and Muslims to be kept beyond the Pale. Or shall  we let them stay?

Meanwhile, what about the transgendered? Shall we let them serve in the military or not? Now there is an issue for the ages.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Better Deal for Americans

Last Sunday Chuck Schumer came out with a "Better Deal" program for Democrats going forward. According to IBD it is nothing new, just the usual Democratic program list, including a higher minimum wage, negotiated drug prices, new anti-trust vigor, and corporate tax credits and training for displaced workers.

So nothing new.

Seriously, what should government be doing in the immediate future to protect Americans?

First, what government should not be doing is mucking up the labor market with minimum wages. There is only one minimum wage: $0.00. That is the wage you get paid for your first internship, or the first months of your apprenticeship. Nor should they be mucking about with drug prices. Maybe we should encourage the drug companies to license their drugs, or ease up on the stifling FDA regulation. But mucking about with the price system is baloney. Nor should we start mucking about with anti-trust. What good did it do with Standard Oil? Or IBM? Or AT&T? In all three cases, the government acted just as the market did for the monopoly: by discovering oil in Texas (as in Texaco), by dumping the mainframe world for minicomputers and desktop microcomputers, and by changing the phone world forever. And what good did regulation do for the railroads except put them to sleep for a century?

But I get the Democrats and what they are doing. Government is force, so if you are close to the levers of power, you think about what you can do to use government power to reward your supporters.

But what should, what could government be doing to help and protect the American people?

Let us look at a few Big Problems in the world today.

First, there is the baby drought. In Japan, young people are turning off sex and family. In Germany, 30 percent of adult women are childless. Here in the US the liberal left is anti marriage and family all the way. I am talking about the sexual revolution that makes women into sex objects; feminism, that teaches women not to have children; the whole LGBT cult that leads young people to vote themselves off the planet. And the whole left-wing culture that encourages people to live as subordinate serfs instead of as responsible individuals.

The fact is that the only way for about 97 percent of people to have a meaningful life is to get married and have children. And grandchildren. Unless you are Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs or Barack Obama nobody will remember your name except your descendants. Your claim to immortality will not be in some amazing work of creative innovation, but in the children you created with your wife. Over the past century and more we have taught the sons and daughters of the educated that the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is to live a creative life, writing a novel, starting a company, advocating for justice. This is mere conceit. Creativity is having children.

Second, there is the world of work. Everybody says that we will all have our jobs taken by robots, and maybe they are right. But "everybody" has been wrong about just about everything in the last 200 years, so I am not holding my breath.  Let us try to think about this differently.

In the old days of the hunter-gatherers, men defended the borders of the tribe, and women gathered the food and raised the children. The meaning of life, the universe, and everything was to hang onto your patch of territory and create enough children to defend and propagate in that territory. But then the world changed.

In the agricultural age men were not all needed to defend the borders, so what were they to do? Peel potatoes? Fortunately there was something for them to do. It was to plow the fields. Plowing was heavy work and women tended to miscarry if they did the plowing. Yay! Men were not surplus population. But women still did nearly all the work of child-bearing, -raising, and food preparation. And, of course, all the men could be called upon, on occasion, to serve in the lord's army. The meaning of life was to find yourself a powerful lord and be his loyal retainer, and cultivate his fields in return for his protection. But then the world changed.

In the industrial age all men were not needed to defend the borders or even to plow the fields. So what were they to do? Well, it turned out that there was plenty for them to do. They could work in mines and factories. They could work in offices clerking and managing. They could range the world trading and transporting goods and services. They could work out their aggressiveness in the new concept of sports. Women started out doing nearly all the work of child-bearing, -raising, and food preparation, but as time went by children could be dumped off in government schools, and food preparation became absorbed into the exchange economy so that food could be bought rather than laboriously processed and preserved at home. And women started to emerge from 24-7 work at home into the public sphere where they joined men in factory and office. But then the world changed.

In the new age that is aborning, we are told, we humans will not have to do the routine work of resource extraction and processing, and the routing clerking and supervising as of old. So what shall we do; where shall we go?

We don't know. But here is what I think. We will still be social animals, still cooperating with each other in the basic activity of wiving and thriving. We will still be doing things for each other, probably under the price system, or rather the emergent phenomenon of price-driven production and exchange and service. The best way to wive and thrive will be to pay attention to the signals that the price system and other people are giving us. So what do we do? I think the best way is to come up with a list of Don'ts.

Don't think you can hide in a big government or big corporation. These big organizations, like armies down the ages, make promises to you that they will not keep. Because when the going gets tough, the government or the corporation will dump you to preserve itself. So you should live and work out in the open, where you receive the signals of the price system and are obliged to respond to them, right now. The longer you put it off, the deeper you will be in the hole when the big unit dumps you by the side of the road.

Don't listen to the left, on work, on sex, on marginalization, on exploitation, on anything. The lesson of the last 150 years is that the left promised the workers a Promised Land, and then left them in the lurch circa 1965. Then the left promised women and minorities a Promised Land, and I'd say that the results are in. In the west, women are less happy than they used to be, and minorities don't seem to feel any better than they did back in 1965, if you listen to the lefty activists. Don't follow the lefty Moses. He doesn't care about you, he only cares about his power.

Don't worship the god of creativity. Go ahead, be creative, serve your fellow man; find a woman to love and marry her; create children; give back to your community. But don't imagine yourself a s world-conquering creative genius. If you do, you are worshiping a false god, and you will sow tares and misery among the wheat.

You can see that my view of the future has almost nothing to do with government. This is not surprising. There is a reason for this. In the old days, life was always subordinate to the village Big Man or the local lord of the land, or the absolute monarch and his courtiers. But the last two hundred years has seen an astonishing transformation. Now we are all subject to the prompting of the price system, and we have a choice: believe in the local lord, who is not interested in you, but in his power. Or believe in the price system, and do what it prompts.

The point is that the price system is a much better lord than the local political boss. For one thing, it doesn't lie to you. It tells you exactly where you stand, all the time.

Of course, that is why people try to escape from the price system into the neo-feudalism of government or the corporation. They don't want to deal with the truth; they want to live a fantasy.

But you and I are not like that. No Sirree.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Why in the World Would the Russians Want to Back the Fracking Party in 2016?

Obviously the whole Russian Collusion thing is a cover job to hide the fact that the Obama administration was bending the rules for snooping on electronic eavesdropping. As in breaking the law.

Their cunning plan was that the rules allow the Deep State to surveil US persons if they are in a conversation with a foreigner. Thus the Obama administration found an excuse to spy on the Trump campaign.

I'd say that people should be going to jail for that, but what do I know.

The thing that doesn't pass the smell test is the idea that the Russians would want to tip the election to Trump and the Republicans, also known as the Fracking Party.

Here's a little factoid. In 2013 Russia's GDP was $2.2 trillion. In 2016 it was $1.3 trillion.

I asked a convenient young head full of mush what he thought might be going on.

"Sanctions," he asked?

"How about fracking," I replied.

Yes, our brave and noble frackers, chaps like Harold Hamm, have brought the price of oil down from $100 per barrel in 2014 to $50 per barrel in 2017.

If you are a oil producer like Russia, with very little economy other than resource extraction, the fracking revolution has hit you in the solar plexus, taking your GDP down by over 40 percent.

Frame of reference: in the Great Depression the US GDP went from $104 billion in 1929 to $59 billion in 1933. About the same. But it made Republicans into eevil exploiters for half a century, because the Great Depression happened on their watch.

And of course, in oil-state Venezuela, the economy is totally ruined thanks to bus driver Maduro at the controls.

Next question.

Why in the world would Putin and the boys have any interest in interfering in the US election to help Donald Trump win? The one thing that Putin wants is to stop fracking and stop the disastrous collapse in oil prices on his watch. The obvious thing for Putin and the boys to do would be to back Hillary and the Democrats and pour money into green foundations that are shilling for the ruinous renewable energy and high energy price policies of the international left. Because global warming and the frying of the planet! In fact, the Russians do back green NGOs that advocate against fracking.

Fracking, of course, is short-hand for the technology used in the oil and gas world for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that makes it possible to exploit narrow, tight oil and gas bearing formations that would be uneconomical to exploit using "conventional" drilling techniques.

The fracking revolution, in case you missed it, has increased US oil production from 5 million barrels per day in 2008 to 9 million barrels per day in 2017. Natural gas has gone from 20 million Mcf to 25 million Mcf. Today, the US is in the middle of converting from an oil and gas importer to an oil and gas exporter.

Remember when Candidate Obama said in 2008 that energy prices would necessarily "skyrocket." Rule One to understand politics: they are idiots.

Back to  the Russian Collusion story. Who in the world  would think that Putin and the boys would back the party whose vice-presidential candidate in 2008 deplorably said, "drill, baby, drill."

I'll tell you.  Someone that thinks that Russian GDP has declined by 40 percent due to sanctions. And there must be millions of people like that.

But here is another factoid. Per-capita GDP in Russia in 2016 is $8,700, just a little ahead of China. US per-capita GDP? $57,500.

OK, So US per-capita GDP is merely 6.6 times the Russian per-capita GDP.  Hey, socialism will do that to you. Now you can see why there are so many Russians in the US.

By the way. Some wag once said that in oil states the people are a cost. You could run the whole country without the people, because all you need is an ATM at the oil export terminal to make sure that the ruling class gets the cream. But in a conventional post-industrial country, the people are a resource. It is their innovations and their production and their work that fills the coffers of the ruling class.

OK. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Visit to the Museum of the American Revolution

Yesterday, on our way home from burying Marjorie's mother next to her husband and her son, we visited the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.

First of all, you will be glad to know that the interior is done in a neo-18th century style that looks and feels appropriately staid and grand.

Secondly, the visitors there were overwhelmingly ciswhiteheteropatriarchal. All except the staff, who included a nice young Muslim in a hijab in the cafe. Imagine!

Third, the ritual bows to women, slaves, and native Americans were not too offensive.

But here are my real takeaways.

It seems to me that a serious revolution must start with a a bunch of rowdies that are all stirred up about nothing at all. Today there is a piece by Michael Barone about the Detroit riot of 50 years ago. It all started when the police arrested a bunch of blacks at an illegal "blind pig" bar. Imagine!

It also seems to me that you need a bunch of talented propagandists and phrasemakers, your Thomas Paines and whatnot. That is in addition to a real intellectual movement, the one that Jefferson & Co. belonged to. A revolution needs constant agitation and it sure helps if the propaganda is top-line material based on valuable thought about society and not stupid superficial stuff like today's intersectional left.

Now we get to the military side of things. There is an excellent video wall display in the middle of the museum; it's a map of the North Atlantic that shows the key events of each year from 1775 to the Treaty of Paris in 1783. It seems to me that the key events were the failure of the Brits to end the rebellion in 1776 when they sent a 500 ship invasion force (yay National Debt!) to New York. Second, was the contribution of the rebel ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin, who got the French in on our side. Third was the Brits' attempt to push inland from Charleston, SC into the interior where they ran into trouble with frontiersmen skirmishers. Fourth was the Battle of Yorktown, which was won, I heard recently, by a crack team of rebel malarial mosquitoes that laid the British forces low. Fourth was the entry of Spain into the war.

The point is that when the Brits found that the French and the Spanish were against them, things started to look a bit dicey. Better let the rebels go and hold onto the rest of the British Empire.

Anyway, the whole thing turned out fine as the Brits and the Germans did for the French 30 years later at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and what I call the Second Hundred Years War.

The whole experience at the Museum made me think seriously about what we deplorables really want. We don't like the liberal hegemony, that's for sure. But the question is, what are we prepared to do about it, and do we have the chops, from alt-right crazies to deep political thinkers to a corps of activists that can take the battle to the liberals? And what about allies?

Of course, the other possibility is for the liberals to run out of other peoples' money. That certainly would put the US in a pre-revolutionary situation. I dare say that the US armed forces and police departments would not be as favorably disposed towards the liberals as the armed forces of, say, Venezuela.

But the bottom line is this: do we deplorables have the cojones to challenge our liberal slave-masters?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Is AI the Final Frontier for Human "Jobs"?

Ever since the industrial revolution everybody has been terrified about the End of the Job. And sometimes the terror extended to violence, as in the textile machine wreckers inspired by Ned Ludd.

And of course there was real hardship; there must be in any change, because change means that some people's plans and assumptions about the world will be dashed to pieces, and others will be pleasantly surprised.

Back before the industrial revolution something like 90 percent of people were working on farms. In the US the number is now something like 3 percent. That transition did not unwind in a small, X percent per year, fashion. It never does. It occurred in horrific farm crises, like the crisis in the late 19th century that spawned rural populism on the Great Plains. And of course there was the Dust Bowl that sent millions of farmers to California. Then there is Zola's La Terre all about  the French peasant getting zeroed out by grain from the Great Plains.

Today, everyone is talking about the AI and the robots that will take the jobs of retail workers and truck drivers. And so on. As in "The Mother of All Disruptions" by Kay S. Hymowitz.

Jobs are disappearing or will disappear not just in retail, but in legal services, oh yes, and journalism. And some people are worried about the US going Japan and giving up on sex and babies.

But I think it is best to admit that we just have no clue what is coming, and just get on with it. Let us stop worrying about just which jobs will disappear and why, and develop a culture that accepts change and flexibility in employment.

For instance, at the Hampton Inn in Willow Grove here in the NE Philly suburbs the free breakfast, what I call the bunfight, is run by a kindly black woman. This morning she was sitting at a computer in the lobby ordering food for tomorrow. She seems to have another, health-care related job.

Isn't that some kind of a clue? Here's a woman doing a wait-staff job and a supervisor job and an order-clerk job, and she is computer literate and she has another job where she cares for people in a health care facility.

In a large sense, we are just in another "de-skilling" era. When people were carpenters and skilled artisans and cooks they spent years developing manual skills. In the old days scribes spent years developing handwriting skills. But then came the machine and the printing press, and advanced manual skills were not longer required. The same is also true in many technology fields. Used to be that an engineer had to develop math skills and knowledge to do "calcs," computing stresses and beam sizes. No longer, I suspect, because all the calculating and the sizing gets done on finite-element analysis programs.

The best understanding of work, in my view, comes from longshoreman Eric Hoffer. As I wrote in "A Critique of Social Mechanice," for Hoffer the industrial revolution was an incomplete revolution, so
man had to use his fellow men as a stopgap for inventiveness. He had to yoke men, women and children with iron and steam... There was no escape for the mass of people from the ravenous maws of factories and mines.

Coal miners did not get released from the yoke until strip-mining with drag-line excavators started in the 1950s. But Hoffer is optimistic about the future. It is true, he writes, that factories used to be “agencies of dehumanization.”

But we of the present know that communion with machines does not blunt our sensibilities or stifle our individuality. We know that machines can be as temperamental and willful as any living thing. The proficient mechanic is an alert and intuitive human being. On the waterfront one can see how the ability to make a fork lift or a winch do one’s bidding with precision and finesse generates a peculiar exhilaration, so that the skilled lift driver and winch driver are as a rule of good cheer, and work as if at play.
Could that be the future? That work becomes more like play as we all learn how to operate the automation so that the hard work and the strength and the manual dexterity is done by machines and we humans get on with the social cooperation, rather than doing the grunt work?

Who knows. Nobody knows.

But I would argue that the most important thing is for people to be flexible and adjust themselves to the demands of the market.

Because resistance to the market only makes things worse.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Paradox That Progressives are the Real Reactionaries

I don't pretend to know the real meaning of Hegel's dialectic. In fact I suspect that the dear chap gets himself lost in its contradictions and oppositions.

But I do believe that the Arrow of History concept, as in Progress, is wrong. Life, the universe, and everything is much more complicated than that.

It is in this sense that I believe that a "thesis" calls forth its "antithesis" and the resultant mess congeals, eventually, into a a new "synthesis."

Or, simply put, life is messy.

For instance, it is a wonder to me that the opposition to "advanced capitalism" and its unprecedented Great Enrichment that has increased the income of ordinary people by 3,000 percent in two centuries, wants to build a world of total administrative domination.

See, the way I look at it, the whole point of the economic growth of the last 200 years is that, against all odds, the political powers-that-be were unable to stop the successive waves of innovation, starting with textiles on through the latest turn of the internet.

The characteristic of the old world, before capitalism, was its hierarchical structure. Feudalism was a system of domination and subordination, from the king and his direct vassals down to the meanest serf on a lord's estate.

Then came the 19th century with ordinary people running all over the world without permission. It was in the middle of the 19th century that rich kids invented socialism proposing to reestablish the old regime of top-down control. Only the socialists called it the new regime, in fact the absence of all regimes.

Then we got the astonishing paradox that the socialism that was to liberate the masses from the horrors of capitalism enslaved them with the most murderous and disastrous political regimes in all history.

We had the paradox that just as the intellectual elite of Europe started a movement against slavery the industrial revolution appeared and enslaved the masses in regimented factories.

Or, right now, we have the paradox that the modern left, that insists on the right of protest, ruthlessly suppresses and all speech that challenges its hegemonic narrative. It calls itself the Resistance, but don't you dare resist it.

All this is why I am not particularly distressed that the Republican Senate cannot summon the gumption to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. Why I am not that exercised by lefty judges on the DC Court of Appeals arrogating to themselves the right to reverse an administrative decision of the Trump EPA. I am not even that exercised about immigration.

That's because I believe that despite the best hopes of today's political movers and shakers the future will not be what they imagine. And the reason is that they are idiots.

I was taking an acquaintance to the airport yesterday and she complained about the folly of wars. I replied that, up until yesterday, humans had to defend their land to the death because that land grew the food that gave them life. It is only today that land doesn't matter, because you can buy and sell food rather than grow it. So they don't need to defend their patch of land to the death. But it takes time for people to adjust to the new reality. Meanwhile they will react to all setbacks with wars and rumors of wars and by trying to return to the old ways that "worked"

There will be people telling us they are leading us to the future by returning to the failed politics of the past.

I guess my point is that everything in life is trial-and-error and cleaning up after one mistake after another. Whatever your grand and glorious plans, they will be pulverized by reality, as in the elder Moltke's dictum that "no campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy."

To me, the basic fact of today is that the great and glorious top-down administrative state is creaking and groaning in every joint.

And it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What is Trump's Obamacare Strategy?

If you have merely dabbled in strategic thought you will know that one of the key precepts is "do not underestimate your enemy."

This is obviously a challenge for the leaders in any fight, because one way to keep up the morale of your side is to characterize the other side as contemptible worms.

This problem even exists in religion where Satan is represented both as the Prince of Darkness and also as bound to fail because Good Will Prevail in the end. So which is it?

Our liberal friends have a similar problem when it comes to Republican Presidents. Are they idiots or are they evil?  Generally speaking, liberals decided Eisenhower was an idiot; Nixon was evil; Reagan was an amiable dunce; Bush was a idiot; and Trump is an idiot with a combover.

In my view, Trump is not an idiot; he only plays one on TV.

So what about President Trump and Obamacare? We know that Trump signed onto the notion of "repeal and replace" in the campaign. But it seems to me that he has shown a remarkable light touch on Obamacare thus far.

Is that because the president is an idiot, or because he has been waiting for the Congressional Republicans to fail, because only then would he have an opportunity to lead?

I suppose the answer is: we shall see.

At any rate, the president's reaction to the failure of the Republican Obamacare replacement in the Senate seems to tell us something. Tweeted he:
As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!
I think that Donald Trump's Art-of-the-Deal approach to politics is rather unfamiliar to university-trained students of politics. This is because politicians usually try to present themselves as demi-gods, that never have a doubt, and never make a mistake. Thus the original Obamacare was presented to us as a triumphal progress, rather than a savage battle for votes in Congress and a battle of the special interests from Big Health to Big Drug to Big Insurance. But Trump doesn't seem to worry about his moment-to-moment image. He seems to be able to deal with setbacks and tactical retreats.

Will this work with Obamacare? We don't know. But we do know that, as of now, Democrats don't seem to be too worried about the ongoing trainwreck of Obamacare with insurers exiting for state markets all over the place. There have been zero Democratic votes for the Republican plans thus far.

I´d say that until the Democrats decide, all of a sudden, that the world is coming to an end and that We Need Action on Obamacare NOW, that it is useless for Republicans to propose reforms and replacements.

When the Democrats are ready to cry Uncle and demand that President Trump take action NOW, then it will be the moment to ask them: how much am I bid?

Because, you see, it's the science. There's the science of strategy, and the science of the economy, and The Calculus of Consent.  Our liberal friends are in denial about all of them, and they won't change their minds until their political building is burning down.

Monday, July 17, 2017

What's All This About Treason?

Remember back in the day when liberals were really touchy about patriotism? Hillary Clinton spoke for all liberals back in the Bush administration when she said:
I'm sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and disagree with this administration, somehow you're not patriotic. We need to stand up and say we're Americans, and we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration.
Yes indeed. Then came the Obama administration. Fortunately, the Obamis and their willing accomplices in the media did not question the patriotism of regime opponents. They just called them racists if they opposed the president.

So on the one hand you are not allowed to criticize Democrats for opposing a Republican administration, because, hey, we're Americans and we got rights. But you are not allowed to criticize a Democratic administration because racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Or any other  pejorative that the intersectional SJWs at Activism Central might come up with.

Back in the Cold War it was insupportable to dare to mention the "T" word. Oh No! That was McCarthyism! How dare anyone accuse Alger Hiss of Treason and  spying for the Commies. And how dare anyone say a word against the noble and innocent Rosenbergs, condemned to death and executed -- for what? McCarthyism, straight up.

But now, pore little Donald Trump Jr. has a meeting with a curious Russian character, you know, the lady that was given a special waiver to enter the US without a visa by the Obama Justice Department, and Democrats start talking about Treason!

I  am just starting a book by überlefty Jürgen Habermas about Theory and Praxis and how the purely theoretical approach of the ancient philosophers and the Natural Law chappies had to be replaced by a critical theory that combined both theory and practice in an environment of proper communications where ordinary people are included in the conversation.

But today, we have a "depoliticized public" that is not involved in "a general discursive formation of the public will". Only the left-wing media and Democratic politicians and lefty NGOs are allowed to participate in the conversation. Everybody else is afraid to speak.

That because liberals and progressives and Democrats and all their activist groups are yelling pejoratives from dawn to dusk; there is no chance for conversation.

When Habermas advances his theory of communicative action, recognizing, after Wittgenstein, that humans are fundamentally communicative folks that use language to interact and cooperate, he is assuming that lefty communication and theory and practice will replace the flawed bourgeois notions of "advanced capitalism."

That is assuming that Habermas is serious about serious non-hegemonic communications. I suspect though that he imagines that non-hegemonic communication is inherently critical and inherently leads to the deconstruction of "advanced capitalism" and its replacement by an egalitarian liberatory society where people are truly free rather that formally free.

Suppose he is wrong, and that open dialog  and conversation leads to a small government society without a starring role for a lefty educated class? What does the robin do then, poor thing?

What the robin does then, poor thing, is to start to shout and sing, and drown out any discouraging word, and starts to call ordinary elite Americans traitors.

The robin is telling us that the whole lefty project is in real trouble, from its theory of society to its practice of centralized administrative systems. And don't forget it was from Frankfurt School lefties that I got my meme of "System is Domination." It really is getting a little old that in a society where the ruling class is all over anyone that dares to challenge its left-wing assumptions that old-fashioned oppression and exploitation are still as bad as ever. Is it really true to say, as this Good Little Girl does:
I believe in liberation. I believe it is our duty to obliterate white supremacy, anti-blackness, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, and imperialism.
And obliterate it with what? Leftist supremacy, anti-whiteness, anything-but-hetero-archy, socialism, and lefist cultural imperialism?

The fact is that our lefty friends are in a trap. They have been implementing their cultural and political agenda in the name of liberation for the last century, and the truth is that lefty liberation doesn't liberate; its imprisons. They are no longer saying that their top-down centralized administrative dominatory systems are a wonder. So they are reduced to saying that if you touch a hair of Medicad [sic] then millions will die. They find themselves accusing their opponents of treason.

They are in the position of President Maduro of Venezuela that is desperately saying and doing anything to keep his socialist disaster from imploding.

We conservatives, we normals, are often intimidated by our liberal friends, who so confidently expound upon race and sex and equality. But when they are "resisting" the election results for the second time in sixteen years, and when they are starting to accuse people of treason in addition to the regular menu of racism, sexism, and homophobia, then we have to assume that something is going very wrong for them. Confident people, secure in their world view, do not have to accuse and blame. They accept electoral defeat with a wink, knowing that the next election, or the next but one will be "time for a change."

But if the times are out of joint, if the Inconceivable! has happened, if a rank beginner has routed the ruling class despite all its advantages and its patronage, then the ordinary timid peaceful protester and Progressive Activist, Second Class, starts to quiver. Something is going wrong; perhaps the racist sexist insurgents are at the gate.

McCarthyism flourished in the late 1940s after the Democrats had won five presidential elections in a row. Republicans started looking under the bed to figure out what was going on. They suspected treason and espionage and actually they were right. There were people on the left that had let their enthusiasm for a better world trump their loyalty to country. Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy; the Rosenbergs did steal atomic secrets. So maybe the Republicans of the era had an excuse for a bit of paranoia.

But Democrats got paranoid that George W. Bush won in a normal Time for a Change election after two terms of Bill Clinton. Now they are resisting after another Time for a Change election after two terms of Obama. You have to be a particularly dull kind of person not to understand that the political pendulum swings to and fro and this is a good thing that keeps the nation from civil war.

And if your partisans are screaming Treason when the son of the president meets with a foreign national, what is their problem? And what is your problem?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Does the Trump-Russia Scandal Help or Hurt?

A week is a long time in politics. So said British politician Harold Wilson. Only he may not have said it, and it may have been "two weeks" rather than one.

After the week of the Donald Trump Jr. collusion-with-the-Russians scandal, people are worrying that the president's tax and health care agenda is in peril.

But I wonder. Is it worse to have Democrats on CNN wailing that millions will die if Obamacare goes down, or is is better to have them raging about Trump Jr. having a meeting with a Russian woman that has connections with the Fusion GPS Democratic opposition research organization and mysteriously got to enter with US without a visa?

I'm not a pollster or a politician so I really don't know how all this comes down on the politicians that are no doubt wheeling and dealing behind the scenes on the Republican health bill.

All I know is what I read in Buchanan and Tullock's book The Calculus of Consent. The basic argument of that book is that, if you are a county council and some of the landowners want the government to pay for a county road that benefits them, then the representatives of those landowners are going to have to buy the votes of the landowners that probably won't benefit enough to want to pay for the new road.

In other words, when you read of Republican United States Senators that are opposed to the health bill currently up in the Senate, you might easily think that the GOP leadership hasn't made a good enough offer yet.

You might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

See, I don't know if the swing votes in the 2018 midterms will be the folks that lost some of their Obamacare subsidies or whether they will be the folks that will cancel their expensive Obamacare health insurance and go naked if they don't have to pay a penalty.

My instinct is that the folks getting Obamacare subsidies are dyed-in-the-wool Democrats. My guess is that the folks that would go naked are probably Trump supporters. But, of course, the voters in an election are usually motivated by anger rather than satisfaction, so I would guess that the dyed-in-the-wool Democrats that lost their subsidies would be more inclined to vote than the Trump voters that can now risk their non-existent fortunes on the odds that they might find themselves in the ER and be facing a $100,000 hospital bill without insurance. But what do I know?

All I know is that, if you don't have home equity or a retirement nest egg, you don't need health insurance. The point of insurance is to protect your assets against a big hit. If you don't have assets then you can just go bankrupt.

The only thing for the Trumpsters and the GOP to do is to enact their agenda, buy the necessary votes is concerned, and hope for the best. Get the tax rate cuts out there and have them take effect immediately. Get the Obamacare reform out there and make sure that it starts relief on premiums as soon as possible. Help the fracking revolution along as much as possible, and ease the way for oil and natural gas exports.

What most people want is a decent job and a home and decent schools for the kids. They are not that interested in identity politics and not that interested in the SJW activism that is consuming the educated class right now. In fact, most people are probably afraid of political correctness, because they recognize that a careless tweet could cost them their job.

And never forget that the reason Donald Trump is president today rather than Jeb! is that the old Republican order failed. It failed because it did not know how to push back against the bully boy tactics of the left that made everyone that disagreed with the Democratic line du jour into a racist sexist homophobe. Or a fascist.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Yes, Culture and Behavior Codes Matter. But So Does Policy

When conservatives get annoyed with David Brooks, the house conservative columnist at The New York Times, they forget his job description. His job is to gently waft a bit of conservatism at NYT readers without turning them off with the nasty smell. It is to hold up s soft-focus mirror to the lumpen-liberals, so that maybe they will laugh at themselves. Just a little.

But never, oh never, make them mad. Because then they will stop reading, and then David Brooks won't have a job.

Conservatives have been laughing and sneering at David Brooks for his recent article, "How We Are Ruining America," that gently suggests that the whole upscale latte culture, with a side of organic food and Italian sandwiches, is just a teeny bit exclusionary. It is what we might call the liberal equivalent of raccoon-skin coats and Stutz Bearcats.

Once upon a time wealthy young college men used to wear raccoon-skin coats and drive Stutz Bearcats. At least I think so. Hollywood made a few movies with those kind of kids in them, so I suppose it must be true. The point about raccoon-skin coats and Stutz Bearcats, I assume, was that you can't afford them.

Paul Mirengoff takes after Brooks and his critics by pointing out that the big divide in America is not about exclusionary cultural markers that tell the hoi-polloi that they are not welcome here. The reason that educated people do well and others do not comes down to "behavior codes."
Brooks and the experts he cites in his column are blaming people with winning behavior codes for the woes of the children of people with losing codes.
And that, for Mirengoff, is missing the point.

Meanwhile Gavin McInnes takes after a documentary by Ben Lear, the son of Archie Bunker's Norman Lear, that present violent Hispanic boys in the US as helpless victims of the system "that does nothing to help." One boy shot and paralyzed a young woman; the other one stabbed a fellow gang member. Both were living in single-parent homes. Gavin McInnes assumes the settled science that the way to avoid raising killer kids is:

  1. Finish high school.
  2. Don't have kids until you are married.
  3. Don't get divorced.

OK, so why don't the folks in the inner city get a clue? Why don't they drive their kids mercilessly to do well in school? Why do they put up with lousy schools? What is wrong with them?

You know what is coming. I propose to analyze the lower orders using my reductive Three Peoples theory and my definition of government:
Government is an armed minority occupying territory and taxing the people thereof to reward its supporters.
 But I want to further sharpen my definition of government to suggest that a government and its supporters are very like an army. The ruling class is the officer corps and the supporters are the "licentious soldiery" that sit around in the barracks doing nothing except drinking and fighting unless mobilized to march off to war and become cannon fodder.

On this view our there is a method to the madness. The underclass and its votes are the liberals' army. They are the People of the Subordinate Self that live in subordination to some boss, whether to the steward of a great landowner or the local welfare bureaucrat. It makes sense to keep the soldiers barracked off from the rest of America in inner-city ghettos with lousy schools and with no jobs, but with welfare to keep the soldiers from deserting the colors. And it makes sense to sell the idea that, boy, those inner-city folks are fierce political soldiers, and you better not mess with them.

Put it this way. If the underclass all suddenly got married and insisted on decent schools and got jobs and got off welfare, what happens to the liberals' electoral army? In twenty years all those welfare recipients would be rock-ribbed Republicans. And we can't have that.

But is it right for liberals to blight the lives of millions of Americans by keeping them lounging around the liberal barracks with nothing to do but drink and drug and fornicate and kill each other? Is it not the vilest injustice ever? To tempt people into dysfunction with the promise of a miserable welfare check? Or, as they say, to pimp out the underclass with money for nothing?

In the old days, of course, the poor just died off. That is clear from Gregory Clark's Farewell to Alms. Before about 1800, in England, the poor had fewer surviving children than the middle class and the rich so society was "downwardly mobile." But the industrial revolution changed all that and society became "upwardly mobile" as the lower classes bettered their condition and rose from penury to decency and then to prosperity.

In recent years, most commentators agree, the upwardly mobile society seems to have stalled, in part because of the decline of manufacturing, and because of the workforce competition from immigrants like me and from women entering the workforce. Oh, and, of course, from so many people exiting the workforce to go on welfare or disability.

I'd say that the reason for this is liberals. It is liberals that gave manufacturing workers privileges so they could be paid above market with union jobs that could not be adjusted until the whole thing came crashing down. It is liberals that have flooded the nation with immigrants and tempted corporations to hire cheap immigrants instead of native workers. It is liberals that have taught women to believe that they should be careerists rather than mothers and homemakers. It is liberals that have relaxed the rules for welfare and for disability.

And why not? For liberals, political power is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. And to do politics you need a political army that will march off to war when the command is given.

So nothing will change unless we break the power of the liberals.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Missing the Point on Economics and Government

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I got to read a piece in the London Guardian about "How Economics Became a Religion" by John Rapley.

The article is a promo for Rapley's book just out, Twilight of the Money Gods: Economics as a Religion and How it all Went Wrong. I think that Rapley, at least in the Guardian's "long read" article, misses the point completely.

Rapley writes about how
Economics offers a comprehensive doctrine with a moral code promising adherents salvation in this world; an ideology so compelling that the faithful remake whole societies to conform to its demands. It has its gnostics, mystics and magicians who conjure money out of thin air, using spells such as “derivative” or “structured investment vehicle”. And, like the old religions it has displaced, it has its prophets, reformists, moralists and above all, its high priests who uphold orthodoxy in the face of heresy.
Well, yes. But there is a tendency for all doctrines to elevate themselves above mere practical utility and attempt to penetrate the empyrean. For one thing, it helps in fending off pretenders to knowledge who have no business challenging the high priests of the temple.

But the point about economics is that its practitioners are very useful to politicians, because economists advertise that they can help to keep the ship of state from foundering on hidden economic reefs.

It is one step from merely using economists as cooks in the kitchen of economic policymaking to elevating them to the status of priests and shamans versed in the mysteries of economic divination, in order to represent ordinary political power plays and routine political looting as the divine rulings of the immortal gods rather than shabby efforts to use the economy as a piggy bank to reward the supporters of the ruling class, in accordance with my dictum:
Government is an armed minority occupying territory and taxing the inhabitants thereof to reward its supporters.
Now in the dim and distant past, before the advent of modern economics, rulers frequently got into a bit of a jam when it came to funding their wars and rewarding their supporters. To my recollection, Edward III ruined a few Italian bankers in his efforts to fund the First Hundred Years War against France and to set up the Black Prince as a prince among men. Henry VIII, he of the multiple wives, had several financial crises during his reign, which included debasing the currency. He had it harder than Edward III because his policy of disarming the nobles meant that he needed to fund the entire national security budget through taxes and with credits from the merchants of London rather than in the old feudal way of Shakespeare's Wars of the Roses plays when each nobleman talked about bringing "our powers" to the battle.

But then the Dutch invented central banking in their war of liberation against the empire of Spain, and when they invaded Britain in 1688 they brought their financial technology with them. The result was that the Brits won the Second Hundred Years War against the French even though they had cranked up their National Debt to 250 percent of GDP by 1815 and the decisive Battle of Waterloo. France lost the war because it was cursed with financial twerps like John Law that ruined French finances (he was treated as a demi-god until it turned out he had feet of clay).

In the middle of all this, enter the classical economists with their notion of the division of labor and their two-pronged value theory: use value and exchange value -- plus comparative advantage, free trade and all that. All this was pretty magical, but nobody thought to sell it to the people as magic. Not yet.

It was Karl Marx who elevated economics to the status of a religion. That's because Marxism is a secular religion promising heaven on earth if only we follow the prophet Marx and his precepts, which were a dog's breakfast of classical economics, a mashup of use value, exchange value, surplus value, and the obvious point that, in a competitive market, all the profit gets squeezed out and everybody gets poorer and poorer as they fight for market share on diminishing profit margins. Marx had the brilliant insight that you could dress up your political ideas as "science" and promise to save the world from a fate worse than death.

Of course, Marx finished his Capital in the early 1860s and published Volume 1 in 1866-67, just before the marginal value revolution of 1870 that made nonsense of his economics. Hey, that happens, but you will read Marxist writers in vain to discover any attempt to revise Marx's prophecy in light of the new science. So they had to elevate his prophesies into Holy Writ.

Up until Bismarck's social insurance politics of the 1880s government's only interest in economics was in funding its wars, and this could be done using the precepts of central banking developed by the Dutch and brilliantly executed in the US by folks like Alexander Hamilton.

But the big-government state that Bismarck and the social reformers instantiated before and after World War I raised the stakes on government. Government began interfering with the workings of the price system and the economy in a number of ways, and so government needed technical experts to make sure that its usual blunders didn't pitch the economy into a big financial panic.

Just as natural science allows humans to build structures and engines and internets that would be impossible without the technology built upon a foundation of natural science, it is also true that government could not run the current mega-state with its myriad of taxes and privileges and subsidies without a technology to guide them.

Gee, funny how the first thing that happened after economists really got into the saddle was the mother of all financial crashes, the Great Depression of 1929-33.

Obviously, after a blunder like the Great Depression, government needed a miracle, and it got one, in the form of Keynesianism. Keynes taught a receptive audience that it was the height of progress and sophistication to spend borrowed money on the regime's supporters in the aftermath of a financial crisis. Obviously, governments could not say that the point of Keynesianism was to clean up the mess made by interventionist government. Instead they let it be known that their tame economists were geniuses that had completely reformed the old, classical economics that had got us into the Great Depression. Eventually, the government's tame economists decided that they had tamed the business cycle. Of course they did. That was in the 1960s, right before the inflation of the 1970s and the big recession of 1980-81.

With that sort of politics and its constant mumbling and bumbling, pretty soon you need to make economists into demi-gods, cunningly manipulating the economic world from Mt. Olympus, so that the politicians on the bridge can report to the people that they will navigate the ship of state out of financial trouble with a magical economic compass that only those initiated into the mysteries of the New Economics could read. It's the obvious thing to do. When practical knowledge fails, humans resort to magic.

And naturally, just as we tend to venerate Albert Einstein as a kind of demi-god for coming up with relativity, we tend to venerate the economists that walk on the death-defying tightrope of economic policy, trying to find cunning ways for the government to win elections and hand out free stuff without going full Venezuela.

Obviously it is best not to let the plebs see how this sausage gets made. It is better to distract them and rulers since the dawn of time have done that in a condominium with shamans, temple priests, and established churches. Or, as Rapley writes,
Over time, successive economists slid into the role we had removed from the churchmen: giving us guidance on how to reach a promised land of material abundance and endless contentment. 
Of course they did. The ordinary person doesn't understand economics. So the sensible thing for the ruling class to do is to cloister the right kind of economists in educational monasteries and treat their utterances as holy writ. As was the case with good old established churches, the politicians get to appoint the abbots and bishops of the economic monasteries and cathedrals and the abbots and bishops loyally maintain the fiction that their divinations come directly from God, er, science. Nothing to see here. It's the way it always works.

I see what Rapley's game is. You can see it from the blurb at Amazon.
Imagine one day you went to a cash-machine and found your money was gone. You rushed to your branch, where a teller said that overnight people had stopped believing in money, and it all vanished. Seem incredible? It happened, and it could happen again. Twilight of the Money Gods is the story of economics, told not as the science it strove to be...
Well, yes. The government's tame economist bishops and abbots are exactly what the established church abbots and bishops were: ruling class stooges. And when the music stops the bishops and the abbots won't be a bit of good to help you get money out of your local ATM.

When the music stops the key thing is for the government to step into its role of "lender of last resort." Walter Bagehot wrote the bible on that in Lombard Street. In the 2008 crash the government ended up doing a pretty good job of last-resort lender, after a brief panic when Ben Bernanke muffed on his priestly job of bailing out Lehman Brothers in September 2008. He said he didn't have the legal authority to bail them out. Oh please, Ben. The only job of the Federal Reserve is to be lender of last resort. Period. And you muffed it., and you made it worse. Of course, Ben Bernanke was an academic economist.

The whole lender-of-last-resort operation in 2008 added up to about $16 to 20 trillion in bailouts and (mostly) guarantees. See my for details. So in the end the priests and abbots of the global established church of economics did their job and applied extreme unction to the economy with the appropriate rites, incense, and laying on of hands. Whatever that means.

But don't forget the unforgettable Mrs. Proudie. There must be a role for her in the New Church of Economics. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Lesson of the Charlie Gard Affair

The Charlie Gard case is exciting conservatives from the US to the Vatican, because of what it says about government programs.

Charlie Gard is a baby in the UK with a severe genetic condition that has resulted in irreversible brain and organ damage. But there is an experimental treatment called "nucleoside therapy" and a US hospital has agreed to offer Charlie the treatment.

The BBC has a helpful article "Charlie Gard case explained" to help the perplexed.

If you read the BBC story it takes the line that science has decided the case and
courts ruled that the original [hospital] decision should stand and that it would be in Charlie's best interests to be allowed to die with dignity.
Notice the passive voice. What is more,
The therapy is a treatment, not a cure. And it is highly experimental.
All very good. And perfectly logical and in accordance with science and expert opinion. But this was not a passive decision as implied by the BBC's passive voice. What happened is that the British government decided not to spend the money to keep Charlie Gard alive.

Naturally the BBC is perplexed that folks like the Pope and Donald Trump have intervened. Thus
The president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, however, says such interventions from high-profile figures, no matter how well-intended, are "unhelpful".
Of course he did.

Now I want to make two points here. The first is that the BBC and the British National Health Service all believe in the supremacy of the administrative state and its scientific world view: that expert opinion, based on settled science, administered through government programs, should be dispositive.

The second is that most people are perfectly happy with this, because it removes them from responsibility.

On the first point, the only problem is: what if the experts are wrong? We have the example of climate change where the ruling class, prompted by international bureaucrat Maurice Strong, decided that carbon dioxide was a problem and then set up an ideological system on the assumption that carbon-based energy equals more CO2 equals runaway global temperature equals the end of the world, therefore the ruling class should control the production and use of energy. OK, but what if they are wrong? How would we know? How could we correct the mistake?

Because that is the question of first interest in any system or culture or any situation in life. What happens when things go wrong?

On the second point, of comprehensive government programs, specifically "single payer" health care, the system takes away the right of individual action against the system. The system, here including the Great Ormond Street Hospital and the court system of the UK, decided that it is "in Charlie's best interests to be allowed to die with dignity." Even though Charlie's parents had found the money to  pay for Charlie's treatment outside the NHS system they were forbidden to remove Charlie from intensive care in Great Ormond Street Hospital to seek this treatment. In other words, the state has primary custodial rights over the children of the UK, not the parents. The parent has no right to dissent from the state's custodial supremacy.

It is my belief  that most  people are quite happy with this, for a simple reason. When the state has supreme rights over you and your children, it relieves you of the responsibility of making tough decisions. If you are the subordinate subject of a national health system and the system says you are too old to get a hip replacement, well, that's it. You complain about the system and about its injustice, but you don't do anything about it. You don't have to, because the system decides for you.

In reality, if you have a ageing mother that needs a hip-replacement or an expensive experimental cancer treatment, you could pay for it yourself. You could mortgage your house, draw down your IRA, whatever, to save mom's life. And if you decide not to then, if you are a woman, you will feel guilty about it for the rest of your life.

See the benefit of the government program system? If anything goes wrong, you can just sit back and blame the system, or the insurance companies, or the drug companies, because they did nothing to help your mother. You can see that this plays beautifully into what I call the woman's Culture of Complaint.

If you think that, then according to my reductive Three Peoples theory, you are a Person of the Subordinate Self. OK, no problem, the world has always been full of workers and peasants.

But if you are a Person of the Responsible Self you rebel against the notion that the government gets to decide whether to pull the plug on your child, or that the government gets to decide whether you are too old to get a hip replacement. You are the kind of person that agrees to take responsibility for your actions, even when you make the wrong decision. You are the kind of person that is willing to live with the guilt of being wrong. You are willing to live with the knowledge of your own selfishness when you decide not to empty out your life savings to save your child's life.

Now right now I am involved in an end-of-life situation with Lady Marjorie's mother. About a month ago we put her into hospice mode. That means that she can't be kicked out of her retirement community. Hospice care is free under Medicare, but you don't get to go to the ER when you have a medical emergency. Instead you get palliative care.

So, at some point last week the hospice people advised not to use antibiotics to fight a possible infection, under which Marjorie's mother was in extreme distress with coughing and liquid in the respiratory system. Instead they applied palliative care. Which basically means applying pain medication and other measures until the patient expires.

Do you see what is going on here? The system is getting to decide what to do about the end of life of an ageing Medicare recipient. And the system has a rather obvious interest, that of limiting heroic methods and the associated expense to save a life. And being a system, it does not make moral and ethic decisions. It makes technical decisions, like the decision about Charlie Gard, that "it would be in Charlie's best interests to be allowed to die with dignity."

But as I say, System is Domination. When  the system decides whether you live or die, it is not science or law or morals or ethics. It is Domination.

And that is something that our liberal friends do not understand.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Of Course the Norks Want Nukes

The general line of the global ruling class on the North Korea problem seems to be that North Korean nukes is a very bad idea.

That's because the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is a crazy man, etc.

I don't think so. I don't think that Kim is crazy. I think that Kim is merely playing the hand that was dealt him.

In my view, a small, weak country like North Korea needs to have nukes, because that's the only way that it can deter the larger powers from bullying it around and even invading and toppling the government.

Why do you think that the US invaded Iraq? Or kicked Libya into chaos? Why do you think that the whole world is mucking about in Syria. I will tell you.

It's because these small, weak countries did not have nukes.

Now think about the situation of dictator Kim. Or rather think about him as the third generation of the Kim dynasty in North Korea.

Kim is faced on one side by South Korea, a vibrant state and growing economy that is now, with a per capita GDP of $27,000, right there in the rich kids club. By all rights, Kim should just give up the game and surrender North Korea and its $600 per capita GDP into the prosperous arms of its southern neighbor. Hello! $27,000 versus $600!

But then on the other hand there is China. China kinda likes the idea of a throttle-bottom North Korea between it and the rich kids in South Korea. And no doubt it likes the idea of North Korea as a burr under the saddle of the US. But, from the point of view of Kim, there is a problem. The Chinese leaders might revise their idea of the benefit of a miserably poor buffer state. Or it might decide that the time has come for the Kim dynasty to be replaced by a real puppet regime.

So it makes complete sense for Kim to bankrupt his $600 per capita GDP country so he can have nukes and ICBMs. Because so long as he has nukes and can theoretically nuke the US, or Japan, or South Korea then he feels that he is safe from invasion and replacement.

Yes, you say. But what in the world is dictator Kim doing building ICBMs and nukes when his country is a dirt poor basket case limping along at $600 per capita per year? The answer is obvious. Rulers do not care about their people. They only care about staying in power, and as long as the leader remains in power, life is good. No doubt the Kim family have resources stashed in banks and whatnot outside of North Korea so that they have a place to go if and when they get removed from office. But that is Plan B. Plan A is to rule North Korea.

But meanwhile, dictator Kim needs nukes. And he needs us to think that he is crazy enough to use them.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Venezuela: For the Left, It Is Only About Power

July 5 is Venezuelan independence day, so what better for President Maduro's colectivo thugs than to attack the opposition-led National Assembly! That from a report by The New York Times.

I seem to remember back in the day that when right-wing Latin American dictatorships deployed armed street gangs, we were taught to call them "death squads." What happened to that?

It would be comical if it were not so tragic that the lefty president of  Venezuela, who speaks for the people, would send his supporters to rough up the representatives of the people. Meanwhile, reports the dead-pan Times, the Venezuelan Supreme Court, "which is loyal to the president," is looking into removing the Attorney General Luisa Ortega, who recently "sharpened her criticism of the president’s plan to let a constituent assembly of handpicked loyalists write a new Constitution."

I'll bet that if the US Supreme Court were loyal in that way to President Trump that the Times would not be so nonchalant about loyalty.

As I say, this would be funny if it weren't so tragic. Hey, Maduro, fellah, the whole point of constitutions and national assemblies is to avoid riots in the streets by people who judge that they are outside the system and cannot get a fair hearing when the government gets together to decide what the next policy of force is to be. Once you short-circuit the democratic process then you are signalling to the opposition that force and rebellion are the only recourse for the opponents of the regime.

As Dennis Prager likes to say, I am getting real clarity on this, and it doesn't hurt that I am right in the middle of reading a biography of Karl Marx.

The whole point of the last few centuries is that, for the first time ever in human history, the decisive question is not defending our borders from the neighboring tribe. Used to be that our patch of land was decisive because we grew our food on it, and without that food we were toast. Good land meant good food,  and land was life. "Land, it's the only thing that lasts," said the doomed Gerald O'Hara in Gone With The Wind.

For if land is not decisive, and instead its food can be traded for labor, for goods, for inventions, for energy, then the importance of political and military power fades away. Power is no longer the regime's granaries, or its army, or its armed forces. Power is the intangible capital in the minds of the people, and the more you leave them alone to get on with it, the more intangible capital they create in their fertile imaginations and their busy lives.

But this is what the left has turned against, ever since Marx. Here's a piece from Karl Marx: The Passionate Logician by Joel Carmichael about the first trip Marx made to England with Engels and encountered there the workers and the Chartists.
The workers still respected law and order and believed that they could improve their situation by organizing in trade unions and by influencing legislation. This was all the more puzzling for Marx, for according to his and Engels's theory, it was logically necessary for workers in the advanced industrial countries to be on the threshold of "bursting asunder" the old order.
The point is that all the rubbish about revolution has nothing to do with the workers' needs and aspirations. They do not imagine themselves the rulers and the movers and the shakers. They just want a decent life and a modicum of respect. The whole superstructure of revolution and "fundamental transformation" is the secular religious dream of the secular sons of the bourgeoisie, poets and writers and intellectuals and activists that imagine themselves as rulers. The workers don't want to fundamentally transform anything; they just want to wive and thrive and they want their needs to be considered in the councils of power. Marx and Engels understood this. When they actually referred to the workers privately in their letters "the workers were referred to simply as jackasses, gullible fools, etc."

In other words, the political activists on the left are just like ruling-class apologists of the state. The left talks about the wonders of the oppressed and the marginalized, and the ruling class makes a big fuss over "our" soldiers and police that keep us safe. But the truth is that all they care about are their local political feuds and their foreign wars. The "people" and the "heroes" are in the final analysis nothing more than cannon fodder, the dupes of the ruling class.

The left is no different from the kings and the emperors of old. They have their power project and they need a people to do the fighting and dying for them. Part  of that process is flattering  the people that they are the chosen  ones, and that the bourgeoisie, or the Soviets, or the Muslims, are their dangerous enemies. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

I suppose the only saving grace is that the left's fantasy of power always leads nowhere and every leftist regime ends in economic ruin, so the left will never inherit the earth.

But in the meantime millions of lives are ruined every time some leftist fantasy meets reality and flushes itself and its dupes down the toilet.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Getting to the Why of Marxism

I picked up a biography of Karl Marx: the Passionate Logician by Joel Carmichael at HalfPriceBooks the other day for the princely price of $3.00, and I'm glad I did.

Because the book helps me understand the why of the most destructive and reactionary political ideology in human history, responsible for millions of deaths and unimaginable human misery.

Carmichael does a splendid job of laying out the ideological fervors that were consuming rich university kids like Marx in the early to mid 19th century and that led to the Communist Manifesto and Marxism.

First of all, everyone in Germany and Russia in the early 19th century was consumed by Hegel. Why? Well, Carmichael proposes, partly because Hegel made dialectics not just about logic and argument, but about the real world. If you like, Hegel gets over the problem of Newtonian mechanics that the world, the universe, is like a billiard table where everything is determined like the movement of cannon balls and planets. In Hegel, things change by the to-and-fro movement from thesis to antithesis and back, which is a lot closer to the real world of constant change and oscillation.

Then everyone was transfixed by the early years of the industrial revolution, where sensitive urban souls got to see for the first time the reality of poverty in the lower orders. There must be a better, higher way, they thought, and being young men they quickly decided that the best answer would be a gang rumble, the intoxicating violence of revolution. They would rebel in the name of the proletariat, of which they knew nothing.

So in the first half of the 19th century we got a two-stage development of socialism, first in the ideas of Fourier, Saint-Simon, and Robert Owen, and then in the more pointed ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Étienne Cabet, Louis Blanc, and Moses Hess. The point of all of these ideas was that the welfare of mankind was far too important to be left to the likes of merchants and bankers. Educated men of virtue needed to intervene, with the glorious promise of socialism where property would be abolished and people would live in genuine equality and harmony.

Those times were rather like our own time. Here was a radical revolution in the economy, throwing the modestly fed, clothed and housed artisans and craftsmen of the guilds out of work. It looked like things were spiraling downwards as the world of the craftsman was replaced by the teeming slums of the proletariat and the manufactory.

Same thing today. We have the global economy that is shattering all the comfortable assumptions of the industrial age. You can't hope to graduate from high school and get a lifetime union job at the local steel plant or auto factory any more. In fact some reckless prognosticators are predicting the end of the job altogether.

Since we can't just trust the market, it stands to reason that government must intervene, then and now, with its force. Or better yet: Revolution, Baby! We will replace private property and its injustice with the ethical principles of true community.

Now I think that there is a fatal flaw in the lefty analysis, both then and now. There is a basic assumption that the fall of the craftsman and the "deskilling" of work was universal. But in fact that was not so. The craftsmen might have been falling into poverty, but the new proletariat was overwhelmingly composed of people migrating from the country to the city. Presumably they made this journey because they felt that wage labor in the city was better than whatever they were experiencing in the countryside. No doubt, because the agricultural revolution of the previous two hundred years had reduced the sturdy European peasant to nomadic penury. That's why the Elizabethan Poor Law was passed in 1598: because landless peasants were roaming the countryside in Britain -- robbers and highwaymen -- and Something Had to be Done.

Same thing today. We see the decline of the white working class, previously propped up, like the guild craftsmen, by government-sanctioned privilege. But at the same time we see the immigrants from the Third World flooding into our cities, looking to wive and thrive in the modern economy. In Florida, where I am presently attending on Lady Marjorie's end-of-life mother, the hospital staff, the home health aides are mostly black immigrants from the Caribbean (BTW, one aide drives a Mercedes, and another drives an Infiniti: go figure). There is barely a white working class in sight. In China, I read, something like 12 million people are moving from the country to the city every year. Are all these people moving to misery? I doubt it.

But at least the Proudhons and the Marxes had an excuse. They were experiencing the beginnings of the Great Enrichment and it would have been reckless to assume that, in 1850, you ain't seen nothin' yet. And the socialist dream had not yet been tested and killed millions of people and tanked the economy wherever it was tried. Our modern lefties have no excuse; they are simply living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

But here is their basic error: their attack on private property. The point about private property regulated by law is that it is an amazing advance over the alternative, which is property adjudicated by war. That was the old way, from the Romans to the Vikings. How did they get rich? They stole it. The point about Julius Caesar is that he spent ten years conquering Gaul and accumulating a rich harvest of loot and slaves. Ditto the Vikings, only they preyed on the Brits as well as the French.

Now go forward to the new way, practiced by the Brits in India. When they set up their trading posts at Calcutta and Madras and Bombay people from the hinterland flocked to shelter under their rule, because their's was a trading, merchant economy, not a looting, feudal economy. And when the Governor of Bengal, Warren Hastings, started doing a bit of looting and plundering, Edmund Burke had him impeached in the British Parliament.

No, property is not theft; it is an amazing human invention that allows humans to buy and sell rather than seize and hold. And notice that the socialist states all regress from buy and sell to seize and hold. Their only means is violence, and violence leads to poverty and riots in the streets, President Maduro, because government is force.

Then there is the price system. Marx built his whole economics on the contradictions in classical economics between use value and exchange value. But ten years after he published Das Kapital, Vol. 1, scientists realized that there wasn't such a thing as use value and exchange value, there was only marginal value. And then Ludwig von Mises made the prophetic statement, just as the Soviet Union was getting going, that socialism could not work because it could not compute prices. If any prophecy in this world has been confirmed by events, millions of deaths, and untold misery, it is the prophecy that socialism can only work when it merely banishes prices to the black market.

Yet day in and day out, people are going to government trying to get it to put its thumb on the price system and warp it in their favor. Where are the passionate rich young men, educated at the best universities, that are denouncing this vile and reactionary exploitation? Youthful educated passion, it appears, does not extend to descanting on the wonders of peaceful cooperation and enrichment by submitting to the prices set day by day in the market.

Anyway, now I have a better idea of what Marx and his pals in the mid 19th century were thinking, and why.